Does six meals a day + green tea work for weight loss?
December 12, 2006 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Diet&Health: Will six small meals and green tea really help my metabolism and weight loss - and what's the deal with fiber?

**Short Version**: Basically I want to know if anyone has used the 6 meals a day idea and actually lost weight and kept it off. Same for green tea. I want to lose 75lbs to be at a healthy weight. I have lost 2 lbs so far this week, but I don't know if it's just the calorie restriction or if the meal schedule and tea are actually helping. Thanks.

**Long Version**: Like any woman, I'm trying to lose weight and get in shape. I used to go the gym 5 days a week but never lost any weight, and gave up. I had a personal trainer for 2 months and did cardio and weight training, but my body never looked any different. I decided to start with the diet part first this time, and I'm returning to the gym tomorrow. I actually enjoy exercising, it just didn't seem to get rid of my potbelly or thighs, so I lost the motivation.

I always hear people talking about eating 5 or 6 smaller meals a day. I have been eating like this for the past week, eating about 1200 calories a day. However, the only people I know who eat 6 times a day are men who are trying to build muscle - not people trying to lose weight. Is this actually effective for weight loss?

I'm finding it easier to do than eating 3 times, because the small 200-300 calorie meal/snacks fill me up and I can eat again when I am hungry. When I eat a 600 calorie meal, I still get hungry a few hours later and can't eat anymore. Is that part why this meal schedule is more effective?

I also started drinking water with green tea mix (those little packets you add to a bottle of water) - This is supposed to help boost your metabolism - will this work with the diet, or will it not matter because of the calorie restriction?

Lastly, I know fiber is supposed to be really good for your digestion but I heard on the radio the other day if you eat too much fiber, it can actually make you constipated, instead of the opposite. Is that true?

I'm so confused :( No one ever taught me how to eat right or anything, and now I'm "obese". I just want to get in shape so I don't have a heart attack in a few years.
posted by jesirose to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
To get constipated from fiber, you'd have to eat -huge- amounts of a substance that most people barely get enough of, so don't worry about adding oatmeal and other whole grains to your diet.

Also, the six meal a day thing works exactly as you described, you manage your hunger as well as your energy and blood sugar levels.

In my opinion, 1200 Calories sounds very low. You should be aiming at looking 2lbs. a week for weight loss, so you want a deficit of 1000 kcal a day.
posted by Loto at 10:07 PM on December 12, 2006


Eating fewer calories and exercising more will affect your weight. Most of the things you talk about above (eating small meals, more fiber, etc.) are just tricks that will help you eat fewer calories. Do whatever works for you. It sounds like this is working for you, at least for now. When it stops working, try something else.

Green tea may give your metabolism a small temporary boost. Said boost will not be big enough to significantly change your diet outcome. If you like the taste of the tea and it helps you drink more water, keep using it. If not, I'd ditch the powder and walk up an extra flight of stairs each day. Or take up fidgeting as a habit. But all of these tricks are marginal. There are, for the most part, no short cuts.
posted by decathecting at 10:11 PM on December 12, 2006


1200 calories isn't necessarily low, but you need to figure out what your base metabolism is first.

Here's a good way to start: before you start dieting, write down everything you eat for three or four days in a notebook. Don't count calories, and don't skip anything.

After you've got a decent amount of data, enter every little thing into a calorie tracker like fitday.com (free, but you have to start an account). If you can't find the food you ate on the calorie tracking web site, enter something similar or google around to get an estimate of the nutritional info.

Once you have a few days entered in, you can get a rough average of how many calories you eat in a day.

Odds are good you're gaining a few pounds a year right now, right? So lets guess that if you subtract 200 from your daily calorie intake you'll probably get the number of calories you need to actually maintain your current weight.

There's an imprecise formula that 3,500 calories=1 pound, and it's generally not safe to lose more than 2 pounds per week when you're going for long term weight loss. If you don't want to be miserably and hungry all the time, 1 pound per week is more reasonable. 3,500 calories divided by 7 days = 500 calories per day.

So: Take the number of calories you're eating per day already, subtract about 700 from the total -- that's 200 for the excess calories that are slowly leading to weight gain and 500 to lose a pound per week. Call the result your MAGIC NUMBER. Aim to eat within 100 calories of your magic number every day.

It's a lot of math, but once you do the math it doesn't really matter how many meals you eat or what they consist of.

You just need to use trial and error to figure out what keeps you the most comfortable.

Generally, it's better for your body if you eat a well-rounded diet. That means getting enough complex carbohydrates should be your first priority (like oatmeal, whole grain breads), followed by fruits and vegetables, then lean meats or other proteins. Don't cut fat out of your diet completely, either. It helps you feel full, and avoid over-eating.

If eating a well-rounded diet makes you miserable and you still want to lose weight, you can eat other food. Just write everything down, enter it into your online calorie tracker, and stop when you hit the MAGIC NUMBER.

What works best for you will have a lot to do with your anatomy, your psychology, your upbringing, your preferences, and your time constraints. For some people, the best way to keep calories down is by snacking on smaller meals every few hours. It helps them to feel full. Other people like to have a big filling meal in the morning, then two or three smaller meals afterwards. There's no universal right answer. Having a big glass of water before a meal is a good idea, though, because it can help you feel full.

Reducing the number of calories you take in, relative to the number of calories you burn, is all that matters.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:23 PM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Green tea does seem helpful; I also found Omega 3 supplements (fish oil) to be helpful both for cholesterol control and keeping me from feeling hungry. Fiber is good! Start careful and slowly add up to whatever your doctor suggests.

The biggest thing is, do something you can stick to FOR LIFE. Simple changes like drinking tea instead of soda, eating salad instead of pasta, taking a little walk every day, will make more difference than a frantic diet you will quit in 6 months.
posted by Rubber Soul at 11:00 PM on December 12, 2006


Fiber sure can cause constipation, and it doesn't take huge amounts. All fiber isn't the same, either. The key is to make sure you drink enough water, especially so for more finely milled fiber (like the metamucil stuff). Myself, I have issues with popcorn, of all things (which goes against my point about milling, I realize).

My experience suggests wheat bran is less likely to cause this problem, oat bran more likely. Psyilium is actually recommended for diarea, if you just take it without enough water.
posted by Goofyy at 11:14 PM on December 12, 2006


IANAD, but I think the real answer to green tea and six meals is no one really knows. There's been a few studies, but nothing solid. Even if they did bump up your metabolism, it'd be very modest at best (otherwise the effect would be obvious and everyone would do it).

Don't worry about fiber, unless your doctor suggests it.

Skip the rest to ignore my personal rant.

These claims, green tea, fiber and all have their roots in that benighted commercial sector, the diet industry.

Eat normally, exercise to exhaustion (real exhaustion) 3-4 times a week (but no more so that your body has time to grow muscle), and just ignore all the get-thin-quick malarky. Permenant weight loss takes a long time (years).

Good luck.
posted by Clock Attention Issues at 11:43 PM on December 12, 2006


I know that this diet works for people, so if you are one of those people, you should stick with it. I did not like the approach myself, because it made me way too preoccupied with food. I did lose 100 pounds by simply eating less and exercising (a little) more.
I found that my hunger signals can be trained to respond somewhat on a schedule. If you eat regular healthy whole food meals, three times a day, you should not be too hungry in between those meals. Most dieters are hungry because they just do not eat enough during the meals, but you seem to count your calories so that should not be a problem. A little hunger is not bad, you can learn to ignore that.
The no s diet is an approach that advocates three meals a day (during weekdays only) for weight loss. Maybe you'll find it interesting to read their arguments.
posted by davar at 12:47 AM on December 13, 2006


People like Dr. A. Scott Connelly will argue that, because of nutrient partitioning, it's not about how much you eat but about what you eat.

Connelly argues that your body has a decision to make when dealing with excess food: "Should I store this as fat or lean muscle?"

Certain foods can "trick" your body into storing way more food as lean muscle than it normally would. Fiber and protein are the two foods that do this most effectively.

On the other hand, anything with fructose (which he says is the worst food on earth) has the opposite effect: it tells your body to store more food as fat than it normally would (go check some labels of your favorite packaged food: fructose is in almost everything).

So, Connelly argues you should eat MASSIVE amounts of fiber and protein. And when I say massive, I mean MASSIVE. Around 3-4 times what the average person eats.

He also says that, to keep your metabolism going all day long, you should eat lots and lots of good food. He has a whole system for grading food. There are green, yellow and red foods. On his "diet" you can eat all the green foods you want, some yellow, virtually no red.

Plus, he says you must work out, at least 3-5 times a week lifting weights.

Overwhelmed? Me to.

All this said, let me offer some advice, as someone who just recently lost 60 pounds in 2006.

Worrying about fiber, and how many times you should eat a day, and what food you are eating, and green tea, and the science and all that is perfectly fine but totally unnecessary to lose weight. What really matters, and this, IMO, is virtually the only thing that matters: calories.

3500 calories burned = 1 pound lost.

I burn 2000 calories a day, doing nothing (you are probably between 1500 and 1800, click here to check).

To lose 1 pound a week, I ate 1500 calories a day (2000-1500=500, 500*7=3500).

If I ate less, I lost faster.

If I worked out, I lost faster.

It's that simple. And dieting like this keeps the weight off, since you're not doing anything crazy like not eating carbs or not consuming sugar. You eat whatever you want, just don't bust your calorie limit each day.

For me, I only ate one meal a day, which allows me to eat more or less anything. 1500 calories for one meal is a huge freaking meal (10 crunchy Taco Bell tacos!).

Also, any drink that has calories is just a waste. Drink diet, and love it (Coke Zero is amazingly similar to Coke, I think).

Finally, if you really want to be crazy like me, only eat at places that publish their nutritional info online. Most major chains do. This way you can know exactly how many calories you are eating/burning per day. I even built a nerdy little spreadsheets in Google Spreadsheets to help me to track.

Something to keep in mind: people will argue that losing weight this way will result in you losing fat AND lean muscle. They are absolutely right. You will. I have. The result is that when you get down to your target weight, you won't look as great as other people your size because they have more lean muscle than you do. You will be "skinny-fat," which I currently am. That said, you will still look a million times better and people will only really be able to tell when you are in a bathing suit or nude. Also, you can always add back the lean muscle, which is what I am currently trying to do.

All in all, best of luck. Weight loss, IMO, is nowhere near as difficult as most people think it is.
posted by JPowers at 1:19 AM on December 13, 2006


Weight loss, IMO, is nowhere near as difficult as most people think it is.

To say something like this is to ignore entirely the psychological factors involved in losing weight. Physically, scientifically, you're right; it's a simple equation, and if one eats less and moves more, the weight will come off. But most people with a serious weight problem have one because of both physical and psychological reasons. It sounds like that's not much of an issue for you, and indeed it isn't for some people -- maybe not even the OP. That's great. But emotionally, losing weight can be incredibly difficult and challenging for many people. Kudos to the people who do it, and kudos to the people who are trying to do it. I know it isn't easy.
posted by theantikitty at 7:58 AM on December 13, 2006


You can't really rely on things like green tea to change your metabolism, your metabolism "is what it is" and can't be easily manipulated. Excercise will help you burn off calories and will give you the results you're aiming fo with the tea.

I also spent a long time exercising without seeing any weight loss results, and the reason is this: I hadn't figured out that i actually needed to push myself in order for the excercise to have an effect. If your heart rate isn't going up, if you're not all sweaty at the end, then you're not going to see any changes.
Also, 1200 calories a day sounds like that would be hard to maintain - it really isn't very much food! You'll probably get frustrated with that kind of restriction pretty soon. 1500-1800 calories a day is probably more maintainable, and if you're currently 75 pounds overweight, will definitely be low enough to make your body shed weight.

Fiber is your friend: it keeps you full longer so you eat less. A bowl of Special K (which has very little fiber) has fewer calories than a bowl of oatmeal (which has a lot of fiber and some protein), but the oatmeal will keep you full until lunch. The special K will have you going for a snack by 10 am, and ultimately you'll eat more. So eat lots of fiber and drink lots of water (it puffs the fiber up, keeps you fuller longer, and helps everything, um, move.)

Good luck!
posted by Kololo at 7:59 AM on December 13, 2006


Thanks everyone, these were all great answers. I've been using thedailyplate - I used to use fitday but this one is a bit better IMO.

I lost 50 lbs a few years ago by counting calories and exercising more, but then I gained it back plus more, so I am trying to find a way that will help me keep it off once I reach my goal. I have actually not been very hungry with the 6 meals schedule, because like I said when I do get hungry, it's okay for me to eat again. So I think this is working well so far - even if it is just a trick, it seems to be helping.

Thanks all :)
posted by jesirose at 9:06 AM on December 13, 2006


I have found it is much more so what you eat and when, moreso than the (less) calories + (more) exercise. I have used the principles in the book Ultrametabolism to shed ~25 pounds in the last year. I have kept it off. Book is here at Amazon. Take a look -- it is compatible with weight loss, plus it addresses some of the sources of chronic illness and inflammation.
posted by wonderwisdom at 11:01 AM on December 13, 2006


To say something like this is to ignore entirely the psychological factors involved in losing weight.
I don't think that's necessarily true because like JPowers I also lost a lot of weight, and I also found it incredibly simple. To minimize my weight loss by saying that I am just one of those lucky people that do not suffer from psychological factors would be unfair, I think. Like you say, I think it is fair to say that everybody who is more than 50 pounds overweight has psychological problems of some sort.

For me, weight loss totally started to click once I started to understand what was going on. I used to think it was way too difficult, that I needed tricks and trucks or even therapy and operations to lose this much weight. I felt really empowered once I started taking responsibility for my body.

Now, at the moment, I am not very motivated to exercise (it is COLD, and now that I am thin l feel much colder than when I was fat) and more motivated to bake cookies. Believe me I KNOW the temptations and pitfalls and I have a lifetime of emotional overeating behind me. But it still helps enourmously that I know the basics of weight loss. That I know that eating about 3500 calories will make me gain two pounds. You could argue that everybody knows that and that knowledge is not the problem, but I am constantly surprised at what people around me know and don't know. They want to lose weight, but still eat large amounts of cheese, for example (they were brought up to think that cheese is a health food). They think that bread cannot make you fat. They eat a complete box of "healthy" low fat cookies and are surprised they do not lose weight. They think that corn chips are a diet food, just because they contain a little less fat than potato chips. They won't touch cashews because they are way too fattening, but they do eat salty crackers because "if you work hard you need salt". They don't drink soda, but drink an entire carton of orange juice each day, thinking it is a health food and therefore not fattening. Those are not exceptions, this is, in my experience, the norm.

If you (I mean this as a general you - I don't mean to lecture to jesirose) keep thinking that it is really really hard, and everybody you like says so, and you keep thinking that those few people who do manage to lose weight are probably luckier than you or cheaters or whatever, that wil probably become reality and you will have a hard time losing weight. You can theoretize and keep trying to find the right way, the right moment, the one that totally fits with your personality or your specific problems, that will not only make you thin, but also look great AND super healthy, or you can just start eating less, right now.

I know this is not a direct answer to your question, but since you marked the reply that prompted my response as best answer, I assume you are OK with the off topicness. I wish you all the best in your weight loss endeavours.
posted by davar at 2:09 PM on December 13, 2006


I lost 50 lbs a few years ago by counting calories and exercising more, but then I gained it back plus more, so I am trying to find a way that will help me keep it off once I reach my goal.

Your answer is Perfect Weight Forever, which is a chapter in the (free, online) Hacker's Diet.

The vast, vast majority of dieters do exactly what you did: lose some weight, then gain it back (usually they gain back more than they lost). There are good biological (your body thought that the diet was a famine, so it's storing up for the next famine) and psychological (maybe you thought of your diet as a short-term endeavor rather than a life-long change) reasons for this, but at bottom, it's a management question. You need a feedback system that ensures that you don't gain the weight back once you've lost it. The link above will help.
posted by gd779 at 3:30 PM on December 13, 2006


Like others have said, the only way to lose weight is to eat less than you burn. Period.

What helps me is physicsdiet.com, an easy way of recording weight and plotting moving averages a la Hacker's Diet.

Everyone will need to find their own way to trick themselves into eating less, but having that moving average that is constantly above the scale weight is all I need. When my scale weights start approaching the average, I know I need to eat a bit less if I want to keep losing. I don't track calories, all I have is a general "feel" for how much I'm eating over the course of a day, and I find it easy to maintain a relatively constant calorie deficit.

Re: 6 meals/day, see nosdiet.com: "Under laboratory conditions, people who eat a controlled amount of calories over the course of many small meals metabolize them more efficiently than people who eat the same amount of calories in the traditional three.... Where's the rub? In real world conditions, people who eat more frequently than the traditional three square meals wind up just plain eating more food -- substantially more."
posted by trevyn at 5:46 PM on December 13, 2006


Oh, also, shitloads of water. Keep a full bottle always at hand. When you get the urge to eat, have a drink instead. I guess you could flavor it with green tea if you don't like drinking plain water. :p
posted by trevyn at 5:55 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


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