Your Plan

Does Meal Timing Affect Weight Loss?

The truth can help you handle hunger the smart way.

When you want to eat, you want to eat. Sometimes it’s a physical thing: Your stomach growls, and you might feel lightheaded or headache-y. You’re internally hungry. These feelings usually kick in about three or four hours after you last ate and grow stronger the longer you go without eating. Another sign of internal hunger: Most foods sound good and you’re up for eating pretty much anything that’s nearby.

But sometimes hunger is external, triggered by places, emotions, the sight or aroma of food, and so on. It differs from internal hunger because it often comes on quickly, you know exactly what you want to eat, and you might have eaten a meal or snack not long before. Say you just had lunch, but someone brings homemade cookies to the weekly department meeting. Suddenly cookies sound really good. That’s external hunger.

How best to manage internal hunger so you’re not ravenous enough to eat almost anything, while also ensuring external hunger doesn’t get the best of you?


Put your meals (and snacks) on a schedule

Your Weekly explains the advantages of planning to eat regularly throughout the day. Your internal hunger levels are more stable and you’re less likely to act on external hunger because you know it’s not a planned mealtime. (And if you’re not entirely familiar with signs of internal hunger, having an eating schedule takes away the guesswork of when to eat.) In general, slotting in meals about every three or four hours will avoid internal-hunger spikes that can lead you to eat something you hadn’t planned for. And you’re less likely to be swayed by those outside influences: If it’s not your scheduled lunchtime, for example, it’s easier to pass up the supermarket samples of salami and cheese.


Meal timing tips


A few pointers that can help you manage hunger inside and out.
• Pack low- and ZeroPoint™ foods when you’re out and about, such as fresh fruit or hard-boiled eggs, to ease internal hunger between meals. 
• Pay attention to your internal-hunger signals once you put your schedule into practice. They might change as your body gets into a predictable rhythm. So our suggestion of eating every three to four hours is just that—feel free to adjust the timing based on your own needs. 
• Remember, there’s no need to forego all external eating. There are family celebrations, new dishes to try at a dinner party, a goodbye toast at the office. It’s part of being human. When you set up meal schedules, it’s easier to fit such “extra” moments into your life, stay on track—and enjoy them!