How much do you eat after dinner?
After the plates are cleared and the dishwasher started, do you sit down with a nice glass of water or cup of peppermint tea to watch TV…
Or do you fix yourself a little snack?
Nothing much. Just something for those late-night munchies.
Even though you just ate.
Even though your stomach is full.
Because you’re still not satisfied.
Snacking after dinner is practically an institution.
Your work is done. You want to relax, so you treat yourself. You can afford a small indulgence after being good all day. So you have a scoop of ice cream, or some potato chips, or a small glass of wine, or all three at once…
Relaxing and eating go hand in hand.
Since the only time you get to relax is in the evenings, that’s when you snack.
It all makes so much sense, but…
It’s just so BAD for us.
Evenings are the worst possible time to snack for a number of reasons.
- Your willpower is exhausted after a day of decision making.
- Food doesn’t taste as satisfying, leading you to eat more just to get the same hit.
- Your body doesn’t like it.
Researchers are finding more and more evidence that WHEN you eat matters as much as WHAT you eat.
It all comes down to circadian rhythms.
You already know you have your own internal body clock, telling you when to sleep and when to wake up and when to eat.
But few of us listen to those internal promptings. We’ve got to wake up when the alarm tells us to and eat when it’s time for our lunch break.
Our super-scheduled life comes at a cost.
Shift workers, for example, frequently experience digestive problems such as ulcers. Eating meals out of sync with your body clock is hard on your health. 
And it’s not just shift workers.
Night owls do the same, and they also pay a price.
People who go to bed in the wee hours of the morning tend to consume about 250 calories more every day than people who go to bed at a normal time.
These night owls also tend to eat twice as much fast food and half as many fruits and vegetables as normal sleepers. Not surprisingly, they also have a higher BMI. 
If you’re not a night owl or a shift worker, you still may be at risk.
Another study found that many people consume up to a THIRD of their daily calories after 6pm. Even worse, everything they ate after 6:30pm was excess. Those extra calories were going straight to their waistline. 
The message is clear:
STOP eating after dinner.
Once the table is clear and the food put away, do something else. Don’t give yourself the option of peeking in the fridge for something to nibble on.
But how do you DO that?
First of all, time your dinner right. You want to go at least 12 hours every day with no food in your system. So, if you’re waking up at 6am, you want to finish eating by 6pm.
Sure, that’s not always possible. But when you can, have your dinner a little earlier. Know that you’re not eating after 6pm. It’s easier to resist snacking when you know you can’t have anything after a certain time.
Switch up your nighttime routine. If you normally wind down in front of the television, try winding down in a long hot bath. Do something you don’t associate with snacking.
Finally—and most importantly of all—go to bed earlier.
You can’t snack when you’re asleep!
Going to bed earlier is a powerful tool in your weight-loss arsenal.
There’s a strong link between obesity and not getting enough sleep. The less sleep you get, the more you’re likely to weigh. 
In part, that’s because we tend to eat when we feel tired. We use food to give us a boost of energy.
That’s why 3pm is such a dangerous time. You’re feeling sleepy, and you’ll do anything to make yourself wake up and get back on task. That candy bowl on the desk at reception is just the ticket.
The more rested you feel, the less you need empty calories and caffeine to prop you up.
But going to bed earlier also serves another purpose.
It eliminates some of those empty hours between dinner and bedtime, when cravings are at their peak.
If you go to bed earlier and get up earlier, you’re basically swapping some of those evening hours for more time in the morning. And morning isn’t a time when most of us experience overwhelming cravings (except for coffee!).
Those morning hours can even help your metabolism work better.
Studies have shown that getting out and enjoying that morning sunshine is associated with a lower BMI. So, instead of staying awake that extra half an hour, wake up a half hour earlier and spend it on your front porch soaking in that early-morning calm.
It’s not easy to break the habit of late nights.
But wouldn’t it be great if losing weight were as easy as sleeping? 😉