Amy Norton Health Day Reporter
Monday, April 12, 2021 (HealthDay News)
Midnight treats may seem satisfying for now, but new research suggests that they can knock out people at work the next day.
A study of nearly 100 employees found a link between an “unhealthy” diet in the evening and poor performance at work the next day.
In general, people tended to leave work when they felt overspoiled the night before by eating too many calories, eating junk food, or snacking late into the night.
And there seemed to be both physical and emotional reasons, researchers found: Sometimes work malaise was associated with stomach pain and headaches. At other times people felt guilty about their dietary choices.
Of particular interest is the latter discovery, according to researcher Son-hee “Sophia” Cho, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.
She said the fact that late-night junk food could lead to indigestion the next morning, and the performance of less than stellar work, was “intuitive.”
However, these findings also suggest that people’s “self-blame” for food can permeate their work life, Cho said. And connecting those points is not so easy, she said.
Even with regard to research, little attention has been paid to the short-term effects of food choices on work performance. This is in contrast to other lifestyle habits such as sleep (or lack of sleep) and physical activity, Cho said.
“Here we were asking: Is an unhealthy diet effective immediately?” She said.
It looked, but of course it’s complicated.
For one thing, the study found that no one was interested in the midnight treat. Those with a high “emotional stability” score tended not to feel guilty about their food choices and did not interfere with their work.
There is also the question of where the “chain” begins, according to Colleen Tewkesbury, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
So did those midnight cookies cause a cascade of negative emotions, or did people eat in response to stress? And did it snowball the next day?
But the bottom line, Tewkesbury, is that while food itself is “morally neutral,” people can have emotions and judgments around it.
And when they feel guilty about their diet choices, those feelings don’t exist in the vacuum.
“That’s not the only negative emotion,” said Tewkesbury, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Nutrition. She was not part of the study.
Findings-Recently published Applied Psychology Journal -Based on 97 full-time workers who kept their daily diary for 2 weeks.
Before working every day, they answered questions about physical and emotional well-being. At the end of the day, they recorded what they did at work and reported on their post-work diet every night.
When people said they reduced “too much” calories, junk food, or late-night treats, it was considered an unhealthy diet.
In general, studies have shown that people tend to withdraw at work if they report an unhealthy diet the night before. “Withdrawal” included issues such as taking longer breaks than usual, falling asleep at work, or leaving early.
According to Cho, lack of sleep may have been a factor. If a large amount of food before bedtime interferes with people’s sleep, it can make them feel sick physically and mentally in the morning.
Midnight treats aren’t “essentially bad,” Tewkesbury said. The important thing is the context, she emphasized: why are you eating? What do you eat all day, not just at night? And what other lifestyle choices do you make?
According to Tewkesbury, the new discoveries support the message that stress, emotional reactions, lifestyle habits, and work performance are all “intertwined.”
“Adjusting one thing has an impact on the other,” she said.
According to Tewkesbury, anyone who needs help organizing things can consult a registered dietitian.
Cho agreed that the evening treat itself wasn’t bad. She said the point here was not to exacerbate people’s guilt about midnight munching.
But people aren’t always aware of the relationship between food and emotions, so it’s good to have that knowledge, she said. Also, if work can make you feel sick, it may be helpful to consider your diet the night before and your mood in the morning.
For more information
The Academy of Nutrition and Nutrition advises on late-night meals.
Source: Seonghee “Sophia” Cho, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Colleen Tewksbury, PhD, MPH, RDN, Senior Research Fellow, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, National Spokeswoman, Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Nutrition. Applied Psychology Journal, March 25, 2021 Online
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