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Do you eat too much?

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.


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?

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Published on July 11, 2011

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
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ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day!

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  1. Liz @ IHeartVegetables says

    Such a good point. Don’t let society define when and how much to eat! Let your body to the talking!

    I like to eat a pretty big breakfast, a light salad for lunch, and a small dinner, that means I can have lots of snacks throughout the day!

  2. Lauren says

    Great post! I think we need to stop comparing in all areas of life, eating included. It’s much safer to listen to our bodies. I always roll my eyes when magazines give out those celebrity weight-loss plans. I mean, you have no idea about the particular celeb’s metabolism, lifestyle, or if she “cheats” once in a while by going out for nachos. So following a meal plan made for someone else is a very bad idea!

  3. L. says

    Ha! At first I thought you were serious, like you were going to talk about how we eat too much and need to eat less.
    Great post, Katie :).

  4. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table says

    Love this post! Most of the tie I eat 4-5x a day, but when I’m in the office I tend to stick to 3 meals – it’s just easier at work. Like many others have said, I can’t stand when people comment on how I eat. Everyone is different AND my daily activity varies. Sometimes I eat a salad and sometimes I eat more than the guy next to me. Post-long runs I am insatiable. 🙂

  5. Erika K. says

    I usually eat way more than the other girls I know, and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, especially since I’m not stick thin. I’m always afraid they’re judging me, like they think I should be eating a salad, or “No wonder she’s a little chubby.” But really, if they’re thinking that, that is THEIR issue not mine.
    Thanks for helping me to remember to worry about myself, not what others will think. There will always be people judging, no matter how I eat, and it’s not my job to please them!

  6. Jess @ Keeping It Real Food says

    I tend to need three meals and two snacks or 5 mini-meals per day, but I have friends and family members whose needs are completely different.

    I’m always happy to see someone write about this topic. It’s so easy to be influenced by those around us and what we *think* we should be doing.

  7. Gen says

    My stomach doesn’t handle large meals too well…so I tend to eat several times throughout the day. I need more calories because I’m really active and have a fast metabolism, but instead of eating a lot at once, I eat smaller meals all day long. 😀

  8. Michaela says

    I mostly eat 3 big meals and I snack inbetween, but other days I would only eat 2 meals and just have some fruit and there even are days when I work out alot, when I would eat a big bfast, snack, big lunch, snack, dinner and another snack! I hate when people compare themselves or the amount of food they are eating, everybody is unique.

  9. [email protected] Blog of My Very Own! says

    I am a grazer. Which is good when I’m losing weight, it keeps me from starving. But being a grazer when I’m trying to maintain a weight loss doesn’t work for me, I tend to eat too much and put the weight back on. I am trying to find a eating plan that will work for me both during and after weight loss.

  10. Melissa says

    I eat . . . when I’m hungry. Weird, right? 😉

    I usually want breakfast sometime between 9 and 11, but sometimes I don’t want anything. If I eat a hearty breakfast, I may have a snack in the afternoon, and then be good until dinner. Or sometimes I’m not hungry at all and I just wait and have a bigger dinner. I try to eat intuitively, which for me means, when I’m hungry! It’s the exact reason I don’t post everything I eat on my blog. Everyone is different and you can’t compare apples to oranges. You just can’t. And you shouldn’t!

  11. Melanie says

    Honestly, it depends on the day. Sometimes I only have 3 meals plus a snack, other times I’m eating every 2-3 hours.

  12. Holly @ The Runny Egg says

    Sometimes I notice that others eat more or less than me — but I know we all have different needs so I try not to focus on it too much. I do not like when people comment on how I am eating — if I order a salad they ask if I’m on a diet (what???). It is annoying for sure!

    • beccah says

      haha it is,its esp annoying and rude when people make comments like you eat nothing or weigh nothing b/c its none of their amn business and can be damaging mentally. >.<

  13. Lenna says

    Thanks for this post Katie, it is important to realize that everyone is different and what works for one person doesn´t have to work for another. We have to find our own ways. I need to have 3 regular meals plus at least to snacks, but sometimes I just snack my way through the day, depending on my activites on the particular day. But a BIG breakfast is a must 🙂

  14. Teniesha @ Vegan on the Go-Go says

    This is exactly what I needed to read! I have been dealing with issues regarding this for the last 2 months or so, thanks to some unnecessary comments from nosy people. Last week, the day I flew home from France and was awake for 30 hours straight, I went to a late dinner at Whole Foods. I hadn’t eaten much that long, long day due to lack of time between flights, and I’d eaten lunch 7 hours before I finally arrived at WF, so I was QUITE hungry and took full advantage of the salad bar, filling it to the brim. When I went to get some silverware, some guy glanced at my bowl and said, “That’s a lot of food!” It really struck me at first. Having struggled with disordered eating and negative body image, that was seriously the LAST thing I needed to hear. But I am so much stronger than I once was, and seriously, most of the base of my salad was raw veggies. The bulkier grains and protein sources were on top. Yeah, it may have looked like a lot of food, but calorically, it wasn’t. I was actually quite angry, then, so I replied, “Is there something wrong with that? For a girl?” He realized he’d overstepped his boundaries and said that, no, he ate a lot, too, sometimes. Still, in hindsight, I wish I would have told him, “You know, you should be careful who you say that to. I used to be a borderline anorexic.” I’ve also had a girl tell me I’m “too dependent on food” just because I was eating an afternoon snack . . . after walking around ALL afternoon. Seriously, some people are so ignorant!

    Thank you, Katie, for your wisdom and lovely spirit. This post made me feel much, much better.

    • Melissa says

      Argh, oh girl I feel you.

      I’m also recovering EDNOS and I’m a marathon runner. I’m running like 35-50 mpw and doing biking since I’m training for a sprint tri and a sprint du between now and August. I eat A LOT. But I absolutely hate it when people comment on how much I’m eating. It puts me in a shame spiral and is totally triggering. It doesn’t matter that I know I need the fuel or I know that my meal is mostly raw veggies (I do giant salads, too, and someone ALWAYS has to comment on it) it’s still a slap in the face and makes that evil, nasty voice in my head start up on me for daring to eat. 🙁

      People need to just not comment on anyone’s food, IMO. You never know what troubles someone is having or has had and you could seriously mess up someone’s head doing it. When I was at a work trip recently a gal kept saying things like “we’ll let you have a snack, ’cause you’re ALWAYS hungry!” It pissed me off. I didn’t realize how bad it was making me feel until dinner that night. I had a panic attack and couldn’t decide on anything to eat because I felt so upset that I was apparently “eating too much” earlier in the day. We were at an all veg restaurant that I was really excited about but I could only stomach eating fat free soup and steamed kale. And that was after almost crying over the menu for about twenty minutes. 🙁

      She did make me cry later that week, saying the same thing while I was having a mild anxiety attack trying to find lunch. I mean, honestly. Come on. Don’t comment on my food.

      • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

        Girls, you should be PROUD of what you can put back! 😉

        Look at it as a good thing… ya know, like those people who win pancake-eating contests? Whenever my guy friends tell me, “Geez Katie, you eat a ton” I always respond with, “Thank you. I know.” It’s so funny when I can outeat them… then I tease them. “What’s wrong? You’re gonna let a girl out-eat you?” I enjoy dispelling the myth that it’s “ladylike” to just eat a salad and not have an appetite.

        Do not apologize for a healthy appetite!!! 🙂

        • Nathalie says

          Ok, I have to comment on this.

          So, I moved to Japan last year, right? When I first got here, I thought it was cute/charming/amusing, but now I find it overwhelmingly annoying. I’m referring to the fact that here, EVERYBODY has to comment on your food. And by “your”, I mean “a foreigner’s” food. When I started work and would bring stuff from home for lunch, teachers in the communal teachers’ room would come from the other side of the room to see what I had. Because they assumed it was interesting foreign food (it wasn’t; I’m very into the Japanese diet).

          More than once I felt the need to just stop eating my lunch because everybody was watching me eat. Even now if I bring something I made myself (which on its own is apparently super-comment-worthy), it feels like I’m getting interrogated when they ask me “Did you make it yourself? What’s in it? Is it an American food?” I’ve taken to giving short, curt, to-the-point answers, which clearly convey I’m trying to eat, not have a conversation. I make it a point to NEVER comment on my coworkers’ food.

          I know this is long; forgive me, but I have one more thing to note. Here in Japan, there is way more gender-structuring for volumes of food eaten. All-you-can-eat sushi places have different rates for if you’re a man or woman. And I eat a LOT, like Katie. People always, ALWAYS comment on it. It gets old really fast. There’s a general perception that one should always eat “until 80% full.” There’s a proverb about it. And women are sort of expected to eat not so much. In short, everything here works against me being able to eat a meal around other people in peace. And reading the comments about such commentary being triggering, I think I’ll inform my teachers next time to think twice about commenting on people’s food, at least if they’re American (and/or girls).

      • Living, Learning, Eating says

        On one hand, I kind of get where your coming from.

        On the other hand, why don’t you guys eat DENSER food? The fact that you still have to eat all this low/no sugar, super-voluminous-from-WATER stuff just points at the fact that a lot of you still have eating disorders.

        Yes, everyone eats differently. But when you’re recovering from an ED, you need to try to eat like normal, non-ED people eat. That means NORMAL ice cream, NORMAL sandwiches, NORMAL salads (not dry), etc. And, really? Salads, unless very generously dressed and piled with nuts, seeds, etc. don’t really belong on a recovery diet plan. Check out any of the inpatient places.

        I’m sure it’s hard, and I’m sure it goes against what you’ve trained yourself to think over the years, but it’s time to break the spiral.

        Don’t you want to enjoy life again? Even if that means a *GASP* McFlurry or fries? Or a non-dark chocolate bar?

        I wish you the best of luck.

        • ducky says

          Have you ever had a combative or negative relationship with food? I take it from your post that you haven’t.I don’t have an eating disorder, but my own relationship with food could be called contentious. A lot of people, even those without eating disorders, eat a lot of veggies and fruit for a variety of reasons. Training as athletes, veganism, cutting out junk food, etc.

          I guess I’m more offended at your gall at passing judgement here. Who are you to say these people still have eating disorders? What the hell is a NORMAL sandwich, salad, or whatever? In what reality is a Mcflurry considered normal food??

          You’re sure it’s hard? I don’t think so, your understanding seems minimal at best!

        • Emily N. says

          I understand where you’re coming from, but in all reality I have absolutely no appetite for fast food and those types of things that people say you must indulge in to have a healthy appetite. Yes I eat mainly fruits and vegetables, with some whole grains and healthy fats, but that’s because I have no interest in the long term negative side effects that come with eating fast food. My grandparents got along just find without it (they are in their 90s and still healthy), and so did every generation in history before them. I don’t see any reason to start eating it now.
          People seem to confuse healthy eating with disordered eating. I think that’s what Katie is proving in her blog. You can eat dessert, but still retain useful nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. You can eat a high calorie diet without including a BigMac. I’ve never understood why people are judged for passing up foods that have absolutely no nutritional value. I like to be informed about what is going into my body, and how it’s going to benefit my health.

          • Therese says

            We are not lemmings. I don’t care if McDonalds, white bread and meat eating are normal. So is cancer, heart disease and stroke. I’m going to try to make the most informed, logical decisions I can about food, and pursue the foods that help me to have clear skin, a good immune system and a lower weight. Done normal. Normal makes me sick, ugly and tired. Salad is wonderful, life giving food. Don’t love food that doesn’t love you back, but most importantly let your brain be your pilot, not your stomach. Isn’t that part of recovering from an ED?

  15. Kelsey @ Unmitigated Grub says

    I love this post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and really trying to listen to my body more as opposed to eating because I “should.” Unfortunately, I’m a food-lover with a slow metabolism so I just can’t consume as much as others. Which is just fine–as long as I’m doing what’s right for me. As of now, I eat three meals a day with snacks when I’m hungry. BUT I do have “not hungry” days in which I’m never all that hungry. On those days, I have to be careful to not overeat!

    Thanks for bringing this important topic up! It’s a great reminder for us all to avoid being influenced by what others are doing. 🙂

  16. Erin says

    I eat too much. And I don’t always eat healthy. Actually, I’m just starting to change how I eat and what I eat (which is how I came across your blog).Unlike you, I’m short with a slow metabolism and I don’t exercise, but like you, I am always eating. Always. Unlike you again, I do not eat healthy things. I’m hoping that eating around 50% raw vegan will help to jump start a more healthy lifestyle.

  17. Katie says

    Love this post! I sometimes find myself falling into a trap of comparing how much I eat (a lot, albeit mostly healthy stuff) compared to others. My roommate eats wayyyy less than me, but she also doesn’t workout and therefore doesn’t need as many calories. It is so important to remember that everyone is different.

    I also tend to think ‘oh it is 12 so I have to eat’ and am trying really hard to listen more to body and eat when I am hungry and not just because I think I should.

  18. beccah says

    I have a problem w binging/binging purging but am trying to get it under control by going pretty much vegan and having healthy meals,the only thing I’m not willing to give up tho is sugar free jello lol it’s so nummy ^_^.I’ve been eating 3x a day and feel amazing when I eat mostly plant based foods esp meals of beans+grains b/c its filling,makes me feel good and I can go for hours.I get supremely annoyed at my mom when she asks if I need a snack or comment on food I eat though b/c I dont want to focus on it since it can be triggering,is just plain annoying and she needs to eat/eats a lot more than I do when I eat normally.I want to be a healthy weight again 😀

  19. O.C. says

    I am such a grazer! Sometimes just have a big breakfast and graze throughout the day on nuts, veggies, fruits chocolate and Larabars till dinner. I don’t really feel the need to follow sOcietys rules of when it’s “normal” to eat. But I don’t like eating dinner too late or it makes it hard for me to sleep!

  20. Faith @ lovelyascharged says

    I’ve actually come to better terms with my body eating as often as I’m hungry (which is a LOT!) rather than eating when I “should”. I’m far happier with my body now that I realize it’s okay to eat when my body is asking for fuel – whenever that may be – in comparison to the days when I only ate when I allowed myself to. I’m definitely more of a grazer, but since I eat mostly fruits and veggies, I can eat almost all stinking day and not consume more calories than I really need. Then again, when my body is craving a bagel (like it did this morning at 10 am), I’m down with going and getting one instead of ignoring the craving because “I already ate breakfast and its not time for lunch yet.”

  21. char @ char on a mission says

    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 😀

  22. 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:

    Thanks again for writing this, Katie! 😀

  23. Amy says

    Since coming home from school for the summer I have noticed myself comparing my eating habits to the eating habits of my family, bloggers, roommates, and myself (because I eat differently when I am at school eating in the dining hall.)

    I too do not appreciate it when others comment on my eating habits. I am petite and exercise daily. Additionally, I eat mostly healthy, raw, vegan foods (and no dairy or gluten).

    Since coming home for summer I have been eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t eat snacks in between my meals because I don’t need to. I like to have some form of chocolate an hour or so after dinner. — This is what works for me and I must remember to listen to my body instead of looking to others no matter where I am (school vs. home)

    Katie, thanks for a great post as usual!

  24. Lindsey @ Why Just Eat says

    I eat when I am hungry. I don’t eat when I’m not hungry. Simple as that! Now that’s not to say that my choices when I am hungry are the best – usually they aren’t. I would like to have pancakes for breakfast, french fries with my lunch and something drown in gooey cheese for dinner. But I don’t 🙂

  25. Emilia says

    Thank you for this post!! I feel like I get stuck in the comparison trap all the time, even though I know it’s not good for me, it can be hard sometimes, but I have to just trust myself. I usually eat three meals a day and an afternoon snack, since I usually eat lunch quite early.

  26. Jessy says

    I agree – to each their own! I eat when I’m hungry, which usually makes 4 meals, with lunch being the ”main meal”. I hate it when people comment on others’ eating habits, as it’s really none of their business.

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