Like most women, my most persistent life struggles have been in and around my weight. That struggle is what prompted my interest in nutrition. As a teenager and young woman I went on many, many diets. Lost weight and promptly regained it all and then some. In my mid-30’s I found the ways to eat and exercise that finally resulted in a stable weight. Between 35 and 50 my weight never varied more than a couple of pounds one way or the other. As I aged and went through menopause all bets were off. I struggled again as I had to find a new balance. Pounds would magically appear and they were much more difficult to lose.
What I learned was that I had to be more conscious of my overall habits. I need to re-evaluate my portion sizes and return to some of the things I had learned over much earlier in life. For example, when I was a teenager I figured out that if I didn’t eat at night I lost more weight if I didn’t eat at night. The calorie count could stay the same, but the timing mattered. Along with that it became apparent that lack of sleep was a real problem. I began to notice that if I didn’t sleep enough I was not only tired and crabby, but seem to magically add a pound or two. I have always assumed that it was just how my body worked.
Well, it turns out I was on to something. A Spanish study duplicated my observations. Those how ate their main meal before 3 pm lost significantly more weight than those who ate later in the day, even if they ate the same number of calories per day.
The International Journal of Obesity did a study about “feeding” time and weight management. Researches discovered that Circadian Rhythms not only affect our sleep patterns but how we metabolize food. Eating at unusual times disrupts the circadian rhythms in our bodies and creates problems in metabolism. Seems that our fat cells in adipose tissue follow a daily rhythmic pattern.
Of course there are critics who do not believe these finding because it does not really prove a cause and effect relationship.
Then there is the matter of sleep and weight management. Sleep is brain nutrition. If you don’t get enough it your hormones, specifically ghrelin and leptin, get out of balance. Ghrelin tells your braint that eat. Leptin tells your brain that you are full. Meaning that you feel more hungry and have less ability to register that you are full. Great prescription for overeating!
Another hormone reaction is from the cortisol spike that comes from not getting enough sleep. Cortisol signals your brain to hang on to all the energy (in the form of fat) that it can. Finally, sleep deprivation effects your bodies ability to process insulin which changes sugar and starches into needed energy, often in the form of storing fat.
These days I am eating my main meal at noon and a light snack around 3. I am getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night and at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. My weight is stable again and I feel great.
If you are having trouble managing your weight, think about you circadian rhythms, meal times and sleep. I’m thinking making some changes might work for you too