Should You Only Eat When You're Hungry?

You may have considered this question yourself.  Some experts will tell you to only eat when you’re hungry while others might tell you to eat several small meals a day, and that breakfast is a must.  But what if you’re not hungry at breakfast, should you still have it?

Allow me to shed some light on this topic.  First of all, in my opinion, you should do both; eat several small meals a day AND only eat when you’re hungry.  If you’re the type of person that only has one or two big meals a day, and you’re not hungry during other times, it means your metabolism has slowed down significantly (FYI, metabolism is the process that occurs in the body that turns the food you eat into energy.)  Further, most people I know that have one or two big meals a day usually skip breakfast.

Having only one or two meals a day gives your body unequal energy levels throughout the day.  Your body uses up energy when you sleep at night to “fix” itself.  It makes repairs while you snooze.  By the time you wake it may have been 10 to 15 hours or more since you ate last, so it needs another energy intake (a meal) to start the day.  If you skip breakfast and wait till lunch or later, your body will have low energy levels until the meal and suddenly will have a big energy intake (i.e. lots of calories) at mealtime.  That’s what I meant when I said “unequal energy levels” a moment a go.

If this continues for some time, the body will slow down the level at which it uses up energy (metabolism), in order to have enough of it for the long, meal-free periods.  It’s like a 12-cylinder car shutting down 10 of them to conserve fuel.  It may conserve fuel that way but it won’t perform well.  [Sorry ladies, the best analogy I could come up with was a car and cylinders.  If you don’t get the analogy, please ask your husbands, boyfriends, brothers, etc. 🙂 ]

So what does your body do with the excess energy it gets at the one or two big meals a day, it stores it as fat!  So not only do you become lethargic and lazy, but you gain wait as well.  This often confuses people, “but I only eat once a day! And I’m still gaining weight!” they say.

So, what if your agree with all that, but you don’t feel hungry in the morning.  The reason you’re not feeling hungry is because you have such a slow metabolism, you need to re-train your body to have an efficient metabolism.  How? Like many other things in life, through practice.  Even if you start by having just half a piece of brown toast for breakfast.  Gradually, your body will get it that you are not restricting its caloric intake and will start increasing its metabolism.  Over time you’ll start to feel hungry when you wake up.

So, step one is to kick start your metabolism.  You do this by introducing breakfast, and then other small meals, i.e. snacks.  Healthy snacks of course.  So, have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two snacks – one between breakfast and lunch, and one between lunch and dinner.  Generally speaking, you should have a snack or small meal every 4 hours.  This way your body will have a constant intake of energy and it will start using it very efficiently.  Your body will power on all 12 cylinders, as it were.  (Sorry again ladies :()

Now your meals can be much smaller than they were in the past, as your having more of them.  Your body will love you for it.  [By the way, at the DreamBody Centre we offer new customers a FREE booklet entitled The DreamBody Eating Plan, written by Nutritional Therapist Alia Almoayed (Mrs. Suhail)  which goes into greater detail about all this.  The booklet even has suggested snacks and some basic recipes.]

So, back to our original question: “Should You Only Eat When You’re Hungry?”  If you follow these guidelines, you’ll notice that over time, you’ll get hungry roughly every four hours or so.  Note however that each person is different – and of course you should also be exercising.

Anyway, say you had a snack or small meal about four hours ago, and your not really hungry yet, then you don’t need to eat just yet.  If you feel hungry an hour or later just eat then.  But whatever you do, get out of the one or two big meals habit, that’s really unhealthy.

I know it’s not always practical to eat when you’re hungry, but with a little bit of planning in advance, you can develop the habit of packing a healthy snack in advance.  I always have some mixed nuts and raisins on my desk.  In fact, I just snacked before I wrote this 🙂

Remember, it takes at least 3 weeks to form a new habit. Once you make a habit out of planning your meals ahead, and packing snacks, it should be easy peazy.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Talk to you soon.

One Response to Should You Only Eat When You're Hungry?

  1. GardensofSand 2 April 2009 at 6:17 pm #

    Interesting that I should come across your thread today after reading about the same topic yesterday. The gist of what I read and which I try to apply is don’t eat if you’re not hungry but don’t go more than 6 hours without food. Eat something small, a healthy snack. Eating small healthy snacks during the day helps you avoid binging during your meal times and eat lesser portions.

    I also read about dividing your plate into three: 1/3 veggies, 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs (strachy ones or fruit). Use healthy fats to prepare your meals.

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