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Are "meals" a must?

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I have been a "grazer" (eating throughout the day) for years. This didn't change when I adapted to a primal/paleo diet and when I decided to try Whole30, I thought that it would be challenging enough without trying to break that habit too.  


So I basically eat every hour to 90 minutes from 10-5, with an average day looking something like this:


-black coffee

-hardboiled egg

-chia pudding made with coconut milk

-carrots w/ almond butter

-palm sized serving of lean meat + a hearty serving of cooked veggies

-nuts or a piece of fruit


I work out somewhere in the 5:30-7:30 pm window, 6 days/week, usually CrossFit or long distance running.


I usually don't eat dinner until 8:30 and it's typically meat and veggies.  


The question I have is if regulated meal times are a must for this to "work"?  Quite frankly, I'm having a terrible experience with Whole30 (tons of bloating and stomach discomfort, feeling/looking "thick" through the middle, noticeable increase of anxiety and depression, not to mention NONE of the wonderful results that most people have like better sleep or clearer skin) and wonder if the diet shift is elevating my cortisol levels and/or if eating throughout the day is creating an insulin resistance.   


Any thoughts?

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Okay - yes eating whole sit down meals are a must.  3 times a day minimum.  However if you are genuinely hungry - eat another meal. This is how you regulate hormones. Hormones are very important for regulating proper appetite, sleep, energy levels - I could go on and on here.  So getting proper meals in in key.


Each meal should consist of a palm sized piece of protein, 1.5 cups of veg, and 1 thumb sized portion of fat.  If you are still hungry for a bit then add fruit.


Please, please, please if you want the bloating and stomach upset to stop lay off of the Chia Pudding, nuts, and nut butters.  Really.  Nuts and seeds are really good at causing bloating, stomach upset, and disturbing sleep.  (Many people have issues with them)  Nuts and seeds are not an idea fat source as they run high on the omega 6's and technically we need a good balance of Omega 3-6-9 but high doses of 6 will cause an imbalance of sorts.


Go easy on the fruit.  Especially in the morning.  If you have just fruit, or a fruit heavy meal it will cause your sugar levels to elevate, only to crash later.  What happens when you crash?  No energy, lethargic, hungry early on.  

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The point of three meals that meet the meal template is that it gives your body's systems time to digest and then rest. If you graze throughout the day, your digestive system just keeps working all the time.  The three meals also affects hormones. If you google Whole30 3 meals you should be able to see other discussions where this was addressed, but here's one that might be helpful. The book It Starts With Food goes into a lot of detail about why it's best to eat every 4-5 hours rather than grazing throughout the day as well.


Also, based on what you're listing, you're probably not getting enough protein throughout the day, and probably not enough veggies either. If you follow the meal template, you won't have that problem.  If you'd had eggs as your protein at breakfast, you would have eaten 3-4 of them to meet the template. 


For me, eating three template meals a day, including lots of veggies (with some starchy veggies) helps my mood a lot.


Plus, it's so nice not to feel like I spend my entire day eating. I don't get "hangry" three hours after my last meal. I don't ever get so hungry that I go off plan just because I'm so hungry I can't wait any longer and settle for off plan foods.


If you're going to commit to doing a Whole30, you might as well try it as written, including the actual meals instead of grazing. What have you got to lose? It's 30 days, and if it really doesn't work for you, after that you can go back to grazing if you want to.

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You would not be doing a real Whole30 if you eat every 60-90 minutes. Not leaving space between meals influences your hormones in a way that is contrary to the rhythms your hormones need to develop. Basically, by grazing, you extend processes that should have a start and finish. 


I can appreciate that your ingrained habits may be challenging to change, but the Whole30 results that we report are based upon a very different approach to eating than the one you have been practicing. 


In looking through your list of foods for a day, I see several potential issues. Coffee on an empty stomach, chia seeds, raw carrots with almond butter, and nuts can be challenging for digestion. And we ask you to compose meals that include protein, fat, and veggies. By eating your little meals, you are segregating foods that offer more reliable nourishment when consumed together. 

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