Torres column: Schedule meals, snacks to lessen weight gain
There is a controversy about how many times and when people should eat when they want to lose weight. Many say eating breakfast is not important, while others say it helps people lose weight. Many believe that eating late at night contributes to weight gain, yet others say it doesn’t make any difference. Some will tell you that in terms of weight loss it doesn’t matter if you eat more than two times at day, while others specifically recommend that people eat more than two times a day.
I have been helping people lose weight for more than five years, and my clients are very successful at it. I honestly don’t think that I’m the only expert, and everyone’s point of view is valid. I think people make recommendations because they believe what they’re saying: It probably worked for them or their clients.
My job here is to help you understand the pros and cons of eating many times a day compared to a few times a day.
Thermic effect of food
The thermic effect of food is the amount of energy the body expends when digesting. According to experts, this process takes at least 10 percent of the body’s daily energy needs. So the logic is that the more often you eat, the more often the thermic effect is activated. On the other hand, people eat fewer times a day in an effort to eat fewer calories.
I don’t think the thermic effect makes a lot of difference in weight loss, and I have not read a strong study showing otherwise. But I do think that every single grain of sand adds up.
Eating at night does not make people fat
Food is food at any time of the day, and the body burns calories 24/7. The calories that go in the body at 8 p.m. are the same as calories that go in at 5 p.m. Your likelihood of late-night snacking depends on how much time there is between dinner and when you go to bed. I think the myth of eating late began because people tend to choose the wrong foods to snack on when in front of the TV.
food is part of our survival
If we were living where there were limited healthy food resources, eating one or two times a day wouldn’t make us fat. It would be difficult to overeat something that we lack, and the body would not have enough calories to store. Keep in mind that I’m not saying this is healthy.
The truth is we live where there are more than enough food resources, not only healthy food but also junk food high in empty calories. What does this mean? Since we are designed for survival, hunger is a signal telling us we need energy. Therefore the instinct for survival coupled with readily available unhealthy food choices can add up to weight gain.
We live in a society where we are in a rush and don’t take the time to plan our eating schedule. Sometimes we wake up, don’t eat and go to work and then notice we are hungry. What happens then? We eat anything that’s in front of us. We are so hungry that we don’t care what we eat; it could be healthy, high in empty calories, or chemical-laden. We go to the closest fast food restaurant or buy packaged foods. The only thing we want is to eat soon.
We also overeat
Because we have been waiting to eat for hours (maybe five to eight hours), we don’t control our appetite. We eat foods high in calories and eat a lot of them. Then we feel guilty, and we try to understand why we can’t control ourselves. But we repeat the cycle and wait many hours before our next meal.
I have found that people who eat breakfast and have snacks between meals choose the right foods and eat the right amount,
That’s because they’re not very hungry by the next meal, and their mind is clear to make conscious decisions about the foods they will choose. These people usually choose the healthiest foods. Also, they don’t overeat because they don’t need to compensate for the eight hours during which they have not eaten.
It seems obvious that a person who eats fewer calories than needed will lose weight. However, the right environment is required to eat minimum calories, and health can be jeopardized with a low-calorie diet.
If we are realistic, we can understand that our brain makes survival decisions that are difficult to control under certain circumstances. The best action we can take is to avoid those circumstances (in this case, not to let hunger catch us off guard) and to make conscious decisions.
To sum it up
In other words, my conclusion is that eating at least three times a day with one or two snacks, if required, is the best approach to weight loss for people who are not consciously aware of their food decisions. For example, breakfast at 6 a.m., fruit at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, fruit or kefir serving at 4 p.m. and dinner at 7.
Eating just a few times a day may decrease your caloric intake and help you lose weight, but for this to happen, you need to overcome the feeling of hunger and eat the right foods and the right amount. If this doesn’t work, eating more times a day may help control your hunger and, therefore, help you choose the right foods and the right amount.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale, author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently” and a Watch Fit columnist. His column appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in Body & More.
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