Eat every three hours and you keep your metabolism stoked, burn fat while preserving lean muscle, and stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, which help control appetite. Cruise, a weight loss coach who struggled with his own weight through early adulthood, developed the plan with an advisory group that included two registered dietitians and an internist. Daily meals consist of breakfast, a midmorning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner, and an optional nighttime treat. You're limited to about 1,450 calories a day, and while you can eat anything you want, you must make sure to get plenty of vegetables, healthy carbs, protein, and good fats in each of your meals. You must also follow Cruise's portion size guidelines (for example, veggies should fill half your plate, carbs should be the equivalent of a Rubik's Cube, and protein should be the size of a deck of cards). Finally, you're encouraged to use tactics like keeping a journal and creating a buddy system to help conquer emotional eating.
There's been a lot of debate over whether mini-meals are better than three square ones a day for weight loss, but there's no definitive science to support the claim that eating this way will help you burn fat while preserving muscle. Furthermore, "three hours" isn't necessarily the magic number for metabolism. ("Our bodies don't go into starvation mode after a few hours without food," says Andrea Giancoli, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Los Angeles.) Nevertheless our experts like the basic rules: "Allowing yourself to indulge in portion-controlled servings of any food is a proven way to curb craving-induced binges," says Elisa Zied, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in New York City and author of So What Can I Eat?! "And this is one of the few diets on the market that provides solid advice for dealing with emotional eating."
The bottom line
The "three-hour rule" doesn't have to be so rigid, but this is a healthy plan that works if you rely on mostly wholesome foods and don't use frequent meals as an excuse to eat more.