Let me set the bariatric eating schedule record straight. How many times per day are you supposed to eat? Is it 3 meals + 3 snacks every day? Eat every 1-2 hours? Or eat 3 meals a day and no snacks? Well, it depends...
In the Beginning
In the early months post op, your stomach is inflamed and swollen, so portion sizes are pretty small. Your stomach tissue that can usually stretch easily, can’t stretch as easily until it heals. So not very much food fits in at one time.
It’s therefore normal to have to eat 4-6 times per day (including protein shakes) early on to meet the necessary protein goal. Without small frequent meals it’s impossible to take in enough protein. So in the beginning, the bariatric eating schedule is similar to how a newborn babies eats....small frequent "feedings" every few hours.
Conclusion: It's normal to have small frequent meals early on. Eat every 3-4 hours is good advice in beginning.
Down the Road
Your bariatric eating schedule with change the farther out from surgery you get. Once you can comfortably meet your protein goal in 3 meals a day, there’s no need to continue eating so frequently.
Eating TOO often is associated with a reduced amount of weight loss after surgery and an increase in the amount of weight you’re likely to gain in all the years after.
If you eat every hour or nibble all day long, you can fit more food into your stomach that it was meant to hold. You therefore outsmart the whole concept of a smaller stomach! Why go through the surgery just to do that?!
Here’s an analogy with money. Say you’re on a budget and can't spend more than $10 a day.
If you go out and spend only $1 at a time, but you do so 15 times in a day, then you go over your set budget. Although you never spent $10 at once, the small frequent spending of $1 results in spending $15 over the course of the entire day. You thus go over your budget.
Get it? Calories work the same way. That's the downside of eating too often.
I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking…
...You've heard “eating small frequent meals increases metabolism.” Well guess what? Unfortunately, there’s no research to support this. I wish it were true!
Know that "grazing" is really different than eating small, frequent, planned meals anyway.
Grazing usually means you're grabbing whatever you see front of you or whatever you feel like eating because you're bored, anxious, sad, etc., or never satisfied with what you're eating to begin with. Grazing typically involves grabbing food mindlessly- definitely a fast track to slowed weight loss or weight regain.
Make Eating Intentional vs Reactive
I think you're smart enough to figure which one is best.
Similar to grazing, if you take a meal and stretch it over a 1-hour period you can eat more than is intended to fit in your stomach in one sitting. Eating should have a defined beginning and a defined end.
A meal should only last ~ 20-30 minutes. When you’re done, you’re done. Kitchen closed until the next mealtime…
…which should be several hours later.
There you go! Now the record is set straight!