If you listened to the standard advice, you’d think that eating 5 meals a day was almost required if you wanted to lose weight. However, are 5 meals necessary to achieve results? Can you get by with eating 3 square meals a day? Just one? Or how about 6 or 7?
How to Determine the Right Meal Frequency
When it all comes down to it, the best meal frequency for weight loss is the one that best fits into your lifestyle, and the one that you’re going to stick with for the long term. You can lose weight eating just one meal a day, and you can lose weight eating 7 meals a day.
There are pros and cons to intermittent fasting, and there are pros and cons to eating every 2 hours. When all is said and done though, if you can’t stick with what you pick, none of the little details are going to matter. You have to stay on track and be consistent with making good choices.
Success Comes From Consistency
I have tried nearly every single eating plan. Back in my bodybuilding days I’d eat 6-7 meals a day, even waking up in the middle of the night to have a meal. Over time, I realized this made me OCD, and overly-obsessed about food. When you have to eat every 2 hours, eating is about the only thing that’s on your mind!
I’ve also tried intermittent fasting, where I’d only eat 2-3 large meals a day during a small eating window. That worked too! However, I had a hard time going out to eat, as restaurants rarely offered a healthy meal that was upwards of 800 calories or more. So, that didn’t last long either, although I did like how I wasn’t thinking about food all day long.
Now, I’ve settled into eating 4 meals a day. This isn’t on purpose, I’m just going by how I feel. It fits with my lifestyle, and I’m able to stay consistent with it. It doesn’t feel like I’m force feeding myself, and I don’t go so long between meals that I’m hungry and thinking about my next meal for hours.
If I’m still hungry that day, I’ll squeeze in a snack in the afternoon or at night. It’s no big deal because I eat whole foods 90% of the time. I’m consistent with my eating habits the majority of the time, so the one-off indulgence isn’t going to negatively impact me.
Meal Frequency Does Not Matter
You will see people from all different nutrition philosophies saying how they eat is the best. I’m sure it is the best – for them and the people that have had success with their ideas. Yet there are still millions more people who have had success eating at different meal frequencies.
The common denominator is that the successful weight losers and healthy lifestyle maintainers all found what worked best for them. They found the meal frequency that fit into their lifestyle.
The people that couldn’t eat at work found that eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a nighttime snack was perfect. The stay-at-home workers liked the 5 meals a day routine. And the people who didn’t like thinking about food all the time found that 2-3 meals a day was best. So long as you’re hitting your calorie goals, meal frequency makes very little difference in your results.
These people all gravitated towards the ideals that they shaped all by themselves. They experimented and found their own individual solutions. You need to do the same.
Know that once you have your diet consisting of 90% whole foods, the rest is just arbitrary details. Nail down the quality of your diet first, and you will start to see an eating pattern evolve that you can live with for the long term.
No more forcing meals when you’re not hungry. No more tedious food prep so that you can eat at inconvenient times and places. No more thinking about your next meal before you’ve even finished the one you’re eating. Just eating to live, fuel, and enjoy life, and that’s what living a healthy lifestyle is all about.