Set Up for Success: Be a Structured Eater

Before you jump into deciding what to eat, you want to think about when to eat. I don’t mean going by the clock; I mean creating structure in your eating day, making sure you have at least three “eating intervals” each day. Eating intervals? You mean meals? No, I mean eating intervals. Creating structured eating requires thinking about the intervals between when you eat; it’s “anti – clock” eating. You don’t want to go too long without eating (more than four hours) or not wait at all between eating episodes (within an hour of the last one).

You need to preplan some intervals that are just right for you. That’s where the lifestyle logging comes in handy yet again. We all have selective memory when it comes to structuring our meals.

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Choose How Often to Eat there are no metabolic absolutes about how often to eat. You do want to refuel at least every four hours or so, but you can eat more often, as long as you’re dividing up your daily calorie intake into what I call “eating episodes.” There’s a big gray area here, and a lot of choice, depending on your own daily habits. With my eating episodes, you can eat anywhere from three times to nine times a day. Here’s how it works.

From the biology point of view, you need to eat a minimum of three times a day — roughly every four to six hours. Eating three times a day is sufficient to let your body know, metabolically, that the food supply is intact. Remember, we are hardwired from caveman and cavewoman days, when food was not always around. It is important to prevent your body from thinking you ’ re in starvation mode, because that causes it to turn down your metabolism, to protect what your body perceives as preparation for a long period without food.

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Then, when you do eat, you ’ re over – hungry, since that same metabolic response gives your appetite a super – stimulus, to make sure you eat enough for survival. How often have you skipped a meal (or two), thinking you’ll save some calories for later, and when you next eat you feel absolutely ravenous? That’s your body’s natural mechanism to help you get the nutrients you need to stay alive.

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