It has been shown that people who often miss meals, eat on the go or late at night are often less healthy than those who have regular meals, sitting down in the company of others. Scientists claim that people should also consider ‘with whom we eat’, as well as what we eat and when, as regular family meals contribute to healthy eating habits in children and adolescents. Regular meal eaters tend to have a lower calorie intake compared to those who eat irregularly, which is crucial if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight. Eating at odd times disrupts your body clock which is typically a 24 hour cycle. Scientists have claimed when you eat could be just as important as what you eat, asserting that irregular eating and meal-skipping could be linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. If you leave more than 4-5 hours between eating during the day, your body goes into starvation mode preparing for a further lack of food and it lowers its metabolic rate in order to preserve energy. When you do eat next, the food you consume will be metabolised differently, for the purpose of storage and this is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
By giving structure to your eating habits you will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and minimise feelings of tiredness, dizziness and irritability. It will also help prevent strong feelings of hunger, which could result in you over-eating the next time you eat which is usually the time you reach for that chocolate bar or cookie. Eating regular low fat meals reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduces resistance to insulin, reducing the overall risk of developing heart disease. Once the routine of eating meals and snacks is in place, you can modify the food content and portion size. Speak to your personal trainer who will advise you on any nutritional worries.
Irregular sleeping, working overnight shifts or frequent travelling over time zones also messes up body timekeeping and increases levels of hunger hormones. Over time this can result in weight gain. Scientists argue that the rise in shift workers and “social jetlag”, where many of us live by social clocks rather than our internal body clocks, is leading to a change in food consumption patterns, more meals are being skipped, consumed outside the family home, on-the-go, later in the day and more irregularly. The research claims that this is linked to how regularly people eat and what they choose to eat, for example with poorer food choices at lunch and dinner linked to breakfast skipping.
Research has shown that the old saying ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’ could be the best way to lose weight and stay healthy. Recent trials have shown that people who eat the most in the morning experience greater weight loss and improve blood sugar levels even when consuming the same amount of calories overall.
So this could be a good pattern to follow, your largest meal being your breakfast, a healthy lunch in the middle of the day, then your last meal being your lightest and at least two hours before bedtime. Plenty of water throughout the day. Then try to get a good nights sleep with regular sleep patterns.