I don't say this lightly. And I say this reluctantly, being a fan of grazing from way back.
Working in the field of diabetes has put me on intimate terms with two states (of metabolism) that I'll use to support my position.
- The postprandial state: the fed state, the 1 to 2 hours after food is consumed.
- The postabsorptive state: the fasting state, begins when the last nutrient has been absorbed.
You might think of the fed state as a building and storing state (anabolic).
You might think of the fasting state as a breaking-down and releasing state (catabolic).
In the fed state, we derive energy primarily from the carbohydrates we've just eaten.1, 2
In the fasting state we derive energy primarily from stored fat.3
The transition period between the postprandial fed state and the postabsorptive fasting state occurs approximately between 2 hours after eating and 10 hours after eating. That's a period you'd want to shoot for if your goal was to mobilize a bit of flank fat. (Of course, if you're a bodybuilder, you'll want to avoid this period - it could encourage catabolism or disassembling of muscle tissue you spent hours at the gym assembling.)
What does this all boil down to? If you're in good health but trying to shed a few pounds, try not eating for stretches of 3 to 4 hours between meals. Try especially not to consume carbohydrates during that down time. Non-caloric beverages are fine, but one sugar-packed soda could send your body back to a pack-it-on postprandial state.
KING: Does anyone in France diet?
CHILD: They don't have to because they don't eat these great big quantities. You know, we have our American Institute of Wine and Food and our motto is a very good one of: Small helpings, no seconds, a little bit of everything, no snacking, and have a good time. But if you follow that, you're perfectly fine.
KING: Can you really read Julia Child, go to restaurants, and lose weight or maintain good weight - low cholesterol? Look, can you eat in France and avoid sauces?
CHILD: Well, if - you don't have to avoid them. The thing is, I think as we started off saying small helpings and no seconds and no snacking and a little bit of everything. In other words, you should eat a little bit of everything. But if you're going to pack it in and overeat you're just going to be fat and unhealthy.
KING: So you think you can eat a cream sauce?
CHILD: Absolutely, but you don't have to eat big dollops of it; just have a taste of it. I think, if you have a wonderful dish, even if it's loaded with all kinds of calories and things, have a taste of it. Know what it's supposed to taste like. You don't have to shovel it in.
CHILD: But you can have just a little bite, Larry, you don't have to...
KING: Just a little bite.
CHILD: ... don't have to pack it in.
KING: The trouble is, when it tastes so good, can you eat one cashew?
CHILD: Yes, you have to do.
KING: You can eat one cashew?
CHILD: I can.
KING: You can eat one potato chip?
CHILD: That is hard, but I can.
KING: How about a dry roasted peanut? One.
CHILD: No, that I have to have two of. But chew it thoroughly.
2 This statement hinges on a variety of factors including the macronutrient content of the meal and the physiological condition of the eater, although it is generally applicable:
"Many high-carbohydrate foods common to Western diets produce a high glycemic response, promoting postprandial carbohydrate oxidation at the expense of fat oxidation, thus altering fuel partitioning in a way that may be conducive to body fat gain."
- Glycemic index and obesity, 2002.
" ... increased glucose oxidation limits oxidation of longchain fatty acids directly by inhibiting their transport into the mitochondria."
- Metabolic interactions between glucose and fatty acids in humans, 1998.
3 Shils ME, et al. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th ed., 1999, p. 646.
Photograph of lemur compliments of Arkive.org