According to a new study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, overweight people tend to actually eat less frequently than their normal weight counterparts.
To conduct their study researchers assembled 257 overweight and normal-weight volunteers between the ages of 25 and 47 and analyzed their eating and exercise habits. According to the data collected the overweight adults consumed over 2,000 calories a day, dispersed between 3 meals and 1 snack where as the normal-weight adults consumed 1,800 to 1,900 calories a day and ate 2 snacks and 3 meals a day. Researchers also found that those that ate more often got more exercise. Those that maintained a normal weight burned approximately 3,000 calories a week exercising compared to the overweight adults who burned on average only 800 calories a week exercising.
The study’s authors concluded that: “This preliminary investigation suggests that eating more frequently, characterized by an eating pattern of approximately three meals and two snacks, was related to lower BMI and maintenance of weight loss.”
While researchers admitted that they were not sure why this correlation exists there are a few theories. According to Registered and Licensed Dietician Becky Hand there is a physiological explanation: “When you eat regularly throughout the day, your body knows that more food is on the way, and it’s more likely to burn the calories you consume than store them as fat.” Another theory is that eating frequently helps control blood-sugar levels and appetite. When people go too long without eating they tend to consume larger quantities of food and are more likely to eat calorie-dense fattening foods.
Eating more frequently however does not mean consuming more food during the day. If you are considering incorporating more snacks or mini-meals into your diet, be sure to reduce the size of your regular meals. For easy and healthy snacking options try keeping rinsed and cut vegetables, almonds, low-fat cheese and yogurt and whole wheat crackers on hand. These foods will all contribute essential nutrients and help keep your blood sugar balanced so that you will have plenty of energy to get through your day and keep your diet on track.