Many Americans struggle with losing weight. They feel frustrated by repeated attempts at weight loss.Fad diets claim successful weight loss, but none of them are proven to work. It’s clear that eating fewer calories is important to lose weight. But there is conflicting evidence on the specifics.One area of debate is when to consume calories throughout the day. Is eating three times a day best to achieve weight loss? Or is it better to eat more — or less — frequently? These are tough questions. Some diets suggest eating every two to three hours. Others suggest limiting it to three times per day or even only twice a day.There does appear to be an inverse association between weight and eating frequency. That is, the heavier a person is, the less often they eat. In fact, research suggests that people of normal weight and formerly obese people who have maintained their weight loss eat about four times per day, compared with obese people. Here are some potential benefits and disadvantages to eating more than three times per day.Benefits include:A decrease in hunger and an increase in fullness, which can potentially prevent overeating. In fact, when people become very hungry the risk increases that they will choose unhealthy high-calorie foods, such as pizza and soda.
This can lead to eating too much at one sitting.More opportunities to consume healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.Potential disadvantages include:Choosing snacks that do not leave us satisfied, which can lead to overeating later in the day.More mindless eating. Unhealthy food options are everywhere to tempt us. We learn to respond to cues, such as food availability, rather than hunger and fullness. This can lead to overeating. Eating three meals a day can help us resist tempting foods and overeating. This helps promote weight loss.The limited research suggests that eating three structured meals per day compared with fewer than three meals per day can help control appetite and lead to feelings of fullness.A 6-month feeding trial of 51 people looked at the effect of eating frequency on hunger, energy intake and weight loss. Participants were split into 2 groups. The “gorging group” ate 3 meals per day. The “grazing group” ate about 100 calories every 2 to 3 hours. Grazers ate about 6 times per day. Participants were given a calorie limit based on their individual weight-loss goals.By the end of the study, all of the participants had lost weight. However, there was no difference in the amount of weight lost between the two groups. But people in the grazing group experienced significantly less hunger. But this did not lead to more weight loss for the grazing group.