Late lunching could derail weight loss plans

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 16th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Deadlines, impromptu meetings, needy co-workers and demanding bosses can all interrupt the not-so-sacred lunch hour. Do you find yourself eating lunch later, or worse, not at all as the day’s responsibilities pile on? The habit might be derailing your effort to drop pounds, suggesting that it’s all in the timing, according to research from the International Journal of Obesity.

The researchers looked at more than 400 people following a weight loss program for 20 weeks. Both groups ate similar foods and amount of calories, burned comparable numbers of calories and slept almost the same hours every night. But those who ate lunch later also skipped breakfast more frequently than early eaters and were less successful in losing weight.

The study could lend credence to the dietary advice to “Eat like a king for breakfast, like a prince for lunch and like a pauper for dinner.” Eating later delays and disrupts the fast between dinner and breakfast. And since you’re typically less active in the evening, any calories consumed aren’t expended. In fact, one study from Northwestern University published in the journal Obesity found that eating at night contributed to twice as much weight gain — even when total calories consumed throughout the day were the same.

Others say it’s the total number of calories, not when you eat them that matters. So a small snack at night shouldn’t be a big deal. But dietitians say it’s still best to eat 90 percent of your calories before 8 p.m.

Get into the habit of eating breakfast and you’ll set yourself up for success for the rest of the day. A healthful breakfast helps keep blood sugar levels steady and prevents overeating at lunch. Aim for a balanced lunch of lean protein like grilled chicken or cold cuts and whole grains. Set a reminder at your desk if you must and make eating lunch a priority.