Why 6 meals are better than 3

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Three squares a day. That’s what most of us grew up with and that’s what society tends to be geared toward. Most of us have eating patterns that involve skipping breakfast, eating a big lunch, and rushing home to huge dinner. In between? Snack, snack, snack.

Some people are very in tune with their bodies’ hunger and full signals. They know when they should eat, what their body needs and when they should stop shoveling it in.

I am not one of those people. I totally stink at stopping when I am full and have been a lifetime member of the Clean Plate Club. The Big Fat Overfull Plate. Switching to six mini meals per day really helped me to get my eating under control. Oh, and it stopped me from feeling like a total slug after every meal.

Learning about how to effectively feed your body every few hours can stabilize your blood sugar and keep your metabolism revved up. And that keeps your body at its maximum fat-burning capacity every day. It also eliminates that feeling we get five hours after lunch that we will just DIE if we don’t eat a whole pig RIGHT NOW.

When you will eat these six meals, and what they will consist of, will vary based on your own body AND your schedule. I’ve mentioned before that I have some trouble with getting a mini meal in during the afternoon because eating at your desk is a big “no no” where I work – so sometimes the general “rules” of 6 mini meals need to be tweaked to accommodate those kinds of things. Or sometimes you just have to learn how to hide your food.

For example, most experts on this subject say to eat as soon as you wake up. For me, that’s just not going to happen. My first meal happens about two hours AFTER my coffee, and then I go every couple of hours from there.

So because I am generally less hungry in the morning, constantly hungry in the afternoon, and rarely hungry in the evening, my six meals, during the week, typically look something like this:

9:00 am – Oatmeal, or yogurt mixed with ½ cup of Fiber One cereal
11:00 am – truthfully, this is usually just a banana to hold me over until lunch
12:00 pm – Huge salad with chicken, lettuce, spinach and at least two other vegetables
2:00 pm – Varies, but generally fruit and yogurt
3:30 pm – A sandwich! You can shove lots of good stuff into a low carb, whole grain tortilla.
6:00 pm – Meat, poultry or fish, a whole grain, lots of cooked vegetables

(I’m not going to lie to you – these days, my meals on the weekend are a lot less regimented. A lot. It’s something I’m working on.)

There are a lot of different factors that might make your six meals look different than mine. People who weigh more and people who work out more will probably eat a totally different configuration, but the goal is the same: To consume the same number of calories you would by eating three meals a day, but spreading them out over six.

If you were to Google “Six meals a day” you would find lots of advice on how to “correctly” distribute your meals. Mine may not be exactly correct, but it’s what works for me. The important thing is to ensure you get a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, while also working in at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.

Yes, six meals a day requires a little planning. But only in the beginning. It starts to get easier as you go along and figure out what YOUR body needs. The increased energy and steady blood sugar will make it all worth it. Really.


Tammy Howard said...

I function better on six, too, but balk at the amount of discipline such a plan involves. And planning, as you mentioned.

Thanks for reminding me of how much better I feel when I do it right and for lighting a little fire under my ample a**.

Housewife Savant said...

So simple.
I've got Head Knowledge, why's it so difficult to practice?
Can I come over, live with you and YOUR schedule? cuz if I open the fridge at 2:00 for a yogurt I'll also eat a string cheese while I'm standing there, and I'll justify TWO yogurts, cuz they're small.
It's my thighs that are so dang big.

Theresa said...

My daughter says the same thing and I am doing this too! It is working... Have a great day!

Ryan Ashley Scott said...

I keep trying to do this, but I forget. How silly is that? On the few days I've actually stuck to it, I feel better and eat less junk. My friend (a personal trainer) suggested it.

I'm laughing at your "Big fat clean plate..." 'cause I totally know what you mean.

Small House said...

I've been trying to do this for awhile now. I've struggled because my day begins at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 11:00 p.m. It's been hard for me to figure all this out. Thanks for sharing the website with me. I'll check it out later today.

Have a great day.

Debbie said...

I think this is a brilliant way of eating.

kristisummer said...

I am the type that eats every 3 hours or so as well. Sounds to me like you are doing pretty well. I too, especially on the weekends, need improvement. Rome wasn't built in a day right. lol Great post

Juls said...

...Maybe I should try this out. I skip breakfast a lot--because mornings are so crazee...so when lunch time comes around, I am pushing kids down in the hall to jump in line before them. Just kidding-- but really-- it makes sense. Working hard on eating healthier/better here.

Sarah said...

Saying hi from SITS - 6 meals a day deffinately works, limits your chances of snacking on junk too!

Anonymous said...

I am so the same way in terms of knowing when to stop. If it tastes good to me, it takes a while to stop.
Great info on the 6 meals a day.
Happy Monday!!

MaryRC said...

Your so dedicated. So many people in my industry struggle with weight! Including me Im a roller coaster. Our schedules are so crazy nuts, its hard to plan meals. Your such an inspiration!!

Jo said...

That is a good idea. Although my current diet is a bit more of not eating mixed with a vitamin. Mobile babies take up so much time, I forget to eat! Yikes.

Stopping by from SITS! If you're interested stop by my blog for my latest giveaway!

Future Mama said...

Holy Moly!!! 6 meals a day?! I'll have to try that at least once!

Karen Brown Letarte said...

Another great post! I agree with you, 6 is the way to go. When I get in 6 regular weekly workouts and 6 small meals a day, I feel my absolute best. 6 "meals" is a challenge, especially if you work outside your home. Last year I was lucky to have both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods each 2 blocks from my office. Every Monday morning I would stock up for the work week on yogurt, soy milk, cereal, fruit, string cheese, salad mix and stash them in our office fridge.
I work at home now, so what's my excuse??? I just replaced my burned out blender; bananas for protein shakes are now ripening on my counter. Self, are you listening? Time to get back to it!

Sigh. It's hard to argue with succes. Last year's jean size: 2. This year: 12. After you hit 40, you cannot get away with a thing.

:) K

Shangrila said...

Oy-thank you for nixing the word verification! :)

You always have the BEST health advice WITHOUT being "preachy"-makes me so motivated to make good food choices! I really need to start reading your posts FIRST THING in the morning!

Thank you so much for stopping by (my blog) and leaving such kind comments-I love to hear from you, and I LOVE YOUR BLOG! :p