On the first day of every 28-Day Kick Start program inevitably one woman in the group, or half a dozen, let out a huge sigh of relief.
They’ve been told they should eat 5 or 6 small meals a day because it boosts metabolism, burns more fat, and helps facilitate weight loss. (false, false, and false as you’ll see below)
Once week one is over and they realize how much better they feel already, they’re wondering why they ever bought into that small meal plan in the first place.
If you ‘ve been told to eat more frequent smaller meals throughout the day, though, you’re not alone. It’s frequent advice given by trainers and nutritionists. Before you flush it completely away, let’s make it clear that there are those for whom it is a recommended way of eating, at least temporarily:
- Those who aren’t absorbing nutrients from food
- Those with severe reduction in appetite or early satiety issues
If none of those apply to you, then six small meals a day could potentially be backfiring on you.
Weight Loss Facts
There isn’t any increased fat oxidation (fat burning) eating six meals a day compared to eating three meals a day.
Hunger and desire to eat actually increases in study subjects put on six meals a day vs. three meals a day.
One big fat loss inhibitor of the small meals is the reduced ability to get adequate protein for optimal muscle protein synthesis. If you do, it’s often at the expense of anti-oxidant rich veggies and healthy fats.
Hormones, Frequency of Meals, and Weight Loss
I outline in my book the reason why eating fewer times throughout the day is actually more desirable for rerouting midlife hormones that have gotten out of balance.
Say you’ve dieted during your lifetime. Who hasn’t? During that diet, you potentially ignored your hunger signals. You may even have accepted it as part of the deal and signs of success!
Then there’s the holidays, or dessert, or a dinner party where you indulged and ate more than your “full” needle suggested was enough.
Whether from years of overriding hunger signals, or from ignoring “full” signals, or both, the hormones that control appetite and satisfaction need a break to figure it out again.
Allowing time between meals for you to get hungry (often on six meals a day schedule women report they’re “force eating” and not even hungry when they do it) lets nature help your hormones figure things out again.
During early stages of resetting your hormones, ditching snacks can help too even if you’re not a six-meal-a-day gal. It’s back to the three squares a day without snacks, not because it’s the ultimate best habit, but because right now it will help get the hormone GPS working for you again. It’s a first step in the process.
When you experience a pleasant kind of hunger approaching meal time, you can better identify a pleasant kind of fullness after a meal. For many of us, it’s been a long time since we were on that smooth path trusting the appetite to tell us how and when to fuel our bodies.
The good news is that it is not broken. It just needs a little TLC for a while.
Weight Loss and Your Brain
So, likely, does your brain. Goodness knows, we eat for a lot more reasons than physical need. In the coming weeks, there can be an abundance of “more reasons” we eat. Emotions, memories, traditions, stressors, availability… they all creep in to the picture more frequently during the holidays. (I highly recommend you listen to next week’s podcast with guest and emotional eating expert, Tricia Nelson- watch for it to be released on Tuesday, Nov. 8)
How can you start your engines again if you’ve been on a many mini-meal schedule?
- Reduce your meals to three
- Gradually start to increase your intake at meals
- Focus on protein, fiber, and healthy fats along with your non-starchy vegetables
- Make peace with carbs: the right carbs at the right time help weight loss
For more support and results you’ll love in 28 Days, jump into my next 28-Day program. It’s not a diet, it’s you identifying the right plan for you right now. When you find that you can relax and stop letting food run your life.
Have you been told to eat 5-6 meals a day? It is working for you or not? I’d love to hear your personal experience.