The Great Grand Diet Trial Of 2011: July

May 15th, 2012 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

In 2011 I set about on a journey to regain my health – a series of dietary experiments. You can read the backstory here. Prior to beginning these trials, I had used an elimination diet to clear up a systemic Candida infection. I was also healing my gut/digestion through the intensive application of probiotics via fermented foods and beverages, and it worked, because cultured food is magical!

The Test
In July, I stopped eating dessert on weeknights, and I stopped eating after 9pm entirely.

The Theory
There were actually two issues that I was addressing in July, though they were totally intertwined. Essentially, I’d gotten into this habit of eating dessert, every night, between 10 and 11 pm. But let’s stop there for a sec, so I can make it clear: I’m not saying I was eating a slice of cake every night. It wasn’t even a cookie. My dessert, my kind of dessert, is a frozen banana (or two), a spoonful of raw almond butter (okay lets be honest, a few spoonfuls) and some raw coconut sugar for dipping. Delicious!

And it was a nightly indulgence, as I was working on and wrapping up Rawesomely Vegan. But was it healthy? I wasn’t so concerned about the dessert aspect, since my “dessert” looked a lot like somebody else’s breakfast. At least I should say, I wasn’t worried about it in terms of sugar. I did wonder whether the caloric load (it’s quite high-calorie) was really necessary.

But most importantly, pretty much all the experts warn against late-night eating. Just Google it and you’ll see – everyone agrees that eating late is bad for health and hard on digestion. Okay. With sadness and a fond farewell for my beloved banana + almond butter, I kicked my late-night eating to the curb.

The Results
I’ll just go ahead and say it: this month SUCKED.

Strangely, through all my experimentation, both in this trial and over the years, I’ve never really felt *deprived*. But this month? Totally. At night I would get cranky and irritable and feel sorry for myself. You know – deprived!

What I came to understand, as the weeks wore on, was that there was a reason. BECAUSE I WAS HUNGRY.

We eat dinner pretty early, between 6-630 on most nights. I put Waits to bed around 9 and I’m back downstairs working by 945-10. And those crazy days of writing and editing, I was working into the wee hours every night. Even when I don’t have a manuscript, I’m up until midnight every night. That’s just my cycle.

So I don’t know about anybody else and I can only speak for myself, but 5-6 hours without food is just too much for me. Add to that an overnight, and I was waking up each morning with super low energy (and a foul mood).

I don’t have it in my notes, but I’m pretty sure I quit this trial early.

So yes, the longevity gurus will insist that I’m taking years off my life with my moonlit snack attacks. That’s okay. I found what works for me and THIS works great. Healthy-style dessert around 10 keeps my fueled and feeling good until breakfast. Maybe things will change once Waits is completely weaned and I’m no longer making breastmilk. But for now, this is it.

So why dessert? Are you wondering why I don’t just have a late night salad? Well, I do love me some salad, but I also have a sweet tooth. And for me, knowing that I’m going to get “dessert” at night helps me to stay on track eating healthy during the day. I have afternoon cookie craving just like anyone else does, and it’s infinitely easier for me to brush them off when I know there’s a perfect, perfectly wholesome, treat at the end of my day.

Frozen banana with almond butter will always be my #1, but these are a few of my other favorites:
The practically-viral Banana Soft Serve (via Choosing Raw)
These lemon-kissed blondie bites are right up my alley (from Dreena)
Simple perfection in peanut butter-stuffed dates (photo by Spabettie)
And of course, there’s always a good old fashioned raw chocolate protein shake (I would 1/2 or 1/4 this recipe for a late night drink) (via Miss Kristin)

I was so glad when July ended, and eager to start on August – the last month-long trial in the series!

Edited to link in the rest of the series:

Putting It All Together

  • bitt

    I have had some stomach problems that are exacerbated by late night eating, so much so that it was clear it was making me really sick. So what I did was if I ate a kind of early dinner at 6, I try to eat a snack or dessert at 8, not at 10. I also eat much bigger dinners now, and not just raw, because when I was eating raw dinners I got too hungry a few hours later. Sometimes I still slip up, no one is perfect! Also when I get that craving late I often have as herbal tea and it helps.

  • Rachel @ Rachel in Veganland

    I know the feeling when it comes to late night eating! I’m very much the same way–I have a fast metabolism as I’m very active and going for more than a couple of hours without food is excruciating for me. Lately, I’ve been feeling guilty about these indulgences in the evening hours, (i.e. the occasional coconut milk ice cream etc.) so this post came just at the right time. It’s great to feel reaffirmed and that i’m not alone when it comes to when and what I eat. Thanks Sayward!

  • Eco-Vegan Gal

    Without having read the rest of your posts, I had to share that I think I finally found a solution for my candida symptoms and dessert cravings – the 80/10/10 diet. I’ve only been experimenting with it for a few weeks, but my symptoms went away within a few days! And this is after over a year of trying to heal with the traditional anti-candida diet. Best of all, since I’ve been eating so much fruit I have no cravings for dessert because I feel like I’m eating it all day! Definitely worth trying after reading the book if you haven’t yet – lots of interesting info about how fat effects the body. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Ladies Holiday

    So amazing for you to follow through the trial and get to know your body, especially when what’s far easier is to just ignore, move on, daze out. And banana soft-serve with a tablespoon of slightly warmed almond butter is where it’s at. ~Deirdre

  • Moira

    I love that you tried this. Being in the nutrition world, I’ve certainly heard the theory many times. However some of us didn’t necessarily agree and believed it was how you stack up the foodstuff and calories during the day. We’ve done such experiments ourselves… but never for a whole month!! You’re inspiring, Sayward.

    BTW the banana+almond butter+ coconut sugar sounds divine. Must try.

  • Moira

    I love that you tried this. Being in the nutrition world, I’ve certainly heard the theory many times. However some of us didn’t necessarily agree and believed it was how you stack up the foodstuff and calories during the day. We’ve done such experiments ourselves… but never for a whole month!! You’re inspiring, Sayward.

    BTW the banana+almond butter+ coconut sugar sounds divine. Must try.

  • Sonja

    love that you don’t beat yourself up anymore for having a healthy late-night-dessert! And as last time, great to read your words again:-) Hope you and your lovely family are fine!

  • Fran@BCDC

    I make the conscious decision to eat dinner later (not everyone’s option) in order to not get sucked in my evening snacking. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Crazy.

  • Theresa

    I’m so glad you’re posting these, I miss you! Your diet trial is wonderful because it shows how someone can make small changes, stop to actually listen to your body and then make your own conclusion as to what works for you. So many of us are looking for a one size fits all solution to health and/or weight loss and I think it’s just the wrong approach.

    With regards to this trial, I think it makes sense for some people to eat later. Personally, I’ve never been a late night snacker. Add to that years of commentary about how bad late night eating is and by my college years I was making a point to just not eat after dinner. I’m one of those obnoxious “morning people” though so I tend to crash early. After I had my second baby I found myself trying to focus on how I was actually feeling during all those marathon nursing sessions. It didn’t take me long to realize, yes, in fact, I am hungry when I’m up feeding the baby at 3 am. It makes sense though, I’ve got to burn calories by being awake and producing milk in the middle of the night and my body was just demanding some fuel. I started having a wholesome snack (usually a date/nut butter combo) around 10 or 11pm and immediately felt better. Now that the baby is sleeping better I’ve cut my snack out again without issue.

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Ahh, the endless late-night eating debate. I have tried a few times to cut out late night snacking, but it always ends in misery (especially for anyone caught in the path of my morning grumpiness). I’ve always been a six to eight small meals a day kind of person, with two slightly larger snacks/meals: my mid morning snack, and my dinner (preferably around 7 or 8). I’m also up until at least midnight every day, and I wouldn’t be able to function without a snack around 10 or so!

    Were you a late-night snacker before you had Waits? When I was nursing Nina, it seemed like I was snacking around the clock, especially as she got bigger and I was expending more energy pushing her in the jogger/chasing her around!

  • C Reinhardt

    I would like to wager a bet that very few of us were wondering why you didn’t just have a late night night salad. ;) Although I must say your salads are probably divine. I

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Dear friend, I was a late night drinker before I had Waits. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ha! Fair enough. =)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}


  • Natsmithillustrations

    i love that you try things out for a month before deciding something. very reasonable!! and that wonderfully healthy dessert sounds d-e-l-i-s-h!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sarah P

    Instead of eliminating evening snacking (never!), I try not to eat at least 2 hours from when I go to bed. I’ve noticed that it helps me sleep better, and I like to think it’s healthier. (I read somewhere once that ideally you shouldn’t eat for 3-4 hours before bed, but that’s just not realistic for me.)

  • Gena


    You are not allowed to reinstate your blog from now on without letting me know you’ve done it. I was so psyched to click over here this morning, wistfully expecting to see “this post sucks” again, and find more new stuff.

    As far as I know (and because many clients have asked, I have read more studies than anyone should have to on later-day eating) the problem with night eating or eating before bed is more to do with circumstances and food choices than with the effect of food at that time on one’s metabolism or digestion. When people eat late, they tend to have had a cocktail, or perhaps they’re lonely and eating as a form of consolation. The upshot? Less than ideal food choices. But aside from one VERY suggestive study involving (sadly) rhesus monkeys, I’ve found no foolproof evidence to say that all snacking after 9 pm is de facto bad for one’s health, or causes weight gain.

    I myself do think I digest better when I don’t eat a full, big MEAL after 9 pm, but let’s remember that my meals are enormously fibrous, so that makes a little sense, especially if I’m going to be reclining the entire time after, rather than moving around. But I think a sweet treat or dessert is 100% normal, digestible, and OK. I wouldn’t second guess yourself.

    And as someone with a healthy metabolism and appetite who absolutely needs to eat more than once every 5-6 hrs, too, I totally agree re: meal frequency.


  • kezzie

    thank you for sharing your diet adventures! i’ve been curious about many of the diet changes you are experimenting with. love reading your perspective and learning from your experiences.

    i really want to try a candida cleanse, but i’m breastfeeding. i heard that it’s not a good idea to do any cleanse while breastfeeding or pregnant (toxins releasing into milk). i can’t find anything specifically on the candida cleanse. did you do the elimination diet while breastfeeding or know if it’s recommended?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I did do it while breastfeeding but it’s not recommended. I was VERY careful and I have a lot of experience with detox so I know what to watch for, and I know my body. I would really not recommend doing it on your own. Is there a naturopath in your area that you could work with? They’re great for this sort of thing, and often times they accept insurance!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thanks lady! I’m really just tying up these loose ends with this series. Not *officially* back to blogging.

    Always great to hear from you though!

  • Lacey

    The experts actually aren’t so much against late night eating as they recommend you stop eating 3 hours before you go to sleep. Going six hours without food would probably make most of us cranky :)

  • kezzie

    yes, i’ll go to him. thank you!

  • Eve

    I bought Rawesomely Vegan, but was disappointed that you didn’t have a presence in the book. Please explain. It seems ALL Mike Snyder, I don’t even see your name anywhere in it. What’s up with that? I bought it because of YOU. Much love.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oh, I am very much in that book. I contributed over 100 recipes, a lot of writing, and a lot of editing. There’s a ton of me in there! =D

    I am credited on the publishers page along with the other recipe contributors. I’m not on the front cover and the recipes do not include attribution, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a strong presence in the work. I am! And I hope that you enjoy it.

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  • Elise

    i eat dinner early too, because i consider my dessert my second dinner. dates with almond butter are my #1. frozen grapes too.

  • Elise

    oh ps, you need to send me your address so i can get your olive coupons to you: