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Eat early to lose weight and sleep better

Last updated on: July 29, 2013 19:19 IST

Eat early to lose weight and sleep better

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Kanchan Maslekar

It’s a weekend and Aparna has a dinner invitation to a friend’s house. As other guests start getting ready for the dinner party, Aparna rustles up a roti roll and eats it as early as 6:30 pm.

Mihir is set for college result celebrations with pals at his favourite pizza joint. He too has a brown bread sandwich before he joins them.

Both Aparna and Mihir ensure that they don’t overeat at their respective social engagements -- they are two among very few youngsters who have inculcated the habit of an early dinner, reaping the benefits.

Ideally, an early dinner is a meal that should be eaten before sunset. If that’s too early, then try to eat by 8 pm and if even that isn’t possible, then  at least two hours before you hit the bed (and you should go to sleep no later than 11 pm), asserts Dr Prate Pâté, a Pune-based nutritionist and dietician.

From sound sleep to fighting obesity, early dinners have a list of advantages.


Image: The most effective way to lose weight and sleep well is to have your dinner as early as possible.
Photographs: McVaio/Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Creative Commons, Colorstefan/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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The benefits of an early dinner:

Aids proper digestion

Dr Pâté informs us that the digestive system and digestive enzymes are not active at their optimum in a prone (horizontal) position. Therefore a late dinner is not digested well and can cause discomfort or indigestion.

Primarily, a late dinner denies your body the time required to digest what you have consumed. This will not only make you feel bloated and restless, but also result in other digestive problems.

If food is well-digested before sleep, it also helps decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes.


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Reduces heartburn

Since an early dinner helps in the digestion of food, it reduces the chances of heartburn. “When you lie down, the digestive track is not working at its optimal level, thus increasing the chances of heartburn,” says Dr Pâté.

A late dinner can result in obesity, acidity, heartburn and several other digestive problems, as well as insomnia. So, allow yourself a time lag of at least two to three hours between your dinner and sleep, she adds.


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Ensures a peaceful sleep

If food is well-digested before sleep, it allows for the healing, repair and growth of the body and also results in a sound and peaceful sleep.”

Dr Pâté stresses the role of peaceful sleep in overall health and hence asserts that an early dinner becomes a crucial factor for sound sleep.


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Keeps your weight in check

An early dinner helps increase the Basal Metabolic Rate and thus helps in weight loss.

In the case of late dinners, energy from the foods is not consumed and accumulates as fat, leading to weight problems and obesity, explains Dr Pâté.


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Keeps you from overeating

Early diners vouch for the fact that an early night meal has them feeling lighter and healthier.

They no longer feel stuffed or bloated after and eating early also reduces the chances of overeating -- the longer you wait to eat, the hungrier you are and the more you tend to consume.


Photographs: Uttam Ghosh
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Affects your breakfast intake

Late night dinners increase the chances of skipping breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day.

You are ready for a heavy, healthy breakfast early morning if you have an early dinner the previous night, says Dr Pâté.


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It’s habit-forming -- in a good way

Early dinner is a habit and once cultivated, difficult to break.

“Like any other habit, eating before sunset takes a little time and getting used to, but once it’s habitual it’s most addictive,” says Kedar Dandage, a fitness consultant.

If eating late is a habit of yours, you’ll have to break it; start by reducing your portion sizes and choosing healthier meals.

Think of ways to finish the dinner routine. Brush your teeth earlier, or start a new bedtime routine -- go for a stroll, take a bath, read a book or listen to some music.


Photographs: Uttam Ghosh

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Still hungry?

Old habits die hard, so many of us avoid eating an early dinner, using the excuse that we start to get hungry again later at night.

To begin with, eat your larger dinner at 6 pm, and save a small part of it on the plate, says Dandage. Then finish the left-over portion along with some fruit at your normal dinner time. Remember, this works only if the dinner portion is already on the plate, or else you are sure to overeat the second time around.

Another solution to dealing with hunger pangs late at night is to drink a cup of warm lemon water, or cow’s milk with a pinch of turmeric.


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