You may have heard this advice to lose weight: eat every 3 hours to keep energy and metabolism high.
This usually means breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack, bed.
That can end up being quite a lot of food. It’s easy for calories to add up when we eat that frequently.
And most of us aren’t active enough to require an energy top-up that often.
In fact, most of us lead busy lives, and if we eat that often we tend to do it mindlessly.
Grabbing food on the go, eating at our desks. Not really registering what we’re having.
Keeping things simple
Removing snacking and switching to four small meals per day can be an extremely useful protocol to follow.
Benefits can include a positive effect on weight loss and energy levels, as well as a big decrease in the likelihood of binge eating.
By switching to just eating 4 small meals per day with no snacks, you keep yourself well nourished and don’t need to think about food quite so often.
You also draw a clear line in the sand as to what you do and don’t have in the course of your day. And this can stop forgotten snacks and nibbles creeping in. If it’s not a planned meal, it’s a ‘no’ (or save until tomorrow).
This is is just one way of doing things – there is nothing magic in 4 meals per day.
Being in a calorie deficit (consuming less than you are burning off) will always be the determining factor when it comes to weight loss. This kind of structure can help you create the deficit you need, with less thinking required.
How to create balanced meals
Base each one around a quality source of protein – lean meat, fish, eggs ideally, greek yogurt, beans and pulses are good too.
Make sure you include a healthy fat source in a small (usually thumb-sized amount) – this comes from seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil, flaxseed, butter, and is in oily fish if that’s your protein source.
Then add in lots of veggies, and/or fruits.
This is an ideal plan to follow, but you’ll likely find it hard to stick to protein, healthy fats and veggies all the time.
That’s fine – you don’t need to be perfect.
Being consistent is what’s key, and getting 4 meals with a protein source and a calorie amount of around 300-500 calories on average will serve most people very well.
Don’t deliberately cut healthy fats though, as along with protein, this is what will keep you full and energised for longer periods of time.
Why does 4 small meals work well?
Women tend to suit 4 meals better because they often need to eat a little more frequently than men (who may well be fine on 3 decent sized meals with no snacks).
Cutting out snacking cuts out mindless eating, as discussed above.
4 meals are well suited to those who end up eating dinner late due to family commitments, have partners who arrive home late from work, or work late themselves.
It’s also good for mums who have to give their kids an early dinner and are tempted to pick at it themselves. Fill yourself up on your own healthy meal and you’ll feel a lot better.
And it reduces the likelihood of binge eating for three reasons –
- Because if you plan your meals to include protein and healthy fats your blood sugars and energy levels stay consistent throughout the day, leaving you less likely to suffer energy dips and cravings
- You get used to just ‘not snacking’ so the cravings and bad habits you may have will fade away
- You are less likely to be exposed to the sugary processed foods that act as a trigger for many people
I’ve started experimenting with 4 meals and cutting out snacks myself.
Last week I totally shocked myself by surviving over 6 hours without food in the middle of the day (I eat a lot! and usually very frequently). It wasn’t by choice, but it proved I could go a lot longer than I thought I could and still be fine.
Plus, the human body is designed to go periods of time without eating – food wasn’t always abundant when we were hunter gatherers, and regular snacking would have been pretty unlikely.
This is still something that will work better for some than others.
But if you’re struggling with weight loss, energy levels, uncontrolled snacking or mindless eating, it’s worth considering.
This is a great book to check out on amazon:
For more tips and ideas for sustainable (and enjoyable!) weight loss, head over to this post:
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