When we sleep less, we eat more. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 participants were allowed only 5 hours of sleep at night, instead of the 7-9 hours experts recommend. When they were given 3 large meals a day plus snacks, they had less self-control than when rested. They also skipped breakfast and ate a lot more carbohydrates and fat at night, which makes weight gain likelier. In five days of shortened sleep the participants gained almost 2 pounds. Obviously, sleep can keep us from being “tired of weight gain”.
When we eat affects weight loss. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity monitored 420 overweight Spaniards on a 20-week diet. The participants were divided into 2 groups – early-eaters and late-eaters. Because lunch is the big meal in Spain, half the group ate before 3 pm and half after. The timing of breakfast and dinner had no effect, but the late-lunch eaters lost less weight and lost it more slowly. After considering caloric intake, energy expenditure and sleep amount, the finding held. Because eating earlier gives us more time to burn calories, maybe Americans’ big meal shouldn’t “weight”.
Snacks also affect weight loss. A study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference recruited 109 people and gave them a mid-afternoon snack of potato chips, pie or chocolate. The snacks ranged in size from .4 ounce to 7+ ounces. The researchers also measured participants’ hunger levels before and 15 minutes after snacking. Although the larger-portion group consumed 77% more food (approximately 103 more calories), small snacks were just as effective at curbing appetite 15 minutes later. It’s our brain – not our stomach - that usually dictates how hungry we feel and small snacks are sufficient “brain food”.
Money helps us lose weight. One hundred Mayo Clinic employees were divided into groups. Every group had classes on how to eat healthy and lose weight, but some groups also received financial incentives to lose weight. Each member of the financial-incentive groups received $20 for each pound lost, but had to pay $20 for each pound gained. After 52 weeks the financial-incentive groups had lost an average of 9 pounds compared to an average of 2 pounds lost by the just-classes groups. In 2013 about 86% of large employers offer incentives to help employees reach health goals. It “can pay” to lose weight.