Weight Loss NHS
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When to eat?

One of my unhelpful habits is not to eat when I should, I believe.

I am having breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. But when life is getting busy my eating times drift and I am ending up eating to much, to late and things I shouldn’t.

A lot of focus is on how much we eat but sure when we eat is related to how much.

What is your experience?

7 Replies

Hi bodo10

I think we can all forget to eat, I find that the real problem is that when I realise I haven't eaten the food I choose is usually a quick & unhealthy option :(

In the past I've used Paul McKenna "Hunger Scale" to help me:

How hungry are you right now?

1. Physically faint.

2. Ravenous.

3. Fairly hungry.

4. Slightly hungry.

5. Neutral.

6. Pleasantly satisfied.

7. Full.

8. Stuffed.

9. Bloated.

10. Nauseous.

As a general rule, eat when you notice yourself between 3 and 4 — don’t wait until you have got down to 1 or 2 as your body will be in starvation mode It doesn't matter when we eat food. The important part is to eat it slowly, without any distractions so that we notice our stomach sending us the "I'm full" signal and stop eating.

I'm still trying to "listen" to my tummy, it's harder than it sounds. I can hear the hungry gurgles but am deaf to the full signal Lol! ;)



Thank you, Tabitha.

I understand there are various schools of thoughts around when to eat.

Eat when you are hungry, which I found challenging as it requires a lot of self- awareness and discipline.

Don't eat for a certain period, ie intermittent fasting, which I found unsuitable long term

Eat at regular intervals even if you don't feel hungry. Doesn't sound like an option to loose weight.

I believe that weight gain and loss is the consequences of helpful eating habits. May I need first establish a helpful habit around when to eat and when reduce the calorie intake.

What do you think?


Yes, I think it is habit. Like some people say 'oh I always have a biscuit with a cup of tea'. That's a habit. They don't feel they've had a cup of tea unless they have a biscuit with it. And of course, not just one! Habits are very powerful and can take a long time to change.


Hi Bodo10, You have already realised yourself, that when you don't eat regularly, or skip meals, you end up eating too much, too late, and unhealthy foods. The whole idea of eating regular small, well balanced meals is to avoid dips in your blood sugar, thereby regulating your energy and appetite. When your blood sugar dips, you find yourself reaching for that marsbar or whatever, which perpetuates a cycle of peaks and dips. It sounds to me that you need to prioritise your mealtimes and commit to having regular meals within your calorie allowance. Eating late at night also gives your stomach and liver a lot to do, and you might sleep poorly as a result. Get your meals organised Bodo, to feel better and get healthier. All the best.


Hi bodo 10,

Could I just add that there's a lot of sense behind what's already been said here?

If you get too hungry, your blood sugar drops and that tends to tell your body to go into fat storage (rather than fat burn) mode, as would also happen with blood sugar spikes too.

That's the sense in snacking (sensibly and healthily) so that you don't go for more than about 3.5 to 4 hours without food at all. It keeps your blood sugar levels up, but not too much.

Also - as pocketvenus has mentioned it - if you do things which cause you not to sleep, well sleeplessness also causes your body to produce hormones that will impede rather than enhance your fat burn rate.

So, part of the 'trick' of it - for want of a better phrase - is to work in partnership with your body to encourage it to burn off the fat that you don't want. Or at any rate to try to avoid encouraging it to store the fat.

Whilst people do talk about it being all a matter of putting in less calories than you're burning off, that's a tad of an over-simplification and more accurately, it's about doing things which encourages your body to burn rather than store fat.

If you're regularly eating too many calories, then your body will store fat, which is why overweight people tend to get weightier and weightier.

And slowing down the eating can be very important too, if - like I have been - you have a tendency to eat quickly. Basically, if you eat quickly your body just won't have time to release hormones which tell you you're full in time, before you've already eaten too much.

When we were all cave-dwellers and spent most of our time foraging, the body had time to do that because we'd eat a little, then look around for a bit more, and then eat a little more. Our bodies just weren't really designed to have our meals laid before us all ready to tuck into from a plate!

It does take a bit of discipline, but even chaotic, running around like a headless chicken me has managed to get some routine around my eating. And, remember, it doesn't all have to be done with military precision every day. It's more about making sure you keep to the under-pinning principles.

Good luck with your weight loss journey.


Thank you both for your comments. Will start the 12 week weight loss plan Monday.


I'm afraid that would all be too much for me. I couldn't eat that many meals. I can only eat if I feel hungry. A lot depends on what you actually eat at all those meals, too. With us, we always have a reasonably-good breakfast, protein-based. Lunch quite late, mid-afternoon if we're at home. After that I never seem to want anything at all, apart from something like half an apple.

Yesterday was a bit unusual. We had grilled bacon and tomato for breakfast, then - as we were going out - we had a ham and cheese sandwich about 1 pm. We drove into London for a meeting in the Houses of Parliament, didn't get out of that until gone 8 pm, and by the time we'd walked back to the underground car park and got out of London I was worried about my husband going 'hypo' - he's Type II diabetic and an insulin-user. We eventually found Traditional Fish and Chips near the West Ham football ground. I had a piece of fried fish and it was lovely. And a few chips! But by then it was nearer 10 than 9 and we hadn't had anything for all that time. And I was only just then beginning to feel a bit 'peckish'.


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