Eating 5 Times A Day

Hello Smile

Run: This morning I reluctantly laced up my shoes for a speed session of sorts. I randomly decided to do 2 800s, 2 1 mile repeats and 2 800s. My 800 and mile times are way too close so I don’t think I’m giving myself enough rest in between?

The main thing is I did it even though it’s not my favorite. Go Me! IMG_9683 (800x600)

Just the Tip Tuesday: I drained a few cups of the beans from yesterday’s soup and froze them to eat in burritos or as a side dish later.IMG_7800 (800x533)

I have another appointment with Jill from Healthful Elements today (she’s the holistic nutrition coach that’s helping me with my thyroid). She asked me to do a candida test this morning where I spit in a clear glass of water. IMG_7796 (533x800)

It’s all a little hippie dippie for me, but I’m keeping an open mind.

Jill has been really great with email support and we had an interesting convo last week about meals versus grazing. She shared this snippet from Dr. John Douillard and I found it very interesting:

Eat THREE – not six – meals, which gives the intestinal tract time in between meals to rest and heal. If you have erratic eating habits, such as "grazing all day,"  the digestive fire is always on and soon the incessant digestive process begins to irritate the intestinal wall.

In the old days a farmer could spend hours in the fields with no problem. Imagine if they had to come into the house every 2-3 hours for a snack!  This kind of blood sugar instability is a modern day imbalance.

Six meals a day is a medicinal diet for treating the symptoms of severe hypoglycemia. It was never intended to be a way of life. Nowhere else in the world have humans eaten constantly until this vain American experiment. We are told that eating six meals a day will help us lose weight by keeping the metabolism high and revved up and that it won’t let the body store fat.

  • We are not meant to have our metabolism revved up all day. It depletes and exhausts the adrenals (which ultimately causes fat storage) and never gives the digestion a rest.
  • While we won’t store fat eating every 2-3 hours, we also will never burn any stored fat. Cancer causing toxins are stored in our fat cells and the fat needs a reason to burn. (More info  below).
  • With blood sugars artificially propped up from constant feeding, the ability to make energy last is replaced with fragile energy, constant hunger, mood instability and extreme cravings if a meal or snack is missed.

Again, I’m keeping an open mind and this is the exact opposite of what I’ve read/learned in the past about how to ‘keep your metabolism revved with small meals all day’.

I want to read more about this view on meals and find some studies on the ‘exhausts the adrenals’ part of it.

One meal, or mini-meal as the case maybe, will not kill you so I don’t freak out when I read that xyz has been found to cause toe cancer in rats. But it’s important to stay informed from legit sources and not just what other random strangers do on the internet. So do your own research, sow your own fields and then make decisions.

Question: Thoughts on meals versus grazing versus finding another term for grazing that doesn’t sound like we’re cows?

I’m undecided, but I found this statement particularly interesting: “Nowhere else in the world have humans eaten constantly until this vain American experiment.”

But, I think I read in Born To Run that the Tarahuamara Indians ate small meals so that they could take off running at any time? And their method dates back a very long time. I guess different strokes for different folks…


  1. says

    I assume that ancestral people used to eat whenever they could get their hands on food. They ate fairly seasonally, but I’m sure that they grazed on nuts and berries all day long; sometimes they ended the day with a big meal, and sometimes they didn’t. That said, different strokes for different folks definitely holds true when it comes to diet.

  2. says

    Humm I also think that people in different periods of time did not have as many food options as we do now. And they lived more active lives. I am not sure why but my stomach has shrunk and I find myself eating 2-3 times a day. When I used to eat all day I could hold more food and while I was not trying to lose weight I was still gaining.
    But I like this person that you are now seeing. Good luck and see you soon!

  3. says

    what an interesting take… i texted my doctor (who is also very holistic in his approach, and who has lectured me intensely on adrenals, haha) and his response was that going too long between meals exhausts the adrenals… unless the person is eating 3 super high quality meals a day. anyway, just thought it was interesting how different opinions can be :)

  4. says

    I’d kind of think the opposite – that structured meal times are a product of people working more (eating before work, eating a big lunch at work, eating after work). I find it really hard to believe that before there was such a structured work day people were just happening to be eating 3 square meals a day at the exact same time we eat now.Why would they?
    But I have a hard time believing anything that’s reads “Eat like this, or else!” Like when people say no eating after 8 pm because your metabolism slows down at night…. some people work the night shift. And they’re not all obese, so it’s probably fine to eat at night.
    I agree with the commenter above… different things work for different people and when authors call diets that don’t line up with what they’re selling vain then I think it discredits them a bit. Also that doctor isn’t an MD. So there’s that.
    Sorry for the long comment!

    • says

      Always feel free to leave a long comment :)

      I agree that I’m skeptical when someone says this way is the only way. My lady isn’t saying that, but is really good about sharing resources when she’s trying to teach me something.

    • Lauren says

      I don’t think I’m understanding this comment. What is eating all the time mean? Eating every two hours seems like eating all the time. Do you mean it helps you curb mindless eating – i.e., unplanned eating that might not be the healthiest option you would otherwise plan to eat?

      (seriously, just curious)

      • says

        It really means eating ALL the time. Having a piece of fruit and then moving on to a handful of carrots and then a handful of animal crackers, etc. But what I do now it space those things out. So I have coffee at 7am, my protein bar at 9, a piece of fruit at 11, another at 1, lunch around 230, a trail mix bar or fruit/carrots at 430 and dinner at 630. I just started with the late lunch and it has REALLY helped keep me out of the mindless snacks in the afternoon. Just trying to find what works for me. I have also increased my water intake to about 72 ounces a day.

      • Mary says

        bahahaha i felt the same way looking at it. at first it just all sat there on the top and then gradually some strings showed up. i actually took it bc i had been talking to my mom about Apple Cider Vinegar and how its supposed to have alot of great health properties and she mentioned that it can bad for you if you have yeast overgrowth or candida so she recommended i do the spit test (not that its the most scientific thing in the world haha). three cheers for oversharing online :) haha

  5. says

    I have Hasimoto’s and Addison’s, and I’m constantly reading differing reports about “how I should eat”. What I’ve learned is that I need to listen to my body, really listen. It will let me know what it needs. Some days I eat 5 or 6 small meals, some days I eat 2 larger ones. My husband, on the other hand, has low blood sugar issues, and HAS to eat a small snack every couple of hours or he gets shaky and lightheaded. He carries granola bars in his pockets all the time.
    Good luck with getting your eating on track!!

    • says

      Curious about your hubby…whenever I have been to the doctor every blood test comes back normal/perfect…my blood pressure, temperature etc…etc…is great.

      However, I always carry a water bottle and granola bar with me b/c when the shakes and lightheaded thing hits me its horrible and I use to grab the closest any thing but now I am better prepared. (It doesn’t happen all the time but occasionally yes!)

      With that said I usually eat a bigger breakfast, a normal lunch, and snack about 3:30 PM a normal supper about 5 PM and light snack @6:30 …guess I am eating about 5X a day then..yea, what ever works for you is what works! 😉

  6. Shannon says

    I am curious as to why you had to spit into a glass of water and what this would discover. Not that I am an expert or anything of the sort, but I really do not think that it is a matter of the time of meals or to graze or not to graze. I really believe it is a matter of the quality of foods. Eating anything with more than let’s say 5 or more ingredients will over time ware down our insides resulting in not being able to function properly. I have even read articles that grass fed/free range/etc,etc. beef is actually okay for your body.

    It is so good that you are trying to find different answers for your personal situation. I wish you the best of health!

  7. says

    Interesting.. I think that different things work for different people. I’m usually hungry every 2-3 hours, so I eat. I also don’t like the feeling after a really heavy meal. I like eating every few hours because it keeps my blood sugar stable and keeps me feeling energized throughout the day

  8. says

    It’s a really interesting debate! Even though I don’t have thyroid issues, I’m really enjoying reading your updates & what you’re learning. I think it makes sense about the farmer eating enough to sustain him for a long work day with 3 meals & that we probably as a whole overeat (portions, # of times/day, etc) in America. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sarah says

    I feel better when I eat just 3 meals a day. When I try to watch my calories and eat 5 times a day, I just end up hungry ALL DAY because the “meals” are all so tiny.

    Random off-topic question… Have you done a post on when to begin all that fancy running training? I’ve always considered myself a “beginner” runner because mostly I struggle to complete my 10 minute miles so I just focus on plodding along. I’m running a 10k on Sunday (well, I plan on taking a few walk breaks) and I feel a little burned out on my plodding-along method. I only run 6-8 miles a week, 5 miles has been my longest run. At what point do I switch from just trying to survive to doing fancy-schmancy runs (like speed, tempo, intervals… I don’t even know what these mean, etc.)?
    ps I’m scared of injuring myself… again.

    • says

      If you’re coming back from an injury I would be super cautious before trying anything new. Make sure you’re 100% before taxing your body with speed work or hard hills. When to begin something like ‘fancy’ runs depends on the person’s ability, fitness level, goals, etc. I’m barely starting to do it after 7 years of running (mostly because I’ve always been okay with plodding along).

  10. says

    I’ve been trying to eat intuitively, which means I typically have three meals and maybe a snack sometime during the day if I’m hungry. It’s the only thing that makes sense for me. To each their own!

  11. Bethany says

    One thing I have noticed is that I enjoy my food more when I’m eating three meals a day, rather than 5 or 6. After a few weeks of 5 or 6 meals a day, I start to feel like all I do is eat, and I hate it! I want to think about something else!

    Of course, now that I’m pregnant I eat all day every day and still feel like I’m starving… It’s strange!

  12. says

    Great, great post. So much conflicting information and research out there, and frankly it’s exhausting! I think everyone is different and thats why there are so many different ways of eating. I go through periods where I eat the smaller 5-6 meals a day, and others when i am only hungry for bigger meals 3 times a day. Both ways worked for me to lose 110 pounds, so must not matter too much :-)

  13. Kathryn says

    For me, I found that grazing became just an excuse to snack all the time and consumer more calories. I realized that I was never even allowing myself to get hungry, and that 3 of the 6 “meals” were actually still quite large… aka, they were not 6 smaller meals. Now that I just eat at mealtime, I feel much more in control of my diet (thats diet with a little d b/c I’m not trying to lose weight), but I’m certainly not gaining weight either.

    • Kez says

      Was about to post this!!

      It took me years (like, ten of them..), but I eventually was successful in losing weight – actually reaching my goal weight not just settling for the idea that 15lb above was ok…- only when I re-taught myself what hungry feels like. Hungry isn’t “it’s been 1.5 hours since I last ate omgi’mstarvingmusteatnow” – that is compulsion. Hunger is an actual physiological *thing* – and when I’m only eating a few proper meals a day (plus some small snacks in between if I am actually hungry) then I get to eat really awesome actual meals with satisfying ingredients – and no longer feel like I need to binge.

      Monica, sometimes I think you are me two years ago, but with red hair. And somewhat less Australian. You’ll get there :)

  14. says

    I think how a person “should” eat is 100% based on the individual. All of the experts claim there is only one true way to eat, but that’s all total crap. You simply have to figure out what works for your body, and mostly it comes down to eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, and eating the right foods for your body. And even though they claim that eating 4-5 small meals a day helps with losing weight I actually found the complete opposite to be true. It was much easier for me to lose weight when I ate 3 substantial, well-rounded meals, with an occasional snack if I was truly hungry. In the end you’ve just gotta try out all the different methods and see what works!

  15. Jen says

    Years ago I lost a lot of weight when I only ate three meals, with the occasional handful of m&ms from the office down the hall. However, I can’t say that it was solely because I ate three meals. Now I usually eat 4-6 times per day depending on my schedule. I agree that you have to do what works best for you, and that quality is the most important aspect of healthy living.

  16. says

    Why are you spitting in a cup?

    That is a very interesting take on eating. I find that when I’m training hard, I can’t only have 3 meals. I eat a normal meal after a long run and I need a snack 2-3 hours later. I’ve also find that if I just eat when my body tells me to I lose weight more easily rather than counting calories and trying to split things up.

    I don’t know how much this goes along with what you’re discussing but I have been talking to a Holistic Doctor (well, he is studying to be one) because I have recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata. He told me that one of the things I should do to strengthen my immune system is to allow myself to get hungry. Like stomach growling!! He said it’s at this time your body starts to release some sort of chemical/hormone (can’t remember) to pump up your immune system. (I have to admit, I don’t do this hardly enough. I’m a wuss for a little growl). He is going to do a case study on me for his school so that is pretty cool. I may get some really interesting insight, especially what they say about such frequent, intense workouts. Has your holistic doctor said anything about how your workouts may affect your body/condition?

  17. says

    I think this is an interesting concept. It’s really important to think about how the changes in lifestyle have affected our eating habits through the years. I’d never really thought about what this person is saying, but it’s an interesting concept and it makes sense.

  18. says

    5 meals a day has been rockin my metabolism since I started doing it! Weight started coming off faster and running in the evenings got WAY easier. Besides eating 3 big meals just makes me sluggish after each one and make it harder for me to stay motivated to workout, do house work, and get frisky with the Mister. Doing the Dance With No Pants is way less enjoyable on a full stomache.
    2 cents given.

  19. says

    I love it when people are talking about the different (for lack of a better word) trends that come around with how and what we eat!!
    That snippet from Dr. Douillard is right on the money with how I feel about most Americans eating habits.
    And while I agree that the Tarahuamara Indians did most likely eat all day long – they definitely were not consuming the things and portions we do now.
    If you really don’t want to worry about the things you’re putting into your body or calories – eat more things without any nutritional facts on them.
    Whole, fresh, natural, raw foods.
    And while we know that many fruits have a lot of sugars, it fructose, not white processed sugar and your body can metabolize it much better.
    I’d rather eat an entire watermelon than a diet coke and some rice cakes!!

    Love your blog!!

    • says

      shoot – I forgot to finish my train on thought on Douillard! Yes, 3 meals but YES to snacking. A lot of people these days make meals out of snacks!
      … I snack but not chips and random crud. Mostly fruit, nuts and random vegetables.

    • says

      I’m with you on this one. It becomes a mental/physical thing for me. If I am used to snacking a lot, I want to always do it (and my snacks aren’t broccoli spears). I find that when I eat 3 sizeable meals thoughout the day and add in tons of water (and maybe a dessert or snack), I feel fuller and I lose weight.

  20. says

    My Mom was always a little snacker all day and always healthy. I know for me if I don’t have snacks and let myself get too hungry that is when I binge and eat a bunch of junk! I like the set up of: breakfast, 10 am snack, lunch, 3pm snack, dinner. When I lost weight in the past that is what worked well for me.

  21. Lindsey says

    It’s always funny to me when experts reference people in the old days as models for how we should eat now. Lest they forget that the average life expectancy back then was 40 to 50. It’s the same reason why the Paleo diet is so funny to me – I understand wanting to eat simply, but I certainly don’t understand wanting to eat like people did thousands of years ago. No diet makes you infallible. People will still get cancer or other diseases, will still gain and lose weight. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you eat or how often you do it. As long as you’re eating healthfully and mindfully, there’s no “right” way to do it. Considering humans nowadays live to be in their 100s, I think it’s silly to think our diets are so ludicrously obscene.

    My grandmother is 91-years-old and has always been a grazer – she eats from the second she gets up until the second she goes to bed, every hour or so. Usually small meals or “nibbles” (she’s an incessant sweet snacker). And she balances that with walks all over town, golf and heavy water drinking. And she’s made it through life without being overweight or suffering any major sickness.

  22. says

    I just started classes last week at the institute of holistic nutrition and we have briefly discussed the difference, the teachers seem to believe what your nutritionist told you, while it makes a lot of sense to me I am having a hard time with it. I am the ‘always stuffing my face with food’ kind of person so I struggle with only 3 meals a day… its something i’m going to try to work towards slowly

  23. Sarah says

    I do think a lot of the ‘eat every 2-3 hours’ “wisdom” has come about from starvation level diets and the fact that people on them don’t eat enough in any meal to be able to keep themselves going and not feeling hungry for very long. With the multiple meal program, they may eat the same amount of (not enough) calories, but since they do it more often they don’t have to be hungry for as long a period of time before they can eat something again.

  24. says

    I spent years grazing. I used to compete in figure competitions and the mentality in that world is grazing is best, and eating 5-6 times a day is best. I struggled with that style of eating. I always felt hungry and my meals never satisfied me. I could get in really good shape when I was dieting for a show, but then afterwards would sit 15-20 pounds higher for the rest of the year. After 9 years of that style of eating I decided to go back to eating when hungry and eating 2-3 (usually 3 meals a day) and no longer counting calories or weighing and measuring my food and just listening to my body and eating when hungry and focusing on feeding my body the healthy, nutritious foods it needs. I’ve been eating this way since June and now my body looks the best it has since when I was 19 (except for when I was within 4 weeks of hitting the stage as a figure competitor). A girlfriend of mine who also competed recommended I read Eat Stop Eat and it helped me wrap my head around switching eating styles. I really think it comes down to what works best for your body and it takes a bit of experimenting to figure that out.

  25. says

    I’ve actually also heard that the several small meals a day thing is bullshit…it’s often told to people who want to GAIN weight! I think eating only three meals is really important for your insulin to drop, otherwise your insulin levels are constantly elevated and that’s no good for anything. Just my opinion though!

  26. Michele says

    I recently started reading about Intermittent Fasting. Essentially it takes a lot longer than a couple hours (or even a day) for our metabolism to slow day significantly.

    I think the whole 6 small meals thing has created this fear that I will get hungry. I have to over-pack snacks and food for work just in case. I tend to eat those snacks just because they are there, not because I’m hungry but because if I don’t eat my 4th meal, then I might get hungry and that is bad because hungry = I will eat 17 donuts (not true but isn’t that the idea behind it? Stay ahead of your hunger so you don’t freak out and eat something unhealthy – God forbid).

    I just know for me it’s such a mental game. As soon as 12:00 strikes, I just have to have my lunch. What if I’m just not hungry? Well it’s been ingrained in us to not skip meals or you’re anorexic! It’s so hard to deal with all the mixed messages. I guess the point of all this rambling is…. girl, I feel you.

  27. TiffanyS says

    3 main meals for me with dinner broken up a little before a workout and a little after usually. If not workout that night, then still 3 meals and a little snack before bed. It seems to work really well for me. Then I’m not starving first thing in the monring.

  28. jill says

    Hi everyone, Jill here, Monica’s nutrition coach. I don’t have time to read through the comments, but wanted to respond to Monica’s post. Some may feel that the spit test is “hippy dippy,” but many integrative and functional medicine doctors give this exact test to their patients. Most agree that it’s not perfect, because you can get a false negative, but the alternative tests can be expensive and most aren’t covered by insurance. And there is some controversy in the medical community as to the best way to test. One method is Genova’s stool analysis, where you take a stool sample for three days. It’s possible to get a false negative no matter what test is performed, and I suspect that this is Monica’s case. It’s very unusual to not have some overgrowth of intestinal yeast when your diet is heavily reliant on cereal, bread, and other flour-based products. And sugar. (No judgment implied here.) I’ve given this test and my subsequent yeast cleanse to many, many clients over the years and the results have been nothing short of amazing – busting through weight loss plateaus (as much as 7 lbs in one week), alleviation of bloating and puffiness, feeling lighter and brighter, lifting of brain fog, and significant decrease in cravings for sugar and refined foods. Yeast overgrowth is a serious thing and a major health issue, especially for women, and especially for women with hormonal imbalances, as yeast toxins block hormonal pathways. As for the mini meals/grazing issue, I’ve coached so many of my clients away from this grazing mentality and also seen amazing results right out of the chute – again, busting through weight loss plateaus and much better blood sugar stabilization and fat burning capacity. I read Born to Run. It’s not unreasonable that these people kept their bodies fueled. But the vast majority of us aren’t “superathletes” and “taking off running at any time.” So it’s not a great argument. Most people don’t have a lot of weight loss success eating throughout the day without getting a substantial meal with breaks in between. Dr. Douillard is certainly not the only advocate for this way of eating. Monica came to me wanting help with her hypothyroidism, and holding on to weight is a hallmark sign of low thyroid function. But grazing, especially on flour products, certainly isn’t going to help the effort – it’s counterproductive. It costs nothing to try this different way of eating, and it’s not a diet (which I don’t believe in), so I don’t understand the resistance, especially when you have nothing to lose but pounds. As the saying goes, “Do the same things you’ve always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Sorry that I can’t follow the ensuing comments here and engage in this discussion further, but if anyone has questions, you can email me at and I’ll try to get back to you.

  29. Ashley says

    I have a hard time eating that many times in a day so it works for me:) I was wondering what you are doing for your thyroid. I was just told I have an under active thyroid and don’t necessarily like the idea of having to take medicine.

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