Is dinner at 8 p.m. a thing of the past? A new study shows that eating early might help your waistline.

The study done at the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that to lose weight it's not what you eat, but when you eat. It is a small study, but it does pave the way for more research, and it's dramatically different than what your doctor has been telling you about shedding pounds.

Researchers had 11 male patients and 11 female patients who were all overweight eat the same amount of calories from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It was the exact same diet but for a different amount of time. This is not a new concept, just the first study done in humans.

"This is actually a very different radical approach in some ways to maintaining body weight and losing bodyweight," said Dr. Fran Broyles, director of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition for Swedish Medical Group.

Broyles said they’ve been telling their patients for years that to lose weight, you should eat balanced meals throughout the day and limit calorie intake.

Ten years ago similar research was done in rats. They found that time of day as opposed to the number of calories consumed prevented the rats from gaining weight.

They also did not develop metabolic diseases like diabetes or high cholesterol.

"If you limit to say eight hours and you fast for 16, you actually get better utilization of the calories you eat. You actually burn more fat, and you burn more protein, you have less hunger ultimately, which is an interesting issue, and you lose weight," said Broyles.

Broyles said most people spend an average of 16 hours a day eating. And while more research needs to be done to corroborate this study she said it is certainly food for thought.