Eating on a schedule vs when you're hungry

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Replies

  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    edited July 2019
    I do better with a schedule -- not a strict schedule, but I eat after my morning workout and before leaving for work (so like 6:30), roughly at noon, although it depends based on my work schedule, can vary from 11:30 to 2 or so, and then when I get home and cook -- which ends up being around 9. If I were not hungry at all, I suppose I'd not eat (this occasionally happens with breakfast or I eat lunch later), but usually it's not an issue.

    On Fridays and weekends I often eat my first meal later (lunchtime) and dinner earlier, and just adjust cals (I started doing this because I often workout a bit later on weekends, although not so much in the summer, like to have a more leisurely morning, and often go out to dinner before going to the theater or a concert, and that means dinner is both earlier and larger than my usual).

    I tend to find my hunger signals match when I am used to eating, which I find helpful. What does not work for me is snacking or thinking I need to eat because I feel hungry, which is often a response to food being available when I am not eating to a schedule (no snacking). I find it's not something I experience as much when I have a regular pattern and planned meals.

    I control how many cals I eat by how large the meals are.
  • BarbaraHelen2013
    BarbaraHelen2013 Posts: 1,991 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    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.

    Of course. But I do think that there are people who struggle more than others when they begin to be mindful and track their intake. Some of the struggle is down to their conditioned expectation of food at set times along with possibly not really recognising hunger. If you eat even a little too much at one meal then eat 4 hours later just because that’s your habit, you’re more than likely not hungry in any way, but you’re still putting calories into your body because your schedule (not your body) dictates that you should.

    Breaking away from the timetable and allowing yourself to learn what hunger feels like and, as importantly, how much food you actually need to assuage that hunger is possibly a step in the right direction for many, living as we are, in an ‘ever present’ food culture.
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    edited July 2019
    For others, finding other ways to deal with the ever present food culture rather than trying to decide if you are really hungry or not or really hungry enough to eat can be more helpful.

    I don't think humans really had to think about when they wanted to eat during much of historical time human history, as even apart from food scarcity it was common to have communal eating times and to eat at those times.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to eat when hungry and varying the number of meals/cals daily, but for those of us who prefer more planned meals and meal times (I sometimes get the sense that when people are eating when hungry they are grazing or snacking and don't have the same sense I do of what a meal entails, although I'm sure that varies too), there's nothing wrong with a schedule either.

    For me, eating every 4 hours would drive me mad (and mean my meals are smaller than I like), but having a regular schedule makes it more likely I don't eat between lunch at, say, noon and dinner at, say, 9, just because I'm kind of hungry at 5 or having a bad day or stressed at work or just happen to see something tasty. It's easier for me to wait until I can have my planned dinner, as I'm not going to be as satisfied by a little snack and then a smaller dinner in that circumstance.

    I have trained myself to be a good judge of servings even when I feel hungrier than usual, but I also find that my willpower is less if I am extremely hungry. When I first started I tried fasting all day before dinner out to be a possible option and ended up eating the bread on the table, which I normally never do, and justifying more caloric choices than I otherwise would have. I now find it easier to have some meal in advance (which I will be hungry for anyway), and then to control portions more if I go out. (Controlling portions when not out is easier since I tend to eat pretty similar meals on a daily basis -- I mean there's variety, but I have a good sense of what a reasonable amount to eat for me is.)
  • lemurcat2
    lemurcat2 Posts: 7,894 Member
    Hmm, adding to that, when I started having a more structured schedule was helpful for me rather than the opposite. I had a pretty standard breakfast, a few different lunch options (like leftovers), and then a dinner template. If I happened to eat a giant breakfast (as on the weekends occasionally), it wasn't too hard to understand I should have a lighter lunch (or skip it), but because I had a plan in my head it was pretty rare I ended up overeating an an earlier dinner. Occasionally I'd decide to have a larger lunch and lighter dinner intentionally (it's not hard to have just protein and veg at dinner to make up for a big work lunch).

    The ability to vary calories based on what you eat earlier in the day is not something that people who have a standard eating schedule lack. I do think some are more or less attuned to hunger signals, but it's not clear to me that this is something that can be taught. I know if I choose to skip dinner because I go to a cocktail party and eat the equivalent of dinner in the food that is available/handed out there, I will be able to skip dinner, but I also am likely to feel less satisfied and even a little hungry later, even if the cals consumed were more than I'd normally have at dinner. I think this is because what you eat and the timing in which you eat it absolutely can make a difference for hunger for an individual (although people will vary on what works best for them).
  • Crafty_camper123
    Crafty_camper123 Posts: 1,440 Member
    I try to use a "hunger scale" to determine if I am genuinly hungry, just bored, or if it's just habitual hunger. Basically it's a scale of 1-10. 1 being ravenous, starving, willing to eat anything that is put in front of me as soon as possible. 10 being so stuffed I feel ill.
    I try to avoid waiting until I get to a 1 to eat. As this causes me to overeat. And of course on the other side I try to avoid eating to a 10, because I dont like to feel sick after I eat. I try to listen to my body and eat at around a 3 or so. When I'm good and hungry but not starving. This sometimes means skipping my scheduled lunch because I'm not hungry enough yet. I'll grab a snack from home while at lunch and eat it at my desk when I finally get hungy enough.
    I also try stopping at around a 7 or so. Full and satisfied, but not stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey.

    I'm not sure if this is relevant or not, but I'll throw it out there anyway. I tried out intermittant fasting on for size a while back. Due to my lunch schedule, and when I usually quit eating for the night, this put me at an 18/6 sort of eating pattern. I learned a few things. I am not going to die if I stay hungry, I can actually be hungry for a suprisingly long time. . (I used to be the type to eat a snack "just in case" so I wouldn't get hungry later, even though I wasnt hungry now.) 18 hours is a little too long for me however. I still follow this pattern, but my sweet spot is 14-16 hours fasted. My appetite seems to kick off right after breakfast, no matter when I eat it. I'll be hungry a few hours later. So I delay breakfast as long as possible. For me this means if I eat breakfast at 7am I'll be hungy by 10, and have to eat a snack before 12(my lunch hour). If I delay breakfast until around 10, then I wont need to eat until 12, eliminating the need for a morning snack. Seems to keep the appetite under control.

    So to come back around to my point, and OP's question: I guess I do both. I eat on a schedule and use hunger cues. It's not always exactly the same. But I tend to eat around the same times of day. I use how hungry I am to guage how much to eat I guess. I tend to eat around 10, 12:30, 3(as needed snack) and 7ish. But it fluctuates by an hour or two depending on how hungry I am. Like yesterday I skipped breakfast entirely as I just wasn't hungry until lunch time.
  • LyndaBSS
    LyndaBSS Posts: 6,971 Member
    edited July 2019
    @Crafty_camper123

    Thanks for sharing your hunger scale info. It really helped me make more sense of my own.

    I'm grateful to all of you for sharing your thoughts.
  • Annie_01
    Annie_01 Posts: 3,097 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    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.

    Of course. But I do think that there are people who struggle more than others when they begin to be mindful and track their intake. Some of the struggle is down to their conditioned expectation of food at set times along with possibly not really recognising hunger. If you eat even a little too much at one meal then eat 4 hours later just because that’s your habit, you’re more than likely not hungry in any way, but you’re still putting calories into your body because your schedule (not your body) dictates that you should.

    Breaking away from the timetable and allowing yourself to learn what hunger feels like and, as importantly, how much food you actually need to assuage that hunger is possibly a step in the right direction for many, living as we are, in an ‘ever present’ food culture.

    I am almost 67y/o and I never ate on a schedule even as a child. I became 100lbs over weight because my body/hunger cues told me that I was hungry most of the time. Now that I have a structure eating schedule after a couple of weeks I began to realize that I wasn't always hungry...I just thought I was. I eat two main meals a day and a light mid-day meal usually consist of yogurt, fruit, roasted veggies just depending on what I am in the mood for...usually around 200 calories. That is enough to hold me over until dinner at around 6:30. It has been one of the best changes that I have made for myself. I stopped snacking in between meals. I am no longer "sitting and waiting" for the next meal. I have also learned to eat what will hold me over and how many calories and types of food will do that.

    For me...having a meal time has taken my food intake from "snack" foods to healthy well balanced meals. Each of us are different...all we have in common is that to lose weight we must eat at a deficit. All the rest of it is individual to as what works for us.
  • Addictead
    Addictead Posts: 66 Member
    I'm aware that I use to eat out of habit and I would often eat just because it's 8pm and I always eat at 8pm regardless of hunger. So now I have a rough schedule but if I'm hungry or not outside of the window I don't worry about it. Some days I eat every 2 hours, others I only eat 1 big meal and a snack or two.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,277 Member
    I pretty much eat on a schedule...I'm usually hungry on schedule.
  • corinasue1143
    corinasue1143 Posts: 7,469 Member
    I have been on pretty close to the same schedule for so long that even 7 years after retirement with no reason for a schedule, my body is on the same schedule. I try to start cooking at the first little hint of hunger to prevent overeating if I ignore it until I am REALLY hangry! If I get hungry between mealtimes, I try to eat a high protein snack, a small one if I’m a little hungry, or a big one if I’m a lot hungry.
  • LyndaBSS
    LyndaBSS Posts: 6,971 Member
    So, your comments have really helped. Prepared my lunch today when I felt the first pang of hunger. By the time the veggies roasted, half hour later, I was definitely hungry. Felt good to nail the timing. 😀
  • BuddhaBunnyFTW
    BuddhaBunnyFTW Posts: 158 Member
    I graze like a buffalo but I don't eat calorie dense foods.
  • LyndaBSS
    LyndaBSS Posts: 6,971 Member
    I tried grazing but was hungry all the time.
  • SoaringOccamy
    SoaringOccamy Posts: 57 Member
    I try to stick to a general schedule (or at least a guideline of a certain amount of time between meals), but if I am not scheduled to eat for a while and my stomach is persistently begging for food, I will sometimes relent and have something that is light on calories and filling. My go-to faves are almond milk iced coffee, high protein snacks like hard-boiled eggs or deli meat, or fruit and a few pistachios.

    Apart from that, I try to stick to my meal times as best I can. Otherwise all I have to go on is my stomach, and my stomach is a spoiled brat that always wants a treat.
  • cbihatt
    cbihatt Posts: 319 Member
    I tend to eat at approximately the same times every day, but that is just because I tend to get hungry at those times. I wouldn’t really call it a schedule.

    Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are a little more flexible than dinner because my family tends to dictate when I cook dinner (based on them complaining about being hungry, LOL).

    As for my hunger cues, it depends on the situation. I am less likely to eat at night, despite feeling hungry. In the morning, I can sometimes skip breakfast and eat an early lunch instead. If I am about to exercise, I may put off my meal until after my workout. Otherwise, I eat as soon as I feel slightly hungry, but I rarely eat enough at one time to reach a feeling of “fullness.” The exception to that is when at a restaurant, because I always eat more than I would at home. Something I should work on, I suppose.
  • MelanieCN77
    MelanieCN77 Posts: 4,053 Member
    I eat on a schedule because I'm always hungry :D:'(