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Do you eat too much?

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Or maybe you don’t eat at the “right” times?

Just like the idea that different people don’t need to like the same food, different people also don’t need to eat the same amount of food. Looking to others as a way of determining how much to eat is a very, very dangerous idea. No two people have the exact same body and lifestyle, and therefore no two people should be eating the exact same amount.

sugar cookie oatmeal

This was my breakfast today: Sugar Cookie Oatmeal.

I ate it, post-run, along with strawberry slices and peanut butter. Pre-run breakfast consisted of fresh watermelon and a bunch of pistachios. After breakfast, I talked with my little sister on the phone. She’d just woken up and was eating her own breakfast: a single container of yogurt.

Whose eating style is correct?

Both of ours! I probably eat about twice as much as my sister, and yet we’re both perfectly healthy. She’s shorter than me, has a slower metabolism, and doesn’t go running; therefore she needs less. If she were to eat like me, she’d probably end up with the world’s worst stomachache. And if I were to eat like her, I’d be so hungry I could eat an elephant. (Don’t worry, fellow vegans. I said I could, not I would.)

The mainstream media tells us there is also a “right” number of times to eat: five or six small meals, divided throughout the day. But once again, I have to argue that no one should take this advice as something set in stone. Do not trust society to tell you what or when to eat; experiment and find out what works best for you. I think eating every 3-4 hours works best for many people because it keeps energy levels up. But if you find that your energy doesn’t drag even if you go six hours without food, why should you feel like you have to eat anyway?

As an example, let’s use my friend Sarah.

She normally eats a small breakfast, followed by a big lunch and dinner, and she rarely ever snacks during the day.

lemon-muffins

Unless I make Lemon Poppyseed Muffins.

Those, she can’t resist.

On the other hand, I usually eat six meals a day and will almost always taste-test recipes in between meals as well. You’d be hard pressed to find a time my mouth is not stuffed with food. Does this mean one of us is eating incorrectly? No, not at all! It just means we’re different people with different needs.

Do you eat three meals per day? Or six smaller meals? Or maybe you’re a grazer?

And do you ever compare the amount you eat to what others eat?

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Helen says:

    I definitely agree with you, diets aren’t one-size-fits-all! I prefer to eat a small breakfast of fruit, a light lunch (like tofu lettuce wraps, or soup and salad for ex), and a big, yummy dinner of pasta or curry, etc. With snacks of nuts and dried fruit in between. This doesn’t include my frequent slip ups in the sweets category, I can put away some chocolate.

  2. I’m a runner/yogini/weightlifter and there are days where I’m so hungry I could eat my entire fridge, and there are other days where I don’t need as much fuel. It all depends on my activity, hormones, and other factors (big meal the night before, working out, blah blah blah). For me, I love sitting down to a giant meal so what works for me is 3 big meals a day plus 1 afternoon snack. I eat a lot of protein and fat and make sure the carbs are only high on my running days, and I try to avoid gluten and all dairy besides yogurt because of my IBS. I never used to sit down to a meal, and would just grab sugary snacks to eat, which led to me being nearly 70 pounds overweight. Now, by sitting down and actually having a meal, I watch my weight and have energy as well. 🙂

    BTW: I made your blondies a few weeks ago and my sister, who is emphatically NOT vegan, couldn’t stop eating them! Even after I told her they were made with chickpeas! 🙂

    1. That makes me sooooo happy! I haven’t tried them on my sister yet. Next time she visits, I will have to!

  3. Marina says:

    This post is just what I needed today.
    I eat a lot compared to my sister, but she doesn’t move much, and I am recovering from disordered eating and go on runs/bike rides few times a week.
    It’s really important not to compare our metabolisms and our bodies, because we are all unique in our needs. We just have to listen to what our bodies are telling us.

    1. Dallas says:

      i know this is sort of not connected to anything, seeing as you wrote this like a year ago, but i thought i’d like to reply – i totally get what you mean! everyone in my family (we’re a big crowd) eats differently and no one comments about anyone else’s eating, which is nice. we all know “eat when hungry, stop when full” and we all trust our own selves. good luck with your health!! 🙂

      1. Marina says:

        Wow, it was weird getting an email about reply to this comment 😀
        Thanks for the well wishes 🙂 Thankfully, I am recovered, no longer working out regularly and definitely not comparing my eats to somebody else’s. Life is good. Food is good 🙂

  4. I’m a total grazer….. I eat EXTREMELY healthy when I graze though…. I took it really hard when one of my coworkers said “Gawd, you eat aalllll the time. I can’t believe how you stay small. It’s not fair.”
    Sure, they skipped breakfast (bad idea in the first place) but ate a huge fatty lunch, Snickers, and a pop by mid day. And they don’t exercise at all…. I on the other hand had ran before work, had oatmeal, a spinach salad (dry), an apple with cinnamon, and eaten carrots all day. Sure I always had something in my mouth but seriously?!?!?! It hurt my feelings. I work so hard.
    You are inspiring me to be more ME! 🙂

    1. Same here! I graze all the time, but I absolutely watch what I eat and I eat healthy and work out. People are like, “you eat all the time” or “are you eating again? If I did that I’d be huge!!”. And it’s kind of annoying. I’ve maintained my weight for years because I know what works for me. Besides, it’s about calories in and calories out. It takes effort to stay in shape!

    2. Emily N. says:

      I completely agree with this! I hate when people comment on what I eat, because they don’t realize how ridiculously healthy it is! I eat incredibly mindfully; if food is going in my mouth it’s always something vegan/non processed/healthy and I’m eating it because I’m hungry or about to have a big work out.

      In other news, I have overweight extended family members who tease me for being vegan all the time, and then try and tell me that I’m too small. I’m just doing what works for me. I like to be in shape, and not overweight so I can feel good about myself! And clearly, there are a lot of different foods that we “health nuts” (I hate that term because it implies there’s something wrong with wanting to treat your body well) can eat and still maintain a balanced diet–hellooo deep dish cookie pie!!

      Long story short, I agree with you Julie!

  5. I usually eat 3 meals a day, with an afternoon snack. Sometimes I add a nighttime snack if my dinner wasn’t good enough. When I first started running, I was eating six meals a day, but it was really because I was so hungry all the time, not because some Oprah-sanctioned doctor told me to. I think my body was adjusting to the increased calorie burn. I would sit around craving bread.

  6. I usually don’t eat breakfast until 10 or 11, lunch at 3 and dinner late. It’s what works for me, and I usually snack once or twice but I prefer hefty meals! Since I tend to eat high fat and low sugar my blood sugar seems to stay pretty stable so I don’t need to eat as often. Great post katie!!

  7. Ragnhild says:

    Oh, I compare aaall the time! Im really trying to figure out how I should eat to feel my very best! What i do know is that I dont like big meals, I rather eat often. I often (ey, make that always) bring a dark chocolate bar in my bag so I can have a piece when my blood sugar is going down.
    I also know I have a hard time eating enough, which only leads me to have mini-binges later on. And that is not good at all. So I try as hard as I can to find balance, and eat right for ME!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post Katie!

  8. This is such a great post, all too often bloggers, including myself are criticised for not eating enough and it frustrates me that we can’t see that every one is different! As you say we all have different needs. Thanks for highlighting a really important area 🙂

  9. teabagginit says:

    i’ve recently started to eat 3 meals a day with small snacks in between. i used to be a grazer but now that i eat so much protein, i’m just not as hungry as often!

  10. ~Jessica~ says:

    I think comparison in blogging and life when it comes to food really upsets me in whichever context I view it. Either someone is skinnier than me, moving less and eating more, which just makes me hate my body for not being as efficient as theirs in terms of metabolism, or when I’m injured and basically sedentary there are loads of bloggers eating less than me (I could seriously eat ALL the time, huge quantities, whether I’m running 100 miles a week or none, and I hate that…but a lot of my hunger is emotional) and doing more, which makes me equate food with exercise and think I don’t deserve to eat unless I run. Then I just end up bingeing because I can’t face not ‘deserving’ any food.

    I don’t know how anyone, inactive or not, survives on just a yoghurt or an apple or whatever for breakfast. I wish I could!

    xxx

  11. I definitely eat too much sometimes, even for myself. It’s why I try avoiding foods I will be tempted to binge on (and why I love your single serving cupcakes). Mind you, when I diet and restrict quantities too much I become miserable. I do much better when I’m eating lots of low calorie veggies with healthy protein and a high nutritional content. I also do better when grazing.

  12. I don’t think I could ever just stick to 3 meals per day; I’d go crazy! I like to snack, especially when I’m cooking/baking. I like the idea of having ‘main’ meals and then snacks in between, unless my breakfast, lunch and dinner times get messed (ie: eating too big of a snack that turns into a meal haha). I love food too much to not enjoy it all the time 😀

  13. Betherann says:

    Thanks for writing this, Katie!! It is SO important to stick with non-comparison, and yet so many of us do it — in fact, the media even encourages it (I think, anyway) with their Best Vs. Worse Dressed red carpet commentaries, articles on how to get So-and-So’s abs or So-and-So’s hair. Ugh it makes me sick!!

    I am, um, SLIGHTLY passionate about this topic lol. I blogged about a similar issue, except in the arts, here if you are interested: http://www.bethmorey.com/2011/i-refuse-to-compare-and-despair

    Thanks again for writing this, Katie! 😀

    1. Thanks! I’ll check it out 🙂

    2. Alyssa says:

      I COMPLETELY agree! It’s like the womens’ movement has taken a giant step backwards. And if people knew what celebrities REALLY do to maintain their bodies, they’d be very, very afraid. The fact is, most actresses and models don’t have very healthy habits. Under-eating and over-exercising are rampant.

  14. Jennifer JCD says:

    Great post, Katie! All too often I see people comparing food with each other. I’m a combination of all your eating types: big brekkie, graze all day long, small dinner, and a snack in the evening. I rarely overeat, but I do eat more than most people I know. I’m more active than most people I know too, so that’s why. 🙂

  15. Danielle says:

    I eat three meals a day, but I eat a fruity snack in the morning because I eat breakfast so gosh darn early (around 6 AM) and don’t get a break for lunch until around 1.

    And I can’t wait till tomorrow! those strawberry pancakes are already on my menu for this weekend!

  16. You’re very right! I have a friend who has a bun for lunch… with no snacks between lunch and dinner. Another friend drinks milk for breakfast, a small pack of biscuits for dinner and a medium-sized dinner. Sometimes I feel like such a pig eating with them! But I have definitely come to accept that different people have different eating habits. I usually have a bottle of soy chocolate milk at 9am, a lunch-like meal at about 11am, and graze through the rest of the day… sometimes overeating… a little?
    I’m amazed at how you can put the sort of feelings many people feel into such accurate words! In both the Blogger Peer Pressure post and this! You hit the issues right on the note 😀

  17. Great post! I think my appetite has to do with if I am currently training for a race or if I am just working out a lot! When I was training for my first full marathon this past spring I was starving all the time! I would eat 3 big meals a day but snack in the morning and afternoon or else I wouldn’t make it! Now I’m probably at 3 regular sized meals a day with an afternoon snack.

  18. Natalia says:

    I’m more of a one meal a day and then snacking when I feel hungry… I tend to eat a big lunch, and snack on smaller things when I’m feeling peckish.

  19. VEGirl says:

    While recovering form disordered eating and replenishing my weight, I ate huge meals. But I always had digestive problems and a full stomach would make me feel guilty, weighed down, and unmotivated. However, once I gained some weight, my appetite seemed to be become more natural and I was inclined to switch to smaller meals. I eat about five or six times a day now, and my digestive issues have become so much more manageable! A full stomach is seriously my idea of misery– I can’t go move, and I start feeling sick sometimes. I’m still figuring out how it will all work for me, but I tend to graze more in the morning (my hungriest time of day) and then eat a few more times after that. I love that eating smaller portions more frequently gives met he chance to sample everything I want to, and I tend to feel top of my game :). I have a habit of grazing while I cook and prepare food, but I don’t like how it makes my stomach feel (It seems to like sitting down to a portion much better [?]), so I’d like to break that habit (of course if I want to I’ll still ppartake in it!).

    Katie, thank you so much for writing this post. With eating more often, I feel better but sometimes feel like I’m “eating all the time” or “eating way more than everyone else”. I need to NOT compare and do what works for me. My breakfast was an overall culmination of grazing this morning, and I shouldn’t be embarrassed about it! (for the record, I think I ate a huge berry pancake, cocoa smoothie sauce, four peaches, leftover dinner, the last of my unsweetened chocolate (only 1 1/2 squares :(), peanut butter, and about six spoonfuls of the pudding I made for as a gift for a friend :D. No shame!

    1. I bet you eat exactly right for your body! As a teenager, you have so many parts of you that are still forming (even if you’re not still growing in height) and you NEED a lot of calories. I ate a ton when I was a teen too… even more than I do now. I remember one day coming home and eating half the box of apple cinnamon cheerios… and then still being hungry ;).

      Also, remember that you burn a lot of energy with all that biking you do! 🙂

      1. beccah says:

        not every teenager needs a lot,if I ate a ton I’d be overweight,which I am,everyones metabolism is different,even teenagers.

  20. Erin says:

    This was SUCH a great post, Katie. Thank you for this!!!! It’s helped me so much. Like some of the other commenters, I’ve struggled with disordered eating and worrying about how much others around me are eating and “should I be eating like that? Am I normal?” You’re so right that I need to look to myself, not them! I’m motivated now to really look at what I do and think, and change my thoughts from thinking so much about my meals in terms of how others eat.

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