Posts Tagged ‘Emotional eating’

How many times a day should we eat?

May 26, 2010

I stated in my last post that we cannot trust “hunger” as a cue for when to eat. But how do we know when it IS time to eat?  For me, and I suspect for many others, the three-meals-a-day “rule” works well.  In fact, I believe that for most people who struggle with weight control, eating more often, “grazing,” or snacking between meals only adds to the problem.

Now, many of you believe that six or more small meals per day, or three meals plus two or three snacks, is best (e.g., see comment by Personal Trainer on my last post).  And for some people there is a medical reason for eating more often than three times per day (e.g., people with dyspepsia, GERD, hypoglycemia, etc.).  Some of these medical indications are valid, and some are not.  I won’t get into that here.  What I do know is that the more we snack, the more likely we are to consume excess calories (see this research report).

A survey reported this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in the thirty years between the 1970s to the early 2000s, for adults and children, the average time between eating occasions shrank by one hour (most recently, 3 hours apart for adults and 3.5 hours apart for children).  Daily calories for both groups increased from roughly 2,090 in the 1970s to 2500 in the 2003 – 2006 period.

Calories from snacks more than doubled: for adults, from 200 calories per day in the 1970s to 470 calories in the recent time period; for children, from 240 to 500.  A significant portion of snack calories came from beverages.  It can be assumed that these numbers are underestimates, since surveys usually under-report the number of calories consumed.  [The above research was described in the May 2010 issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter]

It makes sense to me that the more often one eats, the more one is exposed to temptation and calories.  Also, we know that “willpower fatigue” occurs, so that the more often we have to decide what and how much to eat, the less “willpower” we are left with by the end of the day.

One known cause of overeating, which is also closely related to snacking, is “emotional eating.”  The solution to that problem is mindful eating, plus tending to emotional issues in a more appropriate way.

Personally, one of the most effective things I have done over the years to maintain my weight in a healthy range is to eliminate snacking.  It takes some getting used to — for example, eating dessert just before bed was a long time habit for me — but it really makes a difference.  And I haven’t developed hypoglycemia, insomnia, or any other health problem as a result.

If eating three daily meals (assuming the portions are reasonable and the food is mostly “healthy”) works to maintain weight, would two meals be even better?  Apparently not, according to several studies.  People who skip breakfast, for example, tend to weigh more than people who don’t.

Looking your best in 2009

January 1, 2009

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For my first post in 2009, I am passing along to you a sure-fire 9-step program to help you lose weight and/or accept yourself. It is straight from the January 5 issue of The New Yorker (by Amy Ozols):

People say that obesity is an epidemic in America, but I’m determined not to become part of the problem. That’s why I’ve spent years perfecting the secret to a trim and attractive physique. My foolproof system involves just nine easy steps.

Step 1: Avoid what psychologists refer to as “emotional eating.” This is hard, because many people have a tendency to experience emotions. To solve this problem, consume increasing dosages of psychotropic medications until you cease to feel emotions of any kind.

Step 2: Visualize yourself as a thin person. This is very important, because the body often takes its signals from the brain. Each time you take a bite of food, imagine that you are a thin person taking a bite of food, chewing the food, then spitting the food into a napkin, then tucking the napkin into your backpack or purse. After you’re done visualizing these things, start doing them.

Step 3: Get rid of your “fat clothes.” Keeping your closet stocked with unflattering garments will only distract you from your quest for a slender body. To complete this step, shred or burn everything in your closet, including any hangers or shelving that a fat person may have touched. Refrain from donating anything to charity, as this could cause underprivileged people to become obese, which would be unsavory and possibly even illegal.

Step 4: Refrain from consuming food.

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.

Step 6: Drink plenty of water. As you’ve probably heard, water functions as a natural lubricant in the body, flushing toxins and fat cells from the digestive tract. Water is also a delicious replacement for higher-fat liquids, such as milk. Try pouring water on your cereal or in your coffee. If you’re a baby, try pouring water into your mother’s breasts.

Step 7: Buy a pet. Having a pet will force you to take walks, which are a form of exercise. This is true unless you make the mistake that I made, which was buying an iguana. Iguanas walk very slowly and smell strongly of turds. I really cannot dissuade you strongly enough from buying an iguana.

Step 8: Vigorous sexual intercourse burns up to two hundred calories per hour. Therefore, if you are not currently promiscuous, it is essential that you begin “boning” immediately. Start by having sex with every person you know. Then have sex with numerous people you have never met. Continue doing this until you are thin.

Step 9: Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best. And, if the going gets tough, remind yourself: every person is beautiful on the inside, provided that they are also extremely attractive on the outside.