When we want to lose weight, it seems we always put it off until later, making it more and more difficult to shed those unwanted pounds. And though the simple answer to the question, “When’s the best time for weight loss?” might be RIGHT NOW, the research shows there really are times that are ideal for you to maximize weight loss success.
Time of Year
Let’s start with the big picture: Is there a better time of the year to lose weight?
Most people focus on weight loss after the holidays, but the truth is, it’s hard to lose weight during winter. Holiday foods and higher melatonin levels in winter can trigger overeating, and colder weather means less physical activity overall.
Spring is a much better season for weight loss – days are longer, and research shows that replenishing your vitamin D levels (which many of us become deficient in during winter because of less sunlight) can help you shed more weight.
Warmer weather makes it easier and more fun to go out and be active, and the return of shorter sleeves and hemlines gives you extra motivation to show your best self. And spring also means a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables coming into season, so you’ll have more delicious, healthy diet options to choose from.
Time of Week
Is there a better time of the week to lose weight?
Weekends were made for fun, so it can be tough to control your eating, especially if you’re eating and sleeping later. Plus, who wants to eat like a monk after a long workweek?
Research shows that your body has “weight rhythms.” Basically, your weekday eating habits tend to keep you thinner while your weekend eating habits lead to weight gain. But by eating more healthfully during the weekdays (which make up most of the week) and indulging in a few splurges over the weekend, studies confirm you can still lose and manage your weight. And by simplifying dieting this way, it’s an easy way to adhere to something close to the 80/20 rule where you eat healthfully at least 80% of the time and treat yourself about 20% of the time.
Time of Day
Is there a better time of day to lose weight?
When it comes down to it, there’s conflicting information about the specific time of day that has the biggest impact on weight loss because weight gain and loss comes down to the number of calories you consume throughout the day.
That being said, research on this topic seems to indicate that your body’s chronotype, or biological clock/circadian rhythm, can make a difference in your food choices, which then influence obesity.
Studies found that “morning people” ate earlier in the day, ate more of their calories at breakfast and lunch, and ate more balanced meals all day; conversely, night owls ate more frequently, more sugar in the morning, less protein overall (an important nutrient for weight maintenance), and more of their calories, which included more sugar, fat, and saturated fats, at dinner – all habits that may contribute to weight gain.
Answer: Try to eat earlier in the day, aiming for an overall target of caloric consumption.
Time Delay Eating
Is there a benefit to delaying how long you wait before you eat?
We all know being rushed and making last-minute decisions can lead to less-than-ideal choices, and this applies to our diet as well. There’s wisdom in planning your meals ahead, as you can make better choices that you can then stick to.
Research finds that choosing your food ahead of time, as in the case of ordering groceries to be delivered later, leads to better, healthier choices. The same goes for meals and snacks; when there’s a long break between the time someone chooses their food and the time they plan to eat it, they’ll choose something healthier and lower-calorie, because instead of focusing on instant gratification, they have time to think about the long-term consequences of their choices.
Answer: Yes! Whether shopping for groceries or ordering lunch, try making your selection as far in advance as possible so that you make healthier choices.
Weight loss is never easy, but it’s always a good time to work towards a healthier you. And timing matters when it comes to healthful eating and weight loss, so stop taking your time and start putting in time at the right time!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.