How many times have you heard that eating before bed will cause you to put on weight? Many individuals vow to "not eat after 6 p.m." to keep their weight in check. Others refuse to go to bed hungry and eat whatever they want after dinner. Some of these people are overweight and some are not. The reality is that the total calories consumed daily or monthly are the main determining factors for what they weigh. What time of day they eat is irrelevant to their chances of gaining, losing or maintaining their weight.

If your daily caloric intake is 1800 calories to maintain your current weight, it only matters that you do not consume more than this many calories, regardless of the time of day you eat. Many clients of mine abide by one "dieting" rule. This is not to eat anything after 6 or 7 p.m. Many of them fight hunger and cravings until bedtime and wake up starving in the morning. This can be successful for the right minded person. If you want to stop eating after 6 p.m., go for it. You will end up eating fewer calories but if you suffer with hunger at bedtime, you are fighting a losing battle. This is because you will likely find yourself eating more food during the day to compensate for the lack of calories at night.

The reason many perceive eating late as a means to weight gain is simply due to the fact that most of us mindlessly snack on high calorie desserts or munchies like chips and cookies when we have late night cravings. These are the calories that would push us way past the 1,800 mark and lead to weight gain over time. If you got past dinner with only having eaten 1,500 calories all day, you should have no worry about eating another 200 calories a few hours later (Note: total calories needed per day vary from person to person). Obviously, you should always choose a healthier option, but some strawberries poured over angel food cake shouldn't hurt much.

Pay closer attention to your calories versus the time of day you are eating them and you won't have to be forced to go to sleep hungry.

Michael Murphy is a registered dietitian living in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at (480) 415-8803 or visit

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