If you’re a follower of my work, reading this headline may cause you to think I’ve completely lost my mind.
Time and again, I’ve taught my clients to eat dinner at least three hours before bed and to avoid unnecessary snacking.
However, what I also teach that is paramount to any hard-and-fast rules, is to listen to your body.
And when you do that, you’ll realize that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to being healthy.
In today’s article, I’m going to share when it is appropriate to snack at night, and how that can actually help you to lose weight.
Deciphering True Hunger
Ayurveda teaches us to eat when we’re hungry, and not eat when we’re not. It’s as simple, and at the same time as complicated, as that.
So how do we know when we’re truly hungry, or whether the sensation of “false” hunger is manifesting itself as a result of other factors, including stress, boredom, and other emotions?
This is where learning to listen to your body comes in.
The tools I teach my clients allow them to tune into their bodies to really discover what it wants and needs on a deeper level at any given moment.
For instance, by learning to cultivate more self-awareness, my clients are able to identify when they’re munching mindlessly – such as when watching a movie and scarfing down excessive amounts of popcorn.
Sure, this may seem fun at the time, but the resulting stomach discomfort and consequences to your waistline and health prove otherwise.
More often than not, I find that people tend to eat out of habit.
Think about it – you wake up, get ready for work, and grab something quick to eat on your way out the door. But how often do you really tune into your body to see if it’s actually hungry, and if so, what it really wants (corn flakes and cold milk…eeehhh, I don’t think so…)?
When we pause to listen to our bodies, they can give us a breadth of information we previously thought was unavailable.
For instance, our tummies might tell us that perhaps upon waking, they are not yet ready to take in food, they need some more fresh water first in order to cleanse the toxic build up that accumulated from being stagnant during the night.
Or perhaps we find out that we are hungry, but instead of a bagel or doughnut, what we really need to fuel our day is some high quality protein and fat, such as can be found in some eggs and avocado.
People are constantly telling me they’re confused about what to eat. There’s so much conflicting information out there, so many diets to choose from, and so little time to prepare food that it all feels overwhelming and hardly worth the effort.
What I reassure them is that once they learn a few simple tools for really being able to tune into their bodies, it becomes easy.
And as for food prep having to be time consuming – I’m pretty sure that’s a myth that people created to avoid having to eat healthy :p
Back to the eggs and avocado example – how long does it take to pop a couple of eggs into a pot of water and let them gently boil while you continue to get ready, then slice an avocado open and scoop out some of it, grab your eggs from the pot, and go?
It’s really not that complicated. Yet, we often make it out to be.
Feeding your Hunger
“Empty” foods, such as bagels, donuts, most cereal, white breads, white pasta, etc. do not really fuel your body to give it what it needs. Hence, you may continue to feel hungry after eating these, as your body still needs proper nutrients to function optimally.
But when you do eat a balanced diet and you still feel hungry, what are you to do?
Well, that’s simple – eat!
Yes, I said it – eat if you are truly hungry.
There’s nothing wrong with eating, we were designed to eat for a reason.
It’s when we eat for the wrong reasons, when we are not hungry, and the wrong foods that leads to trouble.
But if one is truly hungry and is opting for wholesome, nutritious food, then by all means, we need to eat to fuel our bodies and brains.
Too often, women especially, can fall into the trap of thinking they have to limit their calories to some ubiquitous number that will help them achieve or maintain their ideal figure.
“Research says that women should eat an average of XYZ calories per day according to the…blah blah blah blah blah”.
I call bull.
No one knows how many calories your body needs but YOU.
And the amount will probably fluctuate day by day based on various factors including your activity level and what point you are at in your cycle.
That’s why the only sure way to know that your body is getting what it needs is to be able to listen to it and respond accordingly.
But How Can Snacking at Night Help Me Lose Weight?
Now, you might be wondering how all of this ties in to midnight snacking helping you to lose weight.
Allow me to explain.
If you’re not getting enough calories during the day because you are limiting yourself – limiting your portions to those that are not sufficient for your individual needs, skipping meals because you are too “busy”, or whatever the case may be, this may interfere with your sleep.
It can also interfere with most of your major bodily functions, including brain function.
It can cause you to feel restless, spacey, or disconnected, all of which can further interfere with your sleep, which can lead to you making some less than stellar food choices the next day because you are tired, and battling cravings.
In addition, the food that you do eat will not be processed properly due to impaired digestive function as a result of poor sleep, which can lead to more toxic build up and fat accumulation in the body.
Luckily, there is a solution.
Of course, eating the right foods and in the right amounts during the day can help you to avoid all this.
But what if you ate dinner at 6pm and now it’s 10 and you’re ready to go to bed, but you feel hungry again?
There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you have a healthy metabolism. It’s been four hours since your last meal, so your body very likely will start to get hungry again.
Of course, we don’t want to overload it with another heavy meal right before bed, but a light snack can help to nourish and satisfy our bodies while facilitating sound sleep.
So, if you find yourself hungry at bedtime, consider some of the following options as snacks:
• A cup of warm (organic) milk with digestive spices such as nutmeg or cardamom
• A slice of sprouted grain toast with grass-fed butter
• Home-made popcorn with olive or coconut oil
As long as you avoid the junk and eat just enough so that you are satisfied, not too much, a snack before bed can help you to fall asleep more quickly and get more restful sleep during the night.
I recommend a combination of healthy fats, complex carbs, and high-quality protein.
What about those times when you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep?
These can also be instances where your body needs more nourishment, so I advise checking in with yourself to see if you have true hunger, and if so, follow the same guidelines for a bedtime snack to satisfy your body’s needs.
*Be careful however, as this may also be a sign of a blood sugar imbalance, which you may want to address with your health care practitioner.
You may find that you easily fall back asleep for the rest of the night once you do.
That sounds great! How can I learn the tools for deciphering what my body needs?
If you’ve found this article interesting and would like to learn one of my favorite tools for discovering how to listen to your body’s needs, I invite you to join me for a complementary training I’ve put together on this topic called The Hunger Meditation – Deciphering Your Body’s Cues to Learn What, When, and How Much to Eat.
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