Do you tend to vary the times of day when you eat your meals? Do you occasionally skip breakfast? Recent research confirms that people who eat regular meals tend to have better control over their weight than those who skip meals.

In a 2012 study reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that women who skipped meals lost around eight pounds fewer than women who ate regular meals. The study's authors speculate that bypassing certain meals might result in a tendency to overeat high-calorie foods, leading to weight gain.

You can take steps to avoid this problem through building healthy habits around the time of day that you eat different meals. As a starting point, try choosing one meal--such as breakfast--to eat at the same time every day.

Cue, Routine, Reward
Habits form through a three-step process that Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, describes as the "habit loop." You can use the habit loop to help you create a healthy habit of eating regular meals. Consider focusing on breakfast, since it's a great way to start your day. Here's how:

  • Step 1: The first step of the habit loop is called a "cue." A cue is a trigger that alerts your brain that it can go on automatic pilot, allowing your habit unfolds. To cue your new breakfast routine, try setting an alarm on your clock or watch to alert you at the same time each day that you need to eat breakfast.
  • Step 2: The second step of the habit loop is known as the "routine." This is simply the behavior or habit itself. In this case, your routine might be heading toward the kitchen when your morning alarm goes off, preparing your breakfast, and sitting down to eat it.
  • Step 3: The third and final step is called the "reward." This is the "goodie" that you get from your habit that convinces your brain to repeat the actions. You might find that your reward for sticking to a regular breakfast time is that you feel immediately satisfied. Remember to tell yourself how much you enjoyed your breakfast--and include foods that you actually like. You might also find it easier to hold your hunger at bay until lunchtime, and avoid loading up on snacks.

HealthAhead Hint: Time It Right
The time that you choose to eat your meals may have a big impact on your hunger and weight. According to Women's Health magazine, it's best to eat breakfast within the first hour after you wake up in the morning. Skipping breakfast may make you more inclined to eat higher calorie foods all day long. If you make it a habit to eat breakfast, you may find that you have better control over your hunger level, and eventually, your weight.