There are about as many reasons why we eat late at night as there are snack options. My most frequent response to the "4th meal" debate- "It depends." Usually I want to know the when, what, why, where and how of your snacking habits.
When- Timing is important for snacking. Despite popular belief, eating before bed will not necessarily cause weight gain. Your body still requires energy (aka calories) while you sleep. There are also some foods and beverages that are calming and can aid in relaxation or falling asleep.
What- If you select your food and beverage choices carefully, then your bedtime snack might actually help you fall asleep and sustain your blood sugar overnight. On the other hand, if you do not make the wisest, real food choices, then you could be wide awake when you would rather be sleeping.
Why- This part of the snacking equation may be a bit more difficult to ascertain. There is no eat-this-not-that food selection here. This part actually requires you think about your feelings and reasons for snacking. Typically, I see 3 main reasons why people need or want snacks.
1. They are not eating enough throughout the day, or have exercised in the evening and haven't replaced their glycogen stores.
2. They are bored. If you stand in front of your refrigerator, freezer, or pantry and say, "I'm hungry, but I don't know what I want," then you are almost certainly not hungry. Using food as a coping mechanism often means we are not listening to our body cues, so our "off-valve" does not work and we unintentionally over-eat.
3. The third most common reason why people snack when they aren't hungry is because they haven't stopped to relax during the day, and are simply in the habit of doing something all the time- they are in perpetual motion.
Where and How- The location of your snacking can overlap a little bit with the why of snacking, and the how. If the reason you are snacking is because you are super hungry, you are less likely to make it to the table for proper set-up. On the flip side, if you want to sit on the couch and watch TV while munching away, then you are likely not that hungry. The key to effective snacking is ensuring you are in a relaxed environment, at a table and free from distractions.
If you have questions or comments about snacking or curbing your late night noshing, feel free to schedule a consultation or appointment at penrosetherapy.com. Otherwise, enjoy your food, stay active, and have fun!
Read the whole article here.