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How Changing When You Eat Could Lead to Significant Weight Loss

How Changing <i>When</i> You Eat Could Lead to Significant Weight Loss

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It's true. More calories go into storage if you're eating when your body thinks you should be resting.

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Late-night snacking and constant grazing have long been thought to lead to weight gain and signal an unhealthy lifestyle, but now there’s evidence that eating outside an eight to ten hour window each day can have a serious negative impact on your health.

In The Circadian Code, a new book published just last month, author and professor Satchin Panda suggests that when people contain their eating to within an eight to ten hour window rather than grazing from early morning to late at night, they improve their health by syncing their body’s natural sleep rhythms with their nutrition needs.

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By eating when your body is in full work mode, for example during the hours from 8 am and 6 pm, you provide calories and nutrients when they’re needed most. Eating outside of those hours, signals to your body to gear up for activity, not prepare for rest.

Dr Panda conducted research in 2012 on mice, allowing one group unlimited access to high-fat and high-sugar foods while the other was provided the same diet but only within an eight-hour window. While both groups consumed roughly the same amount of calories, the mice with unrestricted access to the high-fat, high-sugar meals gained weight while the time-restricted group did not.

The study lead Dr. Panda to a new study, on a small group of pre-diabetic men. In order to see how the timing of the men’s food consumption impacted their health, he provided enough calories to maintain their weight while allowing them to eat within either a six- or twelve-hour window. The men who ate in the daily six-hour window experienced lower blood pressure, less hunger during the night, lower insulin, and reduced levels of oxidative stress.

We’ve long known that eating a balanced, hearty breakfast is key to maintaining your health and preventing weight loss; this new study suggests that being mindful of when you have breakfast and scheduling your final meal eight to ten hours later may have a greater impact on your health than scrutinizing what’s in every meal on your table.

Change 4 Behaviors and Watch the Weight Loss Begin

Do you rely on takeout, skip meals, snack at night, and then punish yourself for not losing weight? These habits are counterproductive, our dietitians say. Here’s how to turn them around:

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1. Cook more at home (it’s easier than you think)

Making meals at home can be fast, easy and affordable. You’ll slash calories, sodium, sugar and saturated fat. “Your waistline, wallet and doctor will thank you,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE.

Getting a breakfast sandwich at a drive-through may take you 10 minutes. Making whole grain toast with nut butter and grabbing a piece of fruit will take you about three.

“For lunch, forget fast food and the cafeteria,” she says. Pack leftovers, or throw beans and tuna on salad greens.

If you get hungry between meals, pack Greek yogurt and fruit. “No need to visit the vending machine,” says Ms. Taylor.

Then “file away those take-out menus and retire your TV dinners,” she says. Instead, build yourself a healthy plate:

  • Fill half of it with non-starchy veggies (raw, cooked or frozen)
  • Fill one-quarter with high-fiber carbs (sweet potato, quinoa, whole grain pasta)
  • Fill one-quarter with lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, tofu, edamame)

Experiment liberally with herbs and spices. Make slow cooker, stir fry or soup recipes in advance. “Veggie prep on weekends makes weekday meals a breeze,” Ms. Taylor says.

2. Fuel yourself throughout the day — then stop

“Skipping meals commonly leads to overeating and bad food choices,” advises Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. Try to plan meals or snacks every four to five hours during the day to avoid getting too hungry.”

Most people who skip meals aren’t hungry in the morning or during the day because they’re still full from a large meal before bed. “If you can challenge yourself to stop eating three hours before bed, you may find that you wake up hungry,” she notes.

Eat breakfast within one or two hours of waking up, advises Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. “Breakfast can be grab-and-go, to eat in your car or when you get to work, she says. Try:

  • A protein shake or bar with a piece of fruit
  • A hardboiled egg with fruit or a piece of whole grain toast
  • ½ cup cottage cheese with ½ cup of fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 container of non-fat Greek yogurt topped with almonds or walnuts

You can also prep oatmeal the night before. Measure out oatmeal, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. Add water, then microwave at work (or add milk the night before and eat cold).

For healthy snacks and lunches, she recommends prepping and portioning on the weekend.

3. Stock healthy late-night snacks (just in case)

A late-night eating habit can be tough to break. “Start by establishing a no-eating-after-dinner rule,” suggests Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “First, make sure you follow a healthy, nutrient-dense diet plan throughout the day so you’re not starving by 9 p.m.”

Next, remove all your favorite night snack foods from the house to avoid temptation. “After a few weeks, you’ll be able to stop the fueling and go to bed,” she says. “Weight loss is dependent on good sleep, too!”

You can unwind with herbal tea before bed. But if you’re still hungry, try lower-carb options:

  • Celery and peanut butter.
  • A small yogurt.
  • String cheese.
  • Mixed nuts.
  • A handful of colorful berries.

“I like a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter, dipped in melted dark chocolate chips and frozen,” she says. “It’s low in sugar but satisfies my need for something sweet.”

4. Swap negative self-talk for kindness (it works)

Mentally criticizing dietary setbacks won’t help you with your eating habits and will only increase your stress, says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE. Positive messages, however, will keep you calm and help you handle your challenges.

“Do you talk to yourself like you would to a good friend? Or are you less forgiving and empathetic?” she asks.

Start by noticing negative self-talk. Then “flip the script” and practice sending positive messages.

Negative self-talk tends to be cyclical. “You might tell yourself, ‘I can’t believe I ate so much dessert yesterday. I’ve been wanting to eat healthier, but I can’t. Guess I’ll just give up and start over on Monday,’” says Ms. Noe.

Try reframing the situation in a positive light. “You might say, ‘I really enjoyed dessert yesterday. Next time, I’ll ask my family to share the dessert so that I don’t end up eating more than I planned,’ ” she says.

The more you practice positive self-talk, the easier it becomes. “Speak kindly to yourself!” she stresses.

Try adopting these new habits and you’ll be surprised at the progress you’ll make.

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2. Find every opportunity to move more

And we're not just talking about going for a walk during your lunch break. Get moving during your favorite TV shows. Do jumping jacks, run in place, go up and down some stairs, start dancing&mdashanything that gets your heart rate up so you feel somewhat breathless, says Geralyn Coopersmith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and chief content officer for Flywheel Sports. Do it for each 2-minute commercial break while you're watching your favorite TV show, and you'll burn an extra 270 calories a day&mdashwhich can translate to a 28-pound weight loss in a year.

The top 10 myths about weight loss: Debunked!

Chances are you've heard a lot of information about the best ways to lose weight . (Thanks, internet!) The thing is, it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction—a problem when your goal is to create healthy eating habits and acheive sustainable weight loss. Science to the rescue! Read on for the biggest myths about weight loss and the truth about their claims.

Myth 1: There are certain foods, like apple cider vinegar, that can boost your metabolism and help you lose weight.

Fact: While you may want to believe there's a magical weight loss potion as accessible as apple cider vinegar, there's not sufficient (or convincing) evidence that links the salad dressing ingredient to body weight or metabolism, according to a 2014 scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews. Although you might have read that certain drinks or foods (like chili peppers) can boost your metabolism, in most cases, youɽ need a massive dose to acheive even a minimal effect, according to a 2012 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Chemistry Senses —and there's no saying whether adding just one thing to your diet would affect the scale.

Myth 2: I can’t lose weight because I’m older.

Fact: As you get older, your metabolism does tend to slow down about 1 to 2% percent, according to a Public Health Nutrition study published in 2005. And h ere's the deal with metabolism: The s lower yours churns, the fewer calories your body burns per day. In turn, this may make it harder to lose weight in your 60s than in, say, your 20s—particularly since your body likely needs fewer calories than you did when you were younger. See, a ge-related metabolic dips often have to do with less muscle mass, which results from easing up on physical activity, wrote researchers of a 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article on age-related differences in body composition among men. Luckily, the takeaway is actionable: Maintaining your physical activity routine can help you side step a major metabolic dip as you age—and enable weight loss later in life.

Myth 3: Eating small frequent meals is better for weight loss than eating larger meals spaced farther apart.

Fact: There may be a seed of truth here since e ating a little something roughly every three hours may help you avoid extreme hunger, which can lead to overeating and interfere with your weight loss efforts. That said, t he amount of food you eat over the course of an entire day or week matters more than when you eat or how often. So: Whether you eat the traditional three meals a day, or six (or more!) smaller ones throughout the day, it's best to focus on the big picture and consider which habits you can stick to in the long term.

Myth 4: You need to drink a certain amount of water (hot, iced, with lemon, etc.) to lose weight.

Fact: While water impacts your body’s overall functioning, it has no calories and, therefore, does not contribute to weight gain or weight loss. But listen up, soda drinkers: Substituting water for any caloric beverages you normally drink (e.g. sugary colas, juices) will increase weight loss, since it will reduce the amount of calories you consume in a given day, according to a 2016 clinical trial published in the journal, Obesity .

Myth 5: It’s good to use at-home cleanses and detoxes.

Fact: Not to burst your bubble, but there is no scientific evidence to support the use of over-the-counter or homemade detoxes at home, according to a 2015 review of existing research on detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics . Even though some alleged experts claim that you need to detoxify your body from the build-up of pollutants, excess processed foods, chemicals in your home, etc., the reality is that your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and gastrointestinal tract already cleanse and detoxify the body on their own. While certain medical conditions may affect your liver or kidneys' functioning, it's best to see a doctor rather than rely on detox products, which generally have not been approved by the FDA.

Myth 6: You have to be physically active to lose weight.

Fact: First things first: You can lose weight without adjusting your activity levels by merely changing what you eat. However, research suggests that adding physical activity can increase your weight loss by 20%, according to a 2015 review of existing studies on long-term weight loss after diet and exercise. If that doesn't motivate you to move, consider this: Multiple studies show that a regular pattern of physical activity is the single best predictor of long-term weight loss maintenance. And don’t forget that there are many other benefits of physical activity, like improving your mood and sleep quality and decreasing your risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. That doesn't mean you have to start running marathons (unless that's your thing). Youɽ do better to find an activity you love to move more and stick with it.

Myth 7: Smoothies are always a healthy option.

Fact: Despite what you might have heard, smoothies may not be the best choice for weight loss. Although smoothies can contain healthy ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and nonfat Greek yogurt , sipping your food through a straw delivers highly concentrated calories that can be consumed quickly, which doesn't leave your body with much time to register that it’s actually “eaten” something. It could be because w hen you drink something, it eliminates the act of chewing which may impact the signals between the belly and brain, according to a 2015 systematic review published in Physiology and Behavior . After all, smoothies are liquids, which your brain doesn't register as solid food. Just imagine eating a whole orange now think of that orange as juice (about ½ cup). Seems like less "food" doesn’t it?

Myth 8: I am having trouble losing weight because I am not eating enough.

Fact: While eating fewer calories than you burn is the key to weight loss, eating insufficient calories can put your body into "starvation mode," i.e., cause it to compensate in a radical way: When you lose weight too quickly, your metabolism may slow down even more than you’d expect from gradual weight loss , which could make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off. The bottom line is this: Eating less can help you lose weight, but eating too little can make it difficult to keep up weight loss momentum and maintain your results.

Myth 9: Eating too much fruit can inhibit weight loss.

Fact: Fruits and vegetables aren’t magically calorie-free just because they're all-natural or be cause most of them are ZeroPoint™ foods on myWW+ . While produce is nutritious, satisfying, and tasty—and may help you lose weight if you eat them instead of higher calorie snacks—eating more bananas because they’re “free” could impact your weight loss efforts. Like any habit, let your weight loss be your guide in determining what works for you.

Myth 10: When I reach a certain weight, my weight loss stops because that is the set-point my body wants.

Fact: The “ set-point theory ” states that the amount of fat in our bodies is relatively stable. This theory has been clearly proven in animals, but is less clear in humans. So what do we know for sure? About 50% of body weight is determined by genetics , and the other 50% is determined by food and activity . While you can't do much about your genes, your eating and exercise patterns can have a significant impact on your weight.


According to the FitDay website, the average daily recommended maximum amount of sodium is 2300 mg. Let's say you are on Weight Watchers and have the following Smart Ones frozen foods in one day: breakfast quesadilla has 730 mg of sodium, pepperoni pizza for lunch has 840 mg, a Salisbury steak entree for dinner has 820 mg and strawberry shortcake for dessert has 280 mg. Your total sodium intake for the day would be 2660 mg. Therefore, you would have exceeded the daily recommended amount without yet factoring in drinks or any other snacks you may have during the day. A high-sodium diet is especially risky if you have high blood pressure.

Other Fitness and Weight Loss Products

Using an electronic muscle stimulator alone won’t work. You might have seen ads for electronic muscle stimulators claiming they will help you lose weight, or get rock-hard abs. But, according to the FDA, while these devices may temporarily strengthen, tone, or firm a muscle, they haven’t been shown to help you lose weight — or get those six-pack abs.

If you decide to join a gym, make sure you know what you’re agreeing to. Not all gym contracts are the same, so before you commit, read the contract and confirm that it includes everything the salesperson promised. Also find out if there’s a “cooling-off” or trial period, and check out the cancellation policy. Do you get a refund if you cancel? You also can look for reviews online from other clients to help you decide if you want to join that particular gym.

Home exercise equipment can be a great way to shape up — but only if you use it regularly. Some exercise equipment ads promise you can shape up and lose weight quickly and without much effort. The truth is that to get the benefits of exercise, you have to do the work. If you decide to buy exercise equipment for your home, first check out online reviews to see what other customers’ experiences have been. And find out the real cost of the equipment. Some companies advertise “three easy payments of $49.99,” but you have to consider taxes, shipping, and any other fees required to make the equipment work.

How Changing When You Eat Could Lead to Significant Weight Loss - Recipes

What is Calorie Restriction (CR)?

The goal of Calorie Restriction is to achieve a longer and healthier life by

  • eating fewer calories
  • # consuming adequate vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients

Extensive scientific research has shown that a CR diet improves the health and extends the lifespan of every species so far tested, including worms, spiders, rodents, dogs, cows and monkeys. We believe that people who adopt a CR diet will see the same results longer life and better health.

How do I Start?

Simply eating less may not improve health or extend lifespan - it can lead to malnutrition.

Read our recommended books
These books provide a very accessible overview of the science behind Calorie Restriction, and several concrete ways to successfully start a calorie-restricted diet, without causing malnutrition. One book is The Longevity Diet, by CR Society President Brian M. Delaney and Emeritus Board member Lisa Walford. Another excellent book and long considered the CR bible was written by Dr. Roy Walford, Beyond the 120 Year Diet : How to Double Your Vital Years. He also co-authored another book with his daughter Lisa, The Anti-Aging Plan: Strategies and Recipes for Extending Your Healthy Years. All of these books also contain many recipes and tips for nutrition-dense, calorie-sparse meals.

Replace calorie-dense foods with calorie-sparse, nutrient-dense foods

Before worrying about how many calories you're eating, make sure that the foods in your diet provide sufficient nutrition to avoid malnutrition once you begin to restrict them.

  • Avoid simple sugars and flours. Sugars and flours generally contain very little nutrition for their calorie content. They also have high glycemic indices, which means that your body absorbs them quickly, leaving you wanting more a short time later.
  • Eat both green leafy (salad) and other vegetables. Vegetables -- both green leafy vegetables and non-leaf vegetables -- contain the highest content of a wide variety of nutrients for their calorie content. By volume (and often by calories), vegetables are the major component of many calorie restricted but not nutrient deficient diets.
  • Carefully select your protein and fat sources.
    Both protein and fat are required macronutrients, but their form can have a significant influence on a person's risk factors for a wide variety of diseases.
  • Make sure your protein intake is sufficient, but not overly abundant.
  • Make sure your proteins are complete and balanced.
    A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids, while a balanced protein contains all those amino acids in ratios that are most useful to human biophysiology.
  • Most animal proteins are complete and well-balanced
    There are very few perfectly balanced proteins in our food supply, but animal proteins tend to be among the most balanced. Unfortunately, animal proteins also tend to include undesirable components. For example, red meat is carcinogenic [PMID: 12376502], and meat (especially red meat) and dairy often contain large quantities of saturated fats. The nutrient density (as always, on a per-calorie basis) of meats is often lower than other choices.
  • Non-animal proteins can be balanced by combining different food families
    One can get extremely detailed in finding "complementary" foods, but in general, combining legumes (beans) with grains will yield a balanced protein, and rice protein can complement the proteins in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach. Be aware, however, that both rice and grains (even whole grains) have relatively high glycemic indices and relatively low nutrient densities. If you're going to consume these, choose whole grains (not in the form of flours) and long grain brown rice.
  • Select monounsaturated fats, avoid saturated fats, and consume some Omega-3 fats

Other Book Recommendations:

Get baseline blood tests done

In order to chart your progress XXX More content XXX

Reduce calories after improving diet quality (i.e. nutrition)

Once your diet consists primarily of nutrient-dense, calorie-sparse foods, you can safely begin to reduce your total calorie intake. There are some things to consider at this point, if you have not already considered them.

Lose weight slowly

Many people lose weight simply by changing their diet to include more calorie-sparse foods. Even this weight loss should not be allowed to happen too quickly, but by the time you're able to restrict calories, your weight loss should proceed very slowly. There are two reasons for this:

  • Pesticides and other toxins are fat soluble. There are many pesticides and other toxins in our food supply that are fat soluble. Human bodies store these toxins relatively harmlessly in body fat. If you lose that fat too quickly, however, all these toxins are flushed into your bloodstream, and your detoxification mechanisms (i.e., your kidney and liver) are unable to remove them [b120YD, 78-80]. You may thus wind up with much higher blood toxin levels than what people are normally subjected to, which may have any number of life-shortening effects.
  • Sudden adult onset Calorie Restriction shortens the lifespans of mice.

Be aware of the potential risks in CR dieting or any other change to your health regimen!

Any significant dietary change should be done in consultation with a knowledgeable physician.


  1. Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. For example, in reflecting upon your eating habits, you may realize that you eat too fast when you eat alone. So, make a commitment to share a lunch each week with a colleague, or have a neighbor over for dinner one night a week. Another strategy is to put your fork down between bites. Also, minimize distractions, such as watching the news while you eat. Such distractions keep you from paying attention to how quickly and how much you&rsquore eating.
  2. Eat more slowly. If you eat too quickly, you may &ldquoclean your plate&rdquo instead of paying attention to whether your hunger is satisfied.
  3. Eat only when you&rsquore truly hungry instead of when you are tired, anxious, or feeling an emotion besides hunger. If you find yourself eating when you are experiencing an emotion besides hunger, such as boredom or anxiety, try to find a non-eating activity to do instead. You may find a quick walk or phone call with a friend helps you feel better.
  4. Plan meals ahead of time to ensure that you eat a healthy well-balanced meal.

What is Clean Eating?

Clean eating is simply a dietary approach that focuses on eating unprocessed foods in their most natural state. Generally speaking, any food that comes straight from the ground, a tree, or an animal is considered clean, while food that has been processed is the opposite of clean.

Clean eating is a concept made famous by the likes of Tosca Reno and Ella Mills. It’s a term used to describe eating habits that focus on whole nutritious foods. Clean foods are what you would find around the perimeter of the grocery store or at the farmer’s market.

While helping your body function at its prime, clean food also promotes weight loss. It levels out hormone levels like insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol which make your body hang onto fat. You can eat a whole lot more and lose weight by eating when you eat clean. (5 , 6 , 7 )

Because clean eating is how our bodies are wired to eat, it’s meant to be a sustainable lifestyle change, not a temporary diet. It’s also meant to keep you full and satisfied, because deprivation isn’t a sustainable way of eating.

Key Point: How do you eat clean? Clean eating is about eating unprocessed food in its most natural form, straight from the ground, the tree, or the animal.

Cancer and Other Causes

Approximately half of all cancer patients will suffer from weight loss and cachexia, or progressive loss of muscle mass, states Ohio State University. In advanced-stage cancer, the number of patients affected increases to 80 percent. Cachexia causes death in approximately 20 to 40 percent of all sufferers.

Other symptoms of cancer cachexia include:

  • Physical deterioration
  • Weight loss
  • Physical weakness
  • Mental fatigue
  • Poor quality of life

The cause of cachexia in cancer patients is still being explored, but it is believed that the cancerous tumor releases certain molecules that cause the patient to lose his appetite and decreases nutrient absorption. The body then consumes fat and muscle to get the nutrients it can no longer absorb from food.

Cachexia is not isolated to cancer patients. The condition is also seen in those with chronic kidney disease, HIV and AIDS, congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


If you experience unexplained weight loss or muscle atrophy, consult your doctor immediately as it may be a symptom of a serious medical condition.