Like most women, I’m a night nibbler. I’m good all day and then my hunger demons (and emotional eating) come out in the evenings. So I decided to try and stop eating two hours before bed for a whole month to see what would happen. The challenge, for me, is my early bedtime: I’m up at 5:30 or 6 every morning, which means I’m usually in bed by 9 PM. That means I’d need to stop eating by 7 o’clock—not so easy, but I was determined.
Here’s what happened during my month-long challenge to stop eating in the hours just before bedtime:
I generally eat dinner with the kids around 6, so for my new experiment I made sure that we were all done by our 7 PM cut-off. Of course, it’s after dinner that the cravings often set in. I’m trying not to eat sweets for dessert, so instead I eat a piece of fruit or maybe cheese to end my meal. (If you’re craving something sweet, give one of these nutritionist-recommended desserts a try.) Then around 8, I tend to eat another piece of fruit or cheese (or if I’m having a particularly bad day, a KitKat).
Cutting off all food by 7 was in some ways easy and in some ways hard. The easy part was that instead of a more vague, “no snacking before bed,” a hard rule of “no food after 7 PM” was actually easier to follow because it was so rigid. After a few slip-ups in the beginning, I soon fell into a pattern of eating dinner, then brushing my teeth immediately after. I found that once I brushed my teeth, I didn’t want to snack, because it would get my teeth dirty (and I’m too lazy to brush twice in a night).
The one challenging part is going out to dinner. If we go out with other couples, which we do frequently, we don’t often eat until 8 or later. By the time we finish up it’s well past 10, and when we get home I want to go right to sleep. (If going to a Mexican restaurant, these are the best meals to order, according to nutritionists.) I couldn’t figure out a way to not eat two hours before bed on date night (except to stay up later, but that wasn’t realistic). I tried suggesting an earlier dinner, but nobody seemed to be game (as someone who was brought up in the Midwest, a 6 PM dinner is normal, but for New Yorkers, it’s way early).
So, during my month, I was pretty good when I ate at home, but not so good on date night (which was maybe four times during the month). I consider that a success. Having a hard and fast food cut-off time may seem rigid to most, but I tend to do well with strict rules when it comes to food (if I have one cookie, I’ll eat the bag, so I generally have none).
Even though it’s been over a month, I’m going to try and stick to my 7 o’clock food cut-off time (and get my kids on the same routine). Already, we’ve all gotten into an early tooth-brushing routine. Before, they used to bug me for snacks after dinner while we read bedtime stories. Now, we do dinner, teeth brushing, then book (sans snacks), then bed.
What started as an experiment for me has turned into a healthier lifestyle adjustment for my whole family.
The article I Stopped Eating After 7 PM Every Night For A Month, And Here’s What Happened originally appeared on Prevention.