Three square meals a day is the norm, but has it always been that way?, Breakfast, as we know it, didn't exist for large parts of history. "The Romans didn't eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon,” says food historian Caroline Yeldham.
The belief of adhering to meal times for better health has racist and colonial origins. It all started when European settlers, who ate three meals a day, came to the United States and found that Native Americans ate more flexibly.
The amount of food they consumed and the timing of their eating varied with the seasons. When food was scarce, they fasted. Europeans considered these practices 'uncivilized' and bought the three meals a day rule to the USA (can't they just let people be and eat peacefully).
Earlier, eating at fixed times was associated with a healthier diet, lower daily energy consumption and burning fat. However, that is not the case. According to popular belief, 6 to 9 am, 12 to 1 pm, and 5 to 6 pm are the ’most suitable’ times to eat your meals. This belief has led to a common misconception that eating at the wrong time forces your body to store fat.
Timings considered 'good' for eating are no different than eating at 9 pm. The quantity and quality of food and nutrients you consume are significantly more important for losing weight than eating on time.
To make this more digestible, let’s take an example. Person A, eating 500 calories per meal, consisting of complex carbs (like rice), lean protein (examples: fish, soya chunks), and vegetables for 3 meals daily, would consume 1500 calories per day.
Person B, eating 1000 calories for only 2 meals, consisting of simple carbohydrates (example: cereal), fatty meat (example: bacon), and no vegetables, before 9 pm, would still be consuming a total of 2000 calories a day. Person A is bound to weigh less and have higher quality micronutrients in their system!
The bottom line is that it hardly matters how and when you get your calories. Let go of the social cues and norms, focus on eating nutritious food, and don't bite off more than you can chew!