I get this question a lot, and I can understand why as there are so many different opinions out there about when, how often and how much we should be eating. When clients ask me this question, I can tell they are expecting me to answer with a certain calorie or kilojoule goal that they should try and stick to. But, my answer is never that simple, and trust me this is a good thing. The best part about my job is getting my clients to believe that they are actually the experts, and know far more about how much they should be eating than I do.
My job is not to tell my clients what or how much they should be eating, but to help them learn to listen to their bodies again because for lots of different reasons, many of us have forgotten how to listen to and trust what our bodies are asking for.
The cool thing about what and how much we need to eat is that it changes from day to day. Hunger is the body’s way of asking for food and drink. Studies have shown that there is no clear benefit for weight loss or weight maintenance for those who follow a ‘6 small meals’ or ‘3 main meals only’ pattern. If you get hungry in between meals, then your body does need a snack, if not, then there is no need to add snacks because you feel you are ‘supposed to’. Some days I eat 6-8 times a day and others 3-4 times a day, it just depends on what my appetite is telling me. Please note that it has taken a lot of trial and error to figure out what and how much will satisfy me and this is something I will be learning and refining for the rest of my life (as it is always changing). There are however certain medical conditions and sporting situations where a more structured food plan may need to be discussed.
It is really normal to have days where you feel hungrier than others and therefore, eat more than others and vice versa. Many of my clients will tell me that they don’t know what their bodies are asking for and if they don’t have any rules to follow, they will just eat everything and anything. Learning to listen to and trust your body again doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes time and plenty of practice. But, the first step is to bring more awareness to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, without judgment.
It can take 15-20 minutes to feel satisfied after eating, so taking small mouthfuls and chewing your food well is a good habit to start practicing (this is one I am always working on). I could go on about this topic for hours, but it is important to remember that eating is not a perfect science and we don’t always get it right (which is absolutely fine). Our own bodies are the real experts and the more we start listening to them, the better we will get at knowing what they are asking for.
If you need more guidance on this, contact me here.
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