One of the best strategies I use to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight (whatever that means for them) might sound a little bit counterintuitive, but hear me out…
It’s the importance of eating something every 3-5 hours. This ‘something’ (aka meal or snack should also be filling, nutritious, and satisfying, 80-90% of the time, but we’ll talk more about that looks like more in another post).
Now, you might be thinking, “Well that’s counterintuitive, if I eat less, shouldn’t I lose more?” (You wouldn’t believe how many clients I’ve worked with who have this faulty theory). Yes, and no. There is a whole long slewed out answer that I’ll probably turn into another blog post for this, but yes, you do need to eat less to lose weight (creating a slight deficit than what your body needs). But, eating too much less than your body needs to function, for a long period of time, can cause you to lose muscle mass and/or cause your body to adapt to eating too little calories, and go into ‘starvation mode’. Yes, starvation mode does exist, but it’s called metabolic slowdown or adaptive thermogenesis in the science world, and starvation mode is a less science-y name for the general public.
This has nothing to do with metabolism either, so hold off doubting me if you’re into the whole ‘Intermittent Fasting’ thing...this is for the majority of the people out there who would probably commit a felony after frequently going 20 hours straight without eating (myself included).
Yes, it’s been debunked that eating more frequently helps boost metabolism – alas, there aren’t many things that do ‘boost metabolism’ either…other than building lean muscle with resistance training, which is the most effective way to do it. Sorry lemons, cinnamon, cayenne, etc…you don’t have magical capability to boost metabolism enough to actually make a difference when it comes to weight loss (although good for overall health in general when used in moderation, don’t get me wrong).
So, then WHY is this a huge strategy for success? (Fine, fine I’ll tell you)
(I actually pretend that I’m talking to you when I’m writing this, can you tell?)
*Waiting more than five hours before you eat often means that you are starving (aka so ‘hangry’ you'll eat anything in sight).*
I mean…NO ONE CRAVES CELERY STICKS WHEN THEY’RE STARVING. So instead of making a healthy choice, you’re reaching for that donut or vending machine snack, and/or snacking while preparing your next meal, eating larger portions, and/or snacking at night. (You're nodding your head right now, right?).
And don’t get me wrong, indulging in ‘less than healthy’ treats is part of life, but it’s important work on strategies that help with not over-indulging on said treats, a lot of the time.
I know, I know. You're also thinking – “Lady, I'm busy. Most of the time I don't have time to be eating 3-5 times per day.”
And to this I say - "Yes, you do my friend” (because we are friends, right?). Trust me, it will help you in the long run. It WILL help you with your healthy eating and/or weight loss goals. Also, there are always strategies you can try to ensure that you have healthy, convenient foods on hand, which I will give you below, but first…
Do any of these scenarios familiar?...
1) During the day you get so wrapped up at work or whatever you’re doing, you keep telling yourself to eat, or that you’re going to eat in “five minutes when you’re done this task”, and next thing you know it’s 3:00pm and you have about as much self-control as Donald Trump does on Twitter, and end up eating the first thing in sight (healthy or not). You remember my post on being hangry? I talk about the same kind of thing here, and you should have a read after you’re done this post.
2) You struggle with not having time to pack a lunch to work every single day, and then when lunchtime rolls around your only options are your typical ‘fast’ and ‘convenience’ foods, grease or grease (which I mean, is okay every once in a while, but not the best environment for an everyday thing).
3) Or, you’re an avid grazer (which is not always healthy either). Eating small amounts throughout the day, taking nibbles of convenience foods that don’t fill you up, and/or you're not allowing yourself to fully experience hunger/satiety – your body’s natural (physiologically engrained) signals for telling you – “Hey me, I’ve had enough.” So again, you’re picking at anything in sight.
There’s a million other scenarios I could go through, but if any of the above sounds like you, there are lots of strategies you can work on to overcome your barriers, you just gotta figure out what they are.
Here are just a few of the many examples of strategies to overcome your barriers: (And if you need help identifying your barriers, and coming up with strategies to overcome them and CRUSH your goals, that’s where I come in with my super affordable Goal Crushing Coaching Program that is on sale right now!)
1) Prep at least 1-2 ingredients and/or meals per week that will make your life easier. For example:
A large batch of quinoa, rice or sweet potato to have as sides with meals.
A large batch of chicken breasts, lean ground meat, beans, or lentils.
A large batch of spaghetti sauce.
Cut up veggies and put them in single servings to have as on-the-go snacks.
Put nuts in single serving bags to have throughout the week as snacks.
A batch of healthy breakfast muffins for the week.
The possibilities are endless, and really just depend on your situation.
2) Find healthy, ‘on-the-go’ meals and snacks that you actually enjoy, such as a ‘nutritionally better’ granola or protein bar, crackers, nuts and nut butters, yogurt and fruit (if you have access to a cooler or fridge at work), veggies and hummus, etc.
3) If you’re not used to feeling hungry at a certain time (for many people it’s breakfast), don’t worry. With practice, your body will start to recognizing its feelings of being hungry every 3-5 hours. Just try and eat within a few hours of waking up (again even if it’s just a piece of fruit with peanut butter to start) and then every 3-5 hours after that and you’ll be golden.
4) Look for an (affordable) healthy meal delivery service in your area so make up for some of the meals that you just don’t have time to prepare (if there’s not one, advocate for one – it can be done!).
I was SO excited to find out that we have a service like this here in St. John’s – both for myself, and my clients! The service is called ‘LunchIn’, and they deliver healthy, affordable, delicious meals RIGHT TO YOU AT WORK. How cool is that? Their menu is incredible…when I say they have delicious meals, they really have delicious meals (because that’s obviously important). Literally, they have something for everyone. My favourite is their Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry Bowl, but they also have a Grilled Chicken Avocado Sandwich, a Korean Beef Rice Bowl, and many more options. Plus, they are always switching it up and adding new menu options.
I have actually partnered with them to bring even more nutritious and delicious meals to their menu, and even some meal plans and other exciting ideas are on the rise.
Yes, I am so thrilled that we have a service like this, that I felt compelled to work with them to promote this exciting local business. With how hectic and crazy life can be in society today, and how much access we have to less healthy, convenience foods, we seriously need more affordable services such as this one.
So anyway, there you have it. One of the most successful, yet underestimated strategies I have used to help people develop a relationship with food, and some suggestions to help you overcome any barriers you might have.
What are your thoughts? Is this something that you already do, or was this a change for you? If it was the former, how do you make sure that you're eating something every 3 to 5 hours? If the latter, did you have any struggles or barriers such as the ones above when trying to eat more regularly (or when you think about trying to)?
Click here for a free meal planning starter kit, and here to learn more about my super affordable coaching program. :)
Felicia Newell is a Nutritionist, Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Expert, Health Coach, and a mom of 4 boys under 6! She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition. Felicia wears many hats, and knows what it is like to try and live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren't always supportive of making healthy choices.
Life is busy, confusing at times, and full of contradictions, especially in the world of health and wellness. Felicia is passionate in helping others fight through the misinformation out there, and to navigate life and health, but most importantly, to enjoy the crap out of it while doing it.
She has over 11 years of education and experience in Nutritional sciences. Between completing her Bachelor and Masters in Nutritional Sciences, working at a research centre, teaching university courses, years of nutrition counselling helping people crush their goals, and being a busy mom of 4 young boys, she has the passion, skills, education, and experience to help others reach their health and nutrition goals.