Unhealthy late-night eating makes people experience greater emotional and physical strains the next day which ultimately results in less productivity at work.
The study consisted of 97 participants with full-time jobs filling out diaries three times a day (8 a.m., 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) for 10 days. The survey asked about physical and mental health, what was consumed and what was accomplished at work.
Researchers defined unhealthy eating as eating too many junk foods after work, having too many unhealthy snacks after work, eating and drinking excessively after work and having too many late-night snacks before going to bed.”
Using the participants’ diary results, they tested what effect the previous evening’s unhealthy eating had on the next day’s performance. Those who were classified as having unhealthy eating habits at night spent less time helping others at work, for example, assisting a co-worker with a problem. They also had more withdrawal behaviors, for example, leaving work early or taking longer than allowed breaks.
Researchers found that those who displayed unhealthy eating at night dealt with physical pain in the morning, like headaches, stomachaches and diarrhea. The group also reported more emotional stress, like feeling guilt or shame about eating habits. However, participants who had greater emotional stability (ability to maintain one’s emotional balance under stressful situations) tended to feel fewer negative emotions and less physical symptoms which resulted in more positive work output.
Cultivating more emotional stability may help individuals avoid physical and emotional strains and ultimately improve work performance. Perhaps you could remind yourself that an unhealthy eating choice in the evening isn’t the end of the world. It can be a sporadic thing, or it can help release stress from that day, which actually serves as a coping strategy. Other research confirms that comfort foods can serve as a short-term coping strategy to deal with work-related demands.
Ultimately, people have their own relationship with food, but developing an attitude of non-judgement, forgiveness and acceptance about eating choices may help increase emotional stability which will also result in better work performance.