If I ate every two hours, I’d still be over 300 lbs.. (If you’re not familiar with me and my work, I’m the psychotherapist who discovered Therapeutic Psychogenics when I lost 140 lbs. after 25 years of failure at diets and exercise. I’ve kept it off for over twenty-five years, teach other therapists these methods as well as my clients, and I’ve written a book about it, The Anderson Method. Click on “The Method”, and “Testimonials” in the menu bar above to get more details on the method and what readers and clients are saying about it.)
We hear from various diet, exercise and “weight loss coaches” that eating every two hours boosts your metabolism, that it prevents it from slowing down when you don’t eat. People get the idea that they are going to start burning lots of calories by eating, almost like exercise will burn more calories. What nonsense. I’ve looked for the science that supports these claims, and it’s hard to find anything other than findings that the thermogenic effect of eating is about 3%. If you don’t eat often, your metabolism drops by 3%. Even if that was all day, the net effect would be a caloric savings of 50 to 100 calories. If you end up eating an extra 1000 calories by eating every two hours, very easy to do, you’d end up with a surplus that is the equivalent of a weight gain of 2 lbs. a week.
Maybe people who never really had an overeating problem could eat every couple of hours and keep the day’s calories low enough to lose weight, but I’d have a hard time limiting these little snacks to 200 calories. I’d end up eating 500 calories every two hours. And the idea that it would make you eat less at the real meals is laughable. My experience was that the more I ate, the more I needed to eat.
When I was a kid listening to the dietitians and doctors and gym teachers, I thought they must know what they’re talking about with their advice like this “eat every two hours” idea. I learned that they really didn’t know what overeaters experience. They are clueless and think they know what the problem is and how to solve it. Most don’t.
If you are overweight and have tried everything and keep bigger year after year, don’t blame yourself for the failings. You are up against a behavioral problem that is far more difficult to master than alcoholism and drug addiction. Most of the people who want to tell you how to lose weight have no idea what it is you experience and no idea how to solve the problem. They are convinced they know, but that doesn’t mean they do.
So maybe the people who really don’t have a problem can shed a few pounds with these diet tips. With most people, anytime they pay attention to what they’re eating and try to follow a plan, they usually eat less and lose weight. And then they think they know how you can succeed. If you are an overeater like I was, they don’t.
Eating every two hours will not fire up your metabolism in any significant way, and will probably make things worse. If you get in the habit of eating every two hours, you might find yourself with a problem that is much worse.