The Diet Detective: Eating Alarm Times? When Do You Consume Most Of Your Extra Calories.

4 08 2011

By Charles Stuart Platkin

We asked more than 400 people on 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.

Time: Afternoon Snack Attack (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Percentage who said this is their Eating Alarm Time: 20.7 percent
Problem: When you’re hard at work or out-and-about with the kids, it’s hard to resist when that afternoon snack attack hits.
Solution:Don’t be afraid of snacking–you’re supposed to snack. However, most of us overdo it. Snacks should be about 100-250 calories, depending on your specific caloric needs. Also, include protein in your snacks, not just “empty” calories.

  • Try having mini-meals such as half a turkey breast sandwich without mayo or half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. See if you can get one of those mini-fridges for your office to store healthy snacks.
  • Declare a No-Food Zone: Set up a neutral territory where unhealthy food is not allowed. The zone might be no bigger than your desk, but that’s a start.
  • Keep fruit around. If you can’t get fresh fruit you can always try the–they deliver fresh fruit right to your door.
  • Try low-calorie (under 120 calories per cup), low-sugar, high-fiber cereal that you can eat dry.

Time: Late Night Munchies (11 p.m. until …)
Percentage who said this is their Eating Alarm Time: 7.7 percent
Problem: You can’t sleep and you’re bored, stressed, sad–could be any number of emotions. You head to the fridge, raid the cabinets, frantically looking for anything to satisfy your desire.
Solution: Don’t leave it up to chance. Always have preportioned, satisfying, low-calorie snacks such as cereal with skim milk, cut up veggies with low-calorie dip (made with yogurt), yogurt, fruit, low-calorie soup (under 100 calories per cup), available for late-night eating. The reasons you’re eating at night could be because you didn’t eat enough nutritious food for dinner or your evening snack. Or it could be part of a larger problem: emotional eating. See if you can resolve the source, because eating (and gaining more weight) will probably make things worse.

Time: Midmorning Munchies (9 a.m. to noon)
Percentage who said this is their Eating Alarm Time: 3.2 percent
Problem: You drank a quick cup of coffee but didn’t have time to eat breakfast. Now you’re hungry, and there are bagels and muffins sitting out at work.
Solution: Obviously you should eat breakfast–there is so much research that shows it helps you lose weight because you don’t overeat later. Having small packages of cereal or even cereal bars in your office is a good idea. Bananas, oranges and apples are also satisfying at this time. Or you could try applesauce (no sugar added), sugar-free pudding snack packs or Laughing Cow Cheese wedges. Above all, avoid the vending machine, which typically has nothing good to offer.

Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert , nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at



One response

6 08 2011
brazilian butt lift

I currently go to 24 hour fitness (gym). I have muscle showing but not as much as i want. I need to know if anyone knows some workout exercises? Any diet tips?.

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