Could doing certain things when you wake up be beneficial for weight control? Not everyone is a morning person and bounces out of bed ready to tackle the day! But there are ways to make your morning more satisfying and productive while working toward your weight loss goals. You may not be able to do all of these things, but even if you do a few, they may help you start your day off on a healthier note. Here are five habits that may help you maintain a healthy body weight.
Open the Curtains in the Morning
Studies show that exposing your eyes to light in the morning is associated with a healthier body weight. Could it really be that simple? Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found a direct correlation between the level of light exposure early in the day and BMI. Even when they controlled for other factors that impact body weight, such as calorie intake, exercise, and sleep, the link between body weight and early morning light exposure still held.
Why might opening the curtains when you wake up help keep your waistline trim? Light is what sets our internal biological clock, the master timekeeper that regulates everything from your mood to your appetite. Your internal biological clock also impacts hormones like those that impact metabolism and appetite. In fact, studies show that animals that don’t get light exposure in the morning hours gain weight even when they don’t eat more. Light exposure also affects insulin sensitivity and how readily cells take up glucose. So, not getting exposure to light early in the day may be unhealthy from a metabolic standpoint too.
How much light exposure do you need to get benefits? Timing matters. The window period is before noon, but you don’t need a lot of exposure. Research suggests that as little as 20 minutes of exposure to natural light in the morning can be beneficial. So, open up the curtains as soon as you wake up and soak up the light. Even better, watch the sunrise!
Add More Protein to Your Breakfast
If your morning ritual is to chow down on a bagel and a cup of coffee, it’s time to upgrade that morning meal! Research shows that protein is the most satiating of the three macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Consuming more protein will help you eat less later in the day. It’s protein that helps suppress the body’s most powerful appetite hormone, ghrelin.
In one study, 57 adolescents consumed one of two breakfasts, each with a similar number of calories. One breakfast contained 35 grams of protein and the other only 13 grams. A third group skipped breakfast entirely. At the end of the 12-week study, the group that consumed the higher protein breakfast gained less body fat and consumed fewer calories over the course of the day relative to the lower protein breakfast group. The high-protein breakfast eaters also felt more satisfied. These findings are consistent with other studies that show that protein is more satiating and can reduce calorie consumption later in the day.
All in all, a bagel is a particularly waistline unfriendly food to start the day with. Bagels made from white flour cause blood sugar spikes that are metabolically unhealthy. A few hours after eating one, you’re hungry and tired as your blood sugar level drops precipitously. Adding protein to a morning meal leads to more sustained energy and steady blood sugar levels.
Move Your Body When You Wake Up
When is your go-to workout time? Exercising in the morning and evening each has its advantages. In terms of weight control, it is not clear whether exercising in the morning versus evening makes a difference in terms of weight control. However, a study published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine linked morning workouts with greater satiety.
Some research also suggests that exercising before breakfast aids in fat loss more than working out after breakfast. However, this approach has drawbacks if you’re doing high-intensity exercise since exercising in a carb-depleted state may limit the calories you burn by reducing performance. Your muscles rely mostly on carbohydrates during high-intensity exercise. If you’re working out at a low or moderate intensity, exercising in a carb-depleted state can help your body tap into fat cells earlier and use them as a source of fuel.
Plan Your Meals and Snacks for the Day
You’ll make smarter dietary choices if you play your meals and snack out for the day the night before or as soon as you wake up in the morning. Planning will help you avoid impulse purchases of fast food and other junk fare that has little nutritional value and add junk calories to your bottom line. Don’t leave your meals and snack up to chance. Pack a healthy lunch in the morning and load up some healthy snack as well, so you can avoid the fast food window and vending machines.
Weigh Each Morning
Studies show that people who weigh daily are less likely to gain weight over time than those who weigh only occasionally. In one study, researchers looked at the weighing habits of over 1,000 adults and followed their weight for 12 months. They found that those who stepped on the scale 6 to 7 times per week lost a significant amount of weight over the 12-month period. However, those who weighed once per week or less often did not. Weighing frequently, even daily, increases awareness and allows quick diet and exercise modifications should a small weight gain occur. This ensures that minor increases in weight don’t become large ones. However, daily weighing isn’t for everyone. It may not be a healthy habit for people who have a history of an eating disorder or is too preoccupied with weight.
The Bottom Line
Start your morning out right by adopting healthy habits. What you do in the morning sets the tone for the day! Plus, giving one or more of these habits a go may give you an edge in controlling your weight, but what’s most important is that you do the basics–eat a healthy diet, move your body, get enough sleep, and manage stress. Do these things consistently and you’ll be leaner AND healthier!
· Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Sep;23(9):1761-4. doi: 10.1002/oby.21185. Epub 2015 Aug 4.
· NPR.com. “Good Day Sunshine: Could Morning Light Help Keep Us Lean?”
· Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Jun; 6(2): e24222.
· Science Daily. “Daily weighing may be key to losing weight”