Want to lose weight? Set yourself an eating schedule

Erin Van Der Meer
Friday, May 18, 2012
Eat to a schedule for weight loss
Image: Getty Images

Are you eating a healthy diet but still not seeing a change on the scales? The key to dropping kilos is not just what you eat but when you eat it, according to new research into metabolism and weight loss.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California believe eating meals and snacks at irregular times makes our metabolic cycle less effective, therefore making it harder for a person to keep off the kilos.

An 18-week study on the eating habits of two sets of mice found that the group that had been allowed to eat at set times within an eight hour period gained 28 per cent less weight than the group that was allowed to eat whenever they wanted.

Related: 51 fat-loss secrets

All mice consumed the same amount of calories.

According to the researchers, giving our metabolic cycle a period of rest by not eating allows it to work more effectively at times when we are eating.

"Every organ has a clock," said researcher Satchidananda Panda. “That means there are times that our livers, intestines, muscles and other organs work at peak efficiency, and other times when they are more or less sleeping.”

Panda suggested that people staying up later to surf the web or watch TV – and snacking while they do it – may contribute to irregular eating patterns.

Leading Australian dietician Susie Burrell says eating breakfast between 6 – 8 am, lunch between 12 – 1 pm and dinner no later than 7pm is an effective weight loss strategy that has worked for many of her clients.

Going to bed earlier also means we’re less likely to give in to late night snacks and the extra calories they contain.

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