Whatever meal schedule you choose, it should be regular: pretty much the same from day to day. Eating at different times on the weekend compared to weekdays is no problem, but no prescription for calamitous weight gain is so reliable as a chaotic, unpredictable meal schedule.
If you literally don't know when and where your next meal is coming from; if you're always ``planning to catch something when I get a chance,'' you have no way to know how much you should eat at any given meal. If you know you're going to have a large dinner at 7 P.M., it's easy to compensate by going light on lunch. But if you go out to lunch having no idea whether dinner is going to be a thick steak with mashed potatoes or a bag of corn chips, how can you decide what kind of lunch is appropriate?
Animals who evolved over millions of years in a world where cold and hunger were the normal conditions of existence survive by playing it safe. If dinner might be whatever the vending machine can be coaxed to produce for whatever change you can find in your pocket (the modern, high tech equivalent of the paleolithic kids' plaintive ``Awwww, Mom, not grubs again?''), you're not likely to settle for the cottage cheese slender special at high noon.
When lunchtime comes and goes unnoticed in the press of events, when dinner is deferred hour after hour until ``just this last thing is finished,'' when you finally do get around to eating you're likely to address the contents of the refrigerator with all the moderation of a Great White in a swimming pool crowded with splashing pinks. Then the next day, unlike the shark, you'll regret it.
It is possible to maintain a constant calorie intake in the face of an unpredictable meal schedule, but just barely. You have to constantly compensate from meal to meal, count calories incessantly, and often end up skipping meals and going hungry. This is the last thing you need when you're already short on calories trying to lose weight.
If it's at all possible, try to force your meals into a regular schedule, at least for the duration of your diet. You may find, in the process, you have more power over your schedule than you thought. For example, if you don't ever know whether, when, or where the gang will go out to lunch, consider brown bagging it instead. You'll miss some of the gossip and comradely banter, but every day you'll be able to count on a predictable number of calories at a known time.
By John Walker