Does Eating Dinner Early Help You Lose Weight?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Dinner is typically the largest meal of the day in US and Canada.
Dinner is typically the largest meal of the day in US and Canada.

Some food and nutrition advocates suggest that eating dinner early will help you lose weight, especially if you consume your meal at least three hours before you go to bed. Others believe the opposite, and think that you should not only eat dinner, but might want to finish your evening with a light snack, since hunger during the night can interrupt sleep, and poor sleep can contribute to weight gain. The issue of when you eat is complex and needs a little explanation.

In order to lose weight, caloric input needs to be less than caloric output.
In order to lose weight, caloric input needs to be less than caloric output.

Many people suggest that Western society tends to focus too much on dinner, and that it often is the largest meal of the day. It's also often eaten fast, with people consuming more than they need because they don’t allow themselves to naturally feel full. Other countries take longer with large meals like dinner, and as such, tend to actually be thinner than many Americans and Canadians. Eating dinner early may not be as important as what and how a person eats.

What people eat is usually more important than when people eat.
What people eat is usually more important than when people eat.

If you want to vote for the most important meal of a day, you’ll lose out if you vote on dinner. Breakfast tends to be most important, and some nutritionists recommend higher calorie breakfast and lunch with relatively light dinners. There is a suggestion that eating proper meals at breakfast and lunch can also help individuals to eat less at dinner, especially if they are paying attention to the process of eating. Other diet plans spread out calorie distribution evenly, in three, four, or six meals, so that calorie intake through the day is relatively constant. Eating more frequent meals that are smaller may indeed help people resist cravings, which can promote sticking to a diet and losing some weight.

Some people believe that hunger can disrupt sleep, so snacking before bed is fine.
Some people believe that hunger can disrupt sleep, so snacking before bed is fine.

The main theory behind eating dinner early is that people tend to be less active as the day progresses. Evenings may consist of TV watching, and the body slows down as a person gets more tired. This isn’t true for everyone, however, and some people clean their homes at night, squeeze in a workout, or take a walk. If you’re still exerting yourself in the evening, then eating early may have little to no effect on whether your overall diet promotes weight loss. In fact, you may find yourself very hungry if you do a lot at night, which might suggest the snack approach toward evening’s end.

Poor sleep can contribute to weight gain.
Poor sleep can contribute to weight gain.

What appears to matter more than when you eat your dinner is what you eat for dinner and your overall calorie intake for the day. If you consume more calories than you use, you will have a hard time maintaining or losing weight. If you eat fewer calories than you use, weight loss may be a little easier. People vary in response to weight gain and weight loss on various diets, but the number one way to lose weight is still to eat healthy and get some exercise. If you find that eating dinner early helps this process along, there’s nothing wrong with trying it. On the other hand, if you find that an early meal makes you much more inclined to crave foods or you feel incredibly hungry at bedtime, it may make sense to move your dinner hour to later or add a healthful snack toward the end of the day.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

anon288247

I avoid meals after 6 p.m., but have been told that body goes into starvation mode and the metabolic rate reduces. I feel this might be true, since in spite of limited eating (not dieting), I have started gaining weight.

anon276516

I just drink two glasses of water for dinner and then I'm full.

anon110804

I too believe in taking early dinner. It helps in better concentration. In fact, by taking heavy breakfast and light dinner I have been able to maintain my weight quite well. Now I will also try your therapy of not taking or taking light things after 3 a.m.

anon62994

It is better if you do not eat anything ( even a chocolate) after 5 p.m. it has so many advantages. personally i do not eat anything after 3 p.m. HGH process done well and also you can get a very good sleep with awareness if you do this. (to get a good sleep use "metta meditation" loving kindness).

It's hard in the first few weeks to adjust. once you adjust to it you will feel the difference. you feel so light and energetic and also you will have less health problems. try it. i used to be 76 kg. After doing this just for few days i am 72.5kg. In the morning i eat oats/brown rice and for lunch peanuts/cashews/oat/brown rice/vegetables.

i tried this because Buddhist monks do it and it's said that you can concentrate if you don't eat dinner easily.

anon36399

Could you please tell me if i am better counting calories and eat 1100 calories a day

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    • Dinner is typically the largest meal of the day in US and Canada.
      By: Monkey Business
      Dinner is typically the largest meal of the day in US and Canada.
    • In order to lose weight, caloric input needs to be less than caloric output.
      By: sframe
      In order to lose weight, caloric input needs to be less than caloric output.
    • What people eat is usually more important than when people eat.
      By: Barbara Helgason
      What people eat is usually more important than when people eat.
    • Some people believe that hunger can disrupt sleep, so snacking before bed is fine.
      By: LoloStock
      Some people believe that hunger can disrupt sleep, so snacking before bed is fine.
    • Poor sleep can contribute to weight gain.
      By: Savvapanf Studio ©
      Poor sleep can contribute to weight gain.