Without question, one of the single worst habits I have (at least that I am willing to publically detail…) is that of “night eating.” Now, I don’t know if night eating is a “thing” in the clinical sense but it sure as shooting is a “thing” when it comes to my life. And it’s not new. I’ve been lost in the world of post-midnight munching for decades.
Nighttime Eating at an Early Age
It all started back when I was seven or eight. Mom and dad would send me off to bed where I would lie for exactly the amount of time it took them to vacate the lower level of the house. Once they were out of sight I would discreetly slip to the downstairs television set and supplement my cultural education. Without a word of a lie, I spent a good ten years crouched a maximum of five or six inches from our old Zenith television between the hours of midnight and 4am, hand on the power button ready to switch it off the very second I heard movement toward the stairs. During these hours I consumed all manner of forbidden television fruit, from All in the Family to Cheers to the Tonight Show to Late Night with David Letterman and far beyond. Alas, my consumption was not limited to entertainment. When you’re watching this much telly this late into the night you get hungry – real hungry – and no food was safe when I went hunting.
Common (and Not So Common) Nighttime Eating Snacks
My ideal snack tended toward the salted varieties – chips, crackers and what have you – but I would never limit myself to that. Oh no, I also freely enjoyed chocolate bars, leftover pizza, milk, cereal, cold lasagna, bread, butter, crackers, cold soup, soda pop, juice, candy, canned corn, raw potatoes, tuna, ramen noodles (uncooked), beef jerky, homemade root beer and on and on and on. If it could plausibly be ingested, I would try anything at least once.
At the time it really wasn’t such a big deal. I was probably churning through more than enough calories day in and out as I was a fairly skinny kid. Sure, I ate like a threshing machine (look it up) but what young boy doesn’t? The main problem was that I created a habit which has stuck with me well into my forties, where my body is far less forgiving of the excesses it once tolerated.
Common Solutions to Nighttime Eating
While I’m certain there’s some big-brained scientific explanation of why staying up late and watching TV makes you eat more it doesn’t really matter. Bottom-line: it’s a bad habit that I absolutely have to break. And don’t even start on the hints. I’ve heard them all: “Oh, have some nuts” or “Drink lots of water and feel full.” Even the old “Have protein, that’ll fill you up” has been tried. They’re all great ideas but for me they act as little more than appetizers to the main event. I don’t ever stop with just one. I’m kind of like a food vampire. One bite doesn’t sate my desire – it only inflames it. This is why a handful of nuts becomes a third of the bag and little drink of water becomes three cans of soda, two sandwiches, a half litre of milk, a bag of munchie mix and three Snickers bars.
Look, I am aware of how wrong this is even while I’m doing it – which is crazy, I know. Why can’t I stop? I’m no analyst but I’m pretty sure the combination of a quiet house (a rarity for me these days…) and constant deadlines makes the night a tempting oasis of anonymous freedom. Sure it’s a paradise garden of bad choices but it also brings back memories of a simpler time. Of Letterman….when he was funny.
The morning after is without exception terrible. I wake up bloated and full, tired and frustrated. Now I don’t want to eat, so I just delay it until later and later, leading to overeating at other meals and then eventually right back into the night cycle again. It’s a vicious circle that repeats over and over again. I fear I may have savaged my metabolism beyond repair.
Ban on Nighttime Eating
These days I have much more success when I hold to a 10pm bedtime with a total ban on eating after 7pm. Amazingly this idea seems to work pretty well. But I still can’t help but feel nostalgic for times past. The night was when I took my first independent kicks at life. Watching what I wanted, eating what I wanted. Now I have to avoid it like some kind of bad influence buddy that will ruin my life if left unchecked. Arrrggg! What’s next – dinnertime at 4:30pm? I have to say this getting older stuff is way less fun than I thought it would be….