Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Are we focusing too much on how MUCH we eat; and ignoring how OFTEN?

Those of you following along for a while have noticed a marked improvement in both my fasting and post-prandial glucose control over the past 3-4 weeks. This despite decreasing insulin use by about 1/3, enjoying potatoes, and ingesting meals that have exceeded 75g of carbohydrate and/or 1500kcals in one sitting. While surely many interacting variables are at play, I strongly believe decreasing the FREQUENCY of my meals has had a significant positive effect.

Specifically, I have been aiming for the following:
  • At least 4 hours between meals
  • At least 12 hours between my last meal of the day and the following mornings breakfast
To recap, I had previously attempted the High Everything Diet(HED) and had not seen much improvement at the time - though maybe mostly because I ended up discovering I seem to be Type I and not Type II. But maybe I was too quick to judge....
A couple of the main tenants of the HED are to:
  • Eat whenever hungry
  • Eat until satisfaction
The key being to ingest REAL, nutrient dense foods - while avoiding processed foods, Omega-6 fats, and large quantities of fructose. Prior to, and throughout the month on the HED, I definately felt the need to eat every 3 hours or less. I was seemingly ALWAYS hungry. A few things were possibly to blame:
  • Prior to HED - Unintentially starving myself while going low-carb. Essentially, not replacing the lost carb calories with sufficient calories from fat.
  • The nutrients I was ingesting possibly not ever making it to their proper destination due to a lack of insulin to drive it home.
  • I question whether I was eating to satisfaction as well as I was eating whenever hungry.
At that point, the idea of going more than 3 hours between meals - or going 12+ hours overnight - seemed unattainable. I decided to bag the HED experiment and begin to use a little bit of insulin with each meal; as opposed to my doctor's recommendations to use it whenever I have a reading >200mg/dl. Not letting it get to 200 mg/dl in the first place seemed to make more sense to me - no I don't know why it took me a month to realize this!
I also began to really focus on eating to satisfaction - regardless of how many calories and grams of protein may have been in the meals. It was also during this time I got turned on to brown rice and coconut milk by Matt Stone of 180DegreeHealth. What I found interesting about both of these foods is that they are outstanding sources of maganese and magnesium - nutrients that even on HED I was failing to meet even RDA levels. I can only imagine how woefully inadequate my intake on these vital nutrients was for years.....decades prior! The reason being they are both involved with glucose metabolism and/or insulin resistance/sensitivity. The role of magnesium was covered wonderfully by Stephen at Whole Health Source recently.
Suddenly I began to realize I just wasn't hungry near as often. Times in between meals began to slowly grow larger and larger. I was going 4, 5, 6 - even sometimes up to 8 hours between meals! Maybe there was some healing going on during HED afterall?!
It was during this time I also noticed how differently I felt when not sitting as much. The more I sat at work, the hungrier I became. The less I sat - you guessed it - simply not hungry. Just an observation at this point - but interesting nonethless.
Things were occuring in waves. I next came across an interesting mainstream health article(for the life of me I cannot find now; was either through Yahoo or MSN surprisingly). The title of which was something along the lines of "Eat MORE to lose weight?" If somebody can find it; please link!
In this study, the researchers fed two groups of rats or monkeys(can't remember which) EQUAL amounts of calories. One group was allowed unlimited access to the food - allowing them to essentially eat constantly throughout the day. The second group was only allowed access to the food at specific time intervals; up to 12 hours between in some cases. I fould the results interesting. Not because of the group that had unlimited access to the food gained weight, but more interestingly because that same group also developed some negative bio-markers in the liver as well! Remember, total caloric intake was equal between the two groups.
All the while during this time, I could see more and more signs of a healed metabolism. The checks and balances that are so lacking in those weight weight problems and other issues I was begining to see work their magic. All the sudden I didn't feel the need to be ingesting 3000kcals or more to be full that day. I could eat 2300 kcals and be totally satisfied; stuffed even. If I did have a day with a large caloric load, the next day my body seemed to correct itself by just asking for that much less. It was working like it is supposed to! The constant feeling of hunger was long gone.
The waves kept rolling in. Just this week I came across a new blog with some nice content - The Lean Saloon. The entry that struck a chord with me was - "In Response to A Fat-Loss Client" from Febuary 24th. The following passage captures my current feelings...
"As such, I have found long-term success in eating fewer times per day. I also make sure most of the food is nutrient-rich — mostly vegetables, fruits, and meats. This may help to preserve optimal health while in a calorie deficit. Beyond this I still enjoy some sinful food — or what’s the point?!

Our culture is conditioned to eat 4 to 6 meals a day, believing this stabilizes blood sugar, maintains muscle, speeds up metabolism, etc. But no scientific evidence can demonstrate these factors to be different in fewer meals a day.

From a metabolic standpoint, there are no advantages to spreading 1, 2, or 3 meals over more smaller meals throughout the day.

People who eat 5 or 6 meals per day are still overweight. Bodybuilders who eat 5 or 6 meals are still fat in the off-season, and are lean only when they “diet down” for a competition, typically by eating fewer calories. "
And then today... "Snacks mean U.S. kids move toward constand eating." lays possibly even more blame at the feet of more frequent feedings:

"This raises the question of whether the physiological basis for eating is becoming deregulated, as our children are moving toward constant eating."
While my recent experiences may be nothing more than random happenings, closing in on a month of fairly consistent improvement leaves me optimisitic there is more to explore and learn from the specific issues I have addressed today.


  1. Great blog and post, and thank you for the blog link to The Lean Saloon.

    I truly believe that insulin dysregulation is one of the great contributors to the chronic diseases we see today.

    And your blog name's play on word is one of the best I've ever seen!



  2. Thanks. Humble beginnings here for certain, but the kind words are appreciated.

    I'll be following along. Thanks for stopping by!