Oh where to start with this one? There is so much to say, and no clear “Start” line, so let’s just fire off that gun and get going…
First, there are two sides of the fence here. The one side that says you have to eat three square meals a day. Then the other that says five small meals throughout the day is where it’s at.
Both sides of the fence can produce valid arguments, to an extent. Are they right? Well lets delve into that…
Starting with the Five Small Meals side. While this works wonders for those training for the next fitness competition, it’s not conducive to Joe Schmoe. Your average Mary or Tom. The issues with this camp:
- You never experience hunger (and when you do, research has shown that the rate of binge eating in high)
- You eat when you don’t need to
- Eating more, small meals, does not (contrary to belief) speed up your metabolism
- Doesn’t help everyone lose weight
Why is hunger important? Well, to an extent, you should allow yourself to feel hunger. Not a starving, the Kraken is going to eat out your insides, kind of hungry. Jill Coleman explains it perfectly in her blog post, found here. But here’s a excerpt:
“I deprived, then I binged. Of course I did. Furthermore, I didn’t trust MYSELF to handle hunger or be able to navigate it. So I did everything I could to prevent it, in effect never giving myself THE OPPORTUNITY to learn how to deal with it. So of course in the inevitable instances when I did experience hunger, I was helpless to handle the resulting overindulgence.“
Inevitably, to control food cravings, binges, etc… and make healthier food choices, let yourself get a little hungry. Think of the song “Crazy” by Seal, but swap the lyrics around “We’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little, hungry”. Corny, but it works.
Eating is part psychological. Which rounds us into the next part: Training yourself to become hungry at certain times between meals. This is what happens when you follow the eat-every-three-hours model (the five small meal principle). If you’re formerly of the Three Square Meal group, waiting three hours between meals at the start will make you feel as though you’re dying. Then, your body adapts to the schedule. You will be able to wait out the three-hour period, but if you go even a few minutes over, you feel ravenous. You’ve trained your body when to become hungry.
And by feeding it every three hours, you deny yourself the feeling of, let’s call it Smidgen Hunger.
You want to feel Smidgen Hunger once in awhile. This is going to become a mantra here, if you haven’t caught on to that yet. Being a little hungry once in awhile is okay.
Another argument to this side of the fence is: You’re eating when you don’t need to. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Step away from the pantry, the vending machine (you shouldn’t be there anyway), and the refrigerator.
Now, time to scale that fence and hop on over to the other side.
The problem with the Three Square Meals argument is: You tend to eat more than you need, often by hundreds of calories, when you focus on your three meals, with snacking in between.
You become a slave to your body (in reality this is true for either side of this figurative fence). You can pack a lot of your nutrition requirements into those three daily meals, but it won’t be enough to sustain your hunger levels between meals, so you snack insanely between. Research has shown that over 75% of the snack choices have little, to no nutritional value at all. Empty calories.
Guess what empty calories do? Make you even more hungry. So begins the cycle.
It’s a vicious one, you can’t lose weight, you don’t feel well… So what do you do?
It’s all about understanding your hunger. First, are you really hungry? Give yourself about 15-20 minutes after that first hunger pang hits. Don’t dwell on food, or think about what you’re going to eat. Just chill out. Focus on your work, that TV show you might be watching, that book you’re reading, Facebook, Twitter. Just stay off of Pinterest. Pinterest when you’re possibly hungry is like the grocery store when you are hungry.
Before you get to the eating part, ask yourself: What are you hungry for? Do you know? If your craving something in particular, your body is telling you that it’s missing something. Could be a vitamin or mineral deficiency. You might need to refuel on carbohydrates. The key to successful eating is to know what your body wants.
Now, to satisfying that hunger — if you’re still hungry, and those little hunger pangs have grown a little more persistent. Grab a snack (unless it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, then go for a well rounded, nutritious meal). Make sure the snack is balanced (RE: Healthy).
Don’t obsess over food. Obsessing is as unhealthy as eating 20 Snickers bars a week. And that’s our biggest issue. We obsess over food. Just stop it.
The key, and it’s been said a million times over, is moderation. Learn proper portions, learn your hunger and what it means for you (not everyone else, but YOU), and eat according to that. It’s about you and your body, your goals. Stay away from Google. Shut the television infomercials off. And even be weary of the glossy magazines that line the newsstand racks.