Many of us have been taught from an early age that it’s good manners to finish everything on your plate.
After all, someone put their TLC into making that meal, and that meal costs money and there are a lot of people out there in the world who don’t have food on the table.
And so, many of us have learned from an early age to eat until we are full, and even beyond full.
So as we find ourselves with a midriff expanding, how now do we reprogram ourselves to just eat until we are not hungry?
Well, we prepare ourselves smaller meals so we eat a little more frequently.
This way we don’t find ourselves famished as we approach a meal. In other words we prevent hunger from ever really happening.
People who tend to skip meals also tend to overeat at dinnertime and typically there is less activity in peoples’ lives at night and so less energy expenditure and those calories get stored as fat. If we aren’t famished there is less of chance that we overeat.
If we eat small meals (because portion control is key when trying to lose weight), we can’t eat until we’re full because we already are, kind of.
Your weight is still determined by the number of calories you consume minus the number of calories you expend. And unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot reducing: we lose weight/fat according to how it is genetically distributed on our bodies.
To tap into our fat stores we can’t keep filling up the tank. The tank has to run on minimum. So what is the minimum?
Here are some formulas to help guide you on how much food you have to consume to maintain your weight.
First calculate your BMR, the amount of energy you need to keep your body functioning at the most basic level.
Mifflin St. Jeor Equation for BMR
For men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
For women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
By using this formula we know that:
A 100 kg man at 185 cm and 35 years of age has a BMR of 1986
A 50 kg woman at 165 cm and 35 years of age has a BMR of 1195
Of course these are averages. There are other factors that play on metabolism like genetics, disease and medications and no two people are exactly the same.
Second, add some calories on for you Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and then you’ll come up with the number of calories you can consume per day to maintain your weight. Here’s a chart:
sedentary activity total daily energy expenditure TDEE
light activity total daily energy expenditure TDEE
moderate activity total daily energy expenditure TDEE
high activity total daily energy expenditure TDEE
extreme activity total daily energy expenditure TDEE
To decrease your weight, decrease the energy/calories coming in, and you’ll then start to tap into your fat stores for your energy needs.
Take that number (BMR x TDEE) of calories and divide that into five or six meals.
The meals don’t all have to be the exact same calorie count, just roughly the same.
It takes about three to three and a half hours for the body to digest the previous meal and metabolize its contents for body functions.
After this the body begins to look for its next meal. If the body doesn`t get this fuel, it slows down its internal systems and conserves energy—which means slowing down metabolism.
It doesn`t have to be a lot, just eat so that you`re not hungry and your body doesn`t go into this “survival mode”. Many experts believe that if we feed the body at regular intervals we send a signal to the body that it doesn’t have to go into that energy conservation state.
If you are cutting back your calories, remember to maximize the nutrients at each meal.
Try to make each meal balanced with complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and the good fats.
Another benefit to eating 6 smaller meals throughout the day is that they will provide constant energy.
There is an insulin spike that happens with a bigger meals because bigger meals typically mean more carbohydrates. This insulin spike leads to a drop in blood sugar and soon after feelings of lethargy.
Also make sure that meals that are a good balance of fat, protein and carbohydrate. Well balanced meals don’t tend to spike insulin as much.
In the end, 5 or 6 small meals a day prevents overeating and lags in energy.
How 6 small meals versus three larger meals affects the metabolism is still negligible.
There is no real consensus among nutrition experts on whether we are metabolically better off eating three regular meals a day or spreading that out into five or six smaller meals but if we know what helps us gain the weight and gives us low energy, it’s worth trying the opposite.
“Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau