Should You Only Eat When You’re Hungry?
Are you looking for a way to drop some weight? Trying to figure out a miracle secret diet? Perhaps it’s cutting out carbs, skipping meals, a liquid diet, or trying the latest celebrity diet. Let’s be honest though, would you take acting advice from your doctor? So why are you getting nutritional advice from an actor?
My clients have shown long term success in losing and maintaining their weight loss by adopting healthy eating patterns consisting of well-balanced meals and snacks adjusted to meet all their needs, not by trying miracle diets.
Since we live in a fast-paced environment, it is common to grab things that are quick and easy-to-eat whenever we have a moment. This leads to consuming high calorie and sugary foods and beverages that have been “supersized.” Usually when you are full, your stomach will send signals to your brain that tell you to stop. However, these erratic eating behaviors disrupt the signals, leading you to eat far more calories than your body needs.
All of these factors change the way your body metabolizes food and can also affect your regular hunger cues and how you react to them. Because society has greatly influenced your thoughts towards food and your eating patterns, having regular meal patterns including snacks are crucial to ensure that you are meeting your nutrient requirements and have the energy to get through each day. Of course, eating a healthy well-balanced diet is strongly encouraged. By adapting an all-around healthy lifestyle, a slow and steady weight loss pace is the most stable way to ensure that you keep off those extra pounds and feel great in the long term.
Here are three simple tricks to keep you feeling full and full of energy while meeting your nutrient needs:
1. Consistency is key
Are you guilty of skipping meals because you are busy with work or other tasks, you can’t decide what to eat, or you forgot to eat? These are common excuses as to why many people engage in erratic eating patterns. Having a routine meal pattern is the best way to stay healthy and successfully lose weight. Studies have shown those with consistent eating patterns tend to be leaner than those with erratic eating patterns.
Many people have been eating the same foods every day for years. Making some healthy choices and maintaining consistent eating patterns allow you to make easy adjustments. This is a sure way to prevent erratic eating behaviours and indulging in unnecessary empty calories. Consistency teaches self-discipline, helps minimize food indulgences, and encourages self-control. Many people that have successfully achieved their weight goals and maintain their weight over long periods of time tend to eat four to five times a day, without going more than three to four hours without any food.
2. Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day
You’ve probably heard this countless times. While I have explained that it is really important to maintain healthy eating patterns, this must start with having a heart healthy breakfast.
A good nutritional breakfast provides a great start to your day and gives you lots of energy to get you through your morning routine. Many people tend to be breakfast skippers. By skipping breakfast, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, tends to lead to overeating later in the day. You are likely to cave into your cravings and consume high calorie snacks that have little or no nutritional value.
Breakfast skipping is often coupled with skipping lunch. With limited time and busy work schedules, you are going to get hungry and need to fill that void. It is very common in the workplace to only have access to vending machines, which are full of unhealthy snacking options. If you start your day with breakfast, you can avoid this.
There is a greater likelihood that if you tend to skip breakfast, you are more likely to eat greater amounts throughout the day. Your dinners are likely to be much larger and your unhealthy snacking will continue until bedtime.
3. Healthy snacking is crucial
As important as it is to stick to regular meal patterns and avoid skipping meals such as breakfast, it is also important to incorporate healthy snacks throughout the day. While you want to avoid waiting more than four hours before meals, you want to make sure to have something to eat at least every two to three hours. Snacks help keep your energy levels stable and help get you through until the next meal. By having a snack rich in fiber and mixed with a protein, your blood sugars will remain stable, and you will avoid a mid-morning slump or brain fog. They will also help maintain your energy until lunch. Healthy snacks offer increased energy and mental clarity while preventing cravings for high calorie sugary junk foods.
The timing between your meals and the activities you participate in will all determine the type of snack you choose to eat. If you know you’ll be running around all morning, you’ll need a snack to provide an extra energy boost. If you have an early lunch and know that you will be having a late dinner, you will want a larger snack. You need to take all these factors into account when planning your snack.
Further, snacks can help supplement some of the vital nutrients you may be missing from your meals. Not only can you increase your veggie and fruit intake for the day, which has been shown to help fight against cancer and heart disease but you can also meet your daily requirements of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium and fiber.
Outland L., et al., “Why Disrupt Homeostasis? Reasons Given for Not Eating When Hungry and Not Stopping When Full,” Holistic Nursing Practice 2013; 27:239-245.
Getz, L., “On track with a snack,” Today’s Dietitian 2010; 12(9):32