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Eating Occasions


As a culture, how much of our eating is dependent upon how we feel at the moment, the social event that we are attending, a tradition, or the numbers on a clock? Perhaps, along with being addicted to food, we are addicted to eating occasions?

When did we evolve from a society that eats meals to fuel the body to one that eats many times a day; regardless of hunger? Numerous meals and snacks a day are now scientifically called, “Eating Occasions” (or EOs for short). As a culture, are eating occasions destroying us? In the past 30 years, eating occasions have increased among all ages, with the greatest for those in the 75 – 90 percentiles; plus, the time between them has exponentially decreased.  Not only are we eating more, but with less time spaced between EOs.1 Over the past 30 years, typical calorie intake and obesity rates have risen sharply. The increased frequency of eating occasions was found to be the strongest driver of increased calorie intake over the past 30 years, even more than growing portion sizes.2 Snacking – recreational eating in the absence of true hunger – drives overeating and obesity.

Before I committed to Nutritarian eating, I was caught in the many-times-a-day eating occasion trap. Anything and anytime was a reason for eating. Even though I’m now free from hunger that drives one to overeat, I still need to be vigilant when I’m out with others that I don’t eat for social entertainment, or eat because the clock reads 12 noon, if I’m not truly hungry.  

As Dr. Fuhrman states, “Frequent eating leads to higher calorie intake.” We all know that this leads to the excess fat that produces a lifetime of needless and ongoing suffering. It’s beneficial to renew our minds from time to time and re-read the chapters on toxic hunger in Eat for Health, or listen to Dr. Fuhrman’s teleconference, “Curtailing Overeating.” We need to seriously ask ourselves, are we eating to satisfy the body’s need for nourishment, or are we caught up in eating occasions? A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul.  May we all choose to eat for health today!


1. Popkin BM, Duffey KJ. Does hunger and satiety drive eating anymore? Increasing eating occasions and decreasing time between eating occasions in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1342-7.

2. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. Energy density, portion size, and eating occasions: contributions to increased energy intake in the United States, 1977-2006. PLoS Med 2011;8:e1001050.

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