Late-night eating can be considered hard to avoid for some college students.
Adam Logan, a 22-year-old first-year architecture graduate student from Raleigh, N.C., said he breaks all of the rules when it comes to eating properly, including not paying much attention to the heaviness of his meals late at night.
“I eat whenever I feel like it, whether I have an empty stomach or not,” Logan said. “I don’t watch what I eat at all. Just give me a good meal and I’m good. It doesn’t matter what time it is.”
Victoria Deno, the director of the Jenny Craig center in Tallahassee, said nighttime snacking is often psychological and sometimes stems from boredom, loneliness, depression, habit, tight time constraints or stress. Deno said since most of these factors are emotional, people who are late-night eaters tend to seek comfort foods that are often high in fat, calories, salt and sugar.
Although late-night eating may not cause weight gain for some people, a Tallahassee raw nutrition specialist, Beth Green of http://www.rawbydesign.com, said eating before going to bed is not a very good idea because it toughens the digestive process and causes the body extra work when it should be resting and replenishing itself.
Green also said eating late can cause infection in the colon if the meal is too heavy.
“Eating before bed could cause the food to remain in the body because it’s not digesting all the way,” Green said. “If the food stays in the body too long, over time it may cause bacteria in the colon.”
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, it doesn’t matter what time a person eats. Weight gain only occurs when a person consumes more calories than they burn, not just the time of day that he or she eats.
Both specialists, Deno and Green, agree there is no set time for a person to eat. Green suggests that a person should eat when he or she feels hungry, but she wouldn’t recommend eating too close to bedtime. Deno recognizes that every person is different and has different schedules that don’t allow them to eat during “normal” times, but suggests not eating more calories than are expended.
Professionals suggest that good eating habits start early in the day with breakfast.
A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas said breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it helps set the eating patterns for a person throughout the rest of the day. The study showed that people who ate the most in the morning consumed fewer calories throughout the day than people who did most of their eating in the late evening.
Although some students admit to skipping breakfast in the morning and making up for it later that night, many students said they don’t really think of the consequences it may lead to on their bodies.
Shenika Hughes, an 18-year-old freshman pharmacy student from Lakeland, admits that she could stand to improve her eating habits.
“I don’t usually eat breakfast, and I know it’s bad,” Hughes said. “But I try not to eat no later than 9 p.m., but that doesn’t always happen.”
Hughes is aware that eating too much late at night is not very good and may affect her body but said she doesn’t let that worry her too much.
“I don’t get crazy about eating late if it’s the only time I can eat a real meal,” Hughes said. “But I do try and make a few visits to the gym.”
The University of Texas study also showed that breakfast isn’t only important because it helps set positive eating habits for the rest of the day, it’s also significant because breakfast helps raise blood sugar and increases energy and metabolism.
For a person on the go, like a college student, Green advises eating fruit as a good and healthy way to start the day, and if a person must eat late at night, it should be something light.
Deno and Green both advocated not eating too much or too late and burning more calories than those consumed.
Deno suggested that if a person eats late at night then he or she must engage in some physical activity so the food doesn’t just sit in the body.
“Exercise helps release stress, which is good for people who are stressful snackers,” Deno said.