Bad Medicine

What Time of Night Should You Stop Eating?

I received a call from a very frustrated client recently. She had heard an expert on a radio show talking about weight loss. This expert was telling the listeners they shouldn't let a morsel of food pass their lips after 6 p.m.

My client had been trying to stick to the advice, but by the time late evening rolled around she was starving.

Here's the deal: If you're an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person, cutting off your food intake by 6 p.m. may work for you. However, if you're a night owl who regularly stays up until 11 or later, then not eating after 6 will be very challenging.

It takes about three hours to digest a typical dinner of about 600 calories that includes some protein, carbohydrates and veggies. If you finish eating around 6p.m. and then stay up to watch the news, by the time 9:30 hits you'll be feeling hunger pangs.

Most people try to fight it and end up losing the battle, succumbing to the bowl of ice cream or box of crackers. But the worst time to splurge on calories is when you're about to go to bed, because you're not giving your body an opportunity to burn those extra calories.

Here are my top three tips to help you manage your nighttime eating:

  • Brush your teeth! As soon as you finish dinner, go and brush your pearly whites. The taste of peppermint doesn't go well with leftover mac 'n' cheese.
  • Take a break before you start kitchen cleanup. Go outside, water a plant or walk your dog. Studies show that it takes about 20 minutes for your body?and, more important, your brain?to feel full. When you take a short break, it gives your body a chance to feel satisfied, so you'll eat fewer leftovers during kitchen cleanup.
  • Have a substantial afternoon snack. If you know that a late dinner is in the cards, have a snack in the late afternoon that includes some protein, carbs and veggies. It will help take the edge off your appetite. You'll eat less at dinner, which will greatly help your weight-loss efforts.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist, and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.