“Eat only when hungry” is possibly the worst advice anyone can give you. Eating on schedule is always better than eating only when you feel hunger pangs. These are the reasons why:
1. The body needs constant and frequent nutrition.
The human body needs to be frequently nourished. Even if you don’t think you’re hungry, your body is already burning its energy reserves. If it doesn’t get the nutrition it needs, you’re prone to:
- energy dips
- slowing down metabolism
Any and all of the above can interfere with how you live your life. So eating every 3 to 4 hours will actually serve you better than sticking with the traditional way of eating only when hungry.
2. The three-meals-a-day plan is practical, but will actually make you eat more.
Eating three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, sounds practical in theory. But in practice, you actually have between 5 to 6 hours from breakfast to lunch and another 6 or 7 hours between lunch and dinner. From dinner until breakfast the following day, you can have anywhere from 8 to 12 hours without food. Breakfast skippers go even longer without eating.
So obviously hunger pangs will bug you throughout the day. What happens is you’ll pick a treat here, take a few bites of cake there, you’ll see some nuts and toss back a handful. You get the drill. The next thing you know, the calories have added up and you’ve been eating all morning. Of course, that won’t really stop you from eating lunch at noon, would it? You’re basically always physically hungry.
You’re always starving and oftentimes, get so ravenous that you overeat. Even after the body has been satiated, you’ve been conditioning yourself, albeit unintentionally, to keep stocking up on food so you won’t feel hungry again. Except you still do.
This is why taking more frequent, but smaller meals at regular 3-4 hour intervals is better. The body still works on a schedule. But because the time between meals is more controlled, hunger pangs are also managed better and you won’t feel hungry and the need to eat every time.
3. Hunger affects your thinking.
Well, now. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable reason why you should eat when you’re hungry, doesn’t it? After all, you may be the world’s most intelligent and rational human being, but if you’re physiologically hungry, the body’s needs tend to trump the brain’s best intentions.
Don’t believe me? When was the last time you went grocery-shopping while hungry? And did you manage to stick to your grocery list or did you start loading your cart up with anything and everything that looks good, in complete violation of your carefully written list? The same is true when you go to a restaurant already ravenous. Suddenly, everything on the menu looks appetizing. And you’re ordering items left and right and eating until you’re bloated. You just make different choices when you’re hungry. That’s a fact.
So, yeah, eating when you’re hungry does sound like a good plan. But, and this is a big but, foregoing eating just because you’re not hungry leaves you at a higher risk of overindulging later on. And it also dissolves all carefully laid out plans and rational thoughts just fly out the window. Important science stuff like hormones and neurons and gut peptides and so many other things make hunger a complicated process. That’s why, besides rational thinking, hunger also affects emotional well-being.
Why put your body through a wringer like that every time when it’s easily avoidable by setting up an eating schedule? One that lets you nourish your body every few hours and gets rid of the need to wait until you’re starving?
The human body is conditioned to recognize all the signs of hunger – difficulty concentrating, feeling faint, getting a headache, feeling irritable and lightheaded, gnawing in the stomach. None of those feel good in the least. So why willingly suffer through them? Try eating on a schedule. Retrain your body by taking more frequent and smaller meals every 4 hours and you’d be amazed how you can win over hunger and keep your body functioning better at the same time.