Vail Daily column: We eat too much food |

Vail Daily column: We eat too much food

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Happy holidays to all! As fascinating as it is to celebrate this joyous time of year, it’s not as exciting once you consider the scale and the awesome fatness you’ve created around your midline. Indulging and carrying on at the office party last week didn’t really help your endeavor towards health.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will once in for all help you navigate the remaining two weeks of the last quarter. You don’t need to eat six small meals a day to improve or maintain your figure. Eating six small meals per day is likely leading to fat gain more than your realize. The overindulgence at the holiday party is just icing on the cake, or icing pasted on your rear end for that matter.

I’ve touted the benefits of intermittent fasting for years. Even though I will detail a few of the benefits of fasting in this column, I really want to challenge the popular idea that we must eat six small meals per day for optimal body composition. I want to call out the proponents of breakfast eating; after all, it is the most important meal of the day, isn’t it? It isn’t the most important meal of the day. What’s important is that we eat too much food, regardless of when we eat it. Spreading meals over six small meals per day actually can backfire because research has shown that grazers eat more total food than the non-grazing counterparts.


Georgie Fear, renowned nutrition expert and wellness professional said, “There’s evidence that eating small meals and snacks actually doesn’t suppress hunger as well as eating a satisfying meal. You may not feel overly hungry when you have a snack to eat every few hours, but you also never really feel satisfied. And that chronic, mildly sub-satisfied feeling is a constant stress to the brain, body and mind. Many people who eat six meals per day fixate on food. They are always thinking about when their next meal will be, what they’ll eat, if they should have 2 ounces of sweet potato or if the carbohydrates would be better spent on a tiny portion of oatmeal, or if they might do one at the 4 o’clock feeding and one at the 7 o’clock feeding. … If you’re smiling, this is probably sounding familiar. An amazing thing happens to the brain when the body gets enough food at one time to be satisfied. I don’t mean stuffed, just enough food to be completely comfortable and sated. The food obsession quiets. You get a long stretch of hours before you need to eat again. It gets food off your mind so you can actually, you know … live your life. One adaptation that comes with frequent feeding is that the body’s utilization of fuel moves more toward carbohydrate oxidation, with less fat oxidation. Being a carb burner is fine, as long as you keep eating every few hours and have no trouble staying lean. However, if you’ve ever felt your blood sugar tumble you know the sensation is not a polite suggestion to eat, your animalistic brain takes over and it’s food. Now. If you’re burning predominantly carbohydrates, when they run low (such as a meal getting skipped or delayed) you are at risk of that glucoprivic feeding response.”

She continues, “On the flip side, the ability to burn more fat for fuel leads to more blood glucose stability. When your body turns up the fat mobilization pathways, if you miss a meal, your body just mobilizes fatty acids from storage sites and starts burning them for fuel. No mayday scenario. No shakes or dizziness or raiding your neighbor’s candy stash in desperation. Just a normal hunger, that approaches slowly and without bells and whistles. Small frequent meals don’t give us enough hours between meals to get into a real fasted state. When we get truly into that fasted state, a lot of things happen: insulin levels reach their lowest, fatty acids are released from our fat stores, ghrelin production from the stomach increases, and the body generally moves into a state of breaking down fats for fuel and releasing glucose from stored glycogen. In fact, when you don’t eat for 12 hours or so, your body gradually shifts over to burning more fats. Up to 80 percent of fuel usage after a 12 hour overnight fast is fat. Eating very often prevents the body from ever getting into that state. Insulin doesn’t come all the way down, which prevents fatty acid release from fat storage sites.”


How can we use this information to achieve leanness? How can we use intermittent fasting to navigate the holidays? Consider eating one large meal per day in the evening. Indulge with a large meal in the evening, but don’t burn through your savings in the day via small meals to help curb your appetite. You’re likely going to overindulge at the party anyway, regardless of what you ate throughout the day; save the calories for when it counts. Have you ever tried eating the entire days’ worth of calories in one sitting? It’s very difficult because your brain receives signals that you’re full long before reaching you’re total allotment. If this is too difficult, eat two or three larger meals at 900 and 600 calories respectively, rather than six smaller meals at 300 calories each that never truly satisfy your palate. These approaches will help you navigate the dreaded holiday weight gain, and get you off on the right foot for your inevitable New Year’s resolution to really do it this year. Have fun this week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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