In Defense of Midnight Snacks

midnight snack.jpgFor as long as I can remember I have been unable to sleep if I’m hungry.

I must eat before bed or I won’t fall asleep. In fact, the nights I have tried to sleep with a hunger pang because I convinced myself I was tired enough, I just ended up lying there until I got out of bed and ate some damn food.

So out of necessity I have been ignoring the rule: “Don’t eat 3 hours before bed” (or whatever variation you may hear) because it was truly impossible for me to follow.

But recently, as I have been reading more about adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism and recovering from diets, it appears that I was onto something all along.

1. If you are in a metabolically compromised state, bedtime snacks are not only ok but beneficial.

And if you have been living your life from diet to diet, and are reading this post, you are most likely in a metabolically compromised state.

The most important way to support yourself through adrenal fatigue or a slow system/hypothyroidism, is to eat. And that includes before bed. (And it can and should include carbs and fat, too.)

2. Calories Don’t Need to Constantly Be Burned Off

One of the reasons people have argued against eating at bedtime, is that your body will turn the food to fat because it can’t burn it off. But this is submitting to the incorrect, stressful (and disordered) assumption that calories need to be manically burned off as soon as they are consumed. This is just false, and also a huge reason why obsessive cardio doesn’t work. Don’t get on the treadmill of calories-burned obsession!

3. True Starvation at Bedtime Can Point You in the Right Direction

If you are hungry at bedtime, chances are you did not eat enough during the day.

If you don’t eat enough during the day, your body is going to need to get those calories one way or another. Logical!

One mistake I would make in my earlier “intuitive eating” days, was to get in a habit of “listening to my body” (not really) during the day and not eating very much, but then by the time bedtime rolled around, I had to eat a huge midnight meal. So if you are extremely hungry at bed time, let this be your FULL PERMISSION to Eat More During the Day. 

You clearly need it anyway.

4 comments

  1. Kait says:

    Great post…and very timely, this happened to me yesterday!

    I ate a breakfast, some lunch but couldn’t finish it, then waited waaaaay to long to have dinner and had one of those I’m so f-ing hungry I just ate a normal meal but I still need more and can’t stop eating kind of things and ate waaaaaay too much. Back in the day I would have called this a small binge and felt guilty for all the food I ate and probably just ate more because the diet mentality is so weird sometimes…but now I say F it! Yeah, I ate too much but it’s because I didn’t eat enough during the day and my body needed the food. Accepted 🙂

  2. Me too! If I have a grumbly tummy, sleep is not happening. Blame on me being fat, blame it on being food insecure as a kid, blame it on believing that going to bed hungry when you have access to food and are not nauseous is disordered eating.

    I have a whirli-pop to make popcorn very cheap, and it’s one of my favorite bedtime snacks! I also like lightly toasted bread (if we have the money i splurge on potato bread, Oh. My. Carb.), enjoy sunflower seeds, and occasionally kosher dill pickles (especially if i was sweaty that day) and rollo candies. I have found that following carb cravings before bed is especially important in reducing my “wake up in the middle of the night in full-blow migraine” episodes.

  3. graphxgrl says:

    Your website is a miracle to me, I have wanted to do this for the last year after reading “Weight Loss Apocalypse” and “Women, Food and God” but am still circling the drain of fear over weight gain. I just had to comment on this particular post because I hate and fear going to bed hungry but have been harboring serious Guilty feelings about it for YEARS. What? I don’t have to feel guilty about eating at 11pm? Wha? LOL Thank you thank you.

    • I never worried about going to bed hungry but I had a job for a number of years that necessitated working 14-hour days, during which I was always on my feet–a coworker wore a pedometer one day and discovered she’d walked seven miles in eight hours without leaving the building. That I could do that and still be overweight is a testament to just how much I was overdoing it. I’ve never had serious food issues (thank you to my non-dieting mother) but I developed a sort of preemptive eating habit because of my anxiety about being hungry during the long day.

      There was some kind of reverse thing going on here: Once I got over feeling like I needed to keep myself full in case I wouldn’t have time to eat later, I could suddenly stop eating when I was only comfortably full, instead of stuffed.

      I lost 35 pounds. With basically no effort.

      Okay, this doesn’t really follow, but my point was: I used to feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty. Eat something and sleep well.

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