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Jackie Rodriguez gained 30 kilograms after her first child was born. “I was very unhappy, but I stayed like that for two years,” she says. Then, when her daughter was two, she dropped all the weight with practically no effort. “I wasn’t using any diet pills, fat burners or shakes … nothing,” she recalls.

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The transformation had nothing to do with what Rodriguez ate. Rather, it began when she started a new job that shook up her daily routine. Working in the office of a DJ hire company, she started her shift at 5.30pm. Instead of sharing dinner with her husband at nine when he got home from his job as a superintendent, she ate alone at five, before she dropped her child with a babysitter and went to work.

Within nine months, she’d dropped seven dress sizes. She felt like a movie star who seems to lose baby weight effortlessly. “You don’t think that could happen to you,” she says.

Night work often leads to weight gain, so Rodriguez’s story might seem to be a quirk of her particular physique. But unlike many such workers, who labour in the early hours or work rotating shifts, Rodriguez clocked out by 11pm and got a regular night’s sleep. Perhaps even more important, she didn’t eat at work or when she got home – just showered and went to bed.

Rodriguez’s main adjustment was moving dinnertime almost four hours earlier. That single, simple change seems to have triggered her dramatic weight loss – and emerging scientific evidence may explain why.

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