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Yesterday I was with a client who asked me about my thoughts on eating after 7pm. Both her and her friend were curious to know what the deal was with this. Having heard this comment before, I spent some time learning about this topic. What I found is that there is not enough scientific evidence to PROVE this theory actually is true. I know Dr. Oz and Oprah both CLAIM that this is the solution to all of our weight loss problems, but when you really think about it and do the research you find that they are pulling bits and pieces of the truth to such claims to create their own reality and their own truths.
Fact of the mater is that is not the REAL truth. My father always told me, believe most the things you see, half the things you read and NONE of what you hear! This is probably because our minds have a way of deluding or reorganizing what we hear to make it more appealing or more believable to us. I equate it to a game of telephone. That game where everyone stands in line and whispers what one person at the beginning of the line says. By the time it reaches the last person, what the first person said, is rarely even close to what was actually said, or there is some truth, but it has been reworded or rephrased to actually mean something else.
Ok back to eating after 7pm. Lets talk facts. First it’s not when you eat, its what you eat and HOW MUCH! Second, your body is constantly working even at night. Third experiments done to test this theory have been done on lab rats not on humans so therefore, it can not be conclusive that this statement of eating after 7pm is a true statement.
As I was perusing my reading I kept finding a very similar statement whether it came from registered dietitians or fitness experts. They all said its not about what time you eat but rather keeping track of your total caloric intake for the day. For example, to maintain my current weight I need a minimum of 1800 calories.
So the other day, I got home at 8pm and was hungry, not starving but there was a twinge. So I looked over my calorie intake for the day, because yes, I track my food, and I noticed that I had only had 1650 of the 1800 I was supposed to consume for the day. I went into the the kitchen, and pulled out the box of cheerios and poured myself a cup. OH NO it’s after 7pm! Not to worry though because that 110 calories from the cheerios is not going to put me over my 1800 for the day! PHEW! I eat my cheerios with confidence that tomorrow morning I will not be 5 lb heavier. Now, here is the difference between me and say a mindless eater.
The mindless eater is where we see problems. However, we have to remember that correlation does not mean causation so just because they are eating after 7pm does not mean they are going they are going to gain weight, its the fact that they are NOT paying attention to what they are eating and how much. The mindless eater is going to grab the whole box of cheerios and consume half of it in one sitting making that possibly up to an extra 300-500 calories in addition to their day. Or maybe they are going to sit and eat a half a bag of chips which again is going to throw them off their calorie allotment for the day. Do you get what I am saying here. Basically it boils down to this PAY ATTENTION to what you are eating and HOW MUCH!
Our bodies are amazing machines they are so dedicated to keeping us alive and well. Even when we are sleeping our bodies are fast at work repairing and regenerating and reversing the damage that we have put it through during the day light hours. With that said, unlike a real machine, our bodies do not unplug and shut down after we fall asleep. On the contrary our bodies are need calories to sleep and perform all the functions necessary to get us ready for the next day. During sleep, our bodies build muscle, and repair bone, grow hair, and finger nails and replace dead skin cells that have been damaged by our outer environment such as the sun. Calories are expended while doing all of this and that is why it is vital that we take in enough calories throughout the day so that these processes are not disrupted. Our brain activity might slow down and our outer bodies might feel tired after 7pm, but our inner body is working feverishly to keep us in optimal condition even beyond 7pm.
My final point, one that is probably the most important because from a scientific stand point, it has not been proven fact. What I mean is that for something to be proven fact, the tests have to be repeated over and over with hundreds subjects, in this case humans and have been replicated EXACTLY with all or as much bias as possible being erased and the outcome has to be THE SAME every time. So at this time the only experimental studies that have been done are on lab rats. Lab rats are NOT humans and while they may have some similarities with how the human body functions, it is not the same! People need to be a bit more cautious when taking what happens in lab rats and automatically assume such is true with humans. While such assumptions have lead to many great discoveries and medical break through it is important to remember that great lengths went into getting permission to use human subjects. Not only that but human case studies take years to follow, gather data, and analyze that data.
Until someone can get permission to do weight gain studies on humans as they have done on rats, then the idea that such is true with humans is called a theory. A theory is what a person seer’s or believes based on an idea. Theories can only be proven by using the scientific method which is a battery of tests and experiments that follow a sequence of events. The problem with the THEORY that humans can gain weight by eating after a certain time in the evening is that it has not been proven in humans.
Until the theory that humans actually can gain weight by eating after 7pm exclusively because of the time of day, here is some advice that I can offer to help you ward off those extra pounds.
1. Track your food intake through out the day! There are hundreds of apps and computer programs to help you do this. Use them.
2. Make healthy choices during the day and in the evening. Remember, eating fruits and vegetables and non-processed foods are lower in calories in general and will help to keep you from over expending your intake for the day.
3. Eat mindfully, that means pay attention to what your eating, where your eating it and why your eating it. This helps you see patterns and from there you can make better decisions as to when and where and why you eat.
4. While eating is pleasurable and is usually associated with social events, remember that eating is for fueling the body and helping it function properly. Use this knowledge to help you enjoy what your eating but at the same time not making the whole event about eating everything insight. Social events are also about being with people we enjoy spending time with and in an environment we like being in.
In conclusion, here is what I think the message I am trying to get across is. Your body is always working. It’s important to eat your calorie allotment for the day even if your day ends at 8 or 9pm. Finally be leery of “facts” that have been presented without sufficient data to back it up.
Good Luck in your quest for good health! Remember you have the power to make the changes you want in your life!
Written By Julie S.