Eating on a schedule vs when you're hungry

LyndaBSS Posts: 6,964 Member
Hi guys. So, I am retired and don't venture out of the house much due to anxiety.

That means, I can eat whenever I want to. Thanks to logging in the food diary, I end up with 3 meals and maybe 1 snack per day. No problem with water intake.

My situation is this. I'm not sure how hungry I should feel before I have a meal. I used to eat on a schedule when I worked. Now, that I'm not, I sometimes look at the clock and even though I had breakfast two hours before, my brain is sometimes saying "it's lunchtime".

I ask myself if I'm hungry and then have to address the different levels of hunger. How do you judge when your body actually needs food?

Any and all opinions welcome. Thanks!


  • lg013
    lg013 Posts: 215 Member
    edited July 2019
    I work as a teacher—so I have summers free to do the same. I honestly stick to a schedule regardless...

    I think that also might be due to the fact that my lunch at school is 10:37am-11:00am, and I don’t free up for a snack or meal until 3-4 pm during the year—so I have to make that 20 min lunch count!
  • PAV8888
    PAV8888 Posts: 13,585 Member
    It's one of those individual things, isn't it!

    I used to eat at set times. Plus extras.

    I also used to eat whenever there was time available. Plus extras.

    Now I try to eat when I'm only a little bit hungry or if I know I will get hungry while I'm out over the next couple of hours. But I definitely try to avoid extras!!!
  • gottswald
    gottswald Posts: 122 Member
    edited July 2019
    I am home or food-available most of the time. I've split my eating into meals and 'snacks' (light meals? 50% meal essentially), 3 each. I try to divide my calorie goal up between them by type and set any targets/goals I want for each individual feeding. For instance, I shoot for 20+ protein on snacks and 30+ on meals to keep protein intake on a 3-hour clock.

    After that I figure as long as my calorie goal is correct, any 'hungry' signals are probably boredom, stress or exhaustion and try to manage those instead of eating. I don't trust my brain to be right on that stuff, but regimented out like how I have it I know I can trust the schedule and so I don't have to worry about validity of 'feeling'.

    I will say though if I miss a meal, I really feel it.
  • Gisel2015
    Gisel2015 Posts: 4,136 Member
    I am also retired and so is my husband. I/we do have a schedule for eating, and so far, my stomach has followed it without major problems. It also keeps the kitchen clean and in order instead of having to cook or prepare meals at different times of the day.

    If I am not very hungry I will eat a smaller meal, but I still eat breakfast (husband makes it every morning), lunch and dinner. I have two small snacks after lunch and before going to the gym, and a protein drink when I return. I don't usually snack mid morning, and when I do it may be some nuts and a low sodium V8.

    If I get hungry before dinner, I will add a healthy snack. I have been in maintenance for over 9 years so keeping track of my intake without much logging is not a problem. But I agree that is a matter of preference.
  • missysippy930
    missysippy930 Posts: 2,577 Member
    I’ve been retired for a year and a half. Long hours on the job and long commute, so having all this time is a fairly new thing. I eat at pretty regular times. Breakfast at about 7. Mid morning snack about 10. Lunch at 12. Supper at 5. Evening snack at 8. For me, I think the timing keeps me from any real hunger, so it works well.
  • BarbaraHelen2013
    BarbaraHelen2013 Posts: 1,940 Member
    I eat when and only when I’m really hungry.

    For me, as a short woman, eating to the clock is partially responsible for weight gain. I need a lot less food than others in my family so it works best for me to remove myself from the schedule they adhere to, due to habit and work commitments and choose both what I eat and when. I’m also vegetarian so it’s convenient as I’d not be eating identical dishes anyway. I’d find it really hard to plate a much smaller portion for myself when I’m dishing up if we were all to eat the same meal, but easy to cook appropriate amounts for me alone.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    Honestly it's better for my own sanity and satiety if I eat when I'm hungry than stay to an artificially created schedule. It hasn't hindered my ability to lose weight because I try to stick within my calorie allotment for the day.
  • LyndaBSS
    LyndaBSS Posts: 6,964 Member
    You guys are helping me tremendously.

    So, what about hunger levels? Do you wait until your stomach growls or do you eat when you feel the first little pang?
  • BarbaraHelen2013
    BarbaraHelen2013 Posts: 1,940 Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    You guys are helping me tremendously.

    So, what about hunger levels? Do you wait until your stomach growls or do you eat when you feel the first little pang?

    This is so subjective and I’m a little afraid to type what my truth is! When I’m aggressively trying to drop pounds rather than the part maintenance/part it’d be nice to lose a few mindset, I actually wait until I start to feel a little unwell. Lightheaded, faintly nauseous.

    One indicator I use is this; if I wake in the morning without hunger pains and without that hollow stomach feeling, I know I ate too much the previous day.
  • Cahgetsfit
    Cahgetsfit Posts: 1,912 Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    You guys are helping me tremendously.

    So, what about hunger levels? Do you wait until your stomach growls or do you eat when you feel the first little pang?

    I find that if I wait until my stomach growls I will definitely overeat because I will be so starving that whatever I eat won't satisfy. Like it takes longer for the satiety cues to kick in.

    So I prefer to eat when I get the first little pangs. That way I can control intake better.

    I do prefer to eat to a schedule and I find that I get hungry just in time for my meals anyway. On the weekends my schedule is different and I will have breakfast later and usually only 3 meals instead of 4, but yeah, it overall works ok.
  • MadDogManor
    MadDogManor Posts: 1,425 Member
    I’m trying to remind myself that, for me, it’s ok to be hungry. I constantly think about food all day, which is nothing new (binge eater here). I’ve done the eat-every-two-hours thing but I was never satisfied and still binged. Lately, I’m always assessing my hunger levels, and am now trying to only eat my pre-portioned foods when my stomach growls and feels empty. It’s soo hard for me to distinguish between “head hunger” and true body hunger.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    You guys are helping me tremendously.

    So, what about hunger levels? Do you wait until your stomach growls or do you eat when you feel the first little pang?
    Thinking about it, I will basically wait an hour if it's lunch or dinner and I'm at home or have an appointment that would get in the way of me being able to sit down and eat. If I already have dinner plans (going to a restaurant or to a friend's house) I'll potentially eat something low calorie like an apple. Today I think I waited 45 min to an hour because eating dinner at 4:30 wasn't actually something I wanted to do. For reference, I typically try to go to bed at 9:30 and will generally have a snack/dessert an hour or so after dinner.

    If it's a snack in the middle of the day I typically won't wait more than half an hour (again, unless I have an appointment or meeting that is getting in the way) but I will take the time to figure out what can and can't fit calorie wise and might change what I was planning on eating for dinner to take into account the snack that I end up eating.

    I won't wait at all for breakfast. I exercise fasted 5 days a week and I need to eat afterword. The fasted bit is due to needing to be there early in the morning, not because I think it's somehow better.
  • sardelsa
    sardelsa Posts: 9,812 Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    You guys are helping me tremendously.

    So, what about hunger levels? Do you wait until your stomach growls or do you eat when you feel the first little pang?

    It really depends on what I'm eating that day and my calorie intake. I will try to stick to my schedule to make sure I am getting enough protein and calories. I can usually ignore my hunger so I have to be careful. However I usually have very large dinners so sometimes I ignore it and save calories for that.
  • spiriteagle99
    spiriteagle99 Posts: 3,676 Member
    I am also retired and we eat more or less on a schedule. I do this partly because my husband and I have different hunger times (I'm always hungry, he rarely is) and it is easier to just keep to regular hours for meals. I pay attention to my hunger levels mostly to decide whether or not I should eat a snack before bed and whether I should eat lunch before I run or if I can wait until after I'm done.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    It might be a little chicken and egg for some people. Are you hungry because you have consistently eaten on a particular schedule or did you create the schedule because you were hungry?

    Considering that most people had no choice as kids when to eat their meals it could be that hunger is a conditioned response instead of a physical need. If you were raised to eat at 10am and 3pm maybe your body would have adjusted to it and then you would start getting hungry at 9am and 2pm.

    I don't really know. The above is just speculation. I doubt a really active person has a lot of choices though. For energy management they would need a set distribution of calories to meet the demand.

    You’ve said this is just speculation but I think you’ve actually hit the nail resoundingly on the head!

    The ‘conditioned eating’ is something I consciously reprogrammed my brain away from as soon as I left home (slightly overweight parents and I’d struggled through my teens to avoid extra pounds). I worked to instil an ‘eat when you’re hungry, not when the clock says you should’ mindset into my children as they grew up. None of them have ever struggled with their weight and all are resilient and healthy.

    My husband who is a dyed in the wool clock watcher for mealtimes (and incidentally quite overweight) is another matter! He genuinely thinks that if you don’t eat every 4 hours something dire will happen to you. Makes for some interesting conversations! 🙄

    Ultimately calories not food distribution is what really matters. You can overeat having less meals and undereat having more. Your husband's additional weight is because he lacks the ability to eat intuitively which many people can do during 3 meals or more a day. Whether or not your children have a better sense of intuitive eating because they were not on set schedules with 'clean their plate' parents is unknown to me. They may have been fine either way.