How Often Should We Eat?

- POSTED ON: Jan 30, 2013

What about eating frequency? How often should we eat?

Should we eat 3 Square Meals?

Or should we eat 6 Small Meals?

Or should we eat only inside a window of 8 hours or 5 hours?

Or should we, intermittently, have days with only one small meal, or even zero food in a total water fast?

Or should we eat whenever we feel Hunger?

Each of these “Diets”, “Non-Diets”, “Ways-of-Eating”, or “Lifestyles” claims that Scientific Research supports their individual position.

So what DO we do?
The following article by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of WeightyMatters, supports my own personal position on this question.

Does New Study settle the
3 Square vs. 6 Small vs. the 8 hr Diet Debate?

So this month yet another study in a never-ending line of studies looking to compare the impact of meal frequency on fullness and biochemistry came out. This one suggested that small frequent helped decrease energy intake in normal weight men.

Honestly I pretty much disregard all of these studies.

Not because I'm doubting or questioning their results, just that I don't think their results really matter.

What I mean is that all of these studies fail to address the practical aspects of living with their recommendations, and as a clinician, that's really all that matters to me.

I've seen people controlling calories, loving life and preserving health with 6 small meals daily. I've seen people do the same on 2, 3, 4, and in some cases even 1 meal a day.

Regardless of the research that comes out, what matters more than what a physiology paper says is how you personally feel.

In my office we do tend to start people on small and frequent meals and snacks. But if that doesn't suit or help the individual we'll shift to 3 square meals. We've also recommended the intermittent fasting style that's suddenly finding some traction on the diet book shelves.

You need to find a life that you enjoy, and just because a new study or diet book suggests there's a "better", or "right", way, if you don't happen to enjoy it, it just isn't going to work.

The specific new study referred to is: Psychology and Behavior

According to all of the scientific research I’ve read, when we get right down to it, any actual “Health” or “Metabolic” Benefit Differences between all of these eating plans are truly miniscule, and therefore, not even worth the individual effort of personal consideration. The question to consider is which one can we DO?

I ask myself:

  • Which Eating Behavior will work for ME in MY weight-loss or maintenance efforts?.
  • Which Behavior will allow ME to consistently eat less than, or the same as, the amount that My body uses for energy?
  • Is one Eating Behavior more manageable for ME than another?
  • Which one can I consistently stay on?
  • Can I live with one of these Behaviors as a lifetime Habit?

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