Postpartum Women Who Eat Late At Night Gain More Weight After Delivery, Says Study

A study led by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital revealed that women who ate more of their daily intake during the nighttime are more likely to keep, and even gain, weight after giving birth. 

The study, which was published in the medical journal Nutrients in November 2019, explains how the study shows night eating and poorer diet are linked to weight gain post-pregnancy.

Dr Loy See Ling, who is a research fellow at the Department of Reproductive Medicine of KKH and the lead author of the study, said: "Our research, based on multi-ethnic Asian women, shows that although predominantly night eating and lower diet quality have been independently linked with weight gain, practising night eating along with low diet quality demonstrated the greatest likelihood of substantial postpartum weight gain and retention even after 18 months."

  • For the duration of the study, 687 women were examined during their pregnancy and after 18 months following delivery. 

    The study found that eating at night and a poor diet in the late second trimester is positively associated with higher postpartum weight retention, or PPWR.

    The results also found that 16 percent of new mothers had significant PPWR, gaining 5 kg or more at 18 months. The diaries and self-report measures found these mothers tended to eat more of their food after 7 p.m. It was also noted that they didn’t eat a balanced diet.

    Associate Professor Fabian Yap, head and senior consultant for Endocrinology Service, Department of Paediatrics at KKH said suggests that night eating may be potentially more damaging than lower-diet quality in contributing to substantial postpartum weight retention.

    “Our body systems have evolved to metabolize food during the day and rest during the night. Hence, consuming more calories at night than day mismatches our body’s natural body time clock by disrupting the metabolic rhythm in various organs such as liver, stomach, pancreas, fat tissue, resulting in disruption of energy metabolism. The consumption of more calories at night is also closely linked with later bedtime and hence, associated with [being] overweight and obesity,” he said. 

    To prevent undesirable weight gain and retention after birth, the researches suggest that pregnant women adopt the following interventions during their pregnancy to ensure an adequate nutrient supply for both mother and baby:

    - Adopt a good diet during pregnancy. Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Cut down on fatty, salty, and sugary foods.
    - Change meal times to earlier in the day or have lighter foods at night. 
    - Eat meals at regular times of the day.
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  • 5 more tips to avoid eating late at night:

    Pregnant women often get cravings. However, studies show that giving in to these cravings can lead to weight gain. Compound this with overeating at night, and it’ll be hard to shake off the weight after the baby arrives!

    Here are some effective tips to help you avoid satisfying those cravings.

  • 1. Get regular exercise

    Start a routine of exercising often and at the same times. Exercise is known to regulate hormone levels and keep you from feeling hungry all the time.

  • 2. Keep healthy snacks on hand

    Healthy snacks are foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. So vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should be kept nearby!

    Having these healthy snacks  around can help you stay fuller because of the protein and fiber content.

  • 3. Eat at regular intervals

    Another way to make sure you’re not tempted to eat late into the night is by eating at regular intervals. Leaving too much space between meals can cause food cravings to pop up more frequently.

    Consider eating six small meals each day.

  • 4. Settle on a sleeping ritual

    Winding down at the end of the day can be tough if you’ve got a lot on your mind.

    Decide on a routine to stick to each night to signal your brain and body that it’s time to sleep.

    This might include reading for a short while, meditating, or sewing. Whatever the activities, be consistent and stick with them. Once you start your routine, you’ll find it much easier to sleep.

    Also, avoid looking at screens! Watching TV or browsing Instagram on your phone will keep you awake!

  • 5. Ask your partner to help keep you in check

    While you’re the one losing the weight, your partner can also play a role.

    You’re not asking him to police you, but to give you encouragement to stay the course and not stray from the path of watching your weight.

    By all means, indulge in a treat every so often. But let him know he can rein you in if you’re going overboard.

    Getting your husband involved will give him a greater sense of responsibility. He can help to cook or buy healthier meals to support you during your pregnancy journey.

    This article was republished with permission from theAsianParent.

    theAsianparent is a publication under Tickled Media Pte Ltd. Started in September 2009, it is the largest parenting website in Southeast Asia, targeted at urban parents and parents-to-be who live in Asia or are of Asian heritage. theAsianparent speaks to every stage and priority of an Asian mom’s journey – from pre-conception to pregnancy, to breastfeeding, and even how to raise smart, strong and kind children.