Cross-sectional observations have shown that the timing of eating may be important for health-related outcomes. Here we examined the stability of eating timing, using both clock hour and relative circadian time, across one semester (n = 14) at daily and monthly time-scales. At three time points ~ 1 month apart, circadian phase was determined during an overnight in-laboratory visit and eating was photographically recorded for one week to assess timing and composition. Day-to-day stability was measured using the Composite Phase Deviation (deviation from a perfectly regular pattern) and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were used to determine individual stability across months (weekly average compared across months). Day-to-day clock timing of caloric events had poor stability within individuals (~ 3-h variation; ICC = 0.12–0.34). The timing of eating was stable across months (~ 1-h variation, ICCs ranging from 0.54–0.63), but less stable across months when measured relative to circadian timing (ICC = 0.33–0.41). Our findings suggest that though day-to-day variability in the timing of eating has poor stability, the timing of eating measured for a week is stable across months within individuals. This indicates two relevant timescales: a monthly timescale with more stability in eating timing than a daily timescale. Thus, a single day’s food documentation may not represent habitual (longer timescale) patterns.
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