There comes a time in your life when you realize that you actually know a lot less than you think you do. Thankfully, the first time this really happened for me was a few months out of college. It was humbling, but I say that thankfully because the experience has kept me from ever getting too attached to either my own or other widely held beliefs when it comes to health and fitness.
A few years ago, I too was on the “frequent feeding” bandwagon. For a long time in fact. I ate 5 to 6 meals a day. I packed snacks. I made sure to eat before I ever felt hungry. Every 3 hours, I ate. No matter what. And I had my clients doing the same. I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it, but it was the standard in the health and fitness world. It was THE way to look and feel your best. Plus, it made logical sense o I never really questioned it.
Then intermittent fasting came along. Now for all those people going, “OH I could never do that!”, don’t worry; this post is actually not about that either. Long story short: I decided to look into it and was amazed by the research and testimonies. It flipped a lot of what I thought I knew on it’s head and showed me how many of the common beliefs about nutrition were based more on good theories than actual research. It opened up my eyes to the fact that there wasn’t one way things had to be done. For the first time in a long time, I felt freed up to try different things and to find what worked best for me.
So I started thinking back to when I was the most content with my eating patterns as well as with the way I looked and felt. That was back in college, when I was eating 3 meals and sometimes a snack in between lunch and dinner. Now that I didn’t have that fear of ruining my metabolism or gaining a bunch of weight, I decided I would try it. Turns out, 3 meals a day works pretty well for me. Not only does my body feel and look good doing it, but I enjoy eating again. So for those who are interested, here are some of the reasons behind why I eat the way I do.
It allows me to listen to my body and just eat when I’m hungry. After so many years of trying to avoid hunger at all costs, it was very hard at first to go back to allowing myself to feel hunger. Once I understood that I wasn’t going to go into “starvation mode” if I didn’t eat for 4 or 5 hours, it was simply a matter of getting back to a place where hunger pangs didn’t feel so terrible, mentally or physically. This took a few weeks, but I loved getting back to what felt like a much more natural way for me to eat. Now I just eat when I’m hungry and it turns out I enjoy eating much more this way. 🙂
It allows me to feel full. Honestly, I love feeling full, so I was never very good at eating smaller amounts. Because of that, I often ended up eating more calories in a day than I really should have. Eating 3 regular meals allows me that feeling of fullness without the guilt of knowing I ate too much to be hungry again in 3 hours.
It freed me from my food obsession. Eating so often made me feel like I was always either eating or thinking about eating. I was always making sure I had snacks when I left the house, worrying that I’d get hungry and not have anything, watching the clock to make sure I didn’t miss a meal. It was always on my mind.
(Some people handle this much better. They see it as getting to take a break every few hours and refuel with a snack or meal. They love never feeling hungry or full. For me, it just felt all-consuming.)
I eat better. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people that just naturally loves to eat healthy all the time. (I hate those people. 😉 ) On top of that, I don’t love to cook AND I’m also kind of picky. So it was a huge struggle for me to eat healthy for 6 meals a day. As luck would have it, your body doesn’t really care so much about the timing of when you eat. It cares much more about the total calories and the types of food you’re eating. This means you are free to eat 6 small meals or 2 huge ones or 10 tiny ones as long as the total calorie amount stays the same.
Mentally I have a much easier time making healthy choices on just 3 meals a day.
I learned to trust myself. Ya know, the funny thing about all of this is that I didn’t start eating 6 small meals because I needed to lose fat or was gaining weight because of the way I was eating. I changed because I thought it was the better way and the way I was supposed to eat. Choosing to break away from the norm was scary, but it forced me to trust my own instincts. If I had trusted myself a little more back then (and had a better system of evaluation), I probably would have stuck with what I was doing.
The moral of the story, folks, is simply that the best way to eat is the way that is most sustainable for you. We all have different body types, lifestyles, and preferences. I’ve had clients lose weight on intermittent fasting and on 6 small meals-a-day, so don’t feel like you can’t change your body if you don’t like one specific approach. The more you remove the perceived complications of healthy eating the more likely you are to believe you can do it and therefore stick with it.
If you’ve found something that works for you, don’t worry about what the experts are saying. You are the best expert when it comes to your body.