Many people, myself included, often consume half of our daily calories in the evening. This is fine, in theory, if you’re not also eating all day long. You see, the human body wasn’t designed for a continuous intake of food and calories. Just a few decades ago we had 3 meals a day and that was it. Today, we eat all day long. We snack, and we often snack late into the evening before we go to bed. This pattern of eating sets you up for weight gain and also for chronic disease like Diabetes and Cancer.
This habit of not consuming food in the evenings helps your body in a number of ways.
*It gives it a break from eating. Let’s say that you consume your last food at 6:30 and you don’t eat breakfast until 8, that’s 13.5 hours of fasting. That’s time that your body has to not be digesting and processing food. It’s good for you to fast and an easy way to do this is to not eat in the evenings.
*When you’re not eating, you’re burning fat. Your body turns to fat stores when it doesn’t have calories coming in. Fasting burns fat. And this is a super easy way to fast, don’t eat in the evenings after dinner.
*It also helps you reduce your calories. if you’re just snacking at night, these are empty (non-nutritious) calories. They don’t offer any health benefits.
*It helps your body stay in balance. There are hunger hormones that are regulated when you sleep. If you eat before bedtime, those hormones can get out of whack and you will likely find that you’re feeling hungrier than what your body really needs.
So how do you embrace this new lifestyle habit?
First, ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly and realistically.
What time is your very last intake of calories at night? To answer this question, ask yourself what time you have dinner. Then also take a look at what time you eat any snacks or drink any beverages that have calories. So water wouldn’t count here, but if you had a lemonade at 7:30 p.m., then you’d write that down.
Tomorrow night, don’t consume any calories an hour before you go to bed. Every night, increase this time by 5-15 minutes with the goal being that eventually you don’t consume calories 3 hours before you go to bed. So if you go to bed at 10:00, your last intake of calories should be at 7:00.
The Breakdown – What Will Realistically and Consistently Work for You?
Plan A – No calories, no problem. You might find that you already don’t eat in the evening so this is a fairly easy task for you. Awesome! Keep up the good work.
Plan B – Work it backwards over time. Find an increment, 5-15 minutes, that works for you and work your way toward 3 hours.
***Keep in mind that consistency is important, perfection isn’t. Work hard to consistently stop consuming calories 3 hours before bed, but on those special nights when you go out for dinner or you work late…don’t sweat it. Just start again the next day.
Also, this isn’t an all or nothing habit. If you have a movie night at your home one night a week and you like to enjoy popcorn or snacks, then enjoy them and return to your habit the next day.
Waking up hungry. It’s okay to wake up hungry. You know that your body has stored fuel (fat) and you’re going to be okay. Over time, your body will adapt to your new lifestyle and this morning hunger may go away. You can also make sure to eat enough protein and healthy fats at dinnertime so that you’re not feeling hungry in the evening and your blood sugar levels stay balanced.
What time do you normally eat your dinner?
What time do you normally go to bed?
Based on this information, what’s a reasonable amount of time to put between food and sleep? For example, if you normally eat dinner at 6 and go to bed at 10 but you snack while watching television, then a reasonable first step might be to stop eating at 8:30 this week, 8:00 next week, 7:30 the following week etc.
How will you hold yourself accountable to not consuming food before bedtime? Note: snacking in the evening is often unconscious. We snack out of habit and don’t think much about it. What can you do to remind yourself not to snack? What habit might you embrace to replace snacking? For example, you might chew gum or drink fizzy water or herbal tea. Set yourself up for success.
In the past few weeks we’ve looked at:
No Sugar at Breakfast – https://www.renegadenurse.com/simple-daily-steps-no-sugar-at-breakfast/
3 Deep Breaths – https://www.renegadenurse.com/simple-daily-steps-3-deep-breaths/
These Simple Daily Steps are designed to be tackled one a week, however, if one doesn’t feel right for you or you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, pause. Keep working on your habits that you have started and skip a step. You can always come back to it. Also, if you need any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Annette @ Renegadenurse.com. I’d love to talk with you.
To your amazing health!