One of the most important lessons that I have learned regarding metabolism is that eating every 3-4 hours is a good habit. But, for some, this might not always work well because if you have a bad relationship with food then you might start obsessing over the clock and not really listening to your body when it tells you its hungry. What I can tell you, from experience is that going too long without eating will eventually put your body into a state of starvation, which will then cause your body to store and hoard the food you do eat! So, what is the right way to approach this dilemma?
Become mindful, and be prepared. Do not be caught off guard by hunger or you will be at high risk for devouring anything in your site. Plus, this becomes masked as a craving. And hunger and cravings are completely different. A craving is in your mind. Hunger is in your gut, and can be painful.
During my weight loss journey, I learned what I call my ‘new normal’. I found foods that I liked, that were healthy, that were low fat, low carb, and that made it easy when I would shop or order food. I have learned not to obsess over foods, but to enjoy the ones that make me feel full and comfortable while keeping my health at the top of the list. Then, it does not become hard when I am out with friends and family and they are ordering foods that I might like. As long as I order something that I am happy with, I am okay.
But, the most important lesson that I learned was to really hear my body. I NEVER felt hungry when I was overweight because I always skipped breakfast, sometimes I would skip lunch and only eat once or twice a day. I could not figure out why I was so fat. It used to make me crazy because I thought I should be so skinny with as few calories per day that I actually ate. Once I turned on the ‘you are hungry signal’ by starting my day with food, mostly protein, and then started to get that signal every 3-4 hours and actually feeding myself, I turned on my metabolism and really started losing. This is a habit that I have kept for over 10 years now, and I have been able to keep my weight within a 10-pound radius, and I had never been able to do that before when I was a yo-yo dieter.
The solution is to always have a healthy snack on hand; in your purse, in your car, at your desk, in a small cooler. Have something that you can eat to stay ahead of any hunger, and keep your engine fueled. Be careful not to confuse snacks with treats. Treats are usually empty calories, snacks are foods that are nutritious that will help take the edge off until you get to eat your large meals. As a health coach, I teach people to eat three bigger meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Make the snacks easy and portable such as protein bars, meal replacements shakes, nuts, seeds, fruits, cheese sticks, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, or even some dark chocolate.
There are many different schools of thought on this subject, but I am a big proponent of eating often and watching the glycemic index of the foods that I eat. It has served me well, and I hope it will help you.