Trying to eat more to lose weight seems counterintuitive. Most of us are used to having our standard 3 meals a day, which are usually spaced 4-5 hours apart or more OR we skip meals like breakfast or lunch in an effort to cut calories as we try to lose weight. I used to have coffee all day and then eat whatever was convenient for dinner – and I never lost weight that way, even though I thought I should! These gaps between eating times tend to make a couple of things happen: 1) We lose energy and 2) We become hungry in between meals.
It is during these times that our defenses against ‘non-diet-friendly’ foods are their weakest. When we’re tired and hungry, our bodies go into almost panic mode, which drives us to grab any quick fix we can find, usually in the form of junk food or fast food, or empty carbs (simple carbs that don’t have much nutritional value – like cookies, crackers, chips, doughnuts, candy bars, etc.). As a result, we end up with a short burst of energy followed by a ‘crash’ with even less energy. This cycle wreaks havoc on us when trying to lose weight, and also just keeping up with life in general. Without proper nourishment, your energy, diet, activity, and overall functioning are sabotaged. (Learn more about how this cycle also affects stress in this free e-book.)
Replacing this approach with a system of ‘mini meals’ does 3 things:
1. Ensures a steady stream of energy all day long by reducing blood sugar spikes and crashes.
2. Helps eliminate stress, moodiness/irritability, binge eating, cravings, and excess hunger associated with too much time in between meals or that deprived feeling associated with ‘dieting’.
3. Boosts metabolism by requiring the body to consistently burn our food as fuel instead of holding onto it for later.
A simple rule of thumb is 100 calories per 10 pounds of body weight to maintain your current weight with no activity. Adding activity while sticking to your caloric intake goal would result in weight loss. Of course there are more complex formulas that account for age, height, exercise intensity, etc. but this is a simple guideline to help you get started.
Your calories should be divided up roughly as follows
(this example is for a 1400-1600 calorie diet):
Breakfast: 300 calories
A.M. Snack: 100-200 calories
Lunch: 400 calories
P.M. Snack: 100-200 calories
Dinner: 500 calories
Besides knowing how much food to eat, it is very important to know which foods are best. Part 2 of this series will discuss foods that deliver optimal nutrition and are key in this ‘mini meal’ strategy. It will not include protein bars or 100-calorie Snack Packs but, instead, will pinpoint quick, easy, real foods. When we eat quality foods, our quantity needs are naturally reduced, thus allowing us to consume MORE food with LESS calories and lose or maintain healthy weight without feeling deprived or constantly hungry.
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Also, you can APPLY HERE for my free online nutrition & fitness coaching sessions! I have new groups starting monthly, where participants receive in-depth strategies, nutrition education, help with snack and meal planning, family-friendly recipes, shopping tips and label reading education in an intimate small group environment with group and personal feedback, support, and motivation. The tools and recipes I provide during these sessions include ALL food groups – adjustments can be made if you have specific dietary restrictions.