I’ve always been a snacker – this is no secret. However, something recently has changed the way I can eat.
This something is the “invisible” orthodontics known as Invisalign. I have invisible in quotations, because they’re not quite invisible… check out this photo here.
Invisalign is basically a set of clear retainers that I replace every other week. They have been 3-D printed to allow for slight adjustments each time. My entire treatment will last about a year, with the potential for refinements.
I would say treatment is going fine, however there are some challenges.
The biggest challenge is that I can’t eat or drink (anything besides water) with my Invisalign in. I also have to leave them in for 22 hours a day. This leaves a measly TWO HOURS to eat or drink anything that isn’t water (and I have at least one coffee and one tea daily). I’m also supposed to brush and floss before I put them back in.
There was no way I can still eat 6 times a day, along with drinking a coffee and tea, with my ‘invisible’ braces in. This has forced me to change my eating pattern from 6 frequent meals, to a few substantial meals a day. Although I thought this would be hard, I’m actually enjoying it more than I thought I would. I feel like my cravings are controlled better. I’ve also actually lost a few pounds (although this wasn’t something I was working towards).
This made me question if the whole ‘Eat Small Frequent Meals’ is really the best way of eating.
Your Metabolism – The Burning Furnace
Years ago, and certainly when I was in University, we all believed that you needed to eat multiple times a day to keep your metabolism revved up. You had to keep feeding the fire and keep the furnace burning. I have shared this many times before and followed it myself.
However, this theory goes back and forth, and newer research is showing that it really doesn’t slow metabolism if you’re not eating multiple times a day.
Despite the notion that eating more often means more opportunities to burn calories, thanks to the energy involved in digesting, absorbing and metabolizing food’s nutrients, research suggests that doing so does not appear to significantly enhance metabolism or total calories burned.
We’re gaining a clearer picture that meal frequency does not affect metabolic rate and thus has no direct effect on weight loss.
Better for Hunger & Blood Sugar?
Okay, so if we’re finding that frequent meals doesn’t actually impact metabolism like we previously thought. Let’s dive into how frequent meals impact hunger and blood sugar.
Our blood sugar and appetite are tightly related…or so we think.
Many studies suggest that eating more frequently may offer benefits such as of decreasing hunger and food intake at subsequent meals. One study involving close to 2,700 women and men found that those who ate at least six times per day ate fewer calories, consumed healthier foods and had a lower body mass index than those who ate fewer than four times over a 24-hour period. Research has also shown that increased meal frequency has positive effects on cholesterol and insulin levels.
But while eating small frequent meals can discourage large swings in blood sugar, decrease hunger and prevent impulsive snacking throughout the day, other studies suggest that eating more often may not be optimal.
For example in this study found that having meals less often actually increased satiety and reduced hunger ratings compared with the higher frequency diet during the day. They also found this eating pattern improved glucose levels.
So again my friends, we are divided.
More Opportunity For Overeating
Are you on a seafood diet? Aka when you see food…you eat it?
Experts say that eating more frequently may be problematic for those who have trouble with portion control or something known as stimulus-bound eating, when the sight of a specific food prompts you to eat it, which can lead to weight gain.
The more times a day you sit down to eat a meal or snack, the more opportunities you have to overeat; this can be a serious problem for some people. If you are someone who has a difficult time eating a small amount at a meal or snack (you have a hard time stopping once you get started), then it’s quite possible that, for you, eating five or six times a day isn’t the best way to go.
Okay so the research is mixed on if eating frequently has a positive effect on metabolism, hunger and blood glucose.
Working with my private practice clients, I can tell you this:
1) A lot of us are mindless/distracted eaters and
2) We suck at portion control
I’m guilty of the mindless eating myself, and am constantly trying to force myself to step away from my work/entertainment/other distractions to focus on my meal. Because I have the tendency to eat distracted, I likely overeat during at least a few of my meals/snacks in a day. I’ve also responded well to adding more to my 3-4 meals a day – more protein and fat to keep me satiated. This has in turn helped me regulate my sugar cravings.
So, if you tend to find yourself 1) not having time for snacks and meals 2) have a tendancy to be a mindless/distracted eat or 3) may not be great at portion control, I encourage you to try eating less frequency and bigger meals. Note, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The small, frequent meals could still work in some situations. For example, let’s say you don’t have a structured time to eat your lunch, you are a busy mom or don’t have a big appetite – grazing can work better for you.
I would love to hear what works best for you!