Rhody Health and Fitness
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 00:03
Imagine if one of your friends mentioned that they had eaten six meals the previous day. Would you think that was strange, or even gross? American culture has constructed a strict pattern of eating three square meals a day, and straying from it can even seem culturally wrong. Most people are used to breakfast in the morning (or just skip it altogether), lunch in the afternoon and dinner at night as their biggest meal. As a culture, we eat by the clock, not by our stomachs. It's beneficial to your body to have structured meals, but the size and time of meals can definitely be open to change depending on your personal preference. If you find yourself going to dinner and eating a big meal at 6 p.m. but aren't hungry, it may not be the healthiest eating pattern for you. A restructuring of the size and time of meals can have a positive impact on your health.
Different cultures have different eating and meal patterns. For example, Mexican culture finds it normal to eat 4-5 meals a day, with lunch ("comida") as the biggest meal. Finding a pattern that's good for you can be daunting; nobody really wants to completely change their eating habits. A good rule of thumb is this – eat when you're hungry. A new trend is eating five small meals a day instead of three square meals. If you have unlimited swipes in the dining hall, why not try following that pattern for a day? It may have you feeling more energized if you listen to your stomach.
How can you tell if you're truly hungry? According to the American Dietetic Association, eating when you're only "slightly" hungry can easily lead to overeating. Listening to your body is important to keep up energy and overall health, but sometimes it's hard to decipher between appetite and hunger. Simply asking yourself, "am I hungry?" can be the solution. If you're unsure, try waiting 20 minutes and ask yourself again. Waiting until your stomach is mostly empty is a sign that you're eating when you're hungry, but if you let your stomach feel empty for over an hour, you're more apt to overeat when you sit down for a meal.
Overall, your metabolism does benefit from being fueled at similar times each day. But you don't need to just stick to three large meals a day if you're not feeling hungry. Eating balanced, varied meals when you're hungry is the key. Try to eat by your stomach instead of the clock for a day and see how you feel!