How do the times of day, month or year affect eating? Actually, more than you might think. Take a look at a few of these key times and keep in mind — the more conscious you are of your eating behavior, the fewer unwanted calories you'll consume.
Now is that time of year when it starts to get dark earlier, and school begins. In other words, it's the end of summer and the beginning of fall. And something else happens: We start eating more.
According to John de Castro, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas-El Paso, "We tend to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall than other seasons."
That translates to as much as three to four pounds gained a year.
"We blame much of this 'fall' weight gain on the holidays; however, there are other causes," says de Castro, who excluded the holiday periods for this analysis.
Why do we eat more in the fall? More than likely, it's biological: Putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced.
"It all makes sense — the fall harvest, storing up for the long winter months," explains de Castro. Historically, we have had a tendency to eat when food is plentiful, because we never knew when our next meal was going to be available.
Foods that show up in our supermarkets (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, pumpkins and all types of greens) can actually be healthier than foods of other seasons. They are typically packed with great nutrients, such as fiber, protein, beta carotene and vitamin C. Here are a few tips to keep the fall tasty and healthy:
As for lunar eating, although the research is not conclusive, abnormal behaviors have been found to occur more often three days before and three days after a full moon. According to de Castro's research, the full moon increases our eating.
Castro found approximately an 8 percent increase in meal size at the time of the full moon relative to the new moon.
"The effect on food intake is most likely from the presence of an internal biological rhythm that occurs in conjunction with the lunar cycle," says de Castro.
He says it's not from the additional light or an increased gravitational pull of the moon.
Ever hear the expression, "Eat like a king in the morning, a prince at noon and a pauper at night"? According to de Castro's research, the more calories you eat in the morning, the less you eat for the rest of the day. Food eaten in the morning tends to last longer.
Food intake at night tends to lack the satiating power of food eaten in the morning. And de Castro doesn't believe it's simply a matter of habit that we eat more at night. He argues that it has to do with circadian and diurnal rhythms. The theory is that we eat more in the evening to have enough calories to sustain us until we get our next meal.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate. Write to email@example.com.