Ladies Who Lunch – The Key To Long Term Weight Maintenance

Ladies Who LunchWhen I was growing up, my grandmother used to brunch and lunch with the ladies. It was a big social event for her and on brunch days, she’d hold off on breakfast so she could eat with her friends and chit chat. Three larger meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner while socializing and enjoying the meal and conversation.

It wasn’t anything strange. It didn’t have a focus or a complicated plan in place. Nowadays you have to have a fancy way to describe what used to be the norm, so the buzz is all about intermittent fasting. LOL, can you imagine my grandmother in her white gloves announcing that she was compressing her feeding window and practicing intermittent fasting?

Yeah, that would have stopped conversation in its tracks. 😉 So let’s talk about how to eat to set yourself up for long term success without a huge amount of thought and effort. You can call it IF if you like or you can just call it eating.

Regardless of how you describe it, studies show that eating fewer but larger meals like a traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner is one of THE keys to both weight loss and long term weight maintenance. I know this may go against what you’ve heard about eating every couple hours to stoke your metabolism and prevent starvation mode.

When it comes to your scale weight, calories trump everything. Read that as many times as you need to in order to convince yourself. If you eat more calories than your body needs, you will gain. If you eat fewer, you will lose. This is regardless of when or in the number of meals you consume those calories. So if it doesn’t matter about the number of meals, why do you care if you eat 3 meals or 6?

A 2015 Journal of Nutrition study looking at more than 18,000 adults found that those who ate meals and snacks more frequently were also more likely to be overweight or obese (Murakami & Livingstone 2015). A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who didn’t snack between breakfast and lunch lost about 4.5% more weight over a year than morning snackers (Kong et al. 2011).

No one wants to weigh food, track calories, and measure their eating forever so the key is finding a way to control calories indirectly. That way you naturally eat when hungry, stop when satisfied, and set yourself up for a moderate calorie intake without obsessing.

It Helps With Clear Hunger and Fullness Signals

When you eat small meals and/or snack between meals you tend to not have clear hunger signals. You’re frequently in a state of not quite hungry but not quite full. How many times have you reached for a snack and grazed from boredom or just because something was put in front of you? If you’re full from a meal, you’re much less likely to want or mentally need to snack.

You also better notice the feelings of being satisfied and eating too much at a meal. In fact, that eating too much feeling actually becomes uncomfortable and something you work to avoid with rare exception. You’ll begin to turn down snacks because you don’t want to feel ugh and need to unbutton your jeans. These things translate to fewer unneeded calories.

It’s Easier To Manage Calories

Eating more frequently also increases the likelihood of losing track of total food intake and taking in excess calories. In addition to blunting hunger signs, it’s just more meals and food to track or opportunities to accidentally forget to track. Even when hunger is present, frequent nibbling is not guaranteed to stop it if the meal is small as is needed with frequent meals to keep calories down.

True physical hunger is a sign that your body needs calories, and the opposite is true. Absence of hunger is a sign that you don’t need to eat and there’s a good chance you’ll store the calories as body fat. You want to have clear signs of hunger so that you know when you need to eat without having to check a food log.

Larger Meals Can Keep Your Appetite Under Control

In a 2016 study by the University of Washington scientists, people reported having a greater appetite when they ate on eight separate occasions per day over a 3-week period than they did when consuming the same number of calories in just three eating occasions per day (Perrigue et al. 2016). If you need to eat every few hours, then that takes a lot of planning, prepping and… thinking about food.

I think this speaks for itself. Out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth. Greater appetite requires more willpower and effort to not eat. Eating less often requires less thought and effort. If eating fewer meals can lessen your appetite, that seems to be a no brainer choice.

It Helps Regulate Your Hunger Hormones

I promise I’ll keep the science talk to a minimum since I like to speak in real terms, but some science-y stuff is needed here. Everyone’s body produces a hunger hormone called ghrelin. The higher your ghrelin, the hungrier you get to convince you to eat. It peaks before meals and then falls afterwards. The amount and length of suppression depends on how much you eat – think Thanksgiving meal vs a couple bites. The first will suppress ghrelin more and for a longer period of time.

There have been several studies done by the Journal of Nutrition around meal frequency and impact on ghrelin. In 2012, they divided subjects into two groups and gave them identical foods. One group ate in 3 meals and the other in 6-14 smaller meals. Blood samples taken showed significantly lower ghrelin levels over the course of 24 hours in the 3 meal group than the others.

The 3 meal group also reported less hunger and more fullness when asked for ratings, which would correlate with blood test results. The conclusions were that the smaller meals were not enough to fully suppress the hunger levels even when eating amounts were the same between groups. So interestingly you can eat the same total amount during the day, but the larger and fewer meals the more satisfied and less hungry you tend to be.

The Bottom Line

Taking the scientific factor out of it, personal feelings of satisfaction, fewer food thoughts, and less hunger go a long way to improving your experience. Perception is reality. The more you can do to keep hunger down and fullness up, the higher your level of satisfaction will be and the easier it is to set yourself up for weight success.

Common dieting advice encourages us to eat more often during the day instead of getting all of our calories only at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s thought that frequent eating prevents people from getting too hungry, which can spiral into overeating when mealtime rolls around. We’ve become a society of snackers with food all around and very easily accessible. No wonder it’s hard to control our weight.

Eating more frequently could be hurting, not helping with, weight loss and it definitely makes maintaining your weight long term without tracking very difficult to do.  So the past generations were on to something when they ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also managed to stay active and control their weight without tools like online trackers, activity monitors, and all the technology we have today.

Call it IF, compress your feeding windows, or whatever you’d like. Three to four meals a day is one of the best ways to approach a healthy mindset towards eating and to maintain your weight in the long run. White gloves and lunching with the ladies optional. If you learned something, share this article with one of the share buttons below.

If you’re interested in working with me to get meals together fast while working towards your health goals and feeding a family, I’d love to chat. You don’t have to and shouldn’t eat differently while dieting than the rest of your family. Drop me an email, or come on over to Facebook and ask a question.

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