What you eat matters, but how you eat also affects your weight. If you often skip meals because you’re busy, for example, you’re more likely to indulge in midnight munchies. This habit can lead to weight gain over time.
Irregular eating can even put you at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar and out-of-range cholesterol, according to research published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. Left unchecked, these conditions increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. The same study found that adults with irregular eating patterns were more likely to be obese than those who consumed the majority of their calories at regular mealtimes.
Eating by the clock can also help you shed pounds in another way. A concept known as time-restricted eating advises dieters to consume all daily calories during a daily eight– to 10–hour period. The belief is that your body will have to tap into fat reserves for energy outside of those hours. This approach has been linked anecdotally to weight loss and other health benefits, but research has yet to prove it works for large populations. It should be noted that time–restricted diets may actually be harmful for those with diabetes.
So, what’s the takeaway? There are lots of different eating patterns, but the basic strategy of eating a nutrient–rich breakfast, moderate lunch and light supper—at about the same times every day— works well for most people.