How Frequently Do You Eat?

I did a little experiment with myself this past week and found out something interesting. As a “person interested in weight loss” I have read books and articles which recommend eating frequently throughout the day to help avoid feeling hungry. At the beginning of last week I wrote down how many times throughout the day I ate.  Here’s what my list looked like for Monday:

9:00 a.m. Oatmeal

10:30 a.m. 1 banana and a Greek yogurt

11:00 a.m.  A few pieces of shredded wheat cereal, a half ounce of cheese and some green tea

12:00 p.m. Peanut butter sandwich on my homemade bread, unsalted pretzels, apple and a small piece of chocolate.

2:00 p.m. Carrots, hummus, 5 crackers

4:00 p.m. Granola bar

6:00 p.m. Black beans and mixed brown and white rice, homemade tortilla chips, broccoli and tomato salad.

End of eating.

So for fun, Thursday and Friday, I decided to only eat three times a day. You know what?

It was hard for me and I felt quite hungry. I ate about the same quantity of food, but just less frequently. Everyone is different, but both while I was losing weight and now many years into maintenance, I am a grazer. Although I do eat real “meals” I also eat throughout the day. It does a couple of things for me:

It keeps me from getting too hungry throughout the day and keeps me from overeating at meals. It’s just one of the techniques that helps me in maintenance all these years.

How frequently do you eat throughout the day and does it help you in your journey? Diane

42 thoughts on “How Frequently Do You Eat?

  1. MrsFatass says:

    I am such a grazer. I think I always have been, but it came into sharp focus for me when I was pregnant with my son (I went into that pregnancy within 15 pounds of my ‘goal weight’ and in incredible shape) and I was still working, so I’d pack meals and snacks for the day into my lunch box. My coworkers lovingly teased about the preggo eating all day, but it wasn’t too much. It was just that I grazed.

    Now I have to be really careful about my grazing because it is easy to go overboard and just snack because I’m fixing something for this kids or because I’m walking through the kitchen or whatever.

  2. Susan says:

    I’m not a grazer at all. I like to eat 3 meals spaced about 4 hours apart and one afternoon snack. Eating like this definetly helps in my efforts to control my weight whether it be losing a few pounds or maintence.

  3. blackhuff says:

    I eat 5 small meals a day. Breakfast (06h00), snack (08h45), lunch (11h45), snack (14h45) and dinner (17h15).
    This helps me with cravings and to not overeat at meals. This is they way which help me to loose weight currently. It also help me to maintain energy levels.

  4. vickie says:

    Said with a smile – you are definitely not insulin resistant with all those carbs! I knew you weren’t. But seeing it in black and white affirmed it.

    I eat the vast majority of my food early in the day. Often have eaten three ‘meals’ before noon. And then honestly, not very hungry for the rest of the day. I still eat ‘dinner’ but usually have no trouble with grazing or the wants. And if I do – it is pure nervous/anxiety/fear – and is a red flag for me.

    This (early eating) works well for me as my exercise is always early in the day (so I don’t know if that is why I eat so much early, or if it is just habit).

    Big benefit to me, the very controlled carbs, I can eat, are then consumed early in the day.

  5. Amy says:

    I have a very similar eating pattern – breakfast at 7.30, snack at about 10, lunch at about 12.30, another snack around 4 and dinner by 6. Then I usually close down the shop and don’t eat anything else in the evening. That was the one big, difficult change the made the biggest difference for me.

  6. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I eat five times a day. Two small snacks. Three meals. I find it helpful to stick in the same range as my childhood, until I get used to a new idea. Like less processed foods or more more more vegetables.

    Because my head gets messed up if I try to FORCE myself into healthier. 🙂

  7. Fran says:

    I have the same pattern as you. At least for my work days, weekend is a bit harder, I usually forget my fruit in the afternoon then.

    06.00 am breakfast
    09.30 am a granola bar
    12.30 pm lunch (usually bread, milk and a salad)
    3.00 pm fruit
    5.30 pm dinner
    8.00 pm a little piece of chocolate or yogurt or fruit

  8. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    Use to be nothing until lunch or afternoon then graze until bed…then I tried 3 meals a day. Now, I eat pretty similar to ur pattern. Still takes me several hours before I eat my first meal but that is because I am such an early riser…eating breakfast at 3 or 4 just doesn’t work for me.

  9. Desert Agave says:

    I’m another one who eats five times a day — the three usual meals and then a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack. I’d definitely have trouble without those snacks, especially the afternoon one. I get ravenous in the afternoons. I can’t imagine going from lunch to dinner without anything to tide me over.

  10. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    I’m like you. I just eat a bunch of little meals throughout the day. If I only ate three I’d be so hungry in between my 7:30 am breakfast and my 12 pm lunch and my 7 pm dinner. Yikes! I think I’d gorge. That, and I’d have a massive headache.

  11. Josie says:

    I eat about 4 times a day (sometimes 5). Breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. And sometimes something after dinner. I’ve never been a frequent eater….just a big eater.

  12. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, I am like you.. a grazer.. lots of mini meals. I used to eat differently when I had no choice & I find the mini meals works much better for me for the same reason you described in your post. Eating less times during a day, I always want something else no matter what. Also, I get to full eating a bunch of stuff at one sitting BUT even so, I still want something in between…

  13. Lori Lynn says:

    I eat my breakfast about 7ish, and then I don’t have a break from school till 12, so I eat lunch then. If I eat a snack after school around 4, then I’ll eat dinner a little later, closer to 6. If I don’t have a snack, I’ll eat earlier. I’ve been trying to have enough discipline not to eat anything after 7, but like last night I had church and didn’t get to eat supper till almost 8.

  14. Pam says:

    I always wondered how often you ate. I always do better when I eat frequently, but for some reason its always so easy for me to get out of that habit. Time to try again, I think!

  15. Sagan says:

    Great question!

    On my food blog (livingintherealworld.net/healthwritereats), I record what I eat and what TIME I eat. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I work one job where I don’t really get a chance to eat much more than an apple or two in the morning. But most other days of the week, I’ve eaten half of my day’s worth of food by noon… and I’d be happy eating dinner at around 3 or 4pm and not eating anything else after that.

    Unfortunately, the way that it works with socializing and such, I often have to try to restrain myself so that I can have dinner with the boyfriend at 6 or 7pm. It’s really tough. So, the past week I’ve been actively trying to cut back on how MUCH I eat in the morning. And it seems to help.

    (But yeah – I’m a total grazer. I like munching throughout the day :)).

  16. Jane says:

    Thanks for sharing that information. I like to eat about 5 or 6 times a day, but always feel a bit guilty if I do, no matter what the total daily calories are. I have discovered that, for me, it is all about the total calories. I will lose if I keep my total calories at 1400 or under, no matter how many times a day I eat. Of course I lose faster at 1200 than I do at 1400.

  17. marsial2010 says:

    I have my candy…err…coffee first thing in the AM — two cups. I really, really want it when I wake up, and it is like candy for me. Then I eat a small breakfast around 9AM — either cereal, a small portion of leftovers, or an egg. Cup of decaf tea between 10 – 11AM. Small lunch between noon – 1PM. Then, depending on the demands of my body, I either have a piece of fruit around 3PM and dinner when my husband comes home between 6 – 7PM OR if my bod is not cooperating and I feel like I am starving after lunch, I start eating tiny 50 calorie portions every 30 – 60 minutes, sometimes eating all of my dinner calories by dinnertime. Then I don’t eat dinner. I never snack in the evening — just a can of Sprite Zero. Oddly, when I’m traveling or on vacation, I often eat just twice a day — a larger breakfast and dinner — no snacks in between.

  18. sian-girlgetstrong says:

    I’m still working on this one. I find I lose more weight when I eat 3 meals but I feel better eating 5-6 meals….I’m sure the later is better for you but the weight just takes longer to peel off…

  19. Sunny says:

    definitely a grazer. I need to hop back on the lose weight bandwagon though, after a half dozen or so months of being a bad, bad girl. 🙁 Grazing, as you have proven, is fine, IF the food is healthy food, and the calories limited. Thanks, Diane, for always being the voice of healthy reason. 🙂

  20. Dr. J says:

    I eat warrior style: 20/4, and that’s all I need to say about that. Occasionally, usually when traveling, I eat some fruit in the late afternoon in addition to the 20/4 style.

    No matter what ones opinion is of this eating style, it does pass the is it working test, does yours? (That is not directed at you, Sagan)

  21. Lisa says:

    That sounds like a good plan to me. During the work week I eat:
    7:00am – breakfast (eggs or oatmeal)
    10:15am – snack (apple or banana)
    12:30 or 1:00 – lunch
    3:30pm – snack (fruit or yogurt)
    Then Dinner

    Weekends are way different. I don’t usually snack as much. I also have a pre-workout breakfast and then a snack when I get home from the gym.

  22. Erin says:

    I can’t graze … it’s horrible for portion control. For me, that is. I do 3 meals and 2 small snacks…yesterday was…

    Breakfast: 2 eggs and 2 slices bacon
    Lunch: chicken breast over romaine and veggies
    Snack: 100 calories worth of almonds
    Dinner: 4 ounces steak with smashed sweet potato and romaine/veggie salad
    Snack: 1/2 cup almond dream ice cream

  23. Hope says:

    I eat small meals throughout the day as well. They really do keep me from getting too hungry, plus, it seems like my stomach has gotten used to the amount of food that I eat at any given time, and I can’t put food away like I used too. (which is a good thing!!)

    Plus, eating frequently helps me from getting too hungry. Sometimes whe I get in the “too hungry” state I almost end up getting a little panicky and then eating whatever I can find. Wierd, but the eating frequently is probably the number one thing that has helped me get the weight off, and it’s keeping it off. 🙂

  24. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. As someone with multiple generations of type 2 diabetics on my mom’s side (and it seems to be genetics, not weight–my great grandmother, grandmother and two aunts who were/are diabetic were all somewhere in the size 4 to 8 range,) I have noticed that I have my own issues with blood sugar regulation. If I eat sugar on an empty stomach, or starches unbalanced by protein and fats, I do the blood sugar crash-and-burn really quickly! When eating “low fat” a la Dean Ornish was the “healthy thing to do” in the 80s, I was ravenous every two hours.

    So I generally eat around 5 or 6 times a day. If I stay up late and therefore get up late on a weekend, and combine breakfast and lunch into a single larger meal, I still end up eating around 4 times–I generally need two smaller snack times with some nuts and fruit, or string cheese and fruit, or something like that. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are 1/2 or slightly more of my daily calories and I reserve 1/2 for dinner. If I try to eat more, less often, I end up overly hungry at the next official mealtime and end up overeating. I call it the “great white” (as in shark) effect–if I wait too long to start, it’s difficult to figure out when to stop…

    I don’t think I could handle frontloading my eating like you do. I like to eat dinner at around 10 pm so I have time to digest my food before bed, but don’t end up with night time eating. If I “stopped” at 6 pm, I’d end up ravenous at midnight… not a good thing. Ideally I need 6 hours of sleep a night (7 or more, or 5 or less, and I’m really zombie-fied) which means 18 awake hours–I spread my eating out over 15 of those hours…

  25. Melinda Neely says:

    Though my eating frequency is hit or miss depending on the day and how much food I have in my cupboard, I find that I NEVER gain weight if I eat more meals or mini-meals. Not only do I tend to avoid eating a HUGE meal, but I think it stabilizes my metabolism a bit better.

  26. fittingbackin says:

    I love seeing when other people eat! I wish I could stop that early! I’m usually:

    9:30 a.m. breakfast
    11:30 a.m. snack
    2 p.m. lunch
    6:30 p.m. dinner
    9 p.m. snack

    Sometimes another snack is in there – but breakfast, lunch and dinner are usually pretty filling – like 300 – 450 calories!

  27. Julie Lost and Found says:

    5-6 times a day. I always do better eating every 2 1/2-3 hours.

    Night time is *very* tough for me!

    I am not a type 2 diabetic and small frequent meals works best for me at stabilizing my blood sugar.

  28. Tami says:

    I use to be a grazer but since I got braces I only eat 3 times a day. No snacks! I don’t want to have to brush and floss my teeth all the time!

    I have found since I am not eating in between meals that I have to eat more nutritious meals with plenty of protein to make it to the next meal. It is working well for me.

  29. Leah says:

    Lately I am eating more like you described, three meals with two snacks in there. Sometimes the snack are between lunch and dinner and then a light one in the evening because we are up late.

    I am finding that eating small bits every 2-3 hours is helping me better in my weight loss journey. I got it from my mom, a recent diabetic, and former diabetic all in the same year, who was taught it’s not just what you eat, but how often and how much.

    Interesting post. Thanks for taking time to do it and to share what you eat. I enjoyed reading it.

  30. Diane says:

    Here we eat the 3 meals , son has a snack in the morning, afternoon and evening. Hubby and I have one in the afternoon and evening- it makes it easier to work the whole three different points levels and keeps us satisfied throughout the day.

  31. Paramjit says:

    I try to eat every 4 hours. It also depends if I have exercised in the morning. With morning exercise, the hunger pangs can be more severe but I try not to reduce the interval to 3 hours.

  32. jessey says:

    I eat 5-6 times a day.

    9:00 Breakfast
    11:15 Snack of string cheese and fruit cup
    12:30 Lunch
    3:15 Snack of yogurt and vitatops
    6:00 Dinner

    If I work out in the am, I eat at 6:30 also, after I work out

    Occasionally I will have a small pre-planned snack at 5:15 in order to not eat myself crazy while making dinner.

  33. Shawnee says:

    I’ve been practacing intuitive eating. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. Some days that means three meals and some days it means three meals and a couple snacks. Just depends.

  34. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I have found that frequent “mini meals” really work for me. On mornings when I have a long teaching schedule and there is really no time to eat, I find it challenging to listen to my “full signals” when I finally eat…

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