eat or not eat, that is the question

About 20 years ago, I wrote a book called ‘Diets Don’t Work’. I made the point that you go on a diet like you’re going on vacation. What happens when you go on vacation? You come home! What happens when you go on a diet, usually after a month or two, you go back to your old eating habits.

The only way to maintain a healthy eating habit is to do just that and make it a lifelong commitment. But, in the last few decades, there has been an explosion of diet books, different groups and authors arguing that their particular dietary approach is the only effective diet, etc, etc.

One of the common debates is also whether it is better to eat small, frequent meals or to have larger, less frequent meals as a component of good health.

Some studies have suggested that smaller, more frequent meals improve satiety, improve metabolism and body fat composition, reduce energy crashes, stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent overeating.

One study looked at the link between meal frequency and chronic disease and suggested that more frequent meals throughout the day improved blood fats, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, along with a lower risk of disease cardiovascular. It also showed that more than four meals a day improved the so-called good cholesterol-HDL and lowered triglyceride levels.

A study from High Impact Factor magazine Circulation showed that increasing meal frequency led to less diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, there has been conflicting evidence around this issue. One study divided participants into two groups. The first group ate three meals a day while the second group ate six small meals a day but had the same total caloric intake throughout the day. This diet included 30% fat, 55% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. This study showed no difference in body fat loss, but those who ate six meals a day were hungrier and had a greater desire to eat.

A large observational trial showed that healthy adults prevented weight gain by reducing the frequency of their meals, not eating snacks, and having a larger meal in the morning. The key to the study was maintaining a time-restricted daily diet with a prolonged fast of more than 16 hours. But it seems that people who increase the frequency of their meals tend to eat better quality food.

I personally find all of this information very confusing and the reality is that the key to healthy eating is eating less food and eating more natural foods. The only diet that has been investigated over a long period of time (several studies up to 10 years) with proven science is the Mediterranean diet, which has nothing magical about it but rather involves eating two or three pieces of fruit a day, 3-5 servings of vegetables per day and usually the main meal is lunch, not dinner. The diet also involves avoiding all forms of processed packaged foods with small amounts of meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and olive oil.

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