Q: OK, once and for all, am I really more apt to gain weight if I eat a late dinner?
A: Not necessarily, because it’s the number of calories you eat, rather than when you eat, that determines whether you’ll pack on the pounds. But chances are good that if you opt for a late dinner, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll underestimate the number of calories you’re eating and down a mega-portion, pushing your daily calories over the limit. Some experts think loading up on calories in the p.m. may also disrupt your body’s normal metabolic processes and affect the hormones that regulate blood sugars and fats, but there’s no research yet to back that up. The bottom-line: Eating a late dinner won’t automatically derail your diet, but aim for an equal distribution of snacks and meals during the day to maintain a consistent level of energy and keep yourself from gorging.
Q: What can I do to get past a weight-loss plateau?
A: A plateau is one of the most common—and frustrating—stages of a diet. Research shows that weight loss often levels off around the six-month mark, when dieters have generally dropped some pounds and revert to old eating habits. While diving into that ice cream, they forget they actually need fewer calories to maintain their new, lighter weight. Workouts can be less effective at this point, too, because your body becomes more efficient doing the same ol’ strength-and-cardio routine. As a result, you’re not burning as many calories as you used to. Here are three tips to get that number on the scale moving downward again.
Mix it up. Tack on 10 minutes or add a few hills to your normal run a few times per week to work out harder or longer than you normally do. Or switch types of exercise altogether—try a Spinning class, for example, instead of walking.
Keep a log. After a period of steady weight loss, you may fall into a new comfort zone and go back to over-nibbling. Record everything you eat and drink for a week to help you identify those little slipups that may sabotage your weight loss.
Try a one-week challenge. Do one of the following for a week: Eat a salad for dinner five out of seven days, eat only home-prepared dishes for all meals, or stick to zero-calorie drinks.
By Julie Upton, RD