Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What is a meal?

Some weeks ago, I read another blogger's post (can't remember who) where she was pondering meals and snacks, when to eat them, how much to have.

So I began to think about what constitutes a meal and how many meals we should be eating. Just for fun times, this is nothing serious :)

Philosophically, I don't believe in "mealtimes." Not as a rule. They are cultural, social norms that help us all get together to eat (or to allow workers breaks, etc). "Hey, let's meet up for lunch!" kind of thing. But sometimes, when I am waiting to go to dinner with someone, I get STARVING and I wonder why I am doing that to myself. Waiting for a "mealtime." Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner fits into our society's "clock" and not necessarily our biological clock.

The amount of meals and the TIMING, especially, of meals has varied widely throughout human history ( And that only deals with about 500 years of human history. I am such before agriculture, and its regular daily schedules, humans had more varied eating patterns.

3 meals a day is a good enough rule to keep the body consistently fed and not let our energy drop. But it doesn't always work for me!

I eat when I am hungry. I might eat 8 to 10 times a day, depending on the amounts and the types of food. I might eat 3-4 times a day, especially if it is an inactive day for me. Depending on what a meal is, I might be eating many meals a day or I might just be snacking a lot.

What is a meal? Wikipedia says "meal is an instance of eating, specifically one that takes place at a specific time and includes specific, prepared food. A meal is different from a snack in that meals are larger, more varied, and more filling, while snacks are more likely to be small, high-calorie affairs; however, any food eaten in small amounts at an unscheduled time can be classified as a snack."

I would venture to say that I don't snack by this definition! Unless I have some almonds or something. Snacks for me are often beets, salads, hard boiled egg, or grapes lately.

Are meals based on calories? Over 500? Over 300? It's all so ephemeral! My breakfast is usually 250 calories (eggs and veggies, with a little chicken usually). But it's my most important "meal" of the day, it gets me going and makes me feel full and energized for hours!

And in the end, I am saying all this, because I don't think any of the semantics matter. Meals, snacks, timing, amount. Cultural norms don't have to be followed. I eat the right amount of food for me daily and I structure it based on my schedule that day, my activity that day, and my general demeanor that day.

Well, that was just a confused little ramble from someone who didn't sleep that good last night.

Namaste :)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I find the definition of a snack to be off the mark. For those who have dieted, to say a snack is "unplanned" is ludicrous. For dieters, every morsel is planned. I remember dieting being especially difficult for me when they insisted on "snacks" because I would be counting down until I could eat one and then sometimes eating one even if I wasn't hungry just because it was "time to eat snack." Absurd! I agree that if we listened to our natural rhythms (not ones that have been abused by significant weight loss or gains or yo yo dieting), we'd all be at a healthy weight. Kids know this. My girls refuse to eat if they're not hungry and I don't force them. I don't want to mess with their natural hunger clock. Great post!