by Kim Logel
The question I get asked more than any other is, “What do I eat to lose weight?”
Although, what we put in our bodies as fuel matters most, when we choose to eat also has an impact on how our bodies will process it and our likelihood of gaining weight from it.
The timing of when we eat has a great influence on body weight. The most important aspect of any diet is keeping overall calorie consumption in check, particularly for those with diabetes or those who are trying to lose weight, but the schedule people follow in eating meals and snacks can help them either stay on track with their diets or be more easily swayed off course.
Here’s a look at some eating habits that will either help you accomplish your weight loss goals or sabotage them.
1. Eat Breakfast!
Break the fast … you have heard it said many times. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast should ideally be eaten within an hour of getting up. Even if it is not a big meal, you need to jump-start your metabolism for the day ahead. Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast are a third more likely to be obese.
Eating a nutritious meal in the morning gives the body plenty of energy to start the day and sets the pace of metabolism for the rest of the day. It helps people avoid feeling so hungry at subsequent meals that it derails their diets. Of course, your breakfast needs to be filled with healthy foods such as a serving of lean protein, whole grains and fruits/vegetables. Don’t load up on too many carbohydrates first thing in the morning though, because it could lead to sluggishness later in the day.
It’s normal for people to have different preferences about when to eat, and some say they just don’t like to eat breakfast. Regardless of how opposed your body seems to eating in the morning, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Europeans traditionally take a long lunch break to consume the day’s main meal, which might partly explain why Europe’s obesity levels are lower than in the U.S. Eating a large lunch is better for the body than eating a big dinner, since it means that calories consumed throughout the day are more evenly distributed and satiety is also more even throughout the day.
It’s still important to be mindful to servings and portions, no matter what meal you are enjoying, since the body is only going to use what it needs at one particular meal and the rest of it is going to be stored in the body as fat.
In American culture, people often eat their biggest meal of the day at dinnertime. While the idea of friends or family members gathering to discuss the day’s events and share a feast is admirable, but it’s not always what’s best for your health.
A better option for people who want to keep their dinnertime tradition is to reduce portion sizes. This can accomplish the goals of both getting in some bonding time, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.
4. Snack-sized Meals Throughout the Day
Another often-suggested dieting trick is to eat small meals throughout the day in lieu of larger meals. This is supposed to keep portion sizes in check while maintaining fullness throughout the day.
This strategy works well for some people, as long as they stay within their bounds for target calorie consumption. Some dietitians even advocate that the small, constant meals rev up metabolism and encourage weight loss.
However, the main problem with this way of eating is that oftentimes people don’t know what “small” means and tend to overshoot their calorie consumption.
5. Three Meals with Snacks in Between
The “golden ticket” to health. Most important is the minimum of three meals daily, which keeps you feeling full the longest. How you divide your calories depends on individual schedules.
If the body goes more than four hours without eating, this will affect metabolism and how likely overindulgence is at the next meal.
What I like best about this plan of three main meals with snacks in between is it takes your busy schedule into account. When it is not possible to sit down for lunch until 3 p.m., having a light snack available can stave off hunger. This schedule keeps you in more control of the food choices you make versus grabbing anything edible when you are ravenous.
6. Late-night Eating
Here’s the main problem with late night eating: It does not allow the body to be active and burn the calories consumed, which means those calories will be converted to fat.
Most dieticians suggest staying up for at least two to three hours after a meal and one hour after a snack. Plus, staying up means maintaining some sort of activity level, not sitting in a recliner in front of the TV.
So there you have it, the good the bad and the ugly.
Breakfast is truly a very important meal of the day, so learn to love it. In order to best control your weight and satiety, eat three well-balanced meals daily and be prepared with two to three healthy snacks.
Oh, and if you skimmed over the last bit about late night snacks – try to avoid them! They will eventually make you fat.