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Tick-tock: Secret to losing weight may be the clock

It may be tempting to go for that late-night snack, but studies show eating earlier in the day is better for the belt. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON – The latest weight loss study adds new meaning to “watching” your weight.

Published by the International Journal of Obesity, the study followed 420 Spanish men and women during a 20-week diet. All participants consumed the same number of calories. The variable came in the timing.

Those who ate lunch before 3 p.m. lost more weight than those who dined later. Pound per pound, the group that ate earlier lost 11 percent of their body weight versus 9 percent for the other group. This was an average of 3.5 pounds more.

Additionally, reports Prevention Magazine, late eaters often skipped breakfast. This causes the body to feel famished and hold on to calories.

“If we go a long period of time without having eaten, the body will actually absorb at a greater rate when it does get food,” nutritionist Nicolette Pace of NutriSource Inc. tells Prevention.

Skipping early meals can also lead to binge eating later on.

Prevention offers these tips to controlling eating habits and weight:

  • Eat earlier: Americans tend to eat dinner a little later than European countries, so a good rule is to try eating supper before 8 p.m.
  • Rate your hunger: “Regularly rank your hunger from one to 10, where one means you’re famished and 10 stands for over-stuffed. Eat when you reach three (you’re grumbly but not yet weak or irritable). When you reach seven, comfortably full, put down your fork,” Pace tells Prevention.
  • Keep a food journal: This journal should keep track of what and when you eat. This way you can see unhealthy patterns and notice how you feel when you eat a certain way.
  • Make a plan: Using your journal, figure out when you are hungry and make sure you have foods high in fiber and protein on-hand.

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WTOP’s Del Walters contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.


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