What Happened to Eating Three ‘Square’ Meals a Day?

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I eat breakfast lunch and dinner. Every day. Breakfast happens about a half hour after I get up, lunch between 11:30 and 12:30, dinner between 5 and 6. If I miss any of those meals, I get cranky. Raised in a family that gathered at the table three times a day, I have been doing these three meals all my life.

But I’m learning that a lot of people don’t do that. They eat one or two meals a day or just graze whenever they’re hungry. I don’t get it, but it does help me understand why so many people schedule meetings, rehearsals, classes, and other things right at my mealtimes. It’s not mealtime for them.

I have no intention of changing my schedule, although I am aware that it might be better to reverse the pyramid that starts with little breakfast, bigger lunch, and even bigger dinner.

A girl needs something to look forward to. My meals give me pleasure, so I’m keeping it up. I have a touchy stomach that does not like irregular feedings. Also, I’m a compulsive overeater. When I get off my routine, I’m more likely to do things like eating an entire cake or enough spaghetti for four people. In this, I’m a lot like my dog. If there’s food, I EAT.

Smaller, more frequent meals are supposed to be healthier, but I’m not good with portion control. I could wind up eating six full-sized meals a day. So I’ll stick to my three.

A casual survey of my Facebook friends revealed lots of variations on when we eat. While about half do three meals, sometimes considerably later than I do, the other half eat once or twice or whenever they feel like it. Many don’t feel like eating until sometime in the afternoon.

In an article in Mother Jones magazine, “Why You Should Stop Eating Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner,” writer Kiera Butler says our ancestors brought our meal habits from the old countries. They thought the Native Americans were uncivilized because they didn’t eat on a rigid schedule. They varied their intake with the seasons and what was available. She cites studies that show it does’t matter what time of day we eat, so there’s no need to be tethered to the “three squares” schedule.

Dieticians suggest we should eat when we’re hungry, not when the clock says we should or when someone else insists it’s time to eat. Memories of my father nudging me to start cooking dinner at 4:00 come to mind. I also remember my endocrinologist suggesting I stop eating for entertainment–going out to lunch is my favorite thing–and treat it more like fueling my body.

Old habits are hard to break, especially during these COVID times when we’re home all day and meals are the bright shiny events breaking up the computer time. I think of nursing homes where the residents roll up to the tables an hour before mealtime because there’s not much else to do.

Obesity being as common as it is among adult Americans (42.4 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control), we are getting our calories, whether we’re eating three times a day or one long binge. I see people chowing down while driving or attending Zoom meetings and wonder if they taste their food any more than the dog who wolfs down her chow so fast she doesn’t know what she just ate.

On every list of basic needs, food is at the top. I think it deserves appropriate attention. Does it have to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner? No, but I insist we at least sit and eat like humans. And please don’t schedule me for activities at noon or 6 p.m. unless they include a meal.

What do you think? Are you a grazer or a regular meals person? Do you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why or why not?

***

Annie and I visited the vet again today. She has this bad habit of sticking her face into everything, and now she has an infected wound very close to her left eye. It’s puffy and the eye is half-closed. Back to antibiotics and ointment, plus the added fun of the “cone of shame.” Annie needs as much caregiving as my father did in his last years. Fortunately, she doesn’t complain as much, although she does want her meals on time.

Besides the eye, she is doing very well. The doc and techs commented on how “energetic” she was, which is code for being a handful to examine.

***

Last week, I announced that those who sign up for my new email list (below) would receive a free copy of my book Shoes Full of Sand or, if they have that already, another copy from my catalog. I have gotten a few signups, but because I have multiple blogs, I’m not sure which ones came from this blog and which books they want. If you signed up here or are going to, please send me an email at sufalick@gmail.com to let me know which book you want and give me your name and mailing address.

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

3 thoughts on “What Happened to Eating Three ‘Square’ Meals a Day?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you. I eat three meals a day, every day. I am hypoglycemic, which means I need to eat breakfast fairly soon after I get up and then every five or six hours. If I try to go longer, I start feeling light-headed. I love it, when I’m traveling with friends. I just say, “Hey! We have to eat, or I’ll pass out!” Whenever I travel by myself, whether up the coast delivering books or to California on a 2,000-mile trip to see family and friends, I take plenty of food. I don’t travel without it. And each day at home, I reward myself with three meals that I enjoy. So, Sue, three cheers for three squares a day!!!

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  2. We are definitely a three-square-a-day couple, at generally the same times of day — breakfast shortly after we get up, lunch around noon-ish and dinner promptly at 5:30 (as well as tea/coffee & snacks around 2 and snacks again around 8). My parents putter around the kitchen and sometimes we don’t get dinner until 7:30 or 8 when we’re there, which drives my husband nuts! lol He does NOT do well with an empty stomach! (and I don’t do much better, lol) 😉

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