Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How eating times and amounts differ so much even within a family

I live in a household with a 7 year old, tall and stocky boy, a 16 year old tall and very thin, boy, me - 43 year old female - fairly fit and a bit overweight, my 46 year old trim and fit husband and my 77 unfit mother in law who is slightly overweight, but nothing excessive.

We eat breakfast and dinner together most days and I see or know what most everyone else eats through out the day as I'm the one who prepares all the food. I find it fascinating and puzzling at how differently we eat. In when we eat and in how much we eat. Bear with me as I write it all out:

  • My 7 year old boy is a BIG kid. He eats a good breakfast, a good lunch, an afternoon snack, a medium sized dinner and a small snack before bed.
  • My 16 year old nibbles on something at breakfast (if he eats) takes a protein bar for lunch, grabs a snack after school (smallish), eats a good sized dinner and then inhales the kitchen between 9:30 pm and 11 pm.
  • I eat 3 same sized meals throughout the day or a smaller breakfast to be able to eat a bigger dinner. I rarely grab a snack.
  • My husband eats a medium sized breakfast, a varying size lunch but usually small, small snack and a HUGE dinner and then a snack before bed.
  • My mother in law eats a big breakfast, a snack for a lunch (like an apple and a glass of milk, or a piece of bread with peanut butter) and then a smallish dinner.

So... I used to eat the same sized breakfast as my husband, a larger lunch as my husband and the same sized dinner only difference is that I didn't usually eat a snack after dinner and he almost always does. I figure he eats around 2600 calories a day. I probably used to eat around 2800-3400. (Scary thought!)

My mother in law eats so little and it has me wondering, "Do all old people eat so little?" or is she grabbing food at other times and hiding it? What  I see is that she eats about a 500 calorie breakfast, a 150-200 calorie lunch and a 300 or so calorie dinner. That means she eats around 1000 calories a day (or less). Can that be? She gains and loses the same 12 pounds. Slowly gains when she feels well, but a couple times a year she gets sick (either stomach troubles, or cold) and will just stop eating for a few days (but we force her to eat SOMETHING). I know she loves chocolate and stuff - maybe she is eating a chocolate bar every day or so too - she has to be eating more, right?

And then there is me. I eat about 1400 calories a day give or take a hundred either way. AND I exercise 5-6 times a week (gonna be 5 this week as I'm exhausted). I'm HOPING that will result in a decent loss this month, but I had a couple splurge days of around 2000 calories and the scale seems to be unbelievably stubborn in dropping pounds!

I look at how my younger son and I tend to be hungriest in the morning as does my mother in law. My husband eats a good breakfast I think mostly because he doesn't like to hassle with lunch at work. When he's home on weekend he tends to eat bigger lunches. My teenage son is a night owl all around because even his stomach doesn't wake up until the late afternoon. Getting him to eat in the morning is hopeless. We force him to take a protein bar for lunch which he only sometimes eats, but then at night, he eats about 75% of his calories.

I think what I am finding most fascinating is how I used to eat compared to how I eat now. I know I ate more than my husband, but when I see how much he eats for dinner, it seems like so much, but yet I know I used to eat the same sized meal as he did and my weight was pretty stable. So... if I want to weigh between 255-275, I can eat like that! Um, no.

What has me a bit worried is how little my mother-in-law eats. I wonder, "Is that all she is hungry for? Do old people really need to eat so little?" The idea of eating 1000 calories a day has me hungry just thinking about it. I struggle some days with trying to stay under 1400!

And I wonder if staying fit and active can keep my metabolism up a bit so that I won't have to eat such small meals as I age. Eating so little would mean a cookie splurge or the like would be close to have my daily caloric needs! Eek! With eating so little how can you possibly get all the nutrients you need?

Anyway... it's been interesting really paying attention to my family's eating patterns. We are definitely all different and I definitely used to eat way too much.


  1. I'm really enjoying your blog, it's very inspiring and just what I need right now. I wasn't able to see your "timeline" pics until now since I've been reading it with my iPod. Wow - you're accomplishments are amazing, and the progress you've made gives me hope!

    With regards to how much people eat, I'm almost more befuddled by people like your husband than older people. It seems like his body just "knows" the right amount to eat. When he finishes his meal, does he feel satisfied? How can some people feel satisfied with the correct size meal/portion/etc, but some of us will always cross that "too much" portion line unless we make a conscious effort not to? Now, maybe I'm assuming he doesn't need to make that conscious effort, but he actually does, and it has just become a habit for him at this point. But I have fit friends who will stop eating at some random point at a meal without it being a conscious choice. They just feel as if they've had enough at that point.

    Thanks again!

  2. That is interesting! I know my eating habits are vastly different an my hubsand's, and my extended family, too. My kids eat when I tell them to, so at this point it's not really being dictated by them as much as scheduled by me (usually three decent sized meals and a snack if they have hunger pangs). Everyone is different and their calorie needs are different, but it is a bit of a marvel what the range of healthy can be, depending on the body!

  3. 43 - thank you very much.

    Now about my husband. He has never had a weight problem. He did have one point where he gained 30 pounds when he was getting his PhD, but that was mostly just the stress, lack of exercise and lack of sleep. He slowly dropped that weight and when I started dropping weight, he decided to take off the rest of it. He actually would like to weigh a bit less than he does (he's just shy of 6'1" and weighs about 175 - he has a medium frame). For the most part, he's an intuitive eater, but more than that, he's not addicted to sugars. When he grabs a piece of chocolate, he grabs a half of a square - so like 25 calories worth. If he wants a cookie, he grabs one, at most two. He likes unsweetened everything and loves greens and salads and lean foods. He simply has very good eating habits and always has. When he was dropping weight, he didn't give up anything. He just exercised more to drop the weight - didn't even give up his wine. It took him a year to lose the 20 pounds by exercise alone, but he did it. In that year I lost 80 and he lost 20.

    Difference is when it's the holidays, he will eat more treats, sure. He'll even gain about 3 pounds, but he still only has a bit more. I start to go crazy because of sugar addictions. He'll maybe eat 3-4 cookies in a day. I would grab 5-6. Stuff like that.