it sounds crazy, but that whole eating 5 or 6 small meals across the day instead of 2 or 3 large ones? it really works.
for a host of reasons, this the way that i am eating now and it's more challenging than it seems. so, if you have been considering doing this, please learn from my process--here are a few tips, tricks, and psychological strategies to help you make the transition from the traditional 3 meal mentality to a healthy, metabolism-boosting grazer.
- don't forget to eat. this may seem silly and, perhaps, impossible, but it's not. at first, i started eating smaller meals because i just wasn't that hungry. after doing this for a few days, my stomach seemed to shrink, making the 5 to 6 meal plan the necessity rather than the choice. but i would forget to eat because it was so unnatural for me to include so many snacks and meals in my day. (that's bad, in case you didn't know.) if you let yourself get too hungry, all manner of bad things will happen. let me tell you how it manifested itself in my world: headache, fatigue, dehydration (if you're not eating, you're probably not drinking either), and, what is most likely for all of us, seeing food and inhaling whatever came into my wake without regard to nutritional or caloric content.
- relish in your multiple opportunities to choose wisely. sometimes it's easier to just grab something that has no nutritional value. but when you're eating 5 or 6 small meals, you have more chances to choose wisely. you decided to eat 250 calories worth of ice cream? that's okay. you have another chance coming up again to choose a meal of greens and protein.
- plan ahead. sometimes, for me, that planning is just a few hours ahead. if i have just eating something carb-heavy, i think about what i can choose for the next meal that will balance out that carb choice. i try to include, in my snacks, a heavy dose of fruits and vegetables, but it's sometimes challenging to do. but having carrot sticks readily available, for example, would make that choice a lot easier to make. for a while, we had big bowls of cantaloupe available in our fridge, already cut up. since cantaloupe is a superfood, the ready availability of this sweet and healthy snack made it easy to incorporate into my small meal planning.
- be aware of portion sizes. if you have been calorie counting for a while, you will know that, mathematically, you'll need to be aware of portion sizes when you're eating these small meals. you can't eat 5 meals of 500 calories each and expect to do anything but gain weight. however, depending on your caloric goals, you can easily eat 4 meals of 300 calories each (at the absolute lowest end) or 5 meals of 300 calories each (perhaps a more moderate goal) and still see success.
- begin to tune in to your body's cues. if you do this for a while, and if your goal is to listen to your body and feed it well, you'll begin to pick up on what works for you and what doesn't work for you. i have been literally astounded at how much better i feel, psychologically and physically, when i am paying attention to the cues that i am being given.
- drink your water. you should be drinking, at the bare minimum, 64 ounces of water. really, though? you should be drinking much more, depending on your individual circumstances. water not only helps your body run and helps you lose weight, if that's your goal, but it also keeps your body's cues more clear. thirst can often mask itself as hunger--and thirst is a sign of dehydration. your goal, really, should be to not feel thirsty at all. it's hot, it's still summer, and we're all busy, active people. keep water with you and make it your friend.