I was out with two friends the other day, not in a café, but just walking in the park. Jill was eating almonds (halo shining). “Did you not have breakfast?” asks Sue. “No”, replies Jill (who lives alone) “I don’t really stick to meal times, I sort of nibble all day.” Cue sucking lemons look from Sue. “It’s much better, they say, to eat little and often” continues Jill, “better for one’s digestion and weight-loss”. Predictably, they both look at me.
“Well? Come on o ye fountain of all knowledge. Spit it out”
It depends on the end goal. If we’re talking fat-loss then what matters is that you’re in a calorie deficit (achieved through a balance of food and exercise). Say you need 1500 calories per day to lose fat, it doesn’t matter whether that’s spread over three meals or over seven larger snacks. And no you don’t put on more weight if you eat after 6pm, eat when the hell you like. (The content of that food obviously matters but that’s a topic for another day). The plus side of grazing is it generates smaller amounts of glucose. After a large meal, more glucose. If there’s lots of glucose in the blood stream (after that big roast dinner), and activity levels are low, then the spare glucose has to be stored somewhere. The liver and the fat cells. No judgement, just saying. Personally, I liked structure so two larger meals and a decent snack works for me with a bit of looseness at weekends. Grazing somehow smacks of flying by the seat of one’s pants. We’ve got an indulgent time coming up so let’s wise up. When you’re faced with Marjorie-down-the-road’s Christmas drinks buffet and you go with a ‘I’ll hardly eat anything’ attitude, be aware. Munching your bodyweight in home-made cheese straws because ‘it was one at a time and didn’t really count’ may well be the same energy value as that roast dinner. Enjoy what you eat but know what you’re eating.
TIP: Whether we’re eating little and often or three larger meals, one thing I have to constantly remind myself to do is eat slowly. Chewing each mouthful 20-30 times will help enzymes do their digesting thing and our gut bacteria will thank us. Add to that, plenty of plant-based foods. They’ll mulch down (like feeding our roses) and provide food to keep the bacteria fed and healthy. In an onslaught of cheese straws, let the broccoli shine.
(Originally written for Woman magazine October 2022).