Written by Karen Shanley Author Mom With Dogs
When I grew up, the conventional wisdom was that you ate “three squares” a day. In my family, breakfast was at ; lunch was at ; we could have a piece of fruit when we got home from school; and dinner was at sharp. Whether we were hungry at those times or not.
The food pyramid chart was alive and well with bread, pasta, rice and cereal at the base. Carbos were king back then and we ate our share.
Being the good do-be that I was, I followed the rules and didn’t ask questions. Food was put in front of me and I ate it. All of it. Children were starving in
The refrigerator was off-limits; it was as mysterious to us as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, food was only to be eaten at mealtimes, and that was that.
Then I married my husband -- who is the king of grazing. He eats a little bit throughout the day when he’s hungry.
In the early years of our marriage, I’d cook up a storm trying to make sure I provided us with our three squares. He’d pick at his meal and leave most of it on his plate. Then, within an hour, he’d be rummaged around in the fridge for a snack. I’d chide him on his bad eating habits and redouble my efforts to get him to eat “properly.”
A few years later, I had my daughter. She, too, turned out to be a grazer. And before I knew it, I found myself trying to get her to “eat better.”
Then two of my friends’ daughters developed bulimia. That got my attention. I started reading. I started talking with these girls. I had my eyes opened.
I looked at my daughter and my husband. They both eat small amounts when they’re hungry. Over the course of a day, they eat substantially more than I do and they are both thin. I am not.
The more I read, the more I realized that our bodies have built-in cues. Essentially, there’s the gorge-and-starve cue which means conserve those calories for the lean times; and the graze-small-meals-all-day-long cue which means there’s plenty of food so it’s safe to use up all that you eat.
Of course, there’s much more to our metabolic physiology and chemistry than this, but I got the point. Eating three square meals a day is artificial and arbitrary. And it’s not the healthiest way to eat --because instead of listening to our bodies to tell us when we’re hungry, we’re looking at the clock to tell us when we’re hungry. For some people, it’s the first step in a long line of disconnects that can lead toward the slippery slope of eating disorders.
With this new understanding, I’ve revised my job description. Cooking meals is optional. Having plentiful, healthy, easy to grab grazing food in abundance is mandatory. That, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
My stomach is telling me I’m hungry now (at ) so I’m off to go snack on some fresh blueberries from my garden.
Karen Shanley is an author and mom. She is also owned by three dogs: one brilliant Australian Shepherd with whom she likes to chase sheep around a field; one comical Border Collie Mix with Flying Nun ears with whom she does not chase sheep around a field; and one dog in a Maine Coon cat’s body, who’s nearly as big and fluffy as a sheep.