3 square meals vs eating every 3 hours

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samoshka's picture
3 square meals vs eating every 3 hours

I would like some advice on SE.
Currently I'm trying to eat 3 square meals a day (it works great once I get into routine of it), but everywhere, everywhere I see that we should eat every 3 hours. The problem for me is that with 3 meals I get satisfied, and slightly hungry for the next meal, and I also can cook for myself, and I can plan it much easier than 6 meals/snacks.
When I do 'every 3 hours', it's frustrating to eat when not even nearly hungry, and it's also frustrating to stop in the middle of what I consider a normal meal (which is for me the portion that you get in the restaurant plus a cup of coffee/small desert).

The only benefit of eating every three hours I see is maintaining blood sugar - but if I don't get overhungry with 3 meals and no snacks, isn't it the same?
I'm so confused that I'm doing it differently (am I doing it right? will my digestive system recover like this? am I setting myself for overeating?). Would you recommend me to switch? What other arguments, apart from blood sugar levels, do you see for 'every 3 hours'?

ju90's picture
I share your feelings about

I share your feelings about the 6 meals.I talked about it with my doctor last week,She said 3 times was good as long as I made the meals a bit bigger than when I would eat 6 times.If your system is fine with somewhat bigger meals ,why not ?
I think by eating frequently apart from the blood sugar levels,you feel that food is just food and its always available ,and there is no need to believe you have to savour your hunger (as could be the case with 3 meals ),so the food is like a treat at the end ,if you know what I mean.
I think by eating 6 meals you become more flexible around food too.If you would have to skip one meal by any reason its not such a big deal as you are soon to have your next one,versus if you had to skip a head meal you would feel bad and it would be more difficult to keep stable. The temptation to overeat is also less strong with the 3 hour frequency because you know there is soon another snack or meal .
I believe in the end, as they tell us in the book ;its about our subconscious .The body has to learn that food is always at hand,the famine is over ,and by eating 6 times it learns this the best.

Maybe if you could have a snack when you REALLY feel you need one or want one ,and then just go on as usually?
Finding your way in this is not easy,but try to trust yourself and feel what is truly best for you .

alysonsrecovery's picture
I am eating four times a day

I am eating four times a day (three meals and one snack) - not six times - and it's enough. When I was doing coaching, she said it was ok as long as I was satisfied and not hungry. I do agree with the other comment that if the time gets too spread out and you get hungry, as long as you have snacks on hand and will eat one if you need it, then you are successfully avoiding getting too hungry and inducing a binge. With that said, I do think this program works and that the less we try to change it, the better off we are. So I am completely open to the possibility that having 2 snacks may be better for me than 1. However, I am sleeping later lately, so I eat breakfast at 10:30am now (before it was at 6am)... so my meals and snack are only four hours apart now. As soon as I think of food because I get hungry, it's meal time again and I eat. I am much more satisfied with bigger meals, less often, and I like the mental break from thinking about food so often. Are your meals around 4 hours apart or longer? Alyson


beachykeen's picture
I know this program says

I know this program says every 3 hrs, but I think that's more to squash binge urges. The body won't crave large amounts of food if it knows it's being feed frequently. Most of the stuff I've come across regarding nutrition (not necessarily eating disorders) says not to go more than 4hrs without eating. It's about keeping your blood sugar levels from crashing. Personally I eat 4 medium meals (more than a snack but not a large meal) a day due to my work schedule and the amount I can eat in one sitting. In the beginning I ate more often, mainly more snacks because I was hungry more often. I have noticed that as my eating has become less erratic I'm not quite as hungry throughout the day.
It sounds like you are in the beginning of intuitive eating :) You're eating a comfortable amount that satisfies you until the next meal. If it works, keep at it.

samoshka's picture
ju90 - thanks, there are so

ju90 - thanks, there are so many points in your comment! Indeed, I savour hunger, indeed, food is more than just food for me - it's an event to appreciate (but I really need to think if I would like to change that or not...)
I eat about 5 hours apart, (7:30-8:15, then 1-2 pm and then 6-6:45) and it seems to be really cool, when I manage to keep it. For the last week I am mostly grazing the whole day...

Angel333's picture
Basically its about finding

Basically its about finding whats right for you. There is no CORRECT way. We are each an individual and what works well for one wont necessarily work well for the other. If your happy and it works well for you eating only 3 square meals a day then that's what to do. Don't force yourself to do 'what he rules state' because its an individual thing.

'We are each of us angels with only one wing, so we can only fly by embracing each other'

ElsieSoproni's picture
Since I first responded on

Since I first responded on this thread I've started moving in the direction of larger, fewer meals and I can say that I am more likely to overeat since I am hungrier, but they both work if they don't trigger a binge.

Odimelodi's picture
I've never coped with 6

I've never coped with 6 meals, it doesn't suit me at all and for me, eating 4 is enough. I need to feel hungry before I eat and it has always worked for me. I guess it's about what suits you best and about you designing what your recovery looks like. No person is the same. You decide on what recovery looks like for YOU. <3


sisiromy's picture
Hello, I live in France and

I live in France and we have different eating patterns than in anglo-saxon countries. Here we have three square meals and usually one snack at around 4 or 4.30pm for kids & teens. Eating three meals and three snacks would kind of seem strange in France, even though a lot of snacking occurs and no, we're not all slim (i'm medically obese). The point is that if you feel compfy eating 3 meals (and maybe one afternoon snack), if you have a regular eating pattern and you never skip a meal then i think it should be ok. This past year I have mainly eaten 3 meals a day, rarely snacking and grazing, and my binge eating has really really decreased, and for the first time this past decade, my weight is stable - fat but stable!!!(I have some other issues to deal with). Here, CBT therapy books recommend 3 meals and one snack, but we tend to have rather big meals.
I think you should focus on regularity and no skipping meals and make the snacks an option, not compulsory. However, i would think it would be unwise to go under 3 meals, 3 is a minimum.

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