Weight Loss
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Should you eat even if you are not hungry?

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Ok, I am looking for all of you experts out there to answer this one.   I have noticed a lot of people on this board (typically those who are not eating enough cals and or skipping meals) saying that they are not hungry and they shouldn't eat if they aren't. 

I can say from my own experience in the past that if I let hunger be a guide, I would often skip meals....especially in the morning.  I could eat a protein bar at 7 am and not eat again until 1pm and then by then I would be suddenly ravenous and probably eat more than I needed to at lunch.  I also would get that mid-afternoon munchie thing going on.  Now I plan my meals and eat every 3 hours regardless of hunger and because I eat this way I am NEVER hungry and I am losing fat.  So, what is right answer?

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kashicat - well I'm no expert but when I didn't eat enough calories - (not intentionally -didn't seem to get hungry, forgot to eat, reflux etc and  didn't eat till 10am then had a protein bar, small lunch , afternoon snack and dinner ) I didn't lose any weight! Once I started eating something about every 3 hours and increasing calories I finally started losing though it took 6 weeks to start losing anything. I find since increasing calories I actually do get hungry and don't usually need reminded to eat LOL and I am slowly losing some weight (I only wanted to lose 10 pounds , now down 2.8!)

I think there's a problem with 'eat when you're hungry' because it gets wrongly interpreted as 'eat when you're famished'.  You should never really get to a state where you feel famished because that's when overeating happens.  I think your approach is spot on.  Eating regularly is a good, healthy habit to get into.
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My "un-expert" opinion: If you don't eat regularly then your body will store fat. You need to eat to keep your metabolism up.  If it slows down because of low fuel intake then your body will conserve calories.  I think we need to learn how to eat for health and not based on how we feel.

I think it's a little of both. My first month into calorie counting seems like it was similar to what you said - I ate by clockwork and was never hungry. But now, I've gotten a little tired of living on a strict schedule. So I eat when I'm hungry, and if I'm not hungry at 2:00 PM in time for my regularly scheduled snack, I don't eat it until 3:00 PM when I am hungry.

I think you just need to eat on a schedule until you get a good feel for what your body needs, and until you can recognize when you're meeting its needs and when you're not.

I think if you are losing fat, you have found the answer. You don't have to eat big meals every three hours, just something to keep you on track. I think you have found the right answer for you. Good job and Keep up the good work!

The main thing is, find something that works for you. I am a big proponent of eating breakfast - for a number of years I didn't, and I always stayed heavy and lethargic even though I had active jobs (mover, park ranger).  But I didn't eat breakfast, and I often didn't eat lunch, and just ate a huge dinner.  Bleah!  Bad idea.

So eat a reasonable breakfast.  After that, you gotta do what works for you. I eat 4 meals a day, because if I don't eat between lunch and dinner I'm STARVING by dinner time and I eat too much, so three times a day is too infrequent for me. I tried the 6-meal-a-day plan for a while and I felt like I was stuffing myself - that was too often.

The questions you should ask yourself are these:

1) How do I feel? Do I have enough energy to get through the day? Do I feel stuffed or starving? (I'd avoid both.)

2) Am I eating so little that I gorge myself later? Don't put yourself on a starve/binge cycle, because that can lead to problems.

3) Am I meeting my weight goals (gain, loss, whatever)?

If the answers to those three are all okay, then you're doing fine. :) Everyone's different, so what works for me may not work for you.

Should you eat, even if you are not hungry?  I think that depends on your relationship with food and on the situation.


If you have a healthy relationship with food and a healthy appetite, and you’re in tune with your body, then no, you shouldn’t … provided that 1) you have a pretty good idea of when you will start to get hungry, and 2) you’ll have prompt access to healthy, balanced food when that happens.  But if not eating now means that your access to (healthy) food again is hours away (such as, you’re heading into a 3 hour class/meeting) and past when you will get hungry, then you need to eat something now, even if you’re not hungry.


On the other hand, if you don’t have a healthy relationship with food, you’ve overly restricted and/or binged, and just generally abused your body to the point that you’ve obliterated your sense of whether you’re hungry or not, until you suddenly get ravenous … then in that case, you should eat at the regular times, in the amounts that you should eat, whether you are hungry or not.  When your body becomes accustomed to having regular, nutritious food in sufficient quantities, it will start sending normal hunger signs again, and then you can get in tune with your body, so that the previous paragraph applies.

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Original Post by sharz96:

Should you eat, even if you are not hungry? I think that depends on your relationship with food and on the situation.

See above.

MOST people should eat only when they're hungry.

People who have a history of EDs, or at high risk of developing an ED, or some people who have other physical problems (diabetes maybe) benefit from sticking to a schedule.

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