Inconsistent eating schedules linked to weight gain and obesity
07/01/2021 / By Brocky Wilson / Comments
Inconsistent eating schedules linked to weight gain and obesity

Weekends offer a chance to break your workday routine and abide by a different eating schedule. But think twice before switching up your eating habits on the weekend. A study published in 2020 found that irregular eating schedules can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of obesity.

Get over your “eating jet lag” to ward off obesity

For their study, researchers compared the body mass indices (BMI) of more than 1,000 Spaniards and Mexicans between the ages of 18 and 25. These individuals changed their eating schedules throughout the weekend.

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The researchers coined the term “eating jet lag” as a reference to the threshold of variability in weekend meal timings where there may be an associated health risk. This threshold was defined as a difference of 3.5 hours or more between meals across different days.

The researchers looked at whether the participants had eating jet lag by looking at what time they ate breakfast, lunch and dinner during the weekend and comparing it to their eating schedules on a typical weekday. They found that the participants with eating jet lag had an average BMI increase of 1.34 kilogram per meter square. This suggested that they had a higher risk of obesity than those without eating jet lag.

Trinitat Cambras, a professor of physiology at the University of Barcelona in Spain, and her colleagues attributed this increased risk to “chronodisruption,” or the lack of consistency between your body’s own internal time and the social time you are experiencing.

“Our biological clock is like a machine and is ready to unchain the same physiological and metabolic response at the same time of the day, every day of the week,” Cambras explained. “Fixed eating and sleep schedules help the body to be organized and promote energy homeostasis. Therefore, people with a higher alteration of their schedules have a higher risk of obesity.”

Because of their findings, the researchers recommended maintaining a consistent eating schedule, especially during the weekend. Though eating at the same time every day can be tough, this habit can help minimize weight gain and prevent overweight or obesity.

More studies link irregular eating to higher obesity risk

This is not the first study to show the importance of meal timing. A 2016 review found that adults who eat irregular meals tend to be more obese than people who eat regular meals.

Researchers arrived at this finding after analyzing 28 existing studies to determine whether meal timing is associated with weight gain and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. These conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormally high cholesterol levels.

The studies showed that eating meals irregularly is associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. Meanwhile, sticking to a fixed eating schedule for at least two weeks helped reduce insulin and cholesterol levels.

In addition, the study found that eating irregularly is associated with a change in the circadian rhythm, the internal clock that controls your body’s sleep and wake cycles.

“Many nutritionally related metabolic processes in the body follow a circadian pattern, such as appetite, digestion and the metabolism of fat, cholesterol and glucose. Food intake can influence our internal clocks, particularly in organs such as the liver and intestine,” Gerda Pot, one of the review authors, explained.

How to avoid weight gain

There are many ways to avoid weight gain and obesity. Here are some lifestyle changes you should implement:

  • Exercise often. Regular exercise is important for effective weight management. It helps burn extra calories and improves your metabolism.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. Breakfast eaters tend to have healthier habits than those who skip breakfast. They exercise more and consume more fiber and other nutrients that help them maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat lots of protein. Eating more protein can help you shed weight since protein promotes fullness. It also increases the levels of hormones in your body that induce satiety and are important for regulating weight.
  • Mind your carbs. It’s important to pay attention to the type and amount of carbs that you eat to keep your weight off. Avoid refined carbs like white bread, white pasta and fruit juices as these can cause you to gain weight.
  • Lift weights. Lifting weights at least twice a week can help prevent weight gain since it helps preserve your muscle mass. This is important for a healthy metabolism.
  • Be consistent. As with your eating schedule, you should be consistent with your diet and workout plans.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water promotes fullness. Studies also show that people who drink water before a meal tend to eat fewer calories than those who do not hydrate before a meal.
  • Get enough sleep. Studies suggest that sleep deprivation may be a major risk factor for weight gain in adults and may even interfere with healthy weight maintenance.
  • Reduce stress. Controlling your stress levels is key to controlling your weight. High stress levels are linked to increased appetite and food intake.

Weight gain and obesity are caused by a variety of factors, including what, how much and when you eat. Switch to a well-balanced diet and eat regular meals to maintain a healthy weight.

Sources:

MindBodyGreen.com

MDPI.com

Today.com

Cambridge.org

Healthline.com

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