Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weight Loss with the 3pm diet

Lately, I have been doing the “3pm diet”. This is not a revolutionary concept. As a matter of fact, it is not a diet at all. It is not a secret either, but someone managed to write a book, titled “The 3:00 PM Secret”. Here is the link to the publisher’s web page.
And here is the book in Amazon.

The principle is very simple: Stop eating at 3 pm. Or, as the author likes to say, eat a nutritious breakfast, a nutritious lunch, a snack at 2:30, and then you are done. It is really amazing that an entire book was written around this concept. So, basically, you are skipping dinner and go without eating from 2:30pm to maybe 7:30am, a total of 17 hours or so.

Two questions come in mind: 1) Why? 2) How?

Regarding the "why", the author goes into great lengths to prove that this kind of eating schedule has many advantages, both in terms of weight loss and in terms of a lifestyle: 1) By eating most of your calories in the morning, you can burn them later in the day, so you end up losing weight. 2) You don’t need to worry about cooking & cleaning dishes in the evening and you have more time and energy to devote to a hobby or other pursuits.

I definitely agree with #2. Most people come home from work, overeat, and then are too tired digesting to do anything productive, so they end up laying on the couch, watching TV (and snacking). Not having to worry about dinner in a sense frees you and gives you more time for productive work.

Point #1 is questionable. They are those who say, it does not matter when you eat. You can eat all your calories in one meal, eat only in the morning, eat only in the evening, or eat many small meals during the day. It is irrelevant. All that matters is how much goes in and how much goes out (via exercise). I am not sure I agree with this mechanistic view of the body, but one thing is certain: It is very difficult to overeat for breakfast and lunch. The majority of the calories are consumed in the evening. So by skipping dinner you can lose (or maintain) weight, depending on how much you eat in the morning.

I have been doing this for a week now and have already lost a couple of pounds, even though I tend to eat a lot. I work at home so after my breakfast at 7am, I usually eat a 2nd breakfast around 9am. So I eat three meals. Someone with an office work will most probably eat less and weight loss is almost certain.

Now, to the “how” My wife cannot believe that I just stop eating after 3pm. But it is very easy for me. My body is now used to this, and does not expect food. I feel fine. I don’t get hungry, and I go to bed for a good night’s sleep with my digestive system taking a break.

I expect that a lot of people have a problem with this concept, especially if they like to entertain or go out to eat, or just enjoy eating and have nothing productive to do in the evening. There are people (my wife is one) who look forward to eating dinner. These are the people who will not even agree to try this. The book says it is OK to have something light, like a soup, and it even gives you two “free days” a week. So, the 3pm is not etched in stone. I personally don’t need the freebies. It would be nice if my wife was also in the same schedule, but I don’t care. When she cooks dinner and asks me if I want to eat, I politely refuse and ask her to save my portion for lunch tomorrow.

There are people (in Greece for example) who routinely do not eat breakfast (I used to do this). So, they are going without eating for long periods, but at a different time of the day. There is even a book called “The Fast-5 Diet” which advocates skipping breakfast and lunch and only eat between 5pm and 10pm (thus a fast minus this 5 hour window). In one sense, this is exactly the opposite of the “3pm diet”, yet there is no question that both methods could work. It is difficult to eat a lot in a short window of time during the day (even though I am sure some people can do it). At the end, it might be a matter of lifestyle, and I definitely prefer eating early than late in the day.

I am also doing something that I have not done before: I eat breakfast before long morning runs (for example the Sunday trail runs for the Buckeye 50K race). I find that this gives me more energy later in the run. I would not do that for short runs or fast races, only for long slow runs.

I am happy that someone wrote a book about this. I have been interested in weight loss since I started running in 2001. It is a long story, but, briefly, I was 225 lbs in 2001 and dropped to 175 after one year, by just running and without any other adjustments in my diet. After the first year, I fell in love with running. I soon realized that I could enjoy running more, and be better at it, if I lost even more weight. But it is not easy now that I work at home and I am close to my “ideal” weight. I have tried different things, including not eating after a certain time (around 5pm). This personal version of the 3pm diet worked, but I did not keep it up. Now that I know that someone else has thought long enough about this and even wrote a book, I feel encouraged to try it again. It is not something I made up. It is now official.

Bottom line: This 3pm concept is helping me lose or maintain weight and I enjoy the lifestyle benefits I get from it. I have more energy in my long morning runs, and more time for productive work in the evening.

12 comments:

Kathleen said...

That sounds interesting -- I'm glad you found something that seems to working well again for you.

I hope you eat some protein right after your runs as well.

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angela betner said...

I did this to drop lots of baby weight. I kept it off by following this about 2 days a week but fell off the wagon completely and now going to do it again to lose 20 pounds. The first 3 days are hard but then you totally get used to it! Chug water at night if your starving. You will pee a lot but it helps. Just remember in the am you can eat anything!

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Ingrid McQuivey said...

I've been doing this for a month now and love it. I'm an early riser, so I easily get all my daily calories in before that time. I eat healthy foods as well and I have never felt better. I'm over 40 years old and my metabolism has slowed way down. This lifestyle change is the only one I have found that helps me to stay at a healthy weight.

Ingrid McQuivey said...

I've been doing this for a month now and love it. I'm an early riser, so I easily get all my daily calories in before that time. I eat healthy foods as well and I have never felt better. I'm over 40 years old and my metabolism has slowed way down. This lifestyle change is the only one I have found that helps me to stay at a healthy weight.

Erica Mobley said...

This is very helpful and doable for me as by 3 pm I'm either done eating and just thinking about adding extra food that I just don't need due to boredom and I feel so sick after eating pass that time. I'm finally starting to pay attention to my body and the change that needs to happen.

Erica Mobley said...

This is very helpful and doable for me as by 3 pm I'm either done eating and just thinking about adding extra food that I just don't need due to boredom and I feel so sick after eating pass that time. I'm finally starting to pay attention to my body and the change that needs to happen.

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