Man, Mother Jones sure does love the ire-inducing click-bait headlines. The latest: Why you should stop eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick. Melodramatic much?
Why anti-science you might ask? Well, fasted mice apparently have more “robust” brain cells, live longer, and are skinnier than non-fasted mice. Reminder: mice are not humans and what applies to rodents may not (and often doesn’t) apply to humans. The other science was a tiny study (16 participants, 8 in each treatment group) that found no significant differences between those who ate three meals a day and those who ate three meals and snacks (both groups consumed the same number of calories). And a study of 24 women who ate either two or five meals a day (again, the same number of calories). The researchers found that both groups burned the same number of calories. Does this mean that we should all start intermittent fasting? I’m going with no.
While some people can be content following an intermittent fasting diet, not everyone will be happy going for long periods without food. Firstly, these studies didn’t show that there was a benefit to eating more meals every day, but they also didn’t show a benefit to eating fewer meals. Secondly, these studies didn’t address the qualitative aspects associated with meal frequency. To me, this suggests that if you’re happy and healthy eating three square a day, or more, or less, then that’s what you should do.
Why racist? Well, apparently the Europeans scorned Native Americans for not eating three square meals a day. Obviously not cool. However, it’s a little absurd to suggest that eating breakfast makes you a racist.
Why making you sick? So far as I can tell, the only reference to this in the article is regarding people eating too many calories for their sedentary lifestyles, particularly “large country breakfasts” which anecdotally lead to increased reports of indigestion.
After all of this incendiary information, the article concludes with some reasonable advice:
Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don’t eat when it’s time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art.
While I agree that we shouldn’t obsess too much about meal size and frequency I don’t think that the majority of us are ready for eating only when we’re hungry. For most of us that leads to overeating. Preventative eating, and front-loading the day can be key for people struggling with weight management issues and mindless eating in the evening. For many of us, eating on a schedule works great. The key is to figuring out what works best for you rather than adhering to patterns of eating recommended in a magazine article. There are no hard and fast rules.