Friday, September 13, 2013

Benefits of eating- 3 meals a day vs snacking

One of my unexpected benefits in long term weight maintenance was becoming a fat burner rather than a fat storing person. Once I became fat adapted ( read more at Mark's Daily Apple).

Boo!  No longer afraid of avocados
I was eating 5-6 meals per day, as my weight loss plan had recommended and as many books recommend. Small meals, through out the day, low inflammatory food template.

In May 2013, during the low carb challenge, I decided to test out 3 meals a day. Elimination challenges are great times to get back to basics, baseline and then spend the next few months trying different experiments.

The change has worked well for me. I'm not a huge fan of intermittent fasting for myself, but 3 meals a day is far from that. 

I did have to adapt to eating more of my foods into each meal, then go 5-6 between the 3 meals. Eating more took some practice, but at the end of 2-3 weeks, the habit was in high gear. It's working so well I never went back to between meal snacks.
I photographed a typical weekend day.( Weekdays look different)

 Breakfast: 1 egg, 3 egg whites (post thyroid disease,not fat phobia!), salsa, asparagus, avocado, and tomatoes.  I used coconut oil to saute the eggs and avocado. Garlic Sea Salt to season.

Lunch was broccoli slaw sauteed in avocado oil, avocados, a grass fed pre-made burger, and a side of cucumbers. I was still hungry, so I had one hard boiled egg white, 3 mini bell peppers and some balsamic vinegar for dipping the peppers.

 Dinner: Mixed green lettuce, organic garlic chicken thighs, chopped yellow bell peppers and green onions, sliced tomatoes, and avocado oil dressing, with 3 big spoons of homemade guacamole (Jr. Family members secret recipe).

Also mixed fresh berries and 4 squares of Trader Joe's chocolate.

Lots of water and 3-4 cups of coffee (not pictured). I felt full and only normal hungry right before meals. I didn't have any emotional or binge food thoughts. I also had a lot of energy and slept well that night.

Here's what is working for me:
1. Eating 3 larger meals a day and going 5-6 hours in between
2. Prepping and re-heating, and cleaning up post  food prep only 3 times a day.
3.  Extra time not hauling smaller sized snacks around town for errands
4. Eating a 4th meal (snack) if I've been super active or hit 10,000 steps before 3pm.
4.5 Keeping a packet of beef jerky around for unexpected >6 hour delays.
5. Eating a pretty clean paleo template during the 3 meals.
6. Easier fasting in the AM for blood draws.

Here's what did not work for me in the past:
1. Eating every 3-4 hours, but eating high carb, but low WW points! Snack foods. 100 calorie packs, maybe multiple 100 calorie packs.

2. Having to stop to eat every 3 hours, not as convenient.

3. Hauling my cooler with cold packs worked, but it was more time consuming if I was running errands for 2-3 hours. Nicer to just have had my meal and run on my own fat burning body.

4.  Eating Cliff bars for snacks to fuel during hikes or half marathon training. Hello sugar, carbs and body fat storage. This explains major muffin top and in ability to loose much weight when I was walking sooooo many miles.

5. Eating nuts for snacks messed up my emotional/binge eating slightly. It was lower level, but it was there and did effect me.

6. Wow- I would bee woozy, shaky, and truly light headed when going for fasting blood draws. I would then eat a carb filled breakfast and set myself up to store fat the rest of the day. I don't miss this one bit. 

That's the scoop. I've had success doing both 5-6 meals and 3, but for now 3 larger meals a day is the routine. I'll keep that habit.


  1. Hi Karen, I like larger meals too. I feel that I really can make it through any day if I have a few satisfying meals. I was always hungry with little meals. And, they are SO INCREDIBLY inconvenient.

    I do this a little differently than you do--but it's mainly for the same reasons you explain above. I mainly eat my food from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. So I have a big lunch, a sort of afternoon meal (this is usually substantial and sometimes drawn out a bit) and then dinner.

    What I do get from this eating pattern of bigger meals is meal satisfaction. I'd way rather have quite a few hours of not eating in order to get great satisfaction from meals while staying within my calorie budget. :D

    1. Marion, it is soooo good to sit down to a big meal, then feel satisfied after. Lots of people do what you do with the eating window. Once you fuel with the right foods, that opens the possibilities. :)

  2. Your eating looks spot on nutritious!

  3. I eat two meals a day + one cup of coffee with a cream. Even less cleaning

  4. I have seemed to morphed into 2 large (ish) meals a day, one very light snack around the time of the missed meal. It's working great for me. What is key is each of us are unique; it's just not our fingerprints that are unique. So each of us needs to find not only works for us internally, but for our mindset as well. But I have found that if I treat this as a it a game against my old self (as in Gwen, how much better/smarter can you eat today?) totally works. Because it speaks to my inner drive and competitiveness. Might not work for anyone else. And YOU have found what works for YOU, and that's the recipe for success. :)

    1. Yep!, Gwen What worked for me at the start of maintenance is sooo different than now. It took a long time before I was able to transition.

  5. I'm glad you continue to find what works for you! Your meals look good too ;) I can't join the 3 meals a day plan for a while because of my new tiny tum. I'd never get the required nutrients/calories in. But that's why we all have to find what does work for us. Thanks for sharing your story!

  6. Hi Becca- yeah, those of you who have tiny tums have different fueling schedules. I have friends with naturally tiny stomachs who do well eating often. I'm having a blast experimenting around.

  7. My guess only existence of manufactured foods and modern technologies like microwave allowed such modern practice as eating all day long (I know, there are fruits, veggies and nuts, but in traditional cultures it was not appropriate to eat even that between meals).
    Fat foods don't take much space in a stomach, mine actually shrank.

    1. Galina- It's true, I put in a fairly regular amounts of food at each meal- and the natural fat fills me up a lot.

  8. In the very beginning, when I was weaning myself off eating what I wanted, whenever I wanted, I too ate many small meals a day. It was highly effective at that time. Eventually I did not want to think about food that often and reduced my number of meals. I think that we sort of have an ebb and tide with these types of things throughout the years. I think you are exactly right - important to think about what is working and not working and change things up as needed.

    1. Vickie- it's so true. During weight loss, 5-6 worked okay.... It's fun to experiment. Unexpected results sometimes. Just not having to haul snacks everywhere- it's a real time saver.

  9. I have the tendency to get lightheaded and dizzy if I go too long between meals. Snacking in between works best for me. And by snacking that usually means an apple mid-morning and maybe greek yogurt or hummus mid-afternoon. The snacks are pretty small. I just crash too easily NOT to snack!