Late Night Eating: Is It Really Harmful?


Not eating enough throughout the day leads to overeating at night (Shutterstock)

Late-night eating doesn't cause weight gain," read posts by nutritionists and fitness trainers debunking what they described as "myths" and "misconceptions" about eating late at night.

They emphasized in their posts that late-night eating is not harmful, contrary to popular belief, and that the issue is related to the amount of calories entering the body, and as long as it is controlled, there is no significant difference between eating at night or during the day.

Thus, a debate arises between two sides: one sees late-night eating as a "health disaster," while the other sees it as "no problem.

Why Do We Love Eating Late at Night?

Some reasons can turn this nighttime habit into an addiction that is difficult to break. Among those reasons are:

Not eating enough throughout the day, leading to overeating at night due to hunger, which becomes a habit day after day.

Feeling bored and restless.

Having an eating disorder such as binge-eating or night-eating syndrome, turning to food to ease feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration. Eating in this case becomes a psychological trick, not because of hunger, which can lead to obesity, depression, and difficulty sleeping.

Dina says, "My thoughts after a heavy late-night meal are focused on guessing which parts of my body will receive all those extra calories, the lower belly, the thighs, or something else. Then I quickly become anxious about how I will need to work to burn off those accumulated fats, which increases my feelings of depression.

Does Late Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?

A study found that late night eating contributes to increased anxiety and depression (Shutterstock)

Night Eating Syndrome was first identified in 1955, where sufferers consume 25% of their daily food intake after dinner.

Despite some proponents stating that there is no direct relationship between late-night eating and weight gain, as the consumed calories at night fall within the allowed range, and therefore, it will not harm, a study revealed that the issue is not directly related to weight gain. It is more complex, depending on several factors such as how the body regulates weight, the number of calories burned, hunger levels, and how fat is stored.

A 2022 study showed a link between meal timing and weight gain, confirming that eating late is associated with increased obesity risks, body fat, and reduced ability to lose weight, even with calorie restriction.

What is the relationship between late-night eating and anxiety and depression?

Scientific research has found a relationship between nighttime eating and obesity, but could this habit or disorder have an impact on mental health throughout the day?

A scientific study published in September showed a link between meal timing and potential mood effects associated with disrupted internal biological clocks. The study selected certain categories that are forced by their work circumstances to eat at night, revealing that late-night eating contributes to a 16% increase in anxiety and a 26% increase in depression.

Perhaps this prompted the study's authors to suggest regulating the biological clock as an essential aspectof weight loss plans, for good mental health and better weight loss results, and to consider meal timing as an important aspect of nutrition.

Should You Make the Decision to Stop Late Night Eating?

The answer to the question seems to be "yes," not only because of the alarming numbers related to "obesity" around the world, but also because of the psychological and physical effects that come with it. Experts advise stopping this habit by following steps, including:

  • Identify the reason that drives you to eat at night, whether it is emotional hunger, exhaustion during the day, boredom, or other reasons.
  • Change your daily routine so that you eat enough during the day.
  • Get enough sleep to manage your appetite and weight.
  • Seek emotional and psychological support if needed.
  • Get rid of things that make you feel stressed and anxious, leading you to eat.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, a hot bath, and yoga.
  • Include adequate amounts of protein with each meal to achieve greater fullness.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand to turn to when necessary.

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