You might think skipping the odd meal can lead to lasting weight loss. But you'd be wrong!
FOLLOW A PLAN
Your body needs energy (in the form of calories) from food in order to function. It is important to consistently supply your body with food. Some people have trouble losing weight because they eat too much food or eat too often. For example, snacking can quickly add up to a lot of extra calories. If you eat more calories than your body uses, then you will gain weight. However, not eating enough can also cause your body to hold onto weight. If you skip meals or go a long time without food, your body will hold onto your fat stores until you eat again.
Review the entries in your food planner and tracker. How do you normally eat? Do you tend to snack throughout the day? A bite here and a morsel there can really add up! You may not even be sure how much you eat if you are a snacker; it’s hard to remember every little piece of chocolate from the candy bowl at work or the French fries you nibbled off your spouse’s plate. Do you wait until you are starving to eat? This can lead to eating more than you need.
Spacing out your meals can keep your body functioning. It may actually also help you eat less! Studies have shown that eating 3 meals can help you feel full longer, compared with skipping meals. You may have heard that eating more frequently will boost your metabolism; however, this may be a myth. What is true is that many people find it easier to control and keep track of their eating if they plan when they eat.
FIND A PLAN THAT WORKS FOR YOU
There is no single eating schedule that is best or that works for everyone. Think about your day, consult with your healthcare provider, and find a schedule that works for you! Let’s take 2 examples, Sarah and Steve:
- Sarah wakes up at 5:00 AM every morning, because she likes to avoid morning traffic. She eats breakfast—oatmeal with raisins and skim milk—at 6:00 AM. By 10:00 AM, she is hungry again. She used to have a few donuts. Now she has a whole wheat English muffin with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. Lunch, usually a turkey sandwich and celery sticks, is at 12:30 PM. She used to go straight through to dinner without eating. She reviewed her food diaries and saw that she would get very hungry and snack as she cooked dinner. Her healthcare provider suggested that she have a healthy snack, such as yogurt, right before she leaves work. Now when she gets home, she is not ravenous. Sarah can cook dinner without snacking and eats dinner with her family at 6:00 PM
- Steve has a very short commute and doesn’t need to wake up until 8:00 AM. (Lucky Steve!) He prefers to eat breakfast at 9:00 AM—a cereal bar and piece of fruit at his desk. For Steve, lunch at noon and dinner at 6:00 PM works just fine, but he is often up until midnight and gets hungry. Steve’s food diaries showed him that his nighttime snacking was really adding up. He used to eat a lot of chips and other crunchy, salty foods. Now, he plans on eating a snack at 9:00 PM; he likes to have air-popped popcorn or whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese, and his healthcare provider approves!
Consult with your healthcare provider and make an eating schedule that works for you; try following it for a week. It may be the same every day or different on specific days, such as a day you take an evening class. What is important is that you stick to the plan you’ve developed!