Can You Lose Weight If You Stop Eating After 6 PM?

Late-night eating in front of the TV can make you feel like you’ve undone a day of healthy eating and exercise. The calories you consume late at night do not turn into fat more easily than those you consume throughout the day, however. Learning more about your body’s caloric balance can help you to better understand how to lose weight.

Calorie Basics

 In order to maintain your current weight, you must burn just as many calories as you consume through daily activities and exercise. Your body also continually burns calories -- even in the dead of night -- to keep your body functioning. In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume to force your body to resort to its fat stores for energy. To lose one pound of fat, you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, according to the CDC. Thus, if you want to lose 1 pound every week, you must cut 500 calories a day through diet and exercise. You can cut those calories by eliminating nighttime eating, or you can cut those calories by reducing your portion sizes at all meals. Eliminating nighttime eating will not automatically make you lose weight unless you take in fewer calories than you burn.

Misconceptions

Calories eaten late at night or after 6:00 p.m. do not automatically turn into fat. Your body uses calories the same way regardless of the time of day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total number of calories you eat throughout the day determines whether or not you will gain weight, rather than the time of day at which you consume those calories.

Expert Insight

Instead of focusing on when you eat, focus on what you eat. A healthy diet should contain plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, legumes and nuts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Items high in saturated fats, trans fats, added sugar and cholesterol can contribute to weight gain and health problems. Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods. Rather, change the way you consume them or use exercise to balance them out. The CDC recommends consuming favorite high-calorie foods less often or in smaller amounts.

Considerations

If you tend to consume high-calorie, high-sugar or high-fat items after dinner and late at night, then cutting those treats can help you lose weight. Skipping your daily dessert or high-sugar cocktail, for example, can help you to balance the calorie equation in your favor. When deciding whether or not to eat late at night, ask yourself whether you really feel hungry or simply want to eat out of boredom. Avoid mindless eating in front of the TV.

Alternatives

If you really feel hungry late at night, choose healthy snacks. Eat fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, low-fat yogurt or a small portion of nuts rather than a candy bar or bag of chips. Or eat air-popped popcorn rather than oil-popped popcorn.