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The Meal Timing Rule for Rapid Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, what you eat may be just as important as when.

You've been eating produce, healthy fats, and all the "good" kinds of carbs, and you've even started hitting the gym. But you've only lost, like, two pounds. Wondering what gives? The issue may have something to do with the timing of your meals, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

According to the report, people who eat at different times each day are more likely to be obese and tend to have larger waistlines than those who regularly eat their meals at the same time. People who had irregular eating patterns were also found to have an increased risk for preventable diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

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While it may seem hard to believe that eating lunch at noon one day and 2 p.m. the next could do so much harm, the science is sound. As it turns out, sporadic meal timing messes with the body's internal body clock which follows a 24-hour cycle. Yes, that's right, not only does our circadian rhythm help us maintain our sleep-wake cycle, it also helps with many of our metabolic processes like appetite, digestion, and the metabolism of cholesterol, glucose, fat. When it regularly gets thrown out of whack—which is what happens when you don't adhere to a set eating schedule—it can cause weight gain and poor blood sugar control, according to the researchers.

Though the scientists say that further research is needed to shape future dietary guidelines or official recommendations, there's no harm that can come from streamlining your meal timing. And hey, it may just help you lose some of that unwanted belly fat! If you find it difficult to get into the habit of sticking to a set eating schedule, try enlisting the help of the reminders feature on your cell phone. See, sometimes technology doesn't work against your flat belly goals!

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh