For decades, dieticians and nutritionists have been encouraging Americans to eat three square meals per day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and avoid snacking as a means of losing weight.
But now weight loss experts appear to be changing. Instead of encouraging people to skip the snacking, dietitians and nutritionists are encouraging people to skip set meals and focus on snacking if they want to drop the lbs.
Why snacking might work for weight loss
Proponents believe that snacking, or grazing as it’s sometimes called, is far more similar to the way humans evolved eating in hunter-gather societies. As a result, the theory is that the human metabolism is more adept and processing calories when those calories are ingested in small quantities over the course of a day as opposed to three, large periods of caloric intake.
Moreover, when people skip snacking throughout the day as a means of losing weight, they invariably become more hungry at meal times which almost always leads to overeating. Overeating leads to insulin spikes and puts unwanted stress on the body’s digestive system, particularly the pancreas.
What happens to the pancreas when you overeat?
Nothing good. When overeating occurs, blood sugar levels skyrocket. As a result, the brain kicks the pancreas into overdrive telling it to produce and release high-quantities of insulin into the bloodstream to reel in the excess blood sugar. But the pancreas isn’t like a light switch. It doesn’t simply flip on and off—it’s slow to start producing insulin and it’s slow to stop producing insulin. And when you overeat, stopping insulin production becomes a real problem.
With small meals and snacks, the brain has no trouble working in-sync with the pancreas to produce the appropriate amount of insulin. But when overeating occurs, the brain essentially tells the pancreas to flood—and keep flooding—the bloodstream with insulin to counteract the excessively high sugar levels. And in instances of overeating, the pancreas will produce so much insulin that it removes too much sugar from the body resulting in low blood sugar.
And what does low blood sugar lead to? Fatigue, nausea, lethargy, and emotional distress. Conditions that are “often remedied by eating more sugar and more carbohydrates,” leading to a daily caloric surplus and unwanted weight gain.
The additional benefits of snacking
Weight loss isn’t the only benefit to snacking.
Many chronic diseases—heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer—have been scientifically tied to weight gain. Therefore, eating smaller portions (and gaining less weight) is a tremendous way to avoid a laundry list of chronic and degenerative illnesses.
How you should approach snacking
Of course, this isn’t a license to eat anything and everything in sight all day long. It is imperative to eat healthy, organic, whole foods while avoiding anything that has been processed or packaged.
Additionally, when you are snacking you should eat small portions 1/3rd to 1/4th the size of a normal “full” meal, and really focus on chewing the food completely. Not only will thoroughly chewing on the food make things easier for your digestive system, it will also help you feel fuller longer which means less eating, less calories, and less weight.
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