Tip #7: Take the Pressure Off Your Meals
It is important to understand that this tips are just that. They will help you out, and if you are already eating better and exercising more, essentially following a more healthy living strategy, such as the one in ‘You Are Not A Fit Person’, they will help you even more. The thing is, they need to followed as part of a plan. The tip today is an excellent example.
In the book, I speak about eating 4 meals a day, and I explain why 4. I try to explain the reasoning behind what I recommend. A lot of fitness experts try to make grand statements with no reasoning or explanation. They do this for 2 reasons. The first is to make you see them as an authority figure. Authorities don’t explain. They don’t have to, people should just do what they say. The second is that there is no real scientific or proven reason to what they are proposing. The number of meals a day thing is one of those things.
I recommend four, many people recommend five, six or seven. I have yet to hear someone recommend fewer than 3 though. In fact, I think there are several diet books based solely on the number of meals that you eat. As well, it seems as though there is a general agreement that more meals is better than fewer. The principle behind this is that when the human body isn’t eating it is more likely to move into the starvation phase, ready to store food, and this is a bad thing (although there is little if any scientific evidence of the endocrine system slowing in response to a reduction of food, there may very well be a psychological response).
In any case, that isn’t why I recommend four meals. I recommend four meals because 3 meals always put too much pressure on each meal, and mainly on dinner (when I only ate 2 meals, skipping breakfast, I actually put way to much pressure on both lunch and dinner). When I added in the fourth meal, one at 4 and one at 8 instead of just the one at 6, I ended up not being entirely hungry when I at the 4 o’clock meal, and again, not very hungry at 8. Instead of eating out of hunger, which would guarantee that I would make a glutton of myself, I eat out of scheduling. So the four meals act as more of a preemptive strike against hunger. I am sure 5 meals would work even better, but at a certain point, the amount of work and organization involved to pull off this makes it impossible to achieve. Let’s face it, we probably have enough trouble planning 3 meals a day without one of them being take out, so planning for 5 really is just another case of walking before we learn to run. Another reason to avoid 5 meals (or more) is the fact that it is hard to make your meals small enough. Obviously if you eat more meals, but maintain the same overall daily number of calories, you will have to make each meal smaller.
So, 4 meals a day, at approximately 8, 12, 4 and 8 work very well for me. Try it for you. All of my recipes are based upon the 4 meals a day plan (Here is a perfect example of where an overall plan is very important, much more important than just tips. So much of these things are interconnected). I know it sounds strange but eating out of hunger is just as dangerous as shopping hungry. If you are feeling hungry you have gone too long without a small meal.
Think about how much you look forward to dinner. Does your mouth water thinking about a roast beef dinner, or spaghetti, or all of the fixings, like stuffing and mashed potatoes? Do you start thinking about dinner right after lunch? I never realized how much pressure I put on dinner. I looked forward to it all day. I was usually pretty hungry by the time dinner started. So much so that I wouldn’t be full by the time I had finished the amount that I should have eaten. Then I would go back for more and more. In fact, the time that I spent hungry, waiting for my next meal, I think created a bit of a food fixation for me. Okay, not just a bit of a fixation, a tremendous one. This fixation was really created by eating when I was hungry.
If you fixate on food, if you fantasize about your meals, if you can’t eat a healthy amount of food or can’t stop eating then you are going to have to take the pressure off your meals. You have to make this work for you. Experiment a little. It may be that you need an additional small fruit snack or you have family commitments that make the exact timing of your meals more difficult. The thing is, you have to make this work for your lifestyle and your schedule. The goal is to take the pressure off of your meals so you aren’t eating hungry and you can actually eat a reasonable portion size.
The goal here is very simple. Never eat when you are hungry, or more correctly, eat before you are hungry so you don’t have to eat when you are hungry. Do this by eating 4 smaller meals a day and you are on your way to maintaining a fit lifestyle.