By Andrea Holwegner, Nutrition Expert & Professional Speaker
Chances are you have heard many conflicting messages about how often you should eat. Here are some of the comments that I have heard from clients or various books and articles:
“Make sure you eat every 2 hours”
“Snacking will spoil your supper”
“Eat three square meals and avoid snacking”
“Don’t eat past 7pm”
“Make breakfast bigger than your supper”
“Eat 6 times per day”
The truth is all of these are correct and incorrect at the same time. Do we really all have the same hunger patterns? Could someone that doesn’t know you, really be an expert on your hunger cues? I don’t believe so. Rather than eating by the clock or on someone else’s schedule, choose to eat on YOUR time. Follow your own unique hunger pattern.
I have met clients that eat three meals per day and if they attempted to add snacks, they would have difficulty shrinking down the size of their meals. The end result might be weight gain since they will likely continue to eat full-sized meals and also add snacks when they are not hungry.
On the other hand I have some clients that eat only three meals a day and despite being hungry in between meals, choose to ignore hunger cues because they are busy or are trying to lose weight. By the time they get to a meal they feel out of control and overeat. The end result is weight gain and poor energy.
Last year I traveled to Argentina with my husband and was intrigued by the fact that restaurants don’t even open for supper until after 8 or 9pm yet there are many people managing a healthy weight eating this late every day. I guess that tosses out the rule that you shouldn’t eat past 7pm!
To figure out your body’s hunger cues, eat breakfast within about an hour or so of waking. Breakfast is the one meal that even if you are not hungry you need to eat since it sets the stage for the whole day. If you plan your meals with adequate carbohydrates and protein you will find you get hungry every 3-5 hours. This means you might eat 3 times, 4 times, 5 times or 6 times per day. The more frequent you eat the smaller the meals. The choice is yours. Eat on YOUR time.