This year's most hyped timepiece isn't another new Apple product. It's free, it dates back millennia, and you already own it.
We're talking about your internal body clock—the one that regulates all your behavior (e.g., when you sleep, wake, eat, digest) from deep inside your brain. Now, a study of this bundle of 20,000 nerve cells is shedding light on how closely your master clock is tied to health, disease, and, yep, weight loss.
So far, evidence suggests your inner ticktock may have an even bigger influence on your size than your metabolism or how many calories you consume. The more fine-tuned your natural rhythms, the easier it'll be to drop a few. Trouble is, your clock can be thrown off by the wrong foods, wonky sleep, or stress (y'know, your typical Monday).
If you'd like to get yourself back on track, check out this 24-hour plan to make losing weight work like clockwork.
6 to 8 a.m. Rise and Shine
Sunrise flips your biochemical switch from "resting" to "alert" by triggering a release of cortisol, an energizing hormone that can raise blood sugar levels. Eating right after waking can double that surge, which—oops—may cause your bod to store more cals as belly fat. So leave your bed, but wait an hour or so to nosh.
7 to 9 a.m Chow Down
And go big—research shows that a high-protein, high-carbohydrate, high-calorie (truth!) breakfast may make you less likely to overeat later. Also mix in a little healthy fat to ensure a slow, steady release of sustaining energy. Gobble some avocado toast, peanut butter oatmeal, or full-fat Greek yogurt with granola.
10 a.m Break for Coffee
Why hold out for that first sip? Because caffeine can blunt cortisol's effects, making you reliant on a drip machine for energy. Wait until the hormone hits a natural low (like now) to augment with a cuppa joe. But skip artificial sweeteners—their total lack of calories confuses your brain and screws with your clock.
12 to 2 p.m. Grab lunch
The sooner, the better—and not just because the salad bar hasn't yet run out of romaine. Research suggests that people who eat lunch earlier experience faster and greater weight loss than those who eat later, despite getting the same amount of nutrients. (If you expect a late meal, munch a protein-rich snack like hummus beforehand.)
2 p.m. Toss Back Your Last Caff
Even after a balanced lunch, your verve naturally sags in the afternoon (another dip in cortisol!). Feel free to swallow some caffeine—but then put the kibosh on coffee and tea (and, sigh, chocolate) for the rest of the day. Studies show that ingesting the stimulant after 2 p.m. can wreck your sleep that night.
3 to 4 p.m. Stand and Deliver
This is when sugar cravings typically hit, hard. Your options: Stand up and do a wall stretch or strike a yoga pose such as warrior 1. Or take a 10-minute power walk to recharge. Physical activity helps your blood shuttle more oxygen to your brain, increasing your alertness and quelling your need for a sweet fix.
6 to 9 p.m. Make Dinner Count
Your goal is a meal that combines protein, carbs, and healthy fat, such as salmon with quinoa and greens, or turkey chili. Fill up, then stop eating. The hours between dinnertime and bedtime are a major snacking (and weight gain) trap, so preplan an activity that keeps you from reaching mindlessly for food.
10 to 11 p.m. Hit the Hay
Bad news, Jimmy Kimmel devotees: In study after study, people who go to bed too late (specifically, after 11 p.m.) and sleep too few hours—due to career constraints, school schedules, or social events—have a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Kinda makes you really sleepy, huh?