Wednesday, July 20, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
This is a very important question, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. The less often you eat, the slower your metabolism becomes. Breaking down foods, digesting them, absorbing and assimilating nutrients takes energy. Every time you eat, your body has to do the work, and this work burns calories. It is called: the Thermic Effect of Food. It usually amounts to about 10% of daily calories taken in. It may not seem like a big number but over weeks and months, if decreased to a bare minimum, it can contribute to weight gain considerably.

Another issue that is also very important here: if you don’t give your body food for 4 hours or more, it will automatically start going into starvation mode. What does that mean? This is actually what nature programmed us for. Thousands of years ago, during the times when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, food was not always available. When it was, we ate more and the body stored fat for the times of famine. When it wasn’t, the body slowed down the metabolism to conserve energy. Unfortunately, our genes haven’t changed that much and this inherited ability remained. So…..every time you have a longer break in eating than 4 or so hours, your metabolism will slow down and stunt your weight loss efforts.

And here’s an important point: many people already have, what I call, a damaged metabolism. This means they have not listened to their body, either trying to lose weight in some drastic ways, or simply ignoring the body’s needs for good and frequent fueling. How many times have I heard from clients that they don’t eat breakfast because they are not hungry?

How many times do they just have a light salad for lunch?

And what happens then? Well, most of these people end up eating double the normal amount in the afternoon and evening, because the body is smarter and will always try to get what it needs.

Worse yet, they usually end up craving foods that are high in carbohydrates (especially sugar) and fat, because the adrenals are so stressed from trying to keep the blood sugar up throughout the day that they are literally screaming for it. And yes, you can “teach“ your body to not feel hungry, but it is NOT a natural feeling, especially if it lasts most of the day and then abruptly ends in the early evening. Not only will you almost always eat more, and of calorie laden bad foods, than you would have otherwise, but your body, trained now to know that you put it through times of famine during the day, will store most of these calories as your beloved fat in anticipation of more famine to come.

My clients are always surprised when I tell them that if you take 2 people and feed them the same amount of calories, but one will be eating healthy foods spread evenly throughout the day, and the other will be skipping breakfast, having very little for lunch and eating most of their calories from crappy foods, in the late afternoon, for dinner and late at night, the first one might even lose weight while the second one will most likely gain. There are some people who can eat one or two large meals a day and stay slim their entire lives, but these are few and far between. Most of us are not so lucky, so don’t look at other people’s habits.

So your best bet for successful weight loss is eating every 3, and at most every 4 hours, but in the form of smaller meals and snacks. And you won’t have to wait very long to see that all of a sudden you ARE actually hungry. It’s not a cause for panic, just a sign that your body is starting to work as it should and actually communicating with you about its needs. One additional benefit of eating this way, and therefore maintaining even blood sugar levels throughout the day, is that you will not be overworking your adrenals which have to produce high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol in response to low blood sugar. Cortisol, though a necessary hormone in our body, is extremely dangerous in high amounts. It can lead to all sorts of problems, including stunting the ability to lose weight.


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