The reasons we’ve been told to eat every few hours make sense in theory:
- It keeps the metabolism up by adding fuel frequently.
- It prevents a drop in blood sugar which prevents hunger from getting out of control.
- It prevents overeating.
It makes sense to me which is why I practiced eating this way for a number of years (you can read about it here), but the problem is that the theory doesn’t exactly hold up….
The Truth About Metabolism
First of all, your metabolic rate is actually determined by how much you eat in a day, not how often. In other words, you can eat 1800 calories in six meals or three and your metabolic rate will be the same.
Secondly, preventing a blood sugar drop can be done another (dare I say, easier) way. When you eat frequently throughout the day your metabolism burns primarily carbohydrates instead of fat. This is fine as long as you continue to eat frequently. However, the minute you try to go longer without food and your body runs out of carbs, your blood sugar plunges and your body sends whatever signals it needs in order to get more food ASAP. (i.e. shakiness, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, uncontrollable hunger and cravings, etc.)
Eating fewer meals actually causes your body to switch to burning fat primarily. Not only does this stabilize your blood sugar but, when fuel starts to get low, the body can simply tap into it’s storage sites for more fatty acids, thus easing the body into a more gradual hunger without all the nasty side effects. 😀
Thirdly, for most people struggling with weight gain, the problem is at least somewhat caused by overeating. The fact is, no matter what the quality of food is, if you’re eating more than your body is using it will gain weight. The the more often you eat, the more opportunity there is to overeat.
Getting Comfortable with Hunger
The prevalent “frequent feeding” theory might explain why Americans have become so averse to hunger while most cultures still cultivate it. In other cultures, they don’t eat as frequently and, from a young age, kids are taught that hunger between meals is a good and natural thing to feel.
“From the French perspective, Le Billon reports, hunger between meals is a good thing. It produces good eaters, teaches kids self-control and produces discipline around eating.
Alternatively, as a sociologist who coaches parents on teaching their children to eat right, I can safely say that American parents go to great lengths to make sure their kids are never hungry. ”
– Dina Rose, Do Kids Need to Snack?
In my 9 years in the business, one thing that’s been confirmed over and over again is that we’ve completely lost any resemblance of a what a healthy relationship with food and our bodies looks like. Long-term sustainability has been exchanged for the illusion of quick fixes and the mind-body connection has been completely drowned out by 30 day diets and calorie counters.
I want to help you break free from this craziness and get lasting results which is why I’ve come to believe that the first steps to cultivating a healthy relationship with food is to learn how to work with hunger instead of fearing and avoiding it. I can’t think of a better way to start learning self-control around food. Not only does it allow us to stop obsessing over food and enjoy it more, but it also helps with fat loss and builds an important mind-body connection…
Learning to Trust Yourself
I don’t like the lie that we should avoid hunger because once we are hungry then we can’t control ourselves. That’s just silliness. Food can’t actually force it’s way into your mouth. You are in control. Waiting until you’re hungry to eat is a simple way to teach your body and brain this. But just like anything else, this discipline has to be practiced. If you never practice then it will feel like you can’t control it! But the more consistently you practice, the easier it will get. I promise. 😉
Also you don’t need a calorie tracker or scale to tell you that you’re eating too much. You’ve got a built-in system specifically designed for this purpose and it’s actually a lot more accurate than calorie counting! Your body will let you know when it’s ready. The absence of hunger means it doesn’t need anything.
“Preventing hunger prevents weight loss.…Eating only when you’re hungry is the number one lifelong skill you can learn for leanness, and in forming a healthy relationship with food.” ~Georgie Fear
Live and Enjoy Life (and Food) More!
Food quite simply becomes more enjoyable when you’re hungry. It’s the same reason that resting feels better after hard work….it’s just more enjoyable when your body actually needs it.
Eating less often also means less food obsessing and more time to focus on other more important things. Plus, when you do eat, you can actually eat to satisfaction. 😀
You Can Do This
It takes time to find the balance. Start small by trying to eat only 3-4 meals without any snacking in-between. Give that a few weeks. Once you feel good with that then you can start adjusting amounts to get to where you start to feel hunger about 30 minutes before your next meal.
I know it’s kinda scary and you won’t get it right every time, but give yourself permission to trust the process. You can trust your body to let you know what it needs! Just take it one meal at a time.
Your body is by the far the most qualified expert on what YOU need! Before worrying about alll the other stuff, start by learning how to listen to your body and to honor what it’s telling you and you’ll be way ahead of the long-term health and fat loss game.
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of self discipline.”
~2 Timothy 1:7