Four Meals A Day – And Why Not?

When I first started experimenting with intuitive eating, the process was totally confusing and really difficult. And it still can be some days. Eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full can be foreign concepts when you're constantly surrounded by messages from the media and other 'helpful' people about serving sizes, the importance of a good breakfast and don't forget about healthy snacks, especially nuts! For some reason nuts are a big thing in women's magazines. (If you're not familiar with intuitive eating, there's a more thorough discussion of the concepts in my post on Food Is The New Religion.)

For over a year I've been using intuitive eating to get in touch with what my body needs and when and it's finally starting to make more sense to me. One of the things I've discovered is that three meals a day just doesn't work in my life. I tend to be hungry for lunch quite early and then we also tend to eat dinner very late (8 or 9 p.m.) by the time necessary work is done and trips to the gym (or just the sauna) are over and dinner actually gets made. It's just the way it is for us (I've tried to eat dinner on my own first, but there are some other obstacles with that as well).

Now I know what everyone is thinking – what about snacks? Snacking works well for many people. But snacks annoy me, they take me away from whatever it is I am doing (this is revelatory in fact, food used to be much more central to my thoughts throughout the day). Snacks never seem to be enough. I'm always having one, and then another, and then maybe another? The hunger and constant searching for – or packing – snacks can be very distracting. Because a big part of that long stretch from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. occurs at work, well, it just doesn't work for me.

So, I recently had the brilliant idea, being so mindful of what was going on, of eating a small meal at about 4 or 5 p.m. It's perfect because if I do go to the gym after work or even walk home from the further train station, I am not ravishingly hungry.

I also don't act like a raving lunatic. Future Hub no longer has to be baffled at why I am so angry that he has stayed an extra 30 seconds at work. I am no longer stuffing my 'imported' Triscuits into my mouth with wild abandon in our kitchen like Cookie Monster after the clock strikes six. (Triscuits are the one thing they don't sell in England that I miss greatly. If you are coming to London, please be kind and bring me a box.)

And I don't need a massive dinner anymore. It's more of a well, supper, true to its old-fashioned name. I really don't think that just because I eat four meals a day that I'll eat anymore than with three. If anything, I won't feel as desperately hungry and overeat.

The thing about intuitive eating is that it has taken me a while to find what works for me. That's the rub when you are trying to be your own expert – there's no quick fix. No one can just tell you what to do, what to eat and when to eat it, despite the shiny promises that diets make.

Now I just have to sort out breakfast.

I used to always eat breakfast at work, but I've been getting up earlier and it's messed up my morning schedule. Who know, my next post on this may be: Five Meals A Day – And Why Not? I'll keep you posted.    


  1. What kind of things do you have for your late afternoon meal? Oatmeal or a small sandwich or something like that?


  2. Usually a small sandwich and also maybe a yogurt or some fruit. Sometimes if I buy my lunch and it turns out to be a big portion, then I eat half at lunchtime and half later.

    Nice profile picture, by the way! I need to sort mine out.

  3. I said to Tom just two days ago that I think it would be a good idea if I had something light to eat before I head off home, because coming home absolutely starving and having to face the onslaught of three children is not a good combination. This hit me badly after coming back to work after my holiday. Good idea to buy a good-sized portion and keep half for later.

  4. Low blood sugar is not a good way to approach any situation. I find that when I can avoid getting crazily hungry things go much more smoothly! Let me know how your experiment with a mid-afternoon mini meal goes as well.


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