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What I Ate Wednesday: Eating Bigger Meals

A couple weeks ago I committed to responding to my hunger more readily…and I’ve been surprised by the increase in the speed of my metabolism and the ferocity of my hunger since then.

As I wrote about on Monday, I’ve been working with a dietitian to try to get over the last “hump,” if you will, of eating disorder recovery, to call myself truly 100% recovered. That post also discussed the particular challenge of doing that with digestive issues that can get pretty severe.

Also on Monday, I met with the dietitian for a second time. The conversation was a little touch and go at points; I get a little touchy talking to medical professionals about my IBS. I’ve had some doctors, including a gastroenterologist, tell me it’s all in my head, but more commonly, medical professionals often don’t seem to grasp just how uncomfortable, often even painful, the symptoms can be. I get a lot of “just deal with it” when I’m like, “I do deal with it–for years I dealt with it constantly! That’s why I’m coming to you: because I’d like to deal with it a little less.” Sometimes I just want to be like: “Do you know what it’s like to not poop for two weeks?!” (Fortunately, it hasn’t gotten that bad in a few years.)

But I digress.

The dietitian wanted me to try eating more well-rounded meals. At each meal, she advised, there should be at least three foods, one of which is a “combo” food–so a food containing items from multiple food groups, like a sandwich, soup, mac & cheese, a smoothie, etc.

A few examples of meals like this:

  • Chicken & vegetable soup, cheese and crackers
  • A tuna sandwich, chips, and baby carrots
  • Tofu & veggie stir fry, rice, and pineapple
  • Cereal with milk, a banana, eggs
  • etc.

Although all of these are of course healthy meals, my IBS has sort of trained me to avoid eating “too much at once,” and instead to eat smaller mini-meals and supplement with snacks. Eating small meals often seems to aggravate my IBS less. So I’d often do something like chicken & vegetable soup with crackers for lunch, cheese and fruit for a snack, then the tofu & veggie stir fry with rice for supper.

My dietitian’s concern is that, when I eat like this:

  1. I’m not getting enough total nutrients (macro & micro) over the course of the day.
  2. Eating small meals and snacks frequently means I’m hungry very often, which is distracting me and making it hard for me to concentrate.
  3. I’m not getting enough breakfast, and not enough protein at breakfast, which sets me up for being hungry and distracted all day.
  4. Eating bigger meals would actually decrease my IBS symptoms.

I think 1 through 3 are probably true. 4? I’m not as sure.

And I have learned and re-learned and re-learned again how to eat so many times in the last few years of my life, which gets tiresome.

But I see no reason not to give it her suggestions a try.

Worst outcome? I’ll feel crummy for a while.

Best outcome? I’ll feel better.

So Tuesday was the first day I implemented this “plan”–and I thought I’d share it with you for today’s WIAW. Many thanks to hosts Arman, Laura, and Jenn.

This is actually an approximation of the breakfast I ate, because I didn’t get a picture. I actually had two gluten-free toaster waffles with almond butter (combo food), strawberries, and a lactose-free strawberry yogurt.

This is a bigger breakfast than I usually eat in one sitting: I usually would eat the waffles, nut butter and berries in one sitting and the yogurt in a couple of hours. My fear of eating them altogether is two-fold: first, that it will make me feel very uncomfortably bloated. Honestly, it did. My second, unwarranted fear is that I won’t feel hungry again at my next mealtime. Ha, ha. Silly Joyce.

At around 10:15, I was starting to get hungry again, and I was planning to go to a spin class about noon, so I grabbed a snack–the last of my protein granola bars that had been hanging out in the freezer. I felt…this is going to get repetitive…lousy. Nauseous and way over-full.

At noon, though, when I went to the gym, I was suddenly really hungry. Like, not just mild “I could eat before too long” kind of hunger but intense, sharp hunger. I was so hungry that I actually got off my cycle shortly after the warm-up and left.

Only a handful of times in my life have I left the gym for simple hunger. But I just thought, “This is stupid. Why am I about to do a high-energy exercise when my body is clearly telling me it needs more energy?” I don’t like missing spin class, since I only go a couple times a week and it actually does a lot for making me feel better, including improving my IBS, but I’ve been really trying to listen to my body, and in that moment, my body was telling me it needed food, not exercise.I did my three foods for lunch again: a salmon burger on a bun with lettuce and mayonnaise (combo food), an orange and sauteed pepper. And I felt…fine! My IBS did start to flare up later in the afternoon, but I was good until about 3.At 4, I was feeling bloated again and not that hungry, but I had just made it to class and I knew I wouldn’t get home until after 7. So I had some crackers and some of this low-FODMAP basil pesto dip from A Less Irritable Life with pecan thins. This dip is really good! I would definitely recommend it for a healthy low-FODMAP snack.

And it was good that I ate the snack, because I had a crummy tummy through class, but at about 7, I suddenly felt quite hungry.When I finally got home, I was glad I had meal-prepped the night before! I had made some simple chicken taco meat seasoned with ancho chili powder, cumin and oregano, plus some quick & simple salsa (also from A Less Irritable Life) and I put all this on corn tortillas and topped with shredded lettuce and sour cream. Lactase enzyme pill to help with the latter item. On the side, I had some equally simple low-FODMAP “refried beans” from Calm Belly Kitchen.

So on this one…I didn’t have a third food. My “combo food” was the tacos, and I don’t think the salsa or toppings count as a separate food by my dietitian’s schema. And I didn’t really have anything in the fridge that went with this combo, unless I wanted to eat another orange.

On the other hand, in the past, I often would have just eaten the tacos. But the refried beans (which were actually lentils, one of relatively few low-FODMAP legumes) have lots of good minerals like iron that are hard for women to get enough of.

My overall assessment? Jury’s still out. I figure I should continue to try this 3-food “rule” at least pretty closely for most of my meals for at least a week or so. If my crummy tummy clears up and it helps me feel good, then I’ll be glad I tried.


Do you think many of your meals would fit my dietitian’s criteria (at least one “combo food” plus two additional foods)? Or do you tend to eat smaller meals with frequent snacks?

Have you ever left the gym or skipped a workout simply because you were hungry?



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  1. I can so relate to this right now as a pregnant person. I am shocked by my hunger pains and the amount of food that I have to eat right now to feel satisfied. I hope you find the balance that works for you and your IBS. I struggled for many years with digestive issues and I had so many problems with different doctors telling me the same types of things that you mentioned. Also, what GF roll is that for your salmon burger? Looks so fluffy!

    1. Joyce says:

      Sorry to hear you’ve also had to deal with medical professionals’ less-than-helpful responses. So frustrating! The GF roll is just an Udi’s hamburger bun. Keep fueling, mama-to-be!

  2. Cora says:

    This is interesting. My dietician this summer encouraged me to have at least 3 out of the 4 major food groups in every meal. but never talked about “combo” foods. I guess then I was making my 3 food groups inTO a combo food on many occasions, but probably not having the added two items. I think this is great. It definitely makes for a rounded meal with the ability to have some extra add ins you may have not thought of otherwise. Lots of tastes to mix up and be creative with. And you are being creative! I love refried beans and really want to try making them with lentils now.
    Yes… I have left the gym before even beginning because I realized it was too hungry. Those were always really, really hard days. Good for you Joyce.

    1. Joyce says:

      Yes–those do sound like hard days. Glad you were able to step out and take care of yourself. <3
      And exactly what you're saying--I often put my three food groups together into a combo food, like a bowl of oatmeal cooked in milk with toppings, and calling it good. But this dietitian would consider the bowl of oatmeal with the milk and toppings just one food, and ask me to incorporate two more. It's definitely a shift in thinking, and an opportunity to be creative.

  3. I empathize with what you’re going through with your symptoms, it’s such a challenge that people without IBS don’t understand. I really hope you find something that works for you!

    1. Joyce says:

      Thank you, Haley. IBS is a tough condition to communicate to others.

  4. Evangeline says:

    Argh gut issues blooow. I don’t have IBS, but I do experience days when I feel 4 months pregnant and well…I’ll stop there. I can only imagine how frustrating full blown IBS would be. The whole, “it’s all in your head” argument is ridiculous. That doesn’t solve anything. I’m really hoping this approach ends up alleviating some of your symptoms. It looks like a super delicious day of food.

    1. Joyce says:

      Thank you, Evangeline, for the encouraging words.

  5. You’re prioritizing the respect your body deserves. I commend you so much for doing so Joyce. It’s difficult to begin, but it will soon become like secd nature to you. I have full faith you’re going to get over this final hump. I’m so happy for you! Love the introspection here.

  6. Kaylee says:

    I cannot even imagine what it is like to have IBS so I applaud your determination in this whole process. I’ve been working with a dietician for not quite 2 years now and feel like I haven’t really been listening to her as I should if I want to see improvements. Thanks for giving me a burst of motivation for my own recovery.

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