Why You May Need to Eat More to Eat Less
Do you eat like a bird all day without much effort, and then find yourself knee-deep in ice cream come 8pm?
This is a super common problem.
The daytime feels almost effortless, and you have no trouble eating the sensible breakfast and lunch you planned for yourself, but at night it’s like a different brain takes over and you have no control.
I used to say, “I wish daytime Teddey and night time Teddey would learn to get along.”
There may be several reason for this pattern (deprivation, coping with stress, etc), but I’m going to focus on a specific one that’s fairly easy to resolve: physical need.
Your body needs a certain number of calories throughout the day to keep you alive, even if you do absolutely no activity. This is called your basal metabolic rate. Every activity you do, whether it’s chewing or taking a shower or running 10 miles, increases your caloric needs. So everyone actually needs far more calories than their BMR on a daily basis.
The average basal metabolic rate is around 1500-2000 calories per day. Depending on how active you are, you may need between 500-1500 more than that to fuel your body adequately. Many popular diet plans recommend total caloric intake of 1200-1500 calories per day to lose weight.
You will probably lose weight in the short term if you create that big of a caloric deficit in your body, because you’re starving yourself. Your body will start to cannibalize its own muscle tissue to provide needed energy, which also releases a lot of water from your body, so weight loss can be fast and dramatic.
However, there is always a backlash. Since your body thinks it’s starving, your metabolism will slow way down, your appetite will increase, and you will become preoccupied with food. The body has evolved over thousands of years to survive famine, and the mechanisms are very powerful.
Your body’s survival instincts are far more powerful than your brain’s desire for a smaller waistline, therefore you eat...a lot...even when you try really hard not to.
This is particularly problematic when it happens at night, because your body doesn’t have time to do anything with all that food, so it just gets stored.
Here’s the easiest way to overcome the problem: eat more throughout the day.
If your daily eating patterns are restrictive, you are going to overeat at night to compensate. If you make a point to spread your calories more evenly throughout the day, your body will be statiated at night and you will be able to avoid going bananas.
Suppose you need 2000 calories per day. If you divide that in 3, that’s 666 calories for each meal. Say you want to leave a little extra for dinner, and you might have a couple snacks, so you might eat 500 calories for breakfast and 500 calories for lunch, leaving 1000 calories for dinner and snacks.
What do you normally have for breakfast? I’m betting it doesn’t come close to 500 calories. A container of yogurt can have 100 calories or less, a banana has 100 calories, and an egg has 78 calories.
By no means am I suggesting that you start counting calories--I’m just offering some examples so you can see that you may not be getting enough calories early in the day. The very best way to give your body what it needs is to eat according to your body’s signals.
Feeding yourself sufficiently earlier in the day also has the added benefit of revving up your metabolism so you have more energy and actually burn the calories you are taking in. This is really important in order to feel your best and have your body work properly.
So, eat when you’re hungry and make sure you’re getting enough for breakfast and lunch, and watch those night time battles fade away.
Let me know if you have an eating / body image / food-related question and I'll answer it in my next Q&A blog!