When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, when you eat can be just as important as what you eat.
My Life Lesson in When to Eat
At that time, I’d spent a few years being pregnant or breastfeeding, combined with not getting enough sleep, exercising a lot, and a strict grain-free/low-carb diet. My body was seriously stressed out, and I was suffering from low energy, bouts of extreme lethargy, cold hands, and mood problems.
I was able to begin healing from these problems by prioritizing stress relief in all areas of my life, including purposely increasing my carb intake and even eating extra, refraining from exercise, and making myself get more rest and sleep.
Weight gain came along with my healing plan, but I soon figured out that the timing of my food intake was a huge factor in whether or not I gained weight. This was the beginning of a strategy that has worked well for me in maintaining a healthy weight for over 5 years.
Healthy Weight Lifehack #1: Don’t Eat After 7pm
Eating near bedtime can lead to weight gain. As the body gets ready for sleep, natural hormonal shifts change the way the body reacts to food, and this can lead to weight gain for people who eat close to bedtime.
I have seen this myself. If I stop eating by 7pm, my weight stays steady, but if I eat after 7pm with any regularity, then my weight will start to creep up over time. My bedtime is 10pm, so this works out to a 3-hour window of no eating before bed.
If your bedtime is much later than 10pm, you can adjust the time of your last food for the day, but the main goal is to refrain from eating for a few hours before bedtime.
Healthy Weight Lifehack #2: Aim to Eat Only 8-10 Hours a Day
Time Restricted Eating, which is a form of intermittent fasting, can also be very helpful for maintaining a healthy weight. With Time Restricted Eating, you limit your eating to a time window of 8-10 hours per day, and then fast for the other 14-16 hours. This isn’t as hard as it sounds given that you would ideally be sleeping for 8 of those hours.
I’ve been doing Time Restricted Eating (TRE) for a few years now, and have found it to be very beneficial. In addition to being good for weight, this method of eating has also been shown to have beneficial effects on blood sugar and blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve gut health. Studies have shown that the benefits of this approach are still apparent even if you miss a day or two in a week, so don’t stress if it doesn’t always work out perfectly.
It is best to implement the eating window during the hours of the day you are most active. For me, this has equated to eating from about 9 or 10am to no later than 7pm most days.
As with other lifestyle changes, TRE will work best if you ease into it rather than shocking the body with a drastic change. For women, if you notice a change in your menstrual cycle that could be a sign that you need to slow down on implementing TRE and make it a more-gradual change.
Perfection Isn’t the Point
For both of these eating strategies, absolute perfection is not the goal. There may be days when it doesn’t work well to implement these, such as when you are staying up extra late or traveling. Just go with the flow, do what you can when you can, and don’t stress over it.
Have you tried Time Restricted Eating or Intermittent Fasting? What strategies have you found to work for healthy weight?