The weekends are a time to unwind, but be careful: significantly altering your day-to-day with different patterns of eating could cause significant health troubles and could be linked with obesity.
Whether it’s a late-night snack while binging some Netflix or skipping the gym entirely until Monday’s session, a new study suggests that having fun and relaxing, or ditching our routines, aka “eating jet lag” could increase a person’s body mass index, which indicates whether a person’s weight is healthy.
For the study, researchers had over 1,000 people between ages 18 and 22 in Mexico and Spain participate, where they compared and observed the participants’ BMI by documenting with changes in their eating times during the weekends compared to the rest of the week.
The term “eating jet lag” was created as a measuring purpose for this study. Researchers observed what participants normally ate during breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the weekend compared to what was consumed on a typical weekday. By coining this as jet lag, it means participants were pushing meals more than 3.5 hours past their normal window on weekends compared to during the week.
“Our results show changing the timing of the three meals during the weekend is linked to obesity. The highest impact on the BDI could occur when there is a 3.5-hour difference in eating schedules. After this, the risk of obesity could increase, since we saw individuals who showed a 3.5-hour eating jet lag increased their BDI in 1.3. kg/m2”, said María Fernanda Zerón Rugerio, the first author of the study.
Translating these numbers to every-day use: skipping breakfast for a late boozy brunch with friends or dining later in the evening could mean extra pounds.
Researchers said additional studies are needed to figure out the long-term effects, but the study did suggest that eating differently on the weekend can unbalance the body’s circadian clock and alter metabolic functions.
“Our biological clock is like a machine, and is ready to unchain the same physiological and metabolic response at the same time of the day, every day of the week,” noted Trinitat Cambras. “Fixed eating and sleep schedules help the body to be organized and promote energy homeostasis. Therefore, people with a higher alteration of their schedules have a higher risk of obesity.”
Despite the findings, one London-based nutritionist told The Daily Mail that the study has its limitations.
“It’s less easy to account for other variables that might affect outcomes such as an individual’s weight,” Kim Pearson told The Daily Mail. “This is summed up by the saying ‘correlation does not imply causation’ meaning that just because two circumstances coexist, it does not mean that one has necessarily caused the other.
“When it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, what we do know for sure is that what we eat and how much is key.”
This isn’t the first study to shine a light on weekend behaviors. A study done by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that jet lag on the weekends can influence mood behaviors and bad health while increasing the risk of heart disease by as much as 11%.
A separate study found that trying to make up for lost sleep on the weekends isn’t as beneficial benefit as one might think because adjusting your sleep pattern could make sleep habits even worse.