That is the age old question….or is it?
When I was a child we didn’t snack…yes I am dating myself here…..we ate at meal times and outside of meals was pretty much not heard of. We didn’t have snack time at school, during after school activities, etc. It would ruin your appetite for meals and it wasn’t something that was called for in the budget. It just wasn’t done. I grew just fine without constantly eating throughout the day. Actually it wasn’t up until about 15 years ago or so that this whole concept of eating 4-6 or more times a day was healthy. Many of us bought into this theory. I mean it made sense, eating 4-6 small meals a day would keep your metabolism up and keep your blood sugar level through the day. Ahhh, it sounds so perfect, doesn’t it? For many people it’s just the opposite, it tanks their metabolism and they gain weight no matter how little calories they eat or how often they workout. As for level blood sugar, well that’s tricky. It’s all about hormones and the most important one being Insulin which our pancreas produces
When we eat our body converts almost everything to sugar(glucose) which raises our blood glucose. A healthy pancreas response is to secrete insulin to bring the blood glucose down to a normal level. Insulin is a powerful hormone that should be respected and not abused. Insulin’s job is to put the converted sugar into our cells to use as fuel and when the cells are full it will store as fat instead. Insulin is in essence a fat storage hormone. So what happens when we eat 4-6 times a day, even small meals, you are causing your pancreas to release insulin and with not a lot of time between eating sessions you don’t burn off the previous energy that was stored, you over work your pancreas, store more fat and eventually become insulin resistant. Your poor pancreas becomes unhealthy.
Is this how it is for every single person? Perhaps not, but I would say it is the rule and not the exception. Even skinny people can be insulin resistant and not know it. Dietary fat does not make you fat, insulin does. When you eat every couple hours throughout the day your insulin is going up and has very little time to come back down before it needs to go back up again. So while it may seem like your blood sugar is level all day, it’s actually high all day as well as your insulin level is high all day. Take a look at these examples:
In the first image you see all the hills? That’s every time you eat and cause an insulin spike, there is no time between the spikes for the levels to go down and that fuel to be used up. In the second image where there are only three meals a day you have time in between the meal to give the insulin a rest and allow the cells to use the glucose stores as well as the sleeping hours to burn, yes you even burn energy when you sleep!
Now I know what you’re thinking..you know how I know? Because I thought the same thing! How in the world can I not snack? How will I not be hungry? My blood sugar will drop! I had all these same thoughts because I had bought into the whole shebang hook line and sinker. I dealt with wicked hypoglycemia where my sugars would drop extremely low and I would have too much insulin in my system. I would shake, feel like I would pass out and I couldn’t shovel food in fast enough. Wicked hunger headaches, you name it I had it. I also had a lot of fat stored on my body. I tried cutting calories, low fat, starving myself, you name it I tried it and I would only gain weight. I worked out at the gym 5 days a week with a trainer and lost some, more inches than weight, but then plateaued and everything came right back on. It wasn’t until I started researching and learning about insulin that everything clicked. Even though it all made sense could someone such as myself with severe hypoglycemia not snack? More importantly could someone like my husband, a type 1 diabetic, not snack and be ok? I decided to use myself as my experiment. I was already eating pretty much whole foods with very little breads, pastas, etc so cutting out processed wasn’t too hard. I was however eating a lot of fruit which is a lot of sugar, even though it is good natural sugar with good fiber it was still too much too often. I started by cutting out snacking and eating only at meal times. I made sure my meals consisted of good proteins, fats and only small carbs from my veggies and ate till I was full, not stuffed but full. No calorie counting at all. To my surprise I haven’t dealt with a single episode of hypoglycemia or hunger headaches! In fact I am able to fast longer than I have ever been able to before! I started losing inches and pounds without effort. I was giving my body a change to burn the energy and fat that was stored. I now know my hypoglycemia was in response to my eating all the time and my body in a bad loop and never giving my pancreas a break. I am pretty positive I have some insulin resistance going on as well. Even eating glycemic control foods and foods low on the glycemic index 4-6 times a day will still keep your insulin up all day long and store fat. My husband is finding the same thing and he is losing weight and inches and we both have more energy. Eating all day long actually made us more tired because our bodies were always having to digest things and combat constantly high blood sugars. We went from the sad little wind up person to Tigger!
Does this mean never eating snack foods ever again? Absolutely not! Now most snack foods are horrible for you, full of trans fat, and other chemicals that cause inflammation. However there are loads of yummy low carb snacks that are easy to make. What we like to do occasionally is make a meal out of our snacks! We have an eating window of about an hour for each meal from start to finish and we just eat what we want in that window. If we want our snack foods we just incorporate it into our meals and call it winning. We are learning to listen to our bodies for hunger cues instead of eating by the clock or because we’re supposed to eat at this time. Breaking food associations for things like snacking while watching a movie, etc is also important.
But how do you break that association? Have a cup of tea or something while watching. It won’t feel quite the same but your hand won’t be empty. Watch the movie for the enjoyment of the film and not the snacks.
If you’re hungry between meals then you are not getting enough fat and protein in your meals or having too many carbs which will really spike your insulin and cause it to crash causing hunger.
I think we have answered this question and the best answer is NOT TO SNACK. Your pancreas will thank you for it and you will thank yourself as your fat starts going away and you have more energy. If eating 4-6 small meals a day is working for you I certainly am not going to tell you to stop, however if insulin resistance should enter your picture in the future I hope you refer back to this post. As for me and my family we are choosing not to snack, even the kids for the most part, and we are all better off for it. The kids are learning the difference between real hunger and eating because they are bored. If they are really hungry they will go through the trouble of making eggs or something and cleaning up the mess. They are growing and sometimes they are truly hungry between meals even with eating really well at meal times. If that’s the case I would not deny growing children. They are not hungry enough to go through the trouble of making something often so when they are I know they are hungry for real. We still have a ways to go but we are on the right track and have the right tools! This new way of life along with our NeoLife gives us the perfect combo.