Is it just me, or do people literally never crave salad when they’re really hungry? Like, if I haven’t eaten since lunch and it’s rolling on 9pm (I eat dinner late, sue me), I am never hunting around for a big-ass bowl of mixed greens. If “you are what you eat” is true, then I’m a Domino’s thin-crust cheese pizza, and I’m honestly fine with that. Here’s the thing, though: in the decades that have passed since that ridiculous phrase was coined, we’ve come a long way. And by “we,” I mean the nutritionists and doctors of the world. That’s because what you eat is not the only important factor in your diet. Sounds fake, but it’s true, at least according to Dr. Michael Crupain.
Dr. Michael Crupain, medical director at The Dr. Oz Show and author of What to Eat When, believes that it’s not only about what you eat; it’s also about when you eat. Thank the f*cking lord. I spoke to Dr. Crupain about why timing is so important in your diet. So if you tend to feel hungry before bed and always reach for the bag of pretzels, read on!
Does When You Eat Matter As Much As What You Eat?
Simply put, yes. They both matter a lot because, according to Dr. Crupain, “it has to do with something called our circadian rhythm. That is our body’s internal clock, which is set by the sun. We often think about it as important for sleep, and it is, but it also helps regulate all the systems in our body including our metabolism.” And our metabolisms actually change throughout the day. Did anyone else know that? I sure as f*ck didn’t!
In layman’s terms, our bodies generally expect a lot of high-quality food earlier in the day and less food in the evenings. “When you eat a big meal at night,” explains Dr. Crupain, “you throw a wrench into the whole system, and instead of burning fat you are more likely to store it.” Ah, so that explains the bloat I wake up with, that part of me worries is an actual baby bump at this point. So if you don’t want to massively confuse your body, don’t have your pesto pasta right before you plan on passing out. However, this does not mean that you can’t eat before bed. Like, sometimes, I am so hungry that my body won’t let me sleep until I feed it something edible. More on this in a moment.
What Foods Should We Eat/Avoid?
If you’re aiming to live a healthy and clean lifestyle, which, like, same, eat the good stuff like whole grains, healthy fats, lean fish (salmon), seeds, and veggies. This applies at any time of day. So if you’re mad hungry right before bed, spread some mashed avocado on a seeded cracker and, boom, you’ve got yourself a healthy snack that will actually help you fall asleep without f*cking up your metabolism. Eating a low-energy food before bed helps regulate blood sugar levels that usually drop while you sleep.
Dr. Crupain also notes one thing we all already know but refuse to accept: “The most important foods to avoid are ultra-processed ones that are loaded with sugar. Also skip fried foods and a lot of red meat.” Look, cheeseburgers are my best friends and I will never fully give them up, but after talking to Dr. Crupain, I will def limit my Shake Shack intake because it is slowly killing me. *Cries quietly* Baby steps, though, right?
When Should You Have Your Largest Meal And Why?
Has anyone ever heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Lol, I joke. We are all too familiar with that phrase. Dr. Crupain says that the jury is actually out on this but, “what we do know is that breakfast and lunch combined are the most important meals of the day because that is when your metabolism is expecting you to eat and is best able to process that food. We recommend that you make breakfast and lunch your largest meals of the day and dinner the smallest. Ideally, you should eat when the sun is shining and get 75% of your calories in before 3pm.”
*Pauses to perform elementary-level math* I mean, this makes sense given that your metabolism is hard at work during the day and not as much while you sleep. I, however, have been doing the literal opposite of this since graduating college. I have coffee for breakfast, then the chicken and cheese from my salad for lunch, and an enormous dinner every damn day. Where has Dr. Crupain been all my life?! Since speaking with him, I’ve started waking up earlier to have a legit breakfast that ranges from avo toast to Purely Elizabeth granola with bananas and a lunch that consists of actually eating the greens in my salad. Adjusting to dinners that aren’t Michael Phelps-sized has been hard, but I have found that I’m sleeping a lot better and haven’t looked super bloated in the mornings! Speaking of sleep…
What’s The Best Type Of Food To Eat For A Good Night’s Sleep?
“For specific foods that can help you sleep, studies show that eating a lot of saturated fat and sugar can interfere with the ability to fall asleep, while foods like whole grains and fish can make falling asleep easier. In a pinch, some research suggests that kiwis and tart cherry juice can help people fall asleep,” I’m not a huge fan of kiwis, but I’d be down to try tart cherry juice because that just sounds delicious
and like it’d be a great mixer.
So there you have it, everyone. What you eat is important, but so is when you eat. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should start eating Chipotle for breakfast, it just means maybe don’t have Chipotle for dinner if you eat dinner at 9pm. Of course, everyone’s bodies are different, but it’s safe to assume that having a heavy and enormous meal before bed will not work for you if you want quality sleep and a healthy gut.
Images: Giphy (4); Unsplash
When it comes to weight loss and dieting, we’ve all heard and believed a lot of lies. The Kardashians get their figures by sipping on Fit Tea! Gluten-free is always better! This is how many calories you should eat! No, this! Frankly, it’s exhausting. The most damaging of these lies, in my opinion, is “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” (To those of you doubting me, I lost 7 pounds with a stomach bug last summer. The taste of mac ‘n’ cheese kicks that feeling’s *ss every time.) Not only is this saying wrong because it was coined by someone who has never tasted food (hi Kate Moss! Big fan), it’s wrong because it promotes the idea that—no matter what else is going on—you would feel better if you were skinnier.
On that note, I’m sadly confident that every day of my life so far I would’ve agreed with the statement “my life would be better if I weighed ten pounds less.” Even (and especially!) in moments with much, much more pressing issues directly affecting my well-being. So as we all embark on our respective, crazed self-improvement Januarys, here are some warning signs that your weight is not the real issue. In other words, signs that no matter how much you diet, or how much weight you do manage to lose, it’s not going to address what’s really bothering you. It won’t, ultimately, make you all that much happier. And isn’t that really the point?
You Constantly Compare Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to others is a sure way to “fail” any diet plan. As countless trainers have told me when I whip out an inspo picture of Kendall Jenner, no amount of food restriction or exercise can make your body look like someone else’s. You can look like a version of yourself with more muscles, or less fat, or with more or less of a noticeable stomach (I’m told—I’ve never experienced this myself). And that’s it! Those are all your options. So if your desire for weight loss is specifically sparked by seeing a certain body type, I’m afraid to say that dieting will not get you where you want to go.
It’s a long, boring process to become okay with what you’re born with. (And it’s one that the wealthier members of our society forgo for plastic surgery.) Whether the boost you need to get more okay with yourself is
retail weekly therapy, daily affirmations, or just better bathroom lighting (I cannot recommend this one strongly enough), I can promise you that happiness is not five pounds away. So stop looking at the scale; the answer is somewhere else.
You’re Way Too Obsessed With Your Diet
No, this isn’t just a fun way to call out vegans and Paleo people. (Though truly, the amount y’all talk about your diets is insane.) One major sign that you’re offloading other concerns into one specific area (“I need to lose weight”) is when you become incapable of talking or thinking about anything else. When you become so fixated on what you can and can’t eat, and when you can expect to see results, and whether or not anything feels different or bad or good all day—it places a huge, untenable amount of pressure on that part of your life. It puts you in a place where you’re not able to find happiness from any other aspects of your life (AKA your friends, leaving the house for non-work reasons), and it convinces you even further that the only thing that will make you happy is losing weight.
We’re all guilty of going a little overboard with a new venture we’re excited about, and I don’t want to shame anyone who’s put in hard work on a diet. (I did the keto diet for two weeks, and the amount of math involved at every meal almost killed me.) But feeling like you’re so obsessed that it’s all you can think about means you need to step back. If you’re finding that the only joy you get comes from seeing a number on a scale, it’s not going to be quite so easy to just jump back into normal life once you’re at the weight you think will make you happy. You need to address (right now! at the weight you currently are!) why other aspects of your life aren’t fulfilling to you, and work on that at least as much as your diet.
Your Eating Is Mostly Emotional
Late-night shame binging, stuffing your face with apps at a family event, refilling your plate for the third time when your stomach still hurts from the second. Am I just describing my holiday break, or do I have a larger point? Both! What all those eating incidents have in common, beyond the fact that I am a monster, is that they had nothing to do with how hungry I was, or what I really wanted to be in my body. At many points in my life (#growingupfat), I’ve used food as a distraction—a quick hit of endorphins in the form of chocolate or cheese that took me away from the present moment. Whether that moment was stressful, sad, or just plain boring, eating made it better.
But as it turns out, eating every time you’re not 100% okay with your surroundings does not actually feel better in the long run. And every time my emotional eating ticks up, and my weight inevitably changes along with it, I address it in the worst way. I am So Fat! I tell myself. Better go on an all-out diet, starting with green juice at 8 AM. But here’s the thing! I was not gaining weight because my breakfasts were bad for me. In fact, I ate pretty healthily, within the context of normal meals. And making those normal meals more restrictive (under the I Am Fat & Therefore Must Diet regime) just exacerbated my emotional eating. Hungry people are weak people, and saying no to a midnight pint of ice cream only got harder when I’d subsisted on lettuce all day.
So, if you’re like me and a lot of your “bad eating” tends to happen in these types of settings—where the food has nothing to do with its role as food, and everything to do with your mood—no diet in the world, sadly, will fix it. You have to figure out a peace for yourself in moments that typically have you reaching for food. Because even though there may be unwanted weight involved, it’s not the weight that’s the problem—it’s the way you’re using food to control your emotions. (And if you solve that problem, any remaining weight loss goals you have will be so much easier.)
See this? This is
a picture of me on Sunday night not a well-adjusted human.
As you can probably tell, I’m guilty of all three of these behaviors. It sucks to feel obsessed with your weight, and it’s easy to feel like the whole world encourages that kind of thinking. But the lie that they’re selling is that weight loss is everything because weight loss will make you happy. Don’t forget that happiness—YOUR happiness—is what you’re actually after, and don’t be fooled into thinking that weight loss will always, definitely get you there. There are other ways to be happy, and honestly, most of them make me way f*cking happier than going on a diet.
Images: Giphy (3); Unsplash / i yunmai