Case Study #04 The Night Eater
For most of the day, food is barely on your radar: you might skip breakfast and eat a sandwich at lunch. But at night, you feast: your dinner plates have barely been cleared before you’re raiding the cupboards again.
“This backloading of calories seems to predispose people to be overweight,” Martin says. According to Pennington researcher Courtney M Peterson, it’s more than a case of intake vs output. Late-night eating disrupts insulin sensitivity, raises blood pressure and hinders fat loss. “We think that eating later at night puts your body’s ‘clocks’ in different time zones,” she says, “leading to conflicting signals.”
The Prescription Try a compressed eating schedule. In a study conducted by Peterson, when subjects took all of their meals between 8am and 2pm, they burned more fat and felt less hungry than those eating the same amount on a normal schedule. Initially, you may find that you have little appetite during the day, but it’s worth persisting. One alumnus of the study said he dreaded feeling overfull after his last meal in the early afternoon – but, in five weeks, he lost weight, rebalanced his blood sugar and lowered his blood pressure.
Altering your sleep patterns may help, too. Wake up early to train, firing up your appetite, and aim to be in bed by 10pm, which will also cut into your evening snack time. If you’re struggling to wake up with the alarm, try sleeping with the curtains open, instead. The natural light will rewire your brain.