Eating food is a fundamental process that ALL living things must do to survive. Food intake provides us with energy so that we can function on a daily basis. For most people, eating is not a question of if, it is a question of how much and how often. Those of you that know me and what I believe in know that I am a strong advocate of eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. I recently read an article about this very subject and why eating smaller but more frequent meals throughout the day is in fact not necessarily the right way to eat. The article states that eating smaller more frequent meals to assist in speeding up ones metabolism is pure myth. That the energy it takes to break down food is directly proportional to the amount of calories in the meal. So it doesn’t matter if you eat three meals of 600 calories or 6 meals of 300 calories. There may in fact be some factual basis to the article, though I did not research the person who made these claims but I have a contradictory argument to her argument (go figure).
First, I will give credence to the fact that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and it REALLY does NOT matter when you eat those calories, as long as you get them in the correct quantity. With that being said, when eat and how much we eat DOES matter and it has everything to do with how we feel and our desire to gain, maintain or lose weight.
Eating can be described as both true hunger where we absolutely need the calories to survive and psychological hunger which is nothing more than the desire to eat simply because we are feeling sad, angry, anxious, bored or happy. Psychological triggers play an extremely important role in determining what foods we eat and when we eat them. How important are these psychological impulses? I recently spoke with a young woman, mid 20’s who is more than 70 pounds overweight and has an incredibly high body fat percentage. This young woman stated to me that this weight gain was very recent and that it had to do with her sister dying several months ago. She stated that she has been depressed and felt that her only splice was eating. She would think nothing of eating an entire box of Lucky Charms at one sitting for one meal! An ENTIRE BOX! That is 1,320 calories for ONE meal at ONE sitting and all before 8 in the morning. She went on to say all the other stuff she would eat throughout the day and there is no doubt that she was eating well over 4000 calories per day because she ate all the time and every single time she felt depressed which was about 24 hours a day. She didn’t sleep well and didn’t exercise.
We all fall into the rut of psychological eating from time to time. Now, let us move on to true hunger. True hunger is the body telling you that you must eat. It needs fuel and it needs fuel now. Often times however, when we start feeling the sensation of true hunger we end up eating significantly more than what we need to. The author of the article states that there is no difference between 3 meals of 600 calories or 6 meals of 300 calories and from a purely mathematical standpoint, the author is absolutely correct. The problem lies in that almost no one can eat a meal that only has 600 calories. A couple slices of pizza and a coke has more than that and the problem now lies in that your satiety is not going to last all that long and you will be eating another full meal. Hunger satiety refers to how long you will feel full. And here lies my problem with only eating 3 meals per day. True hunger is real! And when you are feeling true hunger you will eat until you feel full. Often times, we eat far to fast. It takes approx 15 minutes for a signal to reach our brains that we are now full. In that time frame, most of us can consume and entire meal which more often than not includes far to many calories.
My argument is this. In a perfect world, eating three square meals per day would be ideal. The problem is we don’t live in a perfect world and we certainly don’t eat perfectly. Eating smaller meals throughout the day will allow us to take the “true hunger pains” away and allow us to stay within our caloric needs for the day. Imagine going through life, NEVER feeling hungry. The vast majority of my days are like this and you can ask anyone around me, I eat constantly. I eat small little meals and a ton of healthy snacks throughout the day.
I live by a nice and simple little phrase that has helped me lose over 60 pounds. By the time you feel hungry it is to late and by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Yesterday, was a bad day for me eating wise. I succumbed to my psychological need for food. I felt like crap but it happens. This just made me realize that we are all human. I stand by my recommendation that if you eat smaller well balanced meals and snacks throughout the day and couple that with a good dose of exercise, your metabolism will be just fine and you will lose or maintain the weight that you desire. The feeling of being hungry simply sucks, so I try to prevent that at all costs.