If this is your mealtime, it will do this to your waist size

Photo: Nicolas Barbier Garreau

It’s understandable for mealtimes to fluctuate from time-to-time. Work can create diversions that can cause late or even skipped lunches and some days might extend late in the day, causing people to delay dinner until right before bed. While it’s never advised to eat dinner right before hitting the sack, life does get in the way as it has during the coronavirus pandemic.

As our norms have been challenged, changes in routines have made us adjust the way in which we eat. With workers working remote from the comfort of their homes, food has never been made so accessible.

We’re buying more groceries and eating more frequently than before. We’re coping with the uncertainties by eating more and often not good foods, but ones that are sugary in an effort to make ourselves feel better.

If you’ve climbed over the hump of stress eating and irregular eating patterns, good for you — but for those trying to right the ship and get a bit healthier, a new study claims that actually eating healthy foods is just the start of changing your dietary ways.

The American Heart Association recently published new research on mealtimes and the importance of how changing the time we eat can cause big changes to our health, including waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure and blood sugar.

The research, headed by Columbia University’s Nour Makarem, was presented at the American Heart Association’s virtual “Scientific Sessions” conference. Makarem and her team had previously explored eating habits but wanted to see how timing affected heart risks.

They explored “social jet lag,” a phenomenon that popped up a few years ago when scientists coined the condition for people suffering misalignments between their circadian rhythms and built environment. Makarem extended social jet lag to “eating jet lag,” which basically is shifts in our eating habits form day-to-day, night-to-night, and weekends.

They honed in on women in the study, 116 in total ages 20 to 64, to see how often they went without food overnight and how many calories were consumed in the early to late evening.

The results showed that for every 10% increase in calorie inconsistency after 5 p.m., systolic blood pressure increased by nearly three points and exceeded two points in diastolic blood pressure when participants were observed in a one-year follow-up. When participants ate more calories later in the day — after 8 p.m. — it results in a half-inch waist size gain and half-point increase in body mass index, according to a press release.

When observing weekdays and weekends, researchers said an increased variability in timing of duration between eating periods was “linked to increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and in BMI a year later.”

“It’s not necessarily that on the weekend our eating timing is worse,” Makarem said in a press release. “It’s just that on weekdays, we’re following a social clock, whereas on the weekend, we’re following our natural biologic clock.”