An average Jane on health and nutrition

Posts tagged ‘eating’

About fewer, larger meals

Since I made that post about 3 square vs. 5 small meals, which was what, a week or two ago now? I’ve been trying to do fewer but larger meals, as opposed to small ones with snacks interspersed.

For the most part, this hasn’t changed *what* I eat, it has just changed *when I eat it.*
So, if I used to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast at 7:30 and then a snack of a banana and a handful of almonds at 10:30, now I have a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, and a handful of almonds at 7:30, and that carries me through to lunch.
Incidentally, there have been a few times where the new larger breakfast didn’t carry me through to lunch; that I was legitimately hungry and I had to supplement with some veggies and hummus, or a granola bar or whatnot. (I’ll come back to that.)

This is interesting in that it makes me wonder if there are regularly days where I’m not eating as much food as my body wants/needs me to, to function optimally. I’ve read a lot about the concepts of eating too little when watching your weight/diet, and SparkPeople users frequently talk about the hesitance they experienced with eating more food than their suggested lose-weight calorie ranges, only to find that eating a little bit more food actually caused them to lose weight.

I don’t know that that’s the case for me, but I imagine I’ll have a chance to see.

But like I said, the fact that my body got hungry is what makes me think that it would function better with more food. I’m very attentive to water and hydration, so I don’t think it’s thirst masquerading. Rather, I suspect that the smaller meals and snacks were doing enough to curb overt feelings of hunger, but not quite reach the optimal satiety between “not hungry” and “too full.” That is, to satisfy the immediate hunger.. but not to give the amount wanted biologically. There is an area in there, a target for how much I should/could eat to feel my best, and while it’s very very easy to tell the high end of it, I wonder if I’m not appropriately accustomed to what the low end of it feels like, and thus not understanding that I was only hitting “barely not hungry” instead of “correct amount of food consumed.” I do think it is a scale. I don’t think there is “hungry” and “full” and that moreover I don’t believe “not hungry” (in terms of not feeling hunger pangs anymore) equates to “adequately nourished.”

It’s bizarre to me that that could be the case, because people throughout modern history up until the last few decades have known more or less how to eat to a right-for-them fullness. But perhaps it’s just symptomatic of an eating culture that has a really confused relationship with dieting, coupled with questionable knowledge of portion sizes, and very little in the way of conditioning to listen for your own fullness levels. So it could just be a matter of me of still learning portion sizes, and being better in tune with the satiety responses. Not stopping with “hunger is gone” but finding the point between that and “ate too much/feeling full.”

I realize I reference In Defense of Food a lot when I talk about eating, but that’s because there are so many relevant things.
In IDoF, Pollan talks about how people in various cultures know when to stop eating. In America, it’s frequently “when the plate is clean/carton is empty” etc. There was one cultural response (French?) that says they eat until 80% full.

Percentages could be a helpful concept here. If “too full” is 100% full, and 0% full is absolutely famished and starving, where does average, everyday hunger fall? And at what percentage does hunger stop feeling like hunger? For wildly unscientific argument’s sake, if we start feeling average everyday hunger if we drop to 25% full, and those feelings stop at 50% full, then there’s 30% range between when the feelings stop, and the (French?) suggestion of 80%.

It’s not a soundproof concept, it’s just to illustrate what I think might be happening, at least for me. I think I was stopping with the amount of food necessary to relieve hunger, but not much more than that. And perhaps there’s something negative to be said for meeting the bare minimum.

Of course, it’s also easy to see where this could be misconstrued. I’m *not* talking about “wanting more food” for taste purposes, for mental purposes just of enjoying it. I’m strictly talking about the body’s desire for food, for what it wants to use it for. I’m also not suggesting that “eat more!” is obviously the solution to health and weight problems. Merely playing with it for my own body, where I am already very conscientious about my own diet and nutrition.

The other interesting thing with my 3-squares experiment is that I get hungry more strongly. When hunger for lunch rolls around, I am *hungry for lunch*.
Previously, it was more like “yeah, I’m getting hungry.” or “I’m a little bit hungry, and it’s lunch time, so I could have lunch, I think.” I don’t have nearly as much “little bit hungry” in the course of my day anymore. I am hungry, or am I satisfiedly not.

I eat more food at one time – and yet, don’t feel “fuller”; another factor to why I think I wasn’t getting in my optimum scale of food intake – and then when I’m hungry it’s for those larger meals. My hunger is stronger, because I haven’t eaten in longer, and would like to have more food to satisfy that.

Again, you can see why this might sound problematic to prevailing nutrition. ‘You’re training your body to need more and more food.’
Well. No. It’s not an ever-increasing amount. With the exception of those ocassional days that I’ve needed the supplemental snack* I’m still eating the same amount of food as before. I’m just shifting when. I’m training my body that a big flood of good stuff they can use is coming, as opposed to dribbling them a little bit of good stuff, then a break, then dribbling them a little more.

* And I rather wonder if those days are related to previous days’ additional activity. I haven’t looked at those correlations yet, but I do keep pretty good track of my activity via SparkPeople in addition to food, so I can pretty easily check for instances. I expect that it will line up, as it has in the past even with the small meals and snacks model. The day OF a 35-mile bike ride didn’t see any appreciable changes in my hunger levels, but the day AFTER would see me ravenous.

At any rate, I feel good with this process, I enjoy my food, and I’m curious to see if and how it translates in terms of weight loss over the next few weeks.

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