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Are you a late-night snacker or the type who starves during the day and then pigs out at night? If so, the six o’clock diet could be the weight loss plan for you. The six o’clock diet forbids eating after 6 p.m., which could lead to a slimmer body.
The six o'clock diet was first popularized in the 1990s by former Olympic swimmer and TV celebrity Christine Jacob, who lost unwanted pounds on the diet after retiring from swimming. The six o'clock diet allows you to eat whatever you want -- as long as you don't eat after six in the evening. Supporters of the diet claim it's best to consume your calories during the day when you will burn them up working, running errands or taking care of your kids. "The idea is that less energy is expended when relaxing at night and for bodily functions while sleeping, so any calories you consume at night go straight into fat storage," says James Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado 2. The six o'clock diet theorizes that calories from food consumed during the day are burned off, leading to weight loss.
The six o'clock diet follows the age-old advice to always eat breakfast because it's the most important meal of the day. "Eating during the early part of the day gives you fuel to accomplish mental and physical tasks effectively," Hill says. Another advantage: Having a six o'clock deadline to stop eating eliminates the opportunity to nibble on fattening snacks after dinner or raid the fridge for sweets in the evening. "The six o'clock diet could work well for couch potatoes who tend to eat in front of the TV at night," says Sari Greaves, a registered dietitian in New York City and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association 1. The same goes for people who crave food at night.
There may be a temptation to overeat during the day since you must curtail food at. “You need to eat sensibly during the day for this diet to work," Greaves says. “If you overeat during the day, you won’t lose weight.” Another downside of the six o’clock diet: Going to bed hungry could cause insomnia. “Inability to sleep is a common reason for raiding the refrigerator at night,” Greaves says. If you typically go to bed at 9 p.m., you may not be hungry when you retire. But night owls who stay up later may suffer hunger pangs and sleeplessness at bedtime. Finally, sticking to a healthy eating plan on the six o’clock diet requires advance planning since all calories and nutrients must be consumed before the deadline.
The six o’clock diet works best if you eat nutritious, balanced meals. “It doesn’t really matter when you consume your calories as long as you’re eating less,” Greaves says. It is also important to exercise. Hill says the dieters in the National Weight Control Registry who successfully lost weight and kept it off were the ones who exercised daily. Even a 20-minute walk will help you succeed on the six o’clock diet, Hill says. And fasting for over 10 hours at a time could cause your metabolism to slow down to conserve energy, which may slow down weight loss, Greaves says, but exercise boosts metabolism.
Greaves recommends eliminating alcoholic drinks from your diet because they can stimulate appetite. The same goes for sugar. “Sugary beverages, candy, cookies and other sweets can make you crave more sweets,” Greaves says. Be sure to have protein, such as chicken, fish or lean beef, and fiber-rich vegetables with dinner. Protein and fiber increase the feeling of fullness, warding off hunger and preventing you from going off your diet after 6 o’clock because you’re starving, Greaves says. Try to eat every three to four hours during the day to stabilize your blood sugar and prevent energy slumps. Finally, the American Dietetic Association recommends watching portion sizes no matter what time of day if you want to lose weight and stay slim.
- Sari Greaves; Registered Dietician in New York City, Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association
- James Hill, Ph.D.; Director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado; Co-Founder, National Weight Control Registry
- Ron Chapple studios/Hemera/Getty Images