How often should you eat?
To determine how often you should eat, first you’ll want to tune into and honor your hunger scale. Picture your stomach with a gauge connected to it that moves from empty to full as you feed it. Better yet, pretend it goes from 0 to 10. See the scale below to help you visualize this concept:
Here’s how you might feel at each of the levels:
0 – Faint
1 – Stomach growling loudly
2 – Stomach is grumbling
3 – Like you’ve eaten, but not enough
4 – Not hungry
5 – Full
6 – Like you’ve eaten, but too much
7 – Nearing stuffed
8 – Stuffed
9 – Very uncomfortable
10 – Sick!
In other words, eat when you feel hungry (levels 0-3 on the hunger scale.) But what if you just aren’t hungry in the morning and your first meal is lunch? Should you force yourself to eat? Of course you never want to force yourself to eat, but understand that if you are in the habit of skipping meals, your body eventually adapts because it has no other choice! It becomes used to not being fed and adjusts itself accordingly—by lowering your metabolism.
Your metabolism is your calorie-burning engine. When it slows down, your appetite does too! Now before you go getting any ideas (i.e. “If my appetite slows down, that’s a good thing! That means I won’t eat as much and I’ll definitely lose weight!”), know that if your metabolism slows down, shedding extra pounds becomes next to impossible because your body is conserving fat in an effort to survive. It doesn’t know there is a refrigerator full of food in the next room! A slow metabolism also causes you to have very low energy.
The sensation of hunger is a good thing! It means your body is alive and your metabolism is revving up to burn calories. If you’ve trained your body to not be hungry, you can most certainly reverse this. All you have to do is eat!
A good rule is to never go longer than four hours without eating. This equals out to three meals and two to three snacks each day:
A typical day might look like this:
6:00 am Breakfast
9:00 am Snack
12:00 pm Lunch
3:00 pm Snack
6:00 pm Dinner
8:00 pm Snack
10:30 pm Bed
Your homework this week is to get your body used to eating more frequently. Be sure to tune in next week for a sample one-day meal plan!