It’s been another long day at work and you can’t wait to get home and relax. You finally settle down in your comfy chair by the TV with a soda and a bag of chips. The bag is empty long before the television show is over, and you eventually stumble off to bed with a full stomach. You sleep fitfully and wake up groggy - not really ready for another day at work. But off you go anyway. At least you can look forward to relaxing again when you get home.
If this is your experience, you may benefit from practicing the evening fast. The evening fast is simply eating a light and wholesome supper, and then after supper, taking in nothing but water until morning.
Better sleep. If you give your stomach time to finish its work before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better and wake up more refreshed. A good night of sleep will give you the energy you need so you won’t feel so exhausted when you come back home in the evening.
Better breakfast. If you’ve had a light supper and no evening snacks, you’ll wake up hungry! Now you’ve got a desire for breakfast, which is the meal you need to power your day. Breakfast should be wholesome and generous. Take your time and eat a good, solid meal.
Better fat burning. Eating more of your calories in the morning and less in the evening helps you burn fat, a definite plus for anyone wishing to lose weight.1
Better nutrition. The foods most people eat for snacks are often packed with fat, sugar and unneeded calories.2,3 Keep your evening meal light and nutritious, and then be done eating for the rest of the night.
Better weight loss. If you’re trying to lose some weight, cutting out those evening snacks could help to trim off some extra pounds.2
Better enjoyment of your food. Eating late at night tends to be mindless eating. You’re not thinking much about what you’re eating, so you’re not actually enjoying it as much as you could. Make it a rule that you’ll only eat while sitting at the table, and not while you’re watching TV or paying your bills. Your food will taste better and you’ll appreciate it more!
Better spiritual connection. With better sleep and more energy, your mind will be more clear and your prayers will be more focused.
If snacking at night has become an entrenched habit, you may find it helpful to change your evening routine. If you usually eat in front of the TV, go for a walk instead. If you usually eat while you look at the internet, play with the kids instead. You’ll be less likely to miss that plate of cookies.
Still not sure if you want to practice the evening fast? Here’s a challenge. Do it for seven days and see how many of the benefits you’ll experience. You’ll be glad you did.
If you need to eat late at night for medical reasons, definitely follow your doctor’s advice. But you might tell your healthcare provider that you’d like to try the evening fast and see if they can help you do it safely.
This is the meal that will power much of your day. Pack as much wholesome nutrition into it as you can. This is not the time to wash down a few bites of sugary cereal with a glass of juice. Get out the fresh fruit and the whole wheat pita bread with hummus. Or try a steaming bowl of oatmeal with plant milk and fruit.
By Dorothea Sarli, MS RD LDN
1. Kelly KP, McGuinness OP, Buchowski M, et al. Eating breakfast and avoiding late-evening snacking sustains lipid oxidation. PLoS Biol. 2020;18(2):e3000622. https://ezproxy.southern.edu/login?qurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dmdc%26AN%3d32108181%26site%3dehost-live%26scope%3dsite. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000622.
2. Bertéus Forslund H, Torgerson JS, Sjöström L, Lindroos AK. Snacking frequency in relation to energy intake and food choices in obese men and women compared to a reference population. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005;29(6):711-719. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15809664/. Accessed Jul 6, 2020. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802950.
3. Mattes RD. Snacking: A cause for concern. Physiol Behav. 2018;193(Pt B):279-283. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29421590/. Accessed Jul 6, 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.02.010.