I’ve always had a problem with the idea of eating six small meals per day to lose weight. It seems as if it would be an inconvenience to eat that often.
It’s difficult enough to eat three meals per day, especially if you’re preparing them with fresh ingredients and with as few processed foods as possible. Can you imagine doing that much work six times a day?
I also don’t agree with the hormonal effect this style of eating has on a body. While eating several small meals does slightly reduce insulin spikes, it instead provides an almost constant flow of insulin with lower peaks. You end up having your total insulin increased throughout the day rather than having a couple of high peaks. From a health and weight loss standpoint, total daily insulin is more important.
If you’ve read Eat Stop Eat or listened to the Eat Stop Eat Advanced Audio Files, you’ve learned that one of the most important parts of your metabolism is the opposing effects of growth hormone and insulin when it comes to burning fat.
When we are fasting, the growth hormone is secreted, and it directs nutrients toward our muscles. When we eat, we secrete insulin, and nutrients are directed toward fat.
Insulin plus excess calories equals fat storage. That is a simple rule of metabolism.
If you’re trying to lose weight, keeping your insulin level elevated over the course of the day doesn’t seem like a good idea. If you eat six meals a day, you have to constantly monitor the calories you eat, because even the smallest mistake at any of your six meals will cause you to store fat.
Look at it this way: Overeating by as few as 85 calories at each of your six meals would lead to an extra 500 calories each day. That’s enough reason not to bother with six meals per day, but the main reason why I don’t like the approach is because it’s not fair to women.
Six meals per day is sexist.
The six small meals per day diet began with bodybuilders. And most people who read about bodybuilding are men. So when magazine writers are writing new stories for their nutrition readers, they’re doing it for men who follow bodybuilding and whose muscle mass and bodies are larger than average.
That’s when we started hearing about eating six meals per day. When it was originally promoted as a way to lose weight, it was done in bodybuilding magazines – directed toward bodybuilders. The idea made sense to them.
When a 260-pound bodybuilder is trying to lose weight, he might start by lowering his calorie intake to around 2,400 – which is much more than an average person would ever need in a day. At six meals per day, this man would be eating about 400 calories at each meal. Based on this math, this man could actually lose weight by eating a six-inch steak and cheese sub for every meal! That sounds like a great diet!
But a 5’4” woman who weighs 130 pounds isn’t so lucky. If this woman wants to lose weight, her calorie intake is going to have to be much lower than the bodybuilder’s 2,400 calories per day. If her goal was to eat 1,300 calories, at six meals per day, she would only be able to consume 220 calories at each meal. That’s the equivalent of a medium sized banana and a half cup of yogurt.
But if her banana is a little larger than medium sized, she will go over her meal allowance, and she would need to eat even less at her next meal. The six small meals per day plan requires you to be impossibly strict with your eating.
Why do this to yourself if there is no proven weight loss advantage to eating multiple small meals per day?
The six small meals per day approach was designed for a very unique group of people – bodybuilders. But for some reason, it is promoted to the rest of us as a feasible weight loss plan.
Also, if the plan is to be done properly, you have to give in to obsessive-compulsive eating. You are forced to worry about how much you consumed at every meal and what the nutrient breakdown was for everything you ate. You also have to begin thinking about your next meal as soon as you finish the previous one. These are not good habits for living with food. It only makes life difficult for most people.
It’s very difficult to eat only 200-300 calories per meal. It’s also difficult to spend six hours per day preparing meals, so most people end up resorting to the use of supplements or protein bars to get all their meals in without going over on their calorie amounts. And that is probably why this style of eating was designed.
If bodybuilding magazines were the first to make this style of eating popular, and if those magazines serve as the main advertising source for sports supplements – wouldn’t it make sense for them to promote the six meals per day eating style in order to sell more supplements, protein powders and nutrition bars?
Again we see how obsessive-compulsive eating benefit’s the food industry – and how the food industry can have an influence on how we eat.
There is nothing wrong with supplements. But don’t let the way you eat be dictated by the supplement industry. If you want to lose weight, you need to reduce your calories with the method that best suits you.
There is a small group of individuals who may do well eating six small meals per day, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.
Find the easiest method of reducing your food intake while still allowing you to enjoy the foods you eat – and use that method.