Timing of Meals Affects Weight Loss
My 88 year old father has lost weight since he retired in 1980. When he retired, he weighed 190 pounds at 5 foot 8 inches tall. He had just suffered a major heart attack, requiring three weeks in the hospital, and almost a year of sick time. My father always ate well, breakfast, lunch, and dinner – all prepared by my mother. But his weight loss, he now weighs 150 pounds, is attributed to one factor; after retiring, he and my mother rarely eat dinner. Over the course of 30 years he has lost 40 pounds – and still enjoys a lot of ice cream and sweets.
That anecdote was confirmed recently in a study published in The International Journal of Obesity. They noted that those who ate their main meal after 3 pm had more weight than those who ate their main meal before. Their conclusion was:
“Eating late may influence the success of weight-loss therapy. Novel therapeutic strategies should incorporate not only the caloric intake and macronutrient distribution-as is classically done-but also the timing of food.”
In my practice, morbidly obese patients who come to us for weight loss surgery eat the majority of their calories after 3 pm, and some of them eat all of their calories at that time. When we queried our patients who had success, we noted calories were more evenly distributed, with the majority of those calories being consumed during the middle of their day cycle (some of the patients had non-traditional hours for working).
In over 200 patients, all of whom had the Lap-Band for over five years, and all maintaining a BMI of less than 24 – the average calorie consumption after 3 pm was less than 300 calories.
But it compares with another anecdote: I lost a lot of weight in 2009, in fact one of my physician colleagues was concerned with my weight loss and asked me to get some tests to rule out cancer. During that time I rarely ate dinner. Then I met my wife, and enjoyed showing off my cooking skills to her. I regained the weight easily.
This article has changed one simple thing in our lives: we no longer have dinner as our main meal. Mid-day is our main meal, and dinner is replaced with a simple snack.
Baron KG, Reid KJ, Kern AS, Zee PC. Role of sleep timing in caloric intake and BMI. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jul;19(7):1374-81. PMID: 21527892
Garaulet M, Gómez-Abellán P, Alburquerque-Béjar JJ, Lee YC, Ordovás JM, Scheer FA. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Jan 29. PMID: 23357955