This article is a thought piece to guide the reader to better understand diets. (Debunking The Myth That Eating At Night Makes You Gain Weight) If this myth were true, World Hunger would be solved.
There are too many misconceptions of dieting in today’s world. If you were to research on dieting, you would find a plethora of options – each promising different things and claiming to be healthy.
Some diets claim that breakfast is king while others claim that skipping breakfast and eating in a small window of time is better.
There are diets that say butter is good for you while others say that butter is a thing to avoid if possible. The same thing with fruits, they have sugar in them right? Are they good or bad?
So just WHICH is it!?
To begin to answer this question, it is important to understand WHY the diet works. Let’s explore this with a common myth. There is a common myth that eating before bedtime makes you gain weight.
** Storytime **
Last night, Johnny missed his dinner as he did too much overtime at work. He finally gets home at 10pm and his bedtime is at 11pm.
Hungrily, he opens his fridge and reaches for the 650 calorie ready to eat meal that just requires heating. Just as he places the food into the microwave, the reflection of the clock on the microwave surface captures his attention.
It is 10pm. Horror.
He knows that eating at this time causes the body to store ALL of it as fat. He will be fat! He will gain weight! Mr. Fat going once. Mr. Fat going twice. NO!!!!
Johnny musters his courage. He pulls out the meal, slams it quickly back into the fridge. Wiping slight perspiration off his forehead, “Not today, Mr. Fats.” He whispers with trepidation in his voice.
Johnny washes up and goes to bed hungry. He doesn’t sleep as well because he is hungry. But eventually, he does fall asleep. The next morning, he wakes up. He is happy that he avoided the meal.
Since he is ravishingly hungry now, he eats that same would be dinner from last night together with his usual breakfast today. All is well.
** End Story **
Or is it? Let’s think critically. Johnny skipped his dinner last night only to eat his dinner and usual breakfast the next morning.
If he had eaten his dinner last night and his usual breakfast this morning, he would have eaten the same amount of food in that period of time, not to mention he would likely have had better sleep quality too.
Since both scenarios have the same amount of food consumed but at different timings, this bags the question. Does food timing matter when it comes to body weight? Is one scenario better than the other when it comes to weight?
“No!” I say. Food timing doesn’t matter when it comes to body weight. It is rather the total amount of food eaten. To be more precise, it is the total calories consumed vs the total calories burnt.
You see, dear reader, if eating at night is really the factor that makes one gain weight and not the total amount of food, then I CAN SOLVE WORLD HUNGER! Yes. Really, I can.
Let’s see, if someone is fat and weighs a lot, are they starving? Would they die of starvation the next day? I hope you agree with me the answer is no.
Now, we know that there are countless unfortunate people dying in Africa due to starvation everyday. They are thin, they have no fat. They weigh too little.
They have maybe 1 meal a day or at least a way smaller amount of total food each day then you and I.
Well, let me teach them how to get fat! Let me teach everyone who is starving to just wait until their bedtime to eat. Whatever amount of food they have accessible, eat it only at bedtime.
Based on that myth, YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT RIGHT? See, if they are fat and weigh more they will not starve!
Do you now see how ridiculous this is!? Is world hunger simply as solvable as letting everyone know that they should eat right before bedtime? No!
Do we as mankind just need to build large broadcast towers all around poor nations and share the news? NO! The answer isn’t so simple.
Let’s follow along with this myth of eating before bedtime making one gain weight, let’s say 3 hours before bedtime is the magic number. Anything you eat 3 hours before bedtime makes you gain weight.
*In the next paragraph, assume all else is equal between the 2 individuals*
Do you really think that someone who eats 5 balanced 500 calorie meals a day but eats it all of it way before bedtime will get leaner than someone who does not eat throughout the day but only eats 2 balanced 500 calorie meals and goes to bed straight away?
NO! I hope you see how RIDICULOUS this is! It’s the total amount of food that dictates your weight in the long run – Not the timing!
This is the KEY!
Okay, now let’s get back to the main question, why does a certain diet work? Well, many diets work because they all have this same thing in common – they reduce your total amount of food consumed!
Diets that ask you to avoid carbs? Notice that you have likely eaten less.
Diets that only allow you to eat in an 8 hour window? It is likely that you are unable to eat as much food in 8 hours rather than 16 hours. You likely have eaten less.
Diets that are vegan or vegetarian in nature? You have likely eaten less.
In conclusion, I hope that you now understand the principle behind why many diets can work. Remember, your weight in the long run is largely dependent on the total amount of food you eat vs the amount of energy you use day-to-day.
However, the discussion of body composition (i.e. what makes up the weight in your body) is a whole different chapter altogether. To find out more about that, please read the other articles on the site.
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