Nighttime often means snack time, but before you devour
an entire box of Frosted Flakes, you should determine whether habit or hunger
is driving this desire.
“Hunger is a physical state. If what you are feeling is
an emotional state, it’s not hunger,” said Annie Wetter, Chair of the School of
Health Promotion and Human Development.
Food satisfies all sorts of emotions at the end of the
day, whether for entertainment, distraction or relaxation. It is also often
associated with sedentary behavior, like watching television or using the
computer which we tend to engage in during the evening.
To avoid snacking out of boredom, keep the evening
interesting. Hit up the gym or get ahead on homework. Keeping yourself busy
will make it easier to refrain from mindless snacking.
However, if you’re lying in bed and your stomach is
grumbling so loud that you need to invest in a pair of earplugs, calm those
hunger pangs and go eat something.
“It is entirely possible for students to experience
true hunger, depending on how late they are staying up, the size of their last
meal and the time at which they last ate,” Wetter said. “Many students are
forced to eat early because of the Debot schedule.”
Even if your stomach isn’t growling, it’s okay to snack
with a notion of calorie balance.
“Even if it is emotional, it shouldn’t be dismissed,”
If cravings are taking over your mind and preventing
you from concentrating on anything else, go ahead and attend to those cravings—
“Attend to them in a thoughtful and mindful way, so cravings
don’t turn into eating an entire pizza, but rather mindfully spending 15
minutes eating a 50-calorie cookie. Attending to cravings can help prevent
bouts of overeating from feeling deprived and restricted,” Wetter said.
For busy students trying to balance jobs, internships
and homework, it is especially important to get a good night’s sleep while
managing all of the other commitments in order to maintain a regular
“Irregular sleep patterns have an impact on our
physiology. Those who stay up late are more likely to become hormonally and
metabolically disrupted,” Wetter said.
Nighttime isn’t the enemy. Eating at night isn’t
necessarily bad. If you are going to eat a cupcake today, it won’t make a
difference whether it’s consumed at 10 a.m. or 11 p.m.
Time of day doesn’t change the number of calories
entering your body. What matters is the type of food being consumed. Whether
you snack during the morning or in the evening before bed, be conscious of the
So next time you’re experiencing a late-night trip to
the kitchen, it’s okay. Instead of spending the entire night trying to avoid
these cravings, attend to them – as long as you are doing it mindfully.