Eating More Small Meals Throughout the Day Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Sometimes, less is more.

For years people have been singing the praises of "grazing" as a weight loss strategy. Professional body builders have been doing since time out of mind. Doctors recommend it. And a fitness/cookbook written by a personal trainer even made it onto The New York Times bestseller list by touting the practice's virtues. Everyone, it seemed, was telling everyone else that the way to live healthier–live better–was to eat six small meals a day.

The conventional thinking was that if you ate six small meals each day, rather than the traditional three larger meals, your body's metabolism would kick into gear, resulting in more calories being burned throughout the day.

In this case, conventional wisdom seems to have been wrong.

This past June, British researchers presented the findings of study at the American Diabetes Association meetings that showed less is more when it comes to weight loss–at least when you're talking about how often you eat.

According to the researchers, people who eat fewer meals each day lose more weight.

They tracked 54 people with Type 2 diabetes over a 12-week period. Some of the people ate six small, nutritious meals a day. Others only ate twice: a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch. The people who only sat down to eat twice trimmed an average of 1.23 points off their Body Mass Indexes (BMIs). The grazers? They only dropped by an average of 0.82.

While it's true that, on average, everyone in the study lost weight, it was clear that the people who started their days with a big breakfast and followed it up with a sensible lunch did much, much better. Not only did their BMIs drop, they also had less fat in their livers and more stable insulin levels.

As one of the researchers put it, the lesson of this study is that people should eat "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper."

As the British study demonstrates, those are words to live by!

STUDY: Diet More Important for Weight Loss Than Exercise

You know the mantra: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week and you'll lose weight. Hit the bike. Take a walk. Swim. Do something, anything, physical. That's the key that opens the weight-loss door.

At least that's what everyone thought.

According to six studies recently published by the Journal of Psychological Science, when it comes to taking off (or keeping off) the weight, exercise might not be as effective as watching what you eat.

The studies followed 1,200 people. Some thought exercise was the way to a leaner waistline. Others thought that eating a well-balanced, healthy diet would get them there quicker.

What the researchers found was that the latter group had the better idea; people who focused more on portion control and cutting carbs lost had lower body mass indexes than those who focused almost entirely on exercise.

Why? Well, the short answer, according to the researchers, is that it's much, much easier not to take in excess calories than it is to burn them once they have been digested.

The longer explanation has to do with how long it takes to actually burn off excess calories. According to the researchers, most people have an inflated sense of how many calories they're getting rid of while they're exercising—even if the stationary bike or elliptical has one of those "calorie counters."

Also, if you eat a few handfuls of potato chips, you're probably eating around 600 calories, whether it feels like it or not. For the average person, that means spending more than an hour on a stationary bike—and most likely two hours.

So the takeaway is this: when it comes to losing weight, focus on your diet. If you want to exercise, do it. It can't hurt. It can help. But it's not the most effective way to lose weight.