July 9, 2020

Why We Shouldn’t Be Eating At Traditional Mealtimes.


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Have you ever stopped to think about why we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner when we do?

Who came up with it? What is the reasoning behind it? Was it scientifically proven that our mealtimes are best for our health?

You might be surprised to learn that mealtimes were initially created during the Industrial Revolution.

Yup, the Industrial Revolution was when it was decided that workers would be given their breaks at specific times. The mealtimes that we use today actually have nothing to do with how our body works, or when we get hungry. 

Let me explain:

Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced by the stomach when it is empty. Research shows that our ghrelin levels increase three to four hours after eating.

If we’re eating breakfast at 7 a.m., lunch at noon, and dinner at 6 p.m. like in traditional Western culture, we are going much longer than those few hours that it takes for our ghrelin to show up. 

This means it’s normal to get hungry between mealtimes and to want to reach for a snack in order to keep our ghrelin (hunger) and leptin (fullness) levels stable.

And yet there seems to be a bit of a bad rap for snacking between meals.  

How many times have we been told to not grab a snack so we don’t “ruin our appetite” or “spoil our supper?”

Trendy diets and statements like these make it seem like eating when hungry is bad—something to be suppressed and delayed instead of honored.

But here is the thing: it’s not the clock that knows our body, it’s our body that knows our body, and everyone’s body is different.

We can trust our own hunger and fullness levels despite what society might be selling us.

However, if we’ve spent years ignoring our body’s cues (forcing ourselves to adhere to eating times, calorie or macro counting, fasting windows, meal plans, or anything else), know that it is perfectly normal to feel out of touch with our hunger and fullness levels. 

It will take some time to regain that, and that’s okay; it’s all about learning how to trust our body again with intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is how our bodies are meant to eat and what we were born knowing how to do but might have forgotten along the way.  

Instead of forcing ourselves to adhere to eating when we’re told, we need to start to tap into when we’re actually feeling hungry.

Action Step:

Get curious. What does hunger feel like in your body?

A stomach rumble? Feeling hangry? Constant food thoughts? Fatigue?

At the first wisps of hunger, that is when we start to eat. Not until we’re about to pass out on the floor because we’re so hungry waiting for the clock to say “mealtime.”

So, what is the takeaway? 

We don’t need to eat at the times the Industrial Revolution workers were told they could eat, nor when society tells us we can.

We can make our own rules, determine our own mealtimes, listen to our bodies, and define what works for us.

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