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Opening Arguments

Three squares ain't magic

Commitment to eating three meals a day is "racist." So The National Review says an article in Mother Jones says:

Butler offered excerpts of an e-mail interview with Abigail Carroll, author of the book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, as proof of this point.

“The eating schedule of the native tribes was less rigid… . The Europeans took this as ‘evidence that natives were uncivilized,’ Carroll explained to me in an email,” Butler wrote.

She said that Carroll told her that the Europeans believed that “civilized people ate properly and boundaried their eating, thus differentiating themselves from the animal kingdom, where grazing is the norm.”

The author did throw out the "racist" word," which is downright silly, but focusing on that obscures the larger point being made in the article. which is that their is no nutritional benefit from sticking to a rigid three-meal-a-day schedule, or maintaining any particular pattern at all, for that matter.

Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don't eat when it's time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art: In industrialized societies, where food is abundant, we eat because of social cues "or just because something smells good." If we can teach ourselves to pay attention to our own bodies instead of our environment, he says, "that might be the best diet of all."

My eating patterns have varied all my life. When I was growing up, my parents tried of course to keep everybody on the three-meal schedule, always admonishing the three children to "stop snacking because it will ruin your supper," which we naturally ignored. Throughout my early adulthood, I at several times a day, rour, five or even six, but much smaller "meals." Now I tend to eat twice a day, unless my first meal is too late in the day, in which case I usually am just hungry enough for a light snack at night. I don't think any of the ways was any better or worse for my nuttrition or overall health. The author of the piece quotes an exper who says the one thing that might actually improve our metabolism is periodic fasting, which seems a little drastic to me.

But, yes, "eat when you're hungry." I had a friend in Michigan City who tried and failed at every weight-loss scheme that came along. In desperation, he tried "eat when you're hungry" and threw in "and quit eating when you're not hungry." He soon was down to a more manageagle weight and said he was amazed to discover how much he'd been eating just out of habit.