Sasha Millice, MS, RD, LD
Benefits of a consistent eating pattern
Over the past few years, the internet has been buzzing with chatter about “meal timing” and “fasting windows”. However, these approaches are full of the elusive promises of fad diets, not to mention, have a lot of risks, especially for individuals in eating disorder recovery. So today I am sharing some information about the benefits of following a consistent eating pattern that honors hunger fluctuations throughout the day.
One of the most common things that I will work on with any patient is creating a consistent eating pattern that works for their lifestyle and allows them to meet their nutritional goals. What I mean by “consistent” varies from person to person based on their schedule, nutrition needs, and medical history. But in general, it means eating meals at regular intervals each day, having snacks that honor their hunger fluctuations, not skipping meals, and not allowing huge stretches of time between meals and snacks. So why is consistency such an important step for people as they start to heal their relationship with food?
1. It prevents intense hunger and uncomfortable fullness
Eating regular meals and snacks can help individuals avoid vulnerability factors for eating disorder behaviors such as intensive hunger and uncomfortable fullness. When you skip a meal or eat at erratic intervals it can result in more intense sensations of hunger. Showing up to a meal with that intense hunger can easily lead to eating past comfortable fullness, or binging, which can be a trigger for gastrointestinal discomfort. And for many individuals in recovery from an eating disorder, this discomfort may trigger further behaviors.
2. It supports the consumption of adequate nutrition
Having a consistent eating pattern helps to ensure that individuals are consuming adequate nutrients throughout the day. This is so important for nutritional restoration in recovery and helps individuals to feel energized, prevents brain fog, and stabilizes blood sugar levels by reducing insulin production. Stabilizing blood sugar levels is particularly important for individuals with chronic health conditions that impact insulin levels, such as PCOS or diabetes.
3. It supports overall gut health
Eating consistently is also great for your gut! The gut has its own self-cleaning system called the migrating motor complex that stimulates muscle contractions in the gut to aid indigestion between meals. This needs time (approx 3-4 hours) between meals to digest food and move waste through the GI tract. Skipping meals can disrupt the normal rhythms of this process leading to GI discomfort and bowel irregularities. Since researchers estimate that >90% of individuals with an eating disorder will also have a functional gut disorder, promoting gut health is key.
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