Getting your head around what to eat can be tricky but for most of us in a routine we generally know exactly what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Once you get yourself into that routine you will probably find it a lot easier to keep track of exactly what you are eating and how much. What a lot of us don’t always know is exactly when we are eating!
Should we be eating at certain times or when we are hungry? A lot of diets and meal plans out there will tell you exactly what time you should be eating each meal. But what if you are busy at the time you should be having lunch? And what happens if you are hungry but you can’t eat for another hour? There are two obvious problems with setting specific times for meals.
Right, so surely it makes sense to eat when you are hungry? Unless you find yourself bored throughout the day and just eating for the sake of it. It is all about getting the balance between the organisation required to keep you on track and feeling completely satisfied at all times.
It might just be that you don’t really think about it that much. In that case you are probably eating when you are hungry. The risk here is that you just end up overeating without even realising it. Even if you think you are eating healthily, having too much of anything is never a good idea.
The alternative is that you plan out exactly what you want to eat that day and then split the day up into convenient times in which to eat it. But this requires a lot of planning. You have to make sure each meal contains enough of every nutrient that you want to get throughout the course of the day and really that is something you should try to be aware of anyway.
So how should you decide between the two methods? Well firstly you need to decide the role that food plays in your life. Is food fuel? Is it a reward? Is it a cure for boredom?
You should enjoy food, of course, but when it comes down to it, food is fuel. You need it to keep your body functioning correctly, just like a car needs fuel. So try to think of your body as an engine. The key to your success is being able to read the signals that your body gives you. Hunger is a scale that ranges from completely full to starving. Ideally you want to be as close to the middle of that scale at all times.
So eating when you are hungry or at set times can both work. As you drift down the scale towards starving that is when you being to feel hungry. If you respond to that by having a snack you will climb back up towards the middle of that scale. But the same can be achieved if you plan meals and space them out well. This will ensure that you never go to close to either end of the scale.
Hunger is a signal and you have to be able to interpret it correctly to maximise your results. If you struggle to respond to hunger without overeating then plan your meals for certain times throughout the day. Any well designed nutritional plan will tell you when to eat as well as what to eat.