I apologize if the title for this post is a bit crass, but the question I think is a valid one. How many times should you eat every day if you’re trying to lose weight?
One thing I’ve done since embarking on my weight loss journey is changing the way that I eat. My diet tends to be the most problematic part of my weight loss plan. I love to eat, and I have a huge sweet tooth. I usually don’t have too much problem exercising, but my diet stinks and I usually sabotage my efforts to lose weight by not watching what goes into my mouth.
On a normal day I have 3 square meals, and I usually eat oversize portions. Granted I’m a big guy, but I will admit that that my portions are way too big. When you’re trying to lose weight a lot of diet plans will have you seriously cut back on your calories and food intake, while still eating 3 times a day.
What I’ve been learning in the last couple of years through the Body For Life system is that a healthier way to eat is to plan meals and eat about every 3 hours throughout the day. I guess you could call it grazing. That way your body is constantly processing food, your metabolism is revving up and you’re never really that hungry. Bodyforlife.com explains:
If you’ve been following the typical nutritional advice of cutting back on calories and consuming no more than “three square meals” a day in the hope of shifting your fat-burning efforts into high gear, you may actually be throwing the whole process into reverse. According to scientists at Georgia State University, active folks who skimp on calories and eat infrequently (only three times a day) may be training their bodies to get by on less energy and therefore more readily storing unburned calories as body fat. Instead, these researchers and many others advise active people to eat frequently (about every three hours) to accelerate metabolism and maintain steady energy levels throughout the day.
Since I started doing this system I’ve found that because I’m eating constantly all day I’m almost never too hungry, and that I feel healthier, and the weight comes off faster. So the answer to the question posed in the title is: “Yes, it is smart to eat more than 3 meals a day – and no – you are not a pig”.
Body for life gives a few other tips to try in order to help your nutritional portion of your plan:
- Combine carbohydrates and protein at every mealThe simple fact is, our bodies work better with a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Not only is protein essential for building healthy muscle and maintaining a strong immune system, it stabilizes insulin levels, which leads to steady energy throughout the day. One more benefit: eating protein has been shown to reduce your appetite. So, avoid high-carbohydrate nutrition plans and instead balance your protein and carbohydrate intake.
- Choose “appropriate” portion sizesUSDA statistics show that because of increased portion sizes, the average total daily calorie intake has risen from 1,854 calories to 2,002 calories over the last 20 years. That increase—148 calories per day—theoretically works out to an extra 15 lbs. every year. Portion size is important to weight management. Employ a common sense approach, such as using the palm of your hand or your clenched fist for gauging the portion sizes of food.
- Plan meals ahead of timeYou may even want to try different recipes and decide what works for you before you begin your training program. Experiment with different seasonings, try a variety of vegetables, and find which microwave settings work best for preheating food. By the time you’re ready to start, you’ll have the supplies you need and the confidence that you know what you’re doing. Then, fix your meals in advance and freeze them. It’s important to shop at least once a week. If you forget, you’ll run out of good food and be tempted to cheat on your diet.
- Get containers to store your food
Purchase plastic storage containers, sports bottles, a water jug and a cooler to store and carry your food. Having nutritious meals within reach during a hectic day can keep you on track.
So my goal this week is to get my eating back on track, eating six small appropriately portioned meals every day, and making sure I’m eating the right kind of foods. (That would not include the big piece of cake I had for lunch this afternoon!)
Check out bodyforlife.com for 5 more tips on eating healthy.