A recent question by a reader:
Hi! My question is: isn’t it all about calories? If I eat 1,200 calories, does it matter if I take them spread out over the day, or in a short period?
Overall calorie intake is critical, but energy metabolism isn’t simple.
The pure unfed state has metabolic, physiological, hormonal, and psychological benefits that, in summary, contribute greatly to sustainable weight loss.
Having said that, yes you are correct that eating 1200 calories in two meals or 6 meals still yeilds almost the same weight loss, and they both work — so long as calories are controlled.
The problem with frequent small meals for many people is that they eventually turn into frequent larger meals.
Also, the habit of frequent, small meals throughout the day may induce an appetite pattern that makes it uncomfortable when a meal is inadvertently missed. Hunger, which is an adaptable phenomenon, also appears more frequently, making it harder to control the diet.
This frequent meal pattern produces in some people eating obsession — constantly thinking about the next meal.
Frequent eating throughout the day also may produce a psychological dependency on the act of eating.
Also, frequent small meals may diminish the “importance” of food, as many people may get into the habit of eating mindlessly.
Finally, breaking 1200 calories into 5 or 6 small meals means that you’re reduced to eating very little food at any feeding time, which diminishes satiety and satisfaction for many people… at least in the long term.