A few years back I taught a community nutrition class, and there was a particular student in the class who kept proclaiming with gusto that she ate every 2 hours every day. I kept thinking to myself, ‘That’s silly and unnecessary. Why would she do that? What a waste of time. Why doesn’t she just eat more at each meal and have breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner like any normal human being should? She must be even more strapped to her kitchen than I am, and that’s, like, impossible.’
Through our eight weeks together, I wondered why she kept saying it during every single class. And then she’d qualify it by explaining that her body was like a car and that it needed gas all the time, etc., etc. I thought that maybe she should try putting more gas in her “car” every time she filled it up instead of putting 5 dollars’ worth in her tank at every gas station she saw.
Through those eight weeks together, I also was continually gaining weight. I gained about 5 pounds over a 3 month period, despite my continued efforts to not only work out more, but to eat less like a good little weight-loss drone should do. My favorite jeans wouldn’t fit. I found myself wearing clothes that looked more like muumuus than professional attire. You know how it feels: no, you’re not “fat”, but it sure feels like it because you’re so uncomfortable. Despite my efforts following Shaun T. through his Insanity workouts 5 days a week, climbing 4 or 5 times a week, and hiking 5 days a week, I was slowly gaining. It’s not just about looking good, either. I had some climbing trips coming up and I needed to get my ass in shape and lean out so I could climb well.
Anyway, I was confused, befuddled, at a loss. I thought, ‘I’m a nutritionist! Why can’t I figure this out? I eat well, I don’t eat too much, and I work out. I think my thyroid must be broken. I’m getting on thyroid medication. Maybe my adrenals are blown out – I should get on corticosteroids. Or maybe my hormones are going crazy and I need to be on the pill.’ It’s in these moments of desperation that I start looking at the Google ads on the side of my screen wondering what the “secrets of belly fat” really are…
And then my husband sat me down for a talking to, and said the word “calories”. Oh no, you didn’t, Seth! I’m a nutritionist – I don’t eat too many calories. There’s something WRONG with my body! How dare he question the amount of food I eat.
So, of course, I spent the entirety of the next day on my computer, hashing out exactly the number of calories I had been eating. And it was approximately twice the amount that I should have been eating. “I wondered about that half pound of pork sausage you were having every morning,” he murmured when I told him the news.
Now what? I cut down on my calories and STARVE to death every day? That’s going to SUCK and I won’t be able to do it. Cut out all things delicious that I recently added back to my diet? Stop eating carbohydrates? Yeah, that’s sustainable… Wait, I could eat every 2 hoursjust a little bit and then I won’t feel hungry or have blood sugar crashes!
So I did just that for about a week and a half and it actually started working. She was right.
I think that for some people whose blood sugar has been damaged from years and years of sugar abuse, this is the plan that will have to do, at least for a while. I knew this, but I didn’t believe for one second that I was one of those damaged people who needed this kind of treatment. Nevertheless, my blood sugar is benefiting from constant feeding. Because I’m never hypoglycemic, my body never believes it’s starving to death, and therefore it doesn’t hold on to body fat just in case.
Eating every two hours kept my brain functioning better all day because I wasn’t hypoglycemic between breakfast and lunch anymore. And I was eating all of the foods I wanted to eat – just not as much of them. In one week I lost half of those 5 pounds.
The moral of the story is that I was not alone in eating too much, and I am not alone in having messed up my blood sugar through the years. This could easily be you. You, too, could need to be the person who stops at every gas station for a little dose of fuel because your car is confused about how to handle a lot of gas at once.
This isn’t the way we are evolutionarily supposed to be, though! We should be okay with a little starvation sometimes, just like our ancestors were so often when the game was scarce, right?
But then I remember that the women of hunter-gatherer tribes were walking around collecting food all day, probably eating little bits here and there. Maybe we evolved differently: men and women. Maybe because of this, women’s weight loss is different than men’s. I don’t know any guy who gets as “hangry” as I used to when I didn’t eat for a while. I’ve never had one male client who sees little flashing lights and almost passes out after skipping a meal; it’s almost always women who are like this.
So maybe the guys are more equipped to be running around with empty stomachs all day, chasing down the big stuff while we women are better off eating little bits here and there.
Just a thought…