Like most have commented on already, you need to distribute your nutritional requirements through the day to get a more steady feeling of satiety.
As far as skipping most of your meals, I did that for years and it left my hunger queues very messed up for a very long time (only now sort of starting to straighten out).
The best advice I could offer is fake it until you make it. I had to go to such silly lengths as setting alarms on my phone because it was not *habit* to eat. I had to set those habits and break my old one of skipping all meals except dinner before I started feeling hunger again, or maybe recognizing it for what it was. To date, my hunger queues are still messy and if I don't pay at least a little active attention, I'll go a whole day without eating (and often drinking water).
You know what you should be doing in your mind based on research and generally accepted advice, so fake it and make yourself set healthier habits until they click into place. Keep that up for a few months, and THEN make adjustments and tweaks based upon your personal preferences once you're working from a point of healthful habits.
That's great that you are paying attention to your habits and wants! While it may not be "ideal", that's basically what I did to come up with a healthier eating plan for myself that I really enjoy.
I was on a very similar schedule to you, and have found that I'm happier and it's a whole lot easier to work with my usual pattern, but just make healthier food choices within that pattern. A typical day for me (tweaked to your preferences) might look like:
Breakfast at 9ish: 2c of Special K Oats and Honey cereal with 3/4c 1% milk and 1oz almonds
Lunch at 1ish: 2c of spring mix, topped with 100g baked chicken breast and an egg-white salad (3 cooked egg whites, 1 Tbsp of garlic hummus, 1/2 Tbsp of mayo, 50g of sweet onion chopped and sauteed with 2c of spinach in 1/2 tsp olive oil)
Snack at 4ish: 125g of plain full-fat yogurt, mixed with 1 tsp maple sugar, 1 tsp almond extract, and 100g of sliced strawberries
Dinner at 7ish: 6oz of porterhouse steak, with 200g of asparagus (roasted with 1 tsp olive oil), and 100g of potatoes and onions (sliced and baked with 1 tsp butter)
Dessert at 8ish: 125g of plain full-fat yogurt, mixed with 55g full-fat ricotta cheese, 1 tsp maple sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, and 100g of raspberries (has a bit of a chocolate raspberry cheesecake flavour)
Snack at 10ish: 40g of air-popped popcorn topped with 1/2 Tbsp of butter
Bedtime Snack: Hot cocoa (10oz skim milk, 1 tsp maple sugar, and 2 Tbsp cocoa powder)
This works out to 1909 calories (67g fat / 205g carbs / 132g protein) with 40g of fibre. It includes 9 "servings" of veggies and fruit, and pretty much has the vitamins and minerals covered.
While I have different preferences than this when it comes to cereals, this is pretty much the "template" that I follow every day. I often will have the almonds later in the morning as a snack (usually along with some fruit) instead of including them in the cereal, and I change up the actual meats and veggies every day, but this is the pattern that works for me.
I can't speak to why you have the dairy sweets and liquid cravings late in the evening, but it may be that it has become a "ritual" to you that signals to your mind that the day is over and it's sleep time. That is what my hot cocoa is for me, and it may be something that would work for you, as well.
Kudos on working on figuring out how your body works, and good luck in finding some healthier choices that will make you happy!
8/20/14 8:34 A
I agree with many of the responses below. Also, I commend you for trying to listen to your internal cues when eating. Too often, we get locked into, "It's lunch time, so I better eat," even when we're not hungry. I think you should try to continue to follow those internal cues, but maybe modify a few of your choices. In response to the late night cheesecake craving, try a yummy hot herbal tea with honey and almond milk. The creaminess supplied by the milk and the sweetness from the honey, as well as the relaxation from the warmth should fix the cravings as well as get you ready for sleep. I hope this helps. Changing to a healthy lifestyle is not a cookie-cutter application. You need to find what works for you. For me, Paleolithic eating is the lifestyle that fits me the best, but it's not for everyone. Find what works for you, through trial and error, you'll figure it out. Good luck!!
8/20/14 7:34 A
The way I looked at it-- when I got here to Spark and got serious about making a lifestyle change.... the way I was "used to" eating was obviously not working for me. Because it was part of how I got fat, and stayed fat. I was used to skipping breakfast, eating a light lunch, a really big supper, and then grazing all evening while watching tv. My hunger meter was more or less "broken". When I DID eat in the evening, it had less to do with actual hunger than with habit and cravings and availability of junk and sweets. It was more a recreational activity than it was eating because I was hungry while I watched tv. I can think about cheesecake or chocolate or cookies or a doughnut long enough, that I *think* I'm hungry.... but I'm not really stomach hungry. I'm "mouth hungry". It sounds like such a good idea and it would taste so good!!
So... the first thing I did was cut out the sugar (because it can lead to spikes in blood sugar and cravings for more sugar) and start trying to follow the Spark plan. I'm still not hungry when I first get up in the morning, but I exercise in the morning and after that, I AM indeed hungry. And like Becky said, I pay attention to the nutrient distribution in my meals. Cereal and milk alone would probably leave me wanting something else to eat within about an hour. Not enough protein. Depending on the cereal, maybe not enough fiber either. And depending on the milk, maybe not enough fat to boot. If it tallies up to mostly carbs in the Nutrition Tracker... yeah, I'd be hungry way before lunch.
I too agree that part of your situation is : 1. due to habits. For example, I always have a piece of cheesecake in the evening as I sit in my easy chair and watch my favorite TV show. Therefore, if you sit down in your chair in the evening and are watching your favorite show---guess what you are also wanting? The cheesecake too. This is how you have taught your body to relax, unwind, find comfort.
2. nutrient distribution. As a male, I know your protein and fiber needs for the day are 75 grams for the protein and 30 grams for the fiber. (I pick these 2 because they are involved in hunger control). If these were divided evenly throughout the day, you should already have about 2/3 filled by the time your evening meal hits. This means that before dinnertime, you should be nearing 40 grams of protein and 20 grams of fiber already. From what you are sharing, this is not happening. Therefore you are getting really hungry by dinner and having a really, really large meal. Check your nutrition tracker. How much protein and fiber have you had by 4:00 pm???
Becky Your SP Registered Dietitian
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
3,812 8/20/14 3:02 A
Have you had a recent physical eval and blood work drawn? What do you mean by hunger "pains"? Are you literally waiting until you are in pain before eating?
The first change I would establish is elimination of processed sugar. It is a drug that is rarely necessary and most often damaging to the body.
Fitness Minutes: (14,595)
8/20/14 2:59 A
I followed that kind of eating pattern for years, and especially noticed that I was much hungrier if I ate breakfast than if I skipped it. I never knew why. I was diagnosed with diabetes this year and once I got my blood sugar under control, that weird pattern disappeared. I'm careful now to limit the carbs in my meals, which helps me a lot with cravings. I also make sure I eat a decent amount of fiber, and that I never eat carbs without some protein.
Fitness Minutes: (41,586)
27,293 8/20/14 2:50 A
A lot of people who eat like you do find that they get cravings later in the day/evening. They have learned to ignore hunger cues during the day. The best way to avoid what you are doing is to teach your body to eat properly throughout the day and to NOT try to rely on one big meal a day, and a lessor one of dubious quality.
You really should aim at some protein with each meal, and a piece of fruit/vege at each meal, also.
I think you would be best to do this gradually. Maybe start the day with one bowl of cereal, a banana or other fruit, and maybe a few nuts as well.
Have some snacks on hand - even if you aren't hungry. Hard boiled eggs are great, or a few nuts, and maybe some fruit with it. Try a sandwich - maybe peanut butter and banana or a quality wholegrain bread, or some turkey or chicken with the skin removed and maybe a light salad with it. . You might find that your cravings reduce because your body isn't craving food. Your blood sugars will even out. You will also find that you can get away with a bit smaller dinner, and if need be, allow for a healthy snack in the evening.
Fitness Minutes: (67,234)
5,114 8/20/14 12:58 A
I think you will find several things at play here... 1) many of our responses/desires surrounding eating are "habit".... and habits can change into healthier ones...but you need to give that time. 2) our physiologic responses to food vary with our health as well: eg I have Pre-diabetes, and do not respond appropriately to my body's release of insulin. So I have to watch how much carb I eat at a time, and how often I eat. Others won't have any issues with this. But, they might have issues with acid reflux, or absorption of nutrients and need to alter their eating habits to keep themselves healthy.
I would suggest if you have never discussed this with your favored Health professional, that you do that. Have them rule out any medical issues which could affect your metabolism, etc. If you have no medical issues...then as long as you monitor your calories throughout the day, and your carb/fat/protein ratios so you are getting proper nutrients, then you can pretty much eat whenever it suits you & your lifestyle.
You might change around what you are eating & when to check how you respond to the cravings, etc. For instance, if you eat protein with each meal...and increase your water intake throughout the day, do you feel differently about "needing" those extra carbs late evening? And sometimes, it just comes down to "mind over matter": ""I already had enough Dairy for today, and I don't really need those extra calories tonight"" All the best---its a good Journey!! patti
So I have been talking with my wife and we have come to some thoughts about how we eat. I think everyone has a different way and times when your body wants to eat (and what it wants).
I notice that I get very hungry about 1-2 hours after I wake up (around 9am and 10am). But if I don't eat I stop having the hunger pains in about an hour or two. After that I don't feel hunger pains again until later in the evening (if I don't eat until then).
I doubt that is a good thing though. So here is what my day would look like if I ate when I felt hunger pains:
I would eat around 9 or 10am. Normally I want something like cereal...because I love milk and enjoy the special K brand. It tastes great and feels good on my stomach (but I normally would have 2 bowls).
After that I would need to eat around 1pm. But something a little smaller is fine then. I could be fine with a normal size portion of food. I am hungry at that time but not craving anything or needing a huge meal.
Then comes the evening around 6-7pm. I generally want a big meal at that time. Normally I like something with all of the food groups (big on meat and potato since I'm that kind of guy).
By the time 9-10pm rolls around I start getting cravings. I normally want some kind of drink (but plain water seldom does the trick), and I crave dairy sweets (like cheesecake).
So now that I have that information, what do I do with it?! I just have this belief that doing something with this can help. I wonder why I crave liquids and cheesecake at night, and why I stop getting the hunger pains if I don't eat in the morning.
Should I increase my water during the day so I am not as thirsty? What about the dairy sweets?