Junk Food After Dark: Why It's so Hard to Resist
Science reveals why willpower goes out the window at night
Scarier than what goes bump in the night or severe weather outside your window, the new nighttime terror is... junk food! And you're not the only one being haunted by the Ghost of Late-Night Munchies. According to a new survey conducted by Massive Health, people all over the world turn to the sweet and salty stuff when the sun goes down. Massive Health is an iPhone app in which users enter their daily food intake. The company recently collected data from more than 50 countries to find out what and when people are eating. The results were, well, nightmarish.
"There is a 1.7 percent overall decrease in healthiness of what's eaten for every hour of the day that passes after breakfast," says Aza Raskin, Massive Health founder. "That's as true in Tokyo as it is in San Francisco as it is in São Paulo. It teaches us something fundamental about the way people make decisions about food-and decisions in general."
We've all been there: You start your day off right with Greek yogurt, fruit, almonds, and a conviction that you will eat healthy all day. Lunch is fish and a salad and you feel on fire! But then the afternoon slump hits and you figure you were so good all day, what can a little handful of M&Ms really do? By dinner you're ravenous and down half a loaf of French bread while the spaghetti cooks. Bedtime finds you zoning out in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream instead of hitting the sack early. When you finally stumble into bed too late and too tired, you feel awful and resolve to do better tomorrow. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We all know what we're supposed to do and yet the later it gets, the harder it is to make ourselves do it. Why is this? Researchers note that willpower is a limited resource, and we might use all of ours up earlier in the day. Another cause may be that as the day goes on and we get increasingly tired, we look to junk food for a quick hit of energy. Or it may just be that we've put in a long, hard day and feel like we've earned a treat by golly! But now you know. And knowing is half the battle.
So how do you conquer the late-night munchies? The obvious answer is to go to bed earlier. A recent study from Columbia University shows that the sleepier you get, the more appealing junk food looks. Plus, sleep has all kinds of amazing health benefits. But if you're not quite ready for snoozing and you feel the need to do a little snacking, there are ways to do so sensibly.