Over the past few weeks we have been talking about DUFF’s 8 Great Nutritional Guidelines.  And in our final installment of this series, we are going to focus on two of the most important guidelines of all:

#4—Make sure you are eating enough throughout the day. Avoid the late night binge by eating proper proportions at regular intervals. And

#5— If you are hungry, EAT! Listen to your body and avoid starvation. Ravenous people seldom make prudent food choices.

We’re grouping these two together because they go hand-in-hand.  And for many people jumpstarting their fitness routine, it’s easy to fall victim to the idea of a “diet”, which can lead to starving yourself to avoid calories.  We see this all over Mount Pleasant and Charleston—people coming to the gym before eating breakfast, skimping on lunch and cutting calories at dinner, all in the name of losing weight. 

Women’s Health Magazine puts it perfectly: “We’ve all been there: In an effort to drop a few pounds fast, you consider skipping lunch, thinking you can ride out the hunger pangs until dinner. Or you make your breakfast a measly glass of low-calorie green juice, assuming that the plants will provide the nutrients you’re not getting from your usual milk and cereal.” 


According to a study reported in Smithsonian Magazine, “Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies analyzed the daily food and beverage habits of 150 participants over a three-week period. They found that the majority of those people spread out their eating across 15 hours or longer each day, consuming less than 25 percent of their calories before noon and more than 33 percent of them after 6:00 p.m.”


One of there obvious negative aspects of midnight snacking is the effect it has on your waistline.  According to the LA Times, snacking when we should be sleeping leads to overeating—and eating the wrong things—a double whammy when it comes to your waistline.  “People who midnight munch don’t experience the same “food high” we get when we eat earlier in the day — and that high contributes to a feeling of fullness, regulating the amount of calories consumed, according to a study by Brigham Young University. Without that reward sensation, the tendency is to eat more food. (And let’s face it, if it’s midnight, we’re more likely to be reaching for ice cream and potato chips rather than broccoli.)”


And while a groggy brain may lead to poor food choices, there may be some metabolic reasons why eating when the body should be sleeping is detrimental to healthy and wellness.  The Washington Post explains, “Studies tend to show that when food is consumed late at night — anywhere from after dinner to outside a person’s typical sleep/wake cycle — the body is more likely to store those calories as fat and gain weight rather than burn it as energy, says Kelly Allison of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.”  So not only are you overeating BAD things, apparently your body is so confused at this time of day that it processes those bad foods differently and stores those calories as fat.


And beyond wrecking all of the fitness progress we’ve made at the gym, bingeing at night can have negative effects on our minds too.  Men’s Fitness explains, “a new University of California study finds the late-night behavior could be affecting us beyond disrupting our sleep or packing on the pounds (as if that isn’t bad enough). Researchers found that midnight snacks can wreak havoc on the hippocampus, the part of our brains where memories are formed.” (For more info on that study, click HERE).


So how to combat the midnight munchies?  By eating regular meals.  According to EveryDay Health (and countless other sources), “‘Hunger can be a powerful trigger to eat and overeat,’ says dietitian Molly Gee, RD, MEd, of the department of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.  If you skip one meal, by the time you arrive at the next you are probably going to choose larger portions of the wrong types of food, and you may not be fully aware of this effect even as you eat that larger meal. Gee says to maintain good energy levels and feel full, you should eat every four to five hours.”