I have known many carb eaters who do MUCH better on small frequent meals, an eating style that is often called 'grazing.' But is this always bad? The paleo belief seems to be that less frequent meals mean less insulin/glucose rise and easier access to stored fat. HOwever, smaller frequent meals would theoretically lead to smaller but more frequent insulin rises. Do we know for sure that one is better than another in all situations?
WHen I first started paleo, I found I was actually quite ravenous quite often and snacked a lot on paleo snacks. In traditional Atkins/lowcarb we are taught to always eat if we are hungry as hunger is there for a good reason. So I did. And over time, the hunger lessoned and now I don't snack much simply because I no longer feel hungry between meals. There was no need for me to follow a special rule of 'no grazing.' Instead, I followed the rule of listening to my body which eventually got me to the same place for the most part. However, I still think that following my body is more important than the no grazing rule and on the rare occasions when I am extra hungry, I will snack as I please on paleo foods.
Another friend who started on paleo experienced the same thing. As a not paleo carb eater, he often chewed gum or snacked on candies throughout the day at work. Then after paleo, he at first snacked on nuts, but over time, he was no longer hungry. Recently I was amused to hear some new employees who never knew him prepaleo were referring to him as 'like a vampire' because they have never once seen him eat anything and he even skips lunch if he is too busy. Again, my advice to him when starting paleo was always to eat if you feel hungry. The no grazing rule was never mentioned but eventually came about naturally.
What I wonder about is if it will always be in the best interest of all people to follow the no grazing rule instead of listening to what their body wants? Some people have impaired or irregular blood sugar balance. For those people, smaller more frequent meals may help them keep energy levels up. Paleo eating may in time help them ameliorate or cure their problems but it is not sure fire and it does not happen overnight. Meanwhile, should they still automatically be trying to follow no grazing rules even if they feel hungry/weak? Seems illogical to me.
It takes time to adapt to not eating frequently because of the cycles of high and low blood sugar induced by high carb meals, and also because of ghrelin, which stimulates hunger and is released in expectation of a meal based on previous eating patterns.
It is not necessary to avoid frequent eating to eliminate blood sugar swings as long as what you are eating is low in carbs. It is a fine strategy for beginners, as it will solve itself over time.
Changing the ghrelin signal, or other triggers that encourage habitual eating, takes a bit more effort, and is only really worth doing if you find you are eating when not hungry. Since there is evidence that extending the time between eating has health benefits, it is worth learning not to eat mindlessly. However, if the urge to eat strikes and you find you are genuinely hungry, you should probably respect the body and feed it.
It makes sense to be that H/G cultures would have snacked to some extent throughout the day as they found food. Here's one reference from the book Original Wisdom:
"The Sng'oi ate the way nutritionists suggest people suffering from ulcers should eat: they snacked. As they wandered around during the day, they dug up a root here, picked some fruit somewhere else."
I think the "no grazing" idea is largely for weight loss. If I graze on carbs I think my blood sugar and insulin levels would stay high and I would never drop into fat-burning mode - in fact, I would be making deposits in the fat bank!
(On a side note, Eva, I should probably look up the S.D. paleo group. I admit I'm a little intimidated by the youth and health levels of the participants in the pictures, though! :-) )
I am definitely not a fan of grazing. For me, I need the space between meals or my appetite gets deranged. I can have four structured meals (and I fell into that pattern while backpacking all day), but I don't eat any calories between them.
My normal pattern involves breakfast at 8am, lunch at 12:30-1pm and dinner at 6-6:30pm with NO eating after dinner. If I stick to that, my appetite is properly regulated.
While backpacking (this is constant work though - something almost none of us do at home), I'd roll out of the hammock at 6:30, eat at 7, get hiking about 8am, eat again at about 11am and 3pm, stop hiking at about 6 and eat the last meal...lather rinse repeat.
I don't graze anymore since I found out I am not a cow. The more fat I eat the less food I want. The more fat I eat the less energy spikes I have. If you have to graze, give up the grass and try the grass fed butter. FAT is the true hunger killer. It is wrong conventional wisdom for blood sugar problems to be helped by frequent eating. Your body is either digesting or repairing. Help your body do the repair work with some "elbow grease"...meaning just the "grease". When it comes to food, I went from grazer to gazer by eating FAT.
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