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Posted on Jan 4, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food | 33 comments

The Timing of Eating

Another day of successful eating (complete with almost complete calorie counting) was had yesterday, huzzah! I had voiced some slight concern that getting back into the groove with work would mess with my eating habits. See, when at work, I tend to push off eating even if I’m hungry because I’m busy or, occasionally, because I’m just too lazy to get up from my desk (I’m awesome, I know). This lends itself to my willpower faltering due to hunger and the odds of me getting that steak & cheese from the deli downstairs increasing exponentially. Because of this, I actively tried to pay attention to my hunger cues yesterday. This led to a mildly strange distribution of my eats throughout the day. Observe:

7:45 AM: Chicken sausage link (100 calories).

In case you were wondering, there really is no good way to take a picture of a plain sausage link.

I know, I know, a random sausage for breakfast isn’t really breakfast. But I was busy putting together an actual lunch to bring, and I kinda let the b-fast thing slide. At least I ate something at all, right? I’m working on it, I’m working on it. At least all that protein kept me full!

10:30 AM: Salad with mixed greens, onion, grapes, grape tomatoes, craisins, blue cheese crumbles and balsamic dressing (~250 calories).


I got a little peckish around 10:30, and because I hadn’t dropped my lunch off in the fridge yet (again, out of laziness) the salad was nice and ready for me already. My lunch was a two-parter, just like yesterday’s. No, literally just like yesterday’s: an exact repeat.

1:00 PM: Turkey chili (~300 calories).


I started to feel a little bit hungry again around 1-ish, so I ate the rest of my lunch then. It tided me over until I got home from work, which is when my mind started to mess with the whole hunger-cues-listening game (yep, now all I can think of is the Hunger Games. #obsessed) a bit.

See, I was due at my parents’ house for our weekly family dinner wherein we would have a repeat of homemade pizza night because the ‘rents were really anxious to see my new pizza stone in action. And even homemade pizza makes calorie counting kind of hard, so I wanted to have a nice big buffer zone. But because of my brother‘s teaching schedule, we wouldn’t be eating until 7:45 PM. Soooo, my mind started messing with my body, and eventually I got so fed up with trying to decide whether to eat or not, that I just gave up and went to Starbucks.

4:45 PM: Grande skinny peppermint mocha (130 calories).


Amazingly, it did the trick! It staved off hunger for a little while and for a mere 130 cals. Thank GOODNESS I didn’t succumb to the lure of the eggnog latte instead (let alone that thick slice of iced lemon poundcake… sigh…) because something big was about to go down.

7:30 PM: Coke Zero (0 calories).


No, not the Coke Zero, though it was delicious (and, in combination with the coffee, probably contributed to my incredibly poor sleep last night, hahaha.)

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7:45 PM: PIZZA AND WINGS, YO. (Calories unknown. Heh.)


Yeeeeah. Good thing I did count all those itsy bitsy calories up until then, eh? Dinner was epic. I only had 3 squares of ‘za, but I had 3 chicken wings, plus all the noshing I did while I was prepping the pizza, haha. All in all, it probably wasn’t too bad since I only had ~780 up to that point, but we shall never know because again, and I can’t stress this enough, I am just too lazy. 😉

I guess the point of this post is to ask you guys: how do you handle the timing of eating? Do you follow the traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner schedule? Or eat every 2 hours? Or eat when you’re hungry? I feel like I definitely do best with small meals throughout the day, but I’m not sure even how I should be managing those. Sigh, it feels like I’m starting over. All the my holiday overindulging has made me forget how to eat normally, haha.


  1. I cannot get my calories where they need to be. I nibble on things throughout the day, but I still only hit about 600 calories at the most. Pair that with long, hard workouts and you have a dead girl at the end of the day… Boy am I tired.

    • I can definitely see how only getting 600 calories would leave you exhausted! That’s definitely a very low amount of calories, even moreso if you’re working out frequently. If you’re an all-day grazer and don’t like eating big meals, or have trouble consuming a lot of volume, maybe you could try substituting some higher calorie snacks in for the stuff you’re already eating? Stuff like nuts or granola, nut butters, oatmeal, smoothies, protein shakes, etc, all pack a lot of nutrition and calories but don’t take up tons of room in your stomach — which is usually the reason I need to avoid them, haha!

    • I’m sorry… I’m not trying to start a fight on here, but I am calling your B.S. No one can function and feel good on 600 calories a day, so if you find it hard to eat more than that, please, please go see a doctor, and be honest with them! What you’re doing is not healthy, and I’m guessing you know it.

      • I don’t see it as picking a fight. I’m very open with my diet and my struggles with disordered eating. I think part of my issues are that I was on the HCG diet and you are only allowed a very limited 500 calories a day. I haven’t broken out of that rut. So, I think I’m eating often and enough but in reality, I’m not eating things that Gretchen mentioned, like nuts and bars, etc. I’m functioning, just not well and it feels awful.

        • I’m sorry that you’re experiencing a tough time 🙁 I think Gretchen’s suggestions are good- try to sneak in some of those things (likes nuts) throughout the day, rather than adding in a huge meal somewhere, which could be overwhelming. Start by adding a few hundred calories, let your body adjust to that, then add some more until you’re getting what your body needs.
          But again, since you know you are struggling with disordered eating, I urge you to go see a doctor and a nutritionist if you are not already. It’s not something to mess around with. You deserve to be well!

  2. I’m always fascinated by other people’s daily eating plans! Thanks for sharing!
    I get up super early and eat breakfast when I get to work at 7:00, which is always a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, nuts and nut butter. Around 400 calories- generally my biggest meal of the day. Coffee around 10 am, and lunch is at 11:45- generally a salad with protein and some kind of carb and an apple. I have a snack in the afternoon around 4:00 (usually a smoothie) and dinner around 7:00 (generally a protein, starch and veggie). And for the rest of the night, I try NOT to eat anything else, though I always have a cup of tea. And 9 times out of 10, I end up having a little something sweet.
    I really try to eat the most at the beginning of the day and the progressively less by the end- but I know that it is SO easy to have your biggest meal later instead. I’m much more successful at losing wait when I “eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Easier said than done!

    • I *know* that trying to eat like an inverted pyramid is ideal, and I agree that my weight loss gets boosted when I eat my biggest meal in the morning! It’s just so difficult for me actually be able to get that big breakfast in when I’m always rushing… mornings are not my forte, hahaha. I guess I’ll just need to come up with some more creative, on-the-go breakfast stuffs that are more substantial.

      • Yeah, like I said MUCH easier said than done! I don’t know about you- but I’d much rather eat my biggest meal when I actually have time to make it and enjoy it- not when I’m rushing. But, I get to work early every morning just so I can have 15 minutes of quiet time with my re-heated oatmeal and blog reading. 🙂

  3. I also TRY to make breakfast my biggest meal of the day but it’s hard when dinner has always traditionally been the “big” meal. But my typical breakfast is about 300-400 calories (cereal or egg sandwich homemade), then a 100 calorie snack a couple hours later, then maybe another 100 calories snack after another hour or so, I try to postpone lunch til noon-thirty or 1 because of my work schedule, then lunch about 300 calories, then another 100 calorie snack a couple hours after that, then a medium size dinner- about 400-500 calories. Usually i succumb to a mini bite size chocolate bar or hershey kisses later in the evening but hey- we’re only human 🙂 I definitely eat every few hours which is when my body’s hunger cues are signalling. ALWAYS better to eat when your body starts saying it’s hungry otherwise it’s TOO easy to overeat and make terrible food choices.

  4. I usually try to keep a pretty regular eating schedule. During the work week, breakfast is usually around 7:45 am, a snack around 11:00am, lunch at 1:00pm, if I get peckish, then I’ll have another snack around 3ish, and dinner is usually around 6:00pm. Sometimes, I’ll have some fruit or ice cream for dessert. On the weekends, it’s up in the air. Breakfast is usually around 10am, no snack, lunch around 2pm, and dinner around 6pm but it could vary depending on what’s going on. Best of luck to you getting back into a routine.

    • Ha! Your weekend eating schedule is just about identical to mine! Meals seem to be much bigger too due to no snacks (and actually having time to cook!)

  5. I have oatmeal for breakfast (8AM) and then around 10 or 11 whenever I start to get hungry again I have some fruit. Then lunch around 1230 or 1 (again whenever I get hungry). Then I’m good until dinner which usually is something terrible like mac and cheese and one broccoli spear. I tend to have more willpower in the morning (as evidence see my dinner choices) so work is actually really good for me. I usually pack a pretty healthy lunch and since I don’t really like what is offered in the cafeteria I have no choice but to eat what I brought. Though I’m sure my diet lacks lean protein. The weekends are just terrible all around.

    Another thing to consider is that sometimes we mix up hunger pangs with thirst pangs. So sometimes we aren’t hungry at all, just thirsty. Always good to have a water around.

    • Oh and I forgot, the original reason I posted was because you should make ‘make-ahead’ breakfasts. I have a few pinned on my pinterest but basically you make them on Sunday, freeze and then just pull one out each day and nuke it or whatever. No thought in the morning and its delicious and nutritious!

      • I’ve read a bit about different ideas on blogs, mostly breakfast burrito-type stuff, and definitely feel like I should give this a try. I do this all the time with my dinners and lunches — make a HUGE deal of chili or pasta or whatever, then eat it throughout the week. I should be able to do it with breakfasts too! To Pinterest!

  6. I’m pretty bad about listening to my hunger cues, except when it comes to breakfast. I always wait until I’m actually hungry to eat – like you, because I’m too lazy to go to the office kitchen to eat. That said, here’s how it usually goes down:

    9am – Coffee
    10am – Breakfast
    1pm-ish – Lunch
    3:30pm – Snack
    6:30p – Dinner

    Something like that, but it also depends when I work out and what I have going on. I do bring my breakfast/lunch/snacks to work each day, so that is really what helps me stay on track.

    • Even just in the past two days of actively planning and packing my lunch/snacks to bring to work, I can tell a big difference. I was back in denial mode for so long, I didn’t think it mattered that I was buying my lunch from the deli downstairs every day, but it REALLY does. Because I had basically reverted to not eating breakfast, waiting ’til I was starving, then making reeeeeally bad choices. Huzzah for me finally coming back around, right?

  7. Glad you are back counting calories! I was going to ask you how much you counted for those pizza slices. I am disappointed that you didn’t have it a worked out ;-). Keep up the good work!

  8. I would control wehn I eat with the combination of two of the options you mentioned.
    I eat when I’m hungry, which happens to coincide with every 2-3 hours. It can be a bit of problem when working in a television studio, but I find ways to make it work.
    The hardest part is knowing when I’m actually hungry, and when my body just wants to eat. All I can do at that point is down some water or chew gum and see if the hunger stays or goes.

  9. I am definitely an every two hours kinda girl. I am super lazy as well so tend to go for things already prepared and it gets boring fast so this year I am really trying to make more homemade items. Made the Hungry Girl version of the Greek Pita last night, yum! I don’t think you are lazy at all due to the fact that you post all the wonderful recipes and pictures of what you cook!

  10. It depends if I plan ahead and pack a snack bag I’m an every two hours girl but if I slack off…I end up on a more traditional eating schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I find I do better if I plan ahead…go figure.

  11. Love your commentary of your day! The pizza looks so delicious and professional.

    I definitely need to stay to a schedule when I eat or I’ll cave and grab something terrible. I can’t skip breakfast or else I feel tired the rest of the day.

    My schedule is normally breakfast ~250-300 calories, lunch ~500-600 calories, dinner ~300-500 calories and maybe a small snack here or there. I don’t calorie count as much anymore but I do cook most of my meals so I have a good gauge of what’s a portion should be.

    Great job staying on plan! May we both have a fantastic 2012.

  12. I definitely spread my food throughout the day. Sometimes I eat my lunch in the morning and breakfast for lunch. It all depends on how hungry my belly is

  13. I am trying to listen to my hunger cues and not count calories- but I also stay away from processed food/fast food etc. I get way too obsessive about dieting and used to struggle with an ED (still do to some extent I suppose, hence the obsession).

    I usually eat breakfast after my morning workout- egg sandwich or oatmeal. I have an apple or yogurt around 10:30 AM, Lunch between 12:30 and 1- salad with protein/sandwich with carrots and hummus, sometimes an afternoon snack around 3:30, dinner at 6:30-7:00 which is usually my largest meal. I have a hungry son and fiancee and it is our time to talk and re-hash our days.

  14. I’ve lost 90 pounds, and I think eating at the same time every day keeps my hunger at bay. I have breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 12pm, and dinner at 5:30 every workday. Of course, I have snacks too, but I let those be dependent on my hunger levels. For instance, if I have eggs for breakfast, I might be OK hunger-wise until noon. Or I might be starving at 10am, in which case I’ll have a snack.

  15. When I’m really on top of my game, I will eat something every 3 hours or so, but since I’m coming off a Christmas bender, I’m so freaking hungry today!!!

  16. Hi Gretchen,

    The eating plan that works best for me is to eat every three hours, have about 250 – 300 calories, and at least 15 grams of protein (but preferably closer to 25). This keeps me satisfied throughout the entire day, and keeps my daily calorie allotment around 1,500.

    This is how I lost 80 pounds in the last couple of years and it’s only when I stray from that plan that I gain back weight (which perfectly explains the 10 pounds I’ve re-gained over the last three months).

  17. This is so hard for me too. I usually just fill my lunch bag with tons of “snacks” and eat them throughout the day, because I am always hungry! But I don’t think this will work too well when I start my teaching internship, so I must figure something out …

  18. Usually I have three main meals throughout the day and two snacks- breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, dessert… It’s hard though sometimes when the days events are at sporadic times and there are long breaks between meals. I admit that when I think about having a long break between two meals, I get a little nervous and will sometimes add some extra bites to compensate for the long break… Probably not the best idea and it doesn’t always work?!

  19. I laughed HARD when I read you were too lazy to take your lunch to the fridge….. I do the same thing on too frequent of a basis…. lol

  20. Just checking your blog from the caloriecount success stories, nice blog 🙂

  21. So, I just found your blog and have been catching up on posts. Love it! This subject is near and dear to my heart because I work nights…and I have yet to find a way to eat a reasonable amount when I am sometimes up all night and sometimes not (on my days off). When I work I get up at 3:30pm, have a snack (usually a yogurt or a slice of toast), I cook and eat dinner before I go to work, usually around 6pm. Then I eat a snack sometime between 9pm and 10pm, “lunch” happens anytime between midnight and 2am depending on how things are at work (I’m a labor and delivery RN, babies have NO respect for my need to eat), usually another snack between 5am and 6am, then something before I go to sleep around 8am (like a tiny bowl of cereal, just to keep me from waking up in the middle of the afternoon with a rumbly tummy). On my days off I usually stay up until 2am and get up around noon, unless I wake up when my boyfriend gets up for work (6am) and am starving…which happens often. Then I’ll eat a snack and go back to bed. I was really glad to hear you bust the myth about not eating after 8pm, because with a schedule like mine I often have to eat and then go to bed. My rule is, if I’m hungry, I eat something no matter what the time.

    Thanks for all the awesome info!!


  1. The Plan | Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! - [...] you’ve seen, I’ve really been trying to get my eating back into gear over the past few days. Calorie…

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