The Hunger Games: Should We Eat Throughout the Day or Consume 3 Large Meals?
Bikini season is right around the corner and we may be thinking of finally losing the extra 10-15 pounds. How do we best do this? Well, after reviewing much of the research, I can honestly say that the jury is still out. According to Jorge Cruise, author of the 3-Hour Diet, you should be eating six small meals during the day. Cruise recommends a three-step approach: 1) you should eat breakfast within an hour of waking; 2) Eat every three hours after that during the day; and 3) Stop eating three hours before going to sleep. With this regimen, Cruise believes that your basal metabolic rate is increased, energy levels will be higher, and appetite will be suppressed.
Other experts have differing opinions. Dr. Valter Longo, Director of University of California Longevity Institute, thinks that eating three large meals might be too much. Dr. Longo promotes the concept of fewer meals to achieve weight loss, prevent disease, and increase your lifespan. Research from Cornell University found that cutting one meal from your eating routine will cut an average of 400 calories per day. Fasting every other day has also been studied and shown similar results.
Research studies and their conclusions always need to be taken with a grain of salt – Literally! We can’t base our decisions on conclusions of one study or another. I believe we are all unique and because of this, we all may require different strategies to control our hunger and weight. Some of us may function best with small, more frequent meals, while others may feel better with fewer, larger meals.
Regardless of opinions and conclusions, the fact remains that hormones control our hunger – Specifically, 2 key hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin in secreted by the stomach and triggers feelings of hunger. Leptin, produced by our fat cells, suppresses appetite. Looking at the picture below, we can see that two hormones rise after meals. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, increases to control blood sugar levels and PYY, a hormone secreted by the small intestine, acts as an appetite suppressant.
To make matters even more confusing, we sometimes eat not out of hunger, but out of boredom, stress or strong emotions. Ideally, your meal frequency should give you adequate energy throughout your day and make you feel hungry when you need a healthy meal. According to Carrie Dennett, a registered dietician and nutritionist, asking yourself the following questions will help determine the best meal frequency for you:
- Do I feel satisfied at the end of a meal?
- How soon do I feel hungry again after a meal?
- How strong is my hunger between meals?
- Is my feeling of hunger do to a physical urge or an emotional urge (cravings, boredom or habit)?
Try experimenting with different meals frequencies (frequent or fewer) and see what combination best suits your body. In general, we can all agree that what you eat probably is more important than how often you eat. Avoid fast foods, processed foods and high sugar foods. That usually means doing your shopping at the perimeter of the market, not in the middle where much of the processed food items are stocked.
I will leave you with one last tip called “Mindful Eating” that has helped me better manage what and how I eat. Eating mindfully means taking the time to use all of your senses to savor your food. Look at the color and texture. Take time to taste the various nuances – salty, sweet, bitter – and how it feels in your mouth. Take a break between bites by putting your fork down after each bite. Be present with the company you might be with and the experience the ambiance of the setting.
I can promise you that if you practice mindful eating, you will eat less and enjoy more!
In health and happiness,
Please share your comments and experiences!