We asked more than 400 people on DietDetective.com to vote on their Eating Alarm Times--those few hours each day when you can consume up to 300 extra calories, which causes you to gain weight. If only 20 percent of your day accounts for 80 percent of the reason why you're overweight, identifying your Eating Alarm Times means you don't have to overhaul your entire life to lose weight. It means you can make real changes by being careful during just that one period when you typically overdo it. Here are a few tips:
Time: Prime-Time TV Snacking Hours (7 p.m. to 11 p.m.)
Percentage who said this is their Eating Alarm Time: 37.8 percent
Problem: This is the most difficult time of day for most people. Either you're a kitchen lingerer, or you're sitting in front of the television after a long, busy day. The scientific journal Eating Behavior reports that snacking while watching TV is associated with increased overall caloric intake.
Solution: Come up with snacking alternatives--basically, Calorie Bargains. For example, if you typically have a bowl of chips while sitting in front of the television, try a lower-calorie version such as a bowl of air-popped popcorn or Mr. Krispers Baked Rice Krisps. Also, make sure to put a portion in a dish and return the container to the kitchen cupboard. That way you'll have to get up to get seconds. Other tips:
- Eat only at the kitchen or dining room table. Consider all other areas snack-free zones.
- No munching on high-calorie snacks while on the phone.
- Serve all snacks on plates. No picking while standing in front of the fridge and no digging into the half-gallon of ice cream with a spoon. If you are going to have some ice cream, it must be in a dish!
- Close the kitchen: Once dinner is over, wash the dishes and turn off the lights.
- Prepare a variety of healthful snacks and meals in advance, and keep only the "better" snacks around the house.
Time: Dinnertime (5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)
Percentage who said this is their Eating Alarm Time: 24.2 percent
Problem: You've had a long day at work; maybe you didn't even have time to eat very much during the day. Now you're starving. If you're in a restaurant, watch out--you're probably over-ordering. If you're home, well there is always plenty off food to overeat.
Solution: You have to eat more. If you're not getting enough food during the day, you'll overeat at dinner. Try to plan your lunch and an afternoon snack. Scout out area restaurants (if at work) for pre-approved healthful dishes. You can even leave a standing order at various restaurants for different days of the week.
Bring your own sandwich, or get frozen dinners (i.e., Lean Cuisine) or microwave-only dinners--not frozen--that you can keep in your desk drawer (i.e., Annie Chun's). Keep a supply of fresh fruit in your home and your office.