Eating Every Few Hours

I noticed something this week.  I need like to eat every few hours.  At first, I said need. But, then I changed it to like since I am not sure that this is an actual need.  Basically, I find myself getting hungry every 3 hours or so regardless of what I have eaten earlier. Even if it is a large meal, I will be hungry 3 (or maybe 4) hours later.

Last Wednesday I really ate a lot of food.  We went out of town for the day to take my mom out to lunch for her 92nd birthday.  I had a very large lunch.  The restaurant doesn’t have nutritional information, but I estimated 38 points for the meal (and I didn’t even eat all of what I was served).  Most of it was blackened chicken stuffed with pepper jack cheese and crab meat stuffing served over angel hair pasta and Asiago sauce.  And, then for dessert, I shared a flourless brownie with my husband:


Now, this was a great meal and I enjoyed it and it was a truly special occasion.  But, here’s the thing.  A few hours later, as we were driving home, I was hungry and wanted a snack.  I had a small 3 point snack (Kay’s Naturals Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks).  But, a few hours after that I wanted dinner.  We were still on the road so we stopped at Subway.  I ate carefully there, and in the later evening (I stay up late) I had another snack.  The day ended up working out to almost 2300 calories.

When I ordered the meal at lunch I had thought I wouldn’t be very hungry afterwards.  I expected to have maybe have a small snack in the late afternoon and then I would eat a very light, late dinner after we got home.  In fact, that is what my husband did.  He had a Quest bar when I had my afternoon snack.  He didn’t get anything from Subway and I think he ate something light at home later.

So, why the difference between him and me?  The biggest part of it is that when he has a large meal somewhere he doesn’t get hungry again for many hours.  If we go out and have a large lunch, for example, he may not eat dinner at all or may just have a light snack.  For me, it doesn’t usually work that way.  It doesn’t matter what I have for lunch.  I will still be hungry for dinner.  I might be a little less hungry, but I won’t just skip dinner.  I might eat a little later, but usually not significantly later.

Another factor is that I go to bed later than my husband.  He goes to bed early and gets up early.  I rarely go to bed before 2 AM and sleep later.  In my typical routine, I have a light breakfast (often a Quest bar), then have lunch a few hours later. I usually have a snack in the mid-afternoon.  I know some people don’t eat after dinner, but I usually have dinner 6 to 9 hours before I go to bed.  So, I usually have 1 or 2 snacks during the evening.  My husband goes to bed much earlier, though, so he doesn’t eat as much during the evening after dinner.

The result of my typical schedule is that I usually eat every 3 to 4 hours (occasionally I will have a snack after 2 hours).  And, when I don’t have it, I get hungry.

So what does all this mean?  It is usually a mistake for me to have a 38 SmartPoint lunch.  Why?  Because I am going to want something to eat 3 hours later.  And, I am going to want to have dinner.  And, if I stay up as I usually do, I am going to want to have an evening snack.  Given that, I am going to go way overboard on the daily calories and points if I have a huge meal.

What I learned from this is that I can’t just assume that because I have a large meal that I will happily eat less often for the rest of the day.  I may eat more lightly for the rest of the day, but I won’t end up skipping snacks or meals.  I am not sure if this is actual physiological hunger or if it is just how I like to eat.  But, it doesn’t matter.  I am not happy unless I eat in a pattern with a lot of smaller meals and snacks.  I know that not everyone is like me.  Many people can do fine eating less often.  My husband can eat a large meals and then doesn’t get all that hungry for the rest of the day.  And, that is fine — for him.  But, that isn’t me.

What I recognized this week, I that I need to accept this and arrange my meals accordingly.  Today, we went to Chili’s for lunch.  This is what I had:

Chilis Chicken

This was a 610 calorie lunch.  The Pasilla Chile Chicken was 410 calories and 10 SmartPoints.  The wheatberry and quinoa blend side was 130 calories and 4 SmartPoints.  The Asparagus and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes was 70 calories.  It was 2 SmartPoints if you include the 0 point veggies in the calculation (I counted it as 1 SmartPoint).

This was a much better lunch for me to have since I knew that even having this meal I would want to have an afternoon snack, and then dinner and then 2 snacks in the evening.  I could easily fit all that into my day because I chose to eat something at lunch that would allow me to still eat in the pattern that I like.  I could easily have eaten 30 SmartPoints at lunch.  But, then I would have been under pressure and stressed for the entire rest of the day.  By choosing to eat a smaller meal at lunch, the rest of the day went smoothly and I was able to eat whenever I felt hungry.


  1. Carol says

    Wow! This really hit the nail on the head for me. I like to eat every few hours too, no matter how big a meal I had. Last night we went to a potluck banquet. We ate at five pm. I ate carefully, but still had more points than a normal dinner at home. 3 hours later, I was absolutely ravenous, even though I felt like the plate I had really should have held me over until bed. I like your idea of keeping meals on the small-ish side, so you can add in snack. I think that is naturally what I do, but I’m going to keep track of that better for now.

  2. MJ says

    Thanks for mentioning the pretzel snack you ate. I googled on it and find this brand interesting (and not sold in stores where I live). I’ve placed an order for the pretzels you mentioned and some of their high protein chips as well.

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