Three meals a day is a meme that most Americans should be familiar with. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maybe a snack or two in between. The majority of the rest of the world has no real concept of this meme. And if you pay any attention to nutritionists and fitness experts, they’ll recommend 5 smaller meals a day, or something close to that. Think on ingesting 300 calories every 3 hours.
So why then are Americans programmed to seek out 3 square meals a day?
Hunter-gatherer societies snacked on fruits or roots or vegetables as they tended to the hunt or gathering, eating one meal at the end of the day. That is, taking in very small amounts of energy to work with and a larger amount right before a several hour fast. This is essentially the reason for the obesity issue. This is how humans ate for presumably 1.8 million years, living very physically active lives. Now, many of us are sitting behind a desk, working on a computer, consuming many more calories.
Ancient civilizations appear to have broken fast with something small like a biscuit and a couple pieces of fruit, and ate one meal after the labors of the day had completed.
A sixteenth century proverb says, “To rise at six, dine at ten, sup at six and go to bed at ten, makes a man live ten times ten.”
It appears that breakfast was invented by the refined English woman of the 1600’s, who began to eat a dish of chocolate before rising. Why chocolate? Well, it was a very exotic food from the New World only recently being discovered. In a word, it was vogue.
As technology increased productivity and prosperity, caloric needs as well as access to food increased as well. At this time men of rest still found two meals sufficient, and laborers began eating three meals. When these sort of increases reverberated throughout Rome centuries earlier, gluttony ran rampant.
And they counteracted the resulting obesity by establishing public vomitoriums, after which they would go back to the binge.
With all this said, it appears that three meals a day didn’t really sink in until the Industrial Revolution and the establishment of the “lunch break”. The similarities between Rome and the U.S. are often cited, however the vomitorium is taboo, and Rome didn’t even have McDonalds. How about we change the “lunch break” to something more conducive to good health, like Qigong or Yoga break?