At Foodtrainers, we’re huge fans of the food log. Especially for self-described “healthy eaters,” the devil (or weight loss) is in the details. And with many of our clients, I can see from their journals they’re already making decent choices. Many of our clients have slashed excess sugar and “white” carbs. But what I do find is evidence of underfueling, or eating too little. And underfueling leads to over fueling, which can ultimately sabotage your weight loss goal.
I suspect underfueling when clients say “I do so well during the day, it’s at night when I have problems with self-control.” Sound familiar? If you come home from work and turn into a snack monster, keep reading.
Underfueling Leads to Over Fueling
There are lots of reasons why you might find yourself underfueling. I often hear, “I’m too busy to eat at work,” “I’m a stay-at-home mom—I don’t have a set lunchtime,” or “Local lunch options are unappealing, so I don’t bother eating.” Then there are the “saver uppers” who think skimping on calories early in the day allows them to eat whatever they want for dinner later. (In reality, saver uppers never save as much as they think they do.) Even with clients who take the time to bring a mid-day meal from home can run into underfueling trouble—most brown baggers don’t pack enough.
Beyond feeling ravenous later in the day, there are consequences to underfueling and skipping meals. Erratic calorie intake puts a toll on blood sugar, and when insulin is taxed our bodies store more belly fat. And one study shows not eating daytime meals results in increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Ghrelin is a nasty hormone—when you produce more of it, you tend to overeat.
What’s an Underfueler to Do?
Start small. It’s not crucial to have a huge breakfast, but you should have something with protein within two hours of waking up. (6 to 8 ounces of low-fat Greek yogurt topped with walnuts or chia seeds is a good option.)
Then, make lunch more significant. I consider lunch to be the most important meal of the day, and it should be your largest. I’m not talking about a plate piled with pasta here, but I do suggest making your midday meal an entrée, not a collection of snacks or a skimpy salad.
Dinner is the best place to cut portions or calories. When you’ve properly fueled throughout the day, you’ll feel satisfied with a smaller evening meal.
If you’re already eating kale, hitting your daily step goal, and slashing sugar and other empty carbs, the secret to losing weight could be eating more regularly—not skipping meals or being a saver upper. When you eat can make all the difference.
Have you ever been a saver upper or an underfueler? Share your thoughts in the comments!
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.