How eating earlier can help you lose more weight.

I just came across an insightful article from NPR that offers a new perspective on how to manage weight loss and maintenance with greater success. Perhaps you've heard the dieting advice to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Now, mounting evidence shows there's a lot of truth to it.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity builds on previous studies that suggest it's best not to eat too many calories late in the day. It found that dieters who ate their main meal before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day. This held true even though the early eaters consumed a similar number of calories during the five-month weight-loss study as their night-owl counterparts.

"The study suggests that it's not just what we eat but when we eat is important," explained study author Frank Scheer, Ph.D., who directs the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Scheer pointed out that recent animal studies have shown that the timing of eating can have a powerful influence on weight regulation and metabolism. This new study, he said, is among the first to suggest it's also key in people.

The study showed that people who ate late and didn't lose as much weight also tended to skip breakfast or eat just a little in the morning. If you’ve ever read that a good breakfast is the most important meal of the day, this new study provides evidence that this may in fact be true.

Scheer said that because eating seems to send a signal to our body clocks, it's possible that when people delay eating a big meal until late in the day, things get out of whack: The master clock in the brain gets out of sync with the mini clocks in the cells of the body that regulate metabolism.

While timing is everything, it’s important for dieters not to lose sight of another important factor in successful weight loss: if you want to lose weight, focus on eating fewer calories and exercising more. 

In our case, committing to logging and analyzing everything we eat daily in an app (like LoseIt!, MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal) and making daily exercise an important routine helped us lose over 230 lbs. in just 14 months. As we did, we were very careful to focus on nutrition and calories as much as taste. We also made certain to start every morning with a good breakfast. And we follow a strict rule to have a modest dinner no later than 7 pm, with a nightly walk after dinner. Now, there’s research that shows that unknowingly, we were doing the right thing. 

Be sure to look at past entries in our blog for other tips on losing weight, healthy recipes and making a healthy lifestyle part of your life. Here’s to your health!

Related story from NPR: "Circadian Surprise: How Our Body Clocks Help Shape Our Waistlines.”

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