This information is based on a review of 500,000 meals that were recorded in 50 countries by the users of the app Eatery, a dieting app which requires users to rate their meals by their healthiness. Of course, this is not a scientific study, but the sheer vastness of the data is still interesting.
The data show that as the day progresses, people choose less and less healthy food and tend to snack on unhealthy food at night. (Of course, we have no idea what people are considering healthy or unhealthy, but I’ll leave that alone for now.)
What’s interesting to me is not just this pattern, but the conclusions that the writers at NPR and Jezebel made. Both made the argument that we need more willpower. Ted Burnham at NPR wrote, “So summon your willpower, skip the midnight snack, and go to sleep already! Your waistline may thank you in the morning.”
Wow, Ted, why didn’t all of these people think of that?! Genius! (*headdesk*)
Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel also made a comment about willpower, but seemed to have a little more understanding of the issue by writing, “Or it could be that the foods we turn to later in the evening aren’t as healthy by nature – dessert, chips – than what we’d turn to for breakfast. In any event, next time you’re indulging in a little midnight decadence, at least you know you’re not alone.”
The strange thing is that both of these writers took this behavior to be just human behavior, without considering the fact that this is a self-selected group of dieters using an app to track what they eat. In other words, this isn’t everyone. Dieters often start the day with fresh resolve to “eat really healthily” and as the day progresses, they get hungry. They feel deprived. And once the day is done and no one is around to talk about dieting or see what they’re eating, they grab what they can.
This pattern is not a healthy relationship to food, or even a “normal” relationship to food. This is a pattern created by the rules of dieting and the lies we tell ourselves when we do it.