Some crazy diet tricks -- like "calorie erasing" sprinkles and "fat melting" shorts -- should be banished to the Weight Loss Hall of Shame. If you're struggling with your new year's resolution to slim down, don't be tempted by these or any other pounds-off scams that sound too good to be true. They always are. Instead, give this new, science-proven strategy a try: better timing.
Eating by the clock (we'll show you how) is a no-extra-willpower-required way to help you lose more pounds, boost satisfaction and stick with your weight-loss plan for the long haul. Just by working with your body's natural rhythms and needs, you can boost diet success. The latest proof: A new Spanish report says eating your main meal earlier in the day could help you lose 29 percent more weight.
The researchers tracked the eating habits and body weight of 420 dieters who munched, on average, a slimming 1,400 calories a day. Those who ate their biggest meal of the day before 3 p.m. lost 22 pounds in 20 weeks, compared with 17 pounds for those who sat down to their main meal later on. Both groups got similar amounts of sleep and exercise, so those factors didn't account for the difference -- another clue that when you eat (not just what you eat) is crucial for weight-loss success.
Why? We're beginning to suspect that eating helps reset your body clock every day, the same way exposure to sunlight can. Downplaying or ignoring breakfast, then eating a major meal late in the day may throw off the timing that helps keep your metabolism humming -- throwing it out of sync with the big body clock in your brain. This could mean the difference between calories getting burned for fuel or stored as fat after a meal.
» Better-timing lesson: Start the day with breakfast and make sure you have some protein (there's plenty of evidence that breakfast-eaters are slimmer). Then try to eat the biggest meal of your day at lunch. Keep dinner satisfying by diving into chunky, filling foods like salads, cooked and raw veggies, and veggie-packed soups, stews, stir-fries and casseroles. Then try these two additional ways to turbocharge weight loss while factoring your new, better timing into the equation.
Slow down. Making meals last longer boosts release of appetite-satisfaction hormones that help you feel full. People who spent 30 minutes eating a bowl of ice cream had 25 percent to 30 percent higher levels of two key I-do-not-feel-hungry-any-longer hormones (peptide YY and glucagonlike peptide-1) than those who wolfed down their treats in just five minutes. Slow eaters also saw levels of these hormones remain elevated for the next two and a half hours.
» Better-timing lesson: Linger over your meals. Put utensils down between bites, make conversation, listen to music while you eat, or just take in the view from your kitchen or dining room window. Don't sit in front of the television; it's always important to eat mindfully and savor every bite!
Take time off. Yup, breaking your weight-loss diet now and then could help you stick with it. In one fascinating study, researchers found that people who took time off -- they stopped counting calories and didn't weigh themselves -- lost just as much weight as people who dieted continuously for 11 months. Why? Knowing you'll get a vacation soon makes it easier to resist temptation today.
» Better-timing lesson: If you find you've been cheating a lot lately, reset your mealtime clock. Then, once you're back on schedule, give yourself a break. Take the weekend off, declare a "no diet" day once a month in the middle of the week, or if you're on a long-term weight-loss plan, give yourself a whole week off. Make sure you stick to healthy indulgences, like six walnut halves, half an ounce of dark chocolate twice a day or your favorite fruit. And don't forget to stick with veggie and lean protein main dishes.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.