When binge eating clients first come to visit our nutrition team, they are often confused by our first recommendation, which is that we want them eating more often. While this idea might seem counterintuitive, it is rooted in some pretty solid science. Evidence has shown that following a meal schedule in which we eat at least a small amount of food every two to three hours helps stave off physiological hunger. This is important because it is much harder to resist a binge if you are hungry, and it’s not just a matter of willpower either, your brain is literally flooded with chemicals telling you it’s time to eat when you’ve gone too long without nutrients. There’s a reason we obsess about food when we’re “hangry”; we’re literally biologically programmed to do so.
Following a schedule of small, frequent meals also helps balance out blood sugar swings. When we restrict food for a period of time and then eat a lot in one sitting, our blood sugar spikes. Then, as regulatory hormones are released too quickly in the body to compensate for the surge, our blood sugar crashes again, leaving our body no choice but to crank the hunger cues back up again. This creates a vicious cycle. The good news is a meal schedule helps break this cycle and gives our body a more steady, less chaotic stream of energy. This balance allows us to have more control over our hunger and satiety and this is very important in the early stages of recovery from binge eating.
So, even if it sounds weird or even if you don’t think you’re hungry every three hours, we encourage you to try giving a meal schedule a shot. Let’s make sure we keep hunger out of the picture and allow you to focus on the more important business of recovery!
By Rick Elliott