We've all heard the warning: If you eat right before bed, you'll put on weight while you sleep. I used to live in Spain, where everyone eats dinner late, around 9 or 10 p.m., and I'm here to tell you that Spaniards do not carry around more weight than people who live in countries with earlier dinnertimes. To take another example, during Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and eat only after sunset. They make up for the daylight deprivations by celebrating with huge feasts of their favorite foods. Yet, a study at the Hashemite University in Jordan that monitored 57 Muslim women before and during Ramadan found that the women lost weight.

Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso had 867 people keep diet diaries that divided the day into four-hour periods. It turned out that people who ate more in the morning ate fewer calories overall, and people who ate late at night ate more calories overall. This is the key. Typically, Americans who eat late at night are not simply postponing dinner from 6 to 10 P.M. They are actually eating more: snacking in front of the TV, eating junk food or adding calories with alcohol.

So it's not when you eat, it's how much you eat. The mystery of weight loss always boils down to this: If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight; if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. You can't argue with physics.

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As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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