I've always tried to eat a balanced diet and stay active, especially in my adult years. I've run races, I teach exercise classes, and I make sure to get out the door for walks whenever possible. I try not to indulge too often, I get plenty of sleep, and I almost always have a water bottle within reach. You would think it's super easy for me to stay at my goal weight, but there have been times where my clothes got a little too tight and I needed to drop a couple pounds. Since I was already living a healthy lifestyle, figuring out how to lose weight seemed daunting. It wasn't until I committed to eating my last meal of the day an hour earlier that I really saw a difference.
In 2016, my husband was overseas for an extended period of time for work, and since we didn't have any kids yet, I only had myself to feed. This was when I decided that I would try cutting myself off at 6 p.m. Growing up, my family had always eaten dinner on the earlier side, usually wrapping up before 7, so this was not a huge adjustment for me. I shifted my meal-planning and made an effort to eat dinner around 5 or 5:30 p.m., rather than between 6 and 7. I knew I would have to be consistent in order to see any results, and made a plan to try this for at least 60 days without getting on the scale.
The first week was challenging, as I really had to think about having food ready to go as soon as I wrapped up work. I began meal-prepping 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients I'd need for dinner, and would reheat or wrap up the last bit in five to 10 minutes that evening. I noticed that I was slightly hungry around 8 p.m., so I made a concerted effort not to snack before going to bed — instead, I'd have a large mug of tea, distract myself with a good book, or turn in a little earlier.
The results of eating earlier were even better than I expected. Within days my clothes were starting to fit better, I was sleeping easier, and my energy levels were way up. After the first week, my body was hungry by 5 p.m., and as long as I ate a balanced meal, the after-dinner cravings were minimal. The weekends were harder because I often went out with friends, but I committed to eating before I left home and sipped on club soda instead of alcohol. When I finally got on the scale two months later, I was blown away. Not only had I lost six pounds, but I was also at the lowest weight I had ever been outside of the year I ran a marathon. This time, instead of running 20-plus miles a week, I was only exercising about 30 minutes a day.
Since this 60-day commitment, I've made a real effort to eat earlier most nights. Of course, every once in a while I have a late meal or a drink or dessert later in the evening, but I've found it's what you do most days that counts. I would recommend this tactic to anyone, whether you've got five pounds to lose or 50.