Stop Obsessing Over Your Meals

Will eating breakfast every day help me lose weight? Yes, eating the morning meal can actually help you shed pounds.

Will eating breakfast every day help me lose weight?

Yes, eating the morning meal can actually help you shed pounds. People who have breakfast are less likely to eat diet-busting junk food and are more likely to exercise later in the day, studies show. People who skip breakfast, on the other hand, usually make up the calories — and then some — before day’s end. Researchers found that 78 percent of the men and women included in the National Weight Control Registry — who have maintained an average weight loss of 66 pounds for more than 5 years — eat breakfast every day.

Is “grazing” really healthier than eating three square meals a day?

Eating many small meals throughout the day is probably no better for you than the traditional scheme of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The idea that “grazing” is healthier comes from a few old studies showing that eating frequent meals throughout the day may burn more fat and lower insulin levels. But later studies have found no benefit to grazing. It’s no healthier than eating three squares, according to the American Dietetic Association.

I’ve always eaten most of my calories at dinner. If I’m healthy, is there any reason not to keep doing this?

Hard to say. Intuitively, it sounds like a bad idea. Yet “one-mealers” tend to eat less food overall, scientists say, so your dining habit may actually help you stay trim. On the other hand, one small, brief study by USDA scientists found that eating just one daily meal may cause small increases in blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. If your annual blood tests show a rise in any key risk factors for heart disease or diabetes, you may want to reconsider your meal strategy.

Will bedtime snacks make you fat?

No. But that’s not permission to nosh on cookies every night before turning in. Consuming more calories than you burn through physical activity produces belly rolls and flabby thighs no matter what time you overeat. A habit of snacking in front of the television every evening will lead to weight gain, but no more so than having a six-egg omelet for breakfast or vanquishing a bag of jelly beans at your desk every afternoon.

The final word
Eat fewer calories than you need in a day and you will lose weight. Eat breakfast because it will help you control calories better, not because it’s a magic meal. Eat the number of meals that keeps you satisfied and energized. No one plan is best for everyone.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest