The Starving BeastIt’s helpful to start out with a couple things. First—the number of Americans who eat a full breakfast is constantly going down. At approximately the same rate that obesity is going up, coincidentally. Second—the longer you go without food, the larger your next meal tends to be. This is especially true in the evening. For instance, skipping breakfast leads to a larger lunch, but skipping lunch leads to a much larger dinner, no matter what happened at breakfast. Third—you have more calories left to burn earlier in the day than later. In other words, anything you eat in the morning will most likely be fuel throughout the day. Anything you eat last thing at night is less likely to be used efficiently—and is more likely to sit around in your digestive tract longer, leaving you feeling full in the morning. Fourth—Americans eat larger meals throughout the day. So, in reverse of conventional wisdom, we have the smallest meal at breakfast, then lunch, and finally have a massive dinner. This doesn’t just apply to meals, either. Early evening and late night snacks tend to be larger than snacks earlier in the day. Fifth—those who are obese tend to take in the majority of their excess calories in the evening. So, on average, obese individuals will have a breakfast that looks like everyone else’s, and a lunch that’s nearly the same. But dinner and late-night snacks, by contrast, will be huge. When you put all the puzzle pieces together, a theme starts to emerge. Namely—for whatever reason—we’re eating too much in the evening and at night. And that, as much as anything else, is making us fatter. Perhaps it’s a side effect of an overworked lifestyle—one in which there’s no time during the day for sit down meals, so everyone arrives to the dinner table famished and ready to gorge. Maybe it’s because we tend to eat during sedentary activities at night—like watching TV, or sitting at a sporting event or show. Perhaps it’s because eating is an entertainment or diversion at night—out at restaurants or bars with friends. Maybe it’s simply the addition of alcohol to many meals—which occurs much less during daytime hours. But here’s the big takeaway: You are probably eating too much at night. And that can have profound side effects. Yes, large nighttime meals go hand in hand with obesity. But there are plenty of other direct results, as well. For instance, amongst men who wake up to have late night snacks, there’s a 55% greater chance of developing heart disease. For all mammals,
How To Eat Healthy All The TimeThere’s a lot more we have to learn. This is still a fledgling field of study, and it’s one that will develop a lot over the coming years. To give one example that’s in the news today, intermittent fasting diets are all the rage right now. And, while some appear to have benefits, they are still anecdotal, and we don’t know exactly how they work yet. But, for all that, I feel confident saying this: Eating too much at night is a great way to add unnecessary weight, and increase your risk of all sorts of diseases, especially those of the heart. So, try this instead. Eat Breakfast. Amongst those who eat a regular breakfast, there’s 31% less obesity. While I’d love for you to have a healthy breakfast of eggs and grapefruit, for now, it’s important just to kick off your metabolism before you start your day.
- Burfoot, Amby. Breakfast, fasting, snacking: Heart panel weighs in on top meal-timing questions. The Washington Post. Published Mar 9, 2017. Accessed Apr 29, 2017.
- Magee, Elaine. Put The Brakes On Nighttime Overeating. WebMD. Published Dec 13, 2005. Accessed Apr 29, 2017.
- -Onge, Marie-Pierre et al. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From The American Heart Association. Circulation. Published Jan 30, 2017. Accessed Apr 29, 2017.