Thursday, February 11, 2010

Eating at Night

I've been working on not eating as much at night. Before we moved, I wasn't really hungry at night time, so I didn't eat much late in the day. My mother used to tell me the old adage, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper." I may not have done that exactly. I probably ate lunch more like a king and breakfast like a prince who went outside and picked lots of fruit off the court trees and bushes. But my dinner was pretty minimal.

Since we've moved, I've been eating more in the evening. I'm not sure why. I know my children all had various ways of processing our move after leaving our home of 15 years. Maybe this was one of my adjustments. I'm not sure. But I do know that it hasn't helped me keep my weight down.

One of my most successful diet & exercise plans was from the book by Oprah's trainer, Bob Greene, "Make the Connection - 10 Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life." This was his first book from 1996. I've never read any of his other books he's written since, but I really appreciated the fitness knowledge I gained from this simple book. Somehow after having my 4th baby, I convinced myself that I wasn't doomed to having a "motherly" body for the rest of my life -- that I could get myself in great shape. I read this book, followed the 10 steps pretty strictly, and lost that baby weight and felt great.

One of the steps (which was new to me) was to not eat anything late at night. He didn't specify a certain time to stop, but I think he said to stop at least 3 hours before you go to bed so that your stomach will be empty. I used to go to bed around 10:00 p.m., so my cut-off time was 7:00 p.m. It was a huge change for me to make, but I made it and it paid off.

I've been making the effort to return to that habit this past week. I go to bed later now (like without sugar allows me that luxury of living on 5-6 hours of sleep just fine), but I'm still sticking with the not eating after 7:00 p.m. I've been steadily losing weight since.

Here are some explanations from Bob Greene on why avoiding late night eating helps with weight loss:

"What I want you to feel (when you go to bed) . . . is slight hunger. That feeling is your brain saying, 'Feed me or I'm going to dip into your fat stores for energy.' That, of course, is exactly what you want to happen. It's your guarantee that your body is burning the fat you are working hard to lose.
If, on the other hand, you follow your brain's directive and eat close to bedtime, your body will not dip into the fat it has stored away, and will probably even store some more. Every time you eat, your metabolism increases slightly. But this effect is lost or minimized late at night. You don't get the same metabolism-boosting benefit when you eat just before bed, because a couple of hours after dinner, your body begins preparing for sleep. This natural slackening of your metabolic rate overrides any metabolic boost you might get from eating. So once you hit the pillow, the only calories you're going to use are the basic calories you need to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing and allow your eyes to move in REM sleep. And that, all told, is a minimal number of calories."
I also feel like when I go to bed full, my stomach isn't truly happy. I was eating more to get over some anxiety or fulfillment from the day's activities, but I didn't really need it or want it. I feel kind of bloated or gassy when I get under my covers. I'd rather go to bed feeling light and free of new food in my digestive system.
There are times when I feel like I need a little something before I go to bed and if I can't fight that, I'll have a piece of fruit. Fruit digests faster than any other food, so that seems to feel okay if it's at least 1/2 hour before I go to bed -- an hour is even better.

A strategy I know some people use to remember to stop eating at the end of the day is to brush and floss (who wants to floss twice at night?) I've taken an even greater step the past several days. My dentist made me a night guard to wear (he says I grind my molars). It's pretty comfortable and I don't mind wearing it at all. So I've been brushing and flossing, then will put in my night guard so I have that in my mouth (and can't put anything else in it mindlessly). It seemed to help me get this habit of eating-free evenings back into my life.

I'm trying to remember what Bob Greene's other 9 steps were. I think one was to get at least 20 minutes (preferably 30 minutes or more) of cardio exercise 5-6 days a week. That was new to me then. I truly did start out with 20 minute workouts (Denise Austin's Hit the Spot Fat Burning Blast and later Kathy Smith's Cardio Fat Burner) and it was enough back then in my early 30s to lose weight and keep it off. Another step was to work out in the mornings to boost your metabolism throughout the day. I'd never done that before. I preferred to work out at night when the kids were in bed. But I taught myself to get up before them - - and I put up a baby gate at my doorway so they couldn't come in if they did wake up early. They could watch, but not ask for breakfast, juice or anything. I still have to remind my youngest of this rule almost 15 years later. :) The baby gates are long gone though. I'm pretty grateful for what I learned in this book. It prompted many good habits that I've kept (and one that I'm trying to get back). Night night for now.

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