The Night Eating Habit

Question: Is there a scientific reason to avoid snacking right up until bedtime?

Answer: There is. That being said, we have to be careful using research to guide our individual decisions regarding diet and exercise. Remember, research is a tool for averages not individuals. What this means is that scientific "evidence" is going to work for most people, but not all. Spend just one week in a weight loss clinic and you'll see the futility of using research as the sole guiding influence in your recommendations.

You should let research refine your approach, not define it. The individual (you), needs to be the ultimate consideration. By the way, the very fact you're having a hard time doing the thing may be an indication it's not a good fit for your metabolic uniqueness, psychological tendencies, and personal preferences. And, at the same time, we all know that very often habitual eating patterns can be retrained and have substantial benefit.

Here are a few tips to make this approach work better for you:

Let's say you're going to eat your last meal at 5:30. If you go to bed around 11:00 you'll be close to six hours without food. That could mean a late-night burger run for many people.

Think about the types of meals that satisfy and satiate the most and the longest. These meals are usually mixed with plenty of protein, fat, and starch. Like the aforementioned burger. Duplicating that type of meal is a good start. A ribeye (plenty of fat and protein), a large baked potato (keep it bland) and a few cups of broccoli are a great start.

You also may want to consider the use of a "post load." Many know the idea of using a preload having a protein shake before a meal to preempt overeating. The post load is the same idea except applied after the meal if there's still an itch for a taste of something else.

Make plans to do something with your hands and attend to any oral fixation. Some of our eating behaviors are tied to other late-night behaviors like TV watching. Use a relaxing herbal tea, sparkling water, or some other low-calorie beverage to attend to this.

Finally, go to bed earlier. This approach is going to work far better if your eating time has been circumvented by your sleeping time.