The ELMO approach: Eat Less More Often

Living a balanced life. A great catch-phrase that is thrown around a lot, especially in media soundbites that pertain to healthy living. “You want to be happier,” they say, “Live a more balanced life.” What exactly does that mean? I don’t know, and perhaps I will never know since try as I might, I’m not prone to “balance,” moderation, living life at an even pace (I have 3 children, ages 3 and under, for Pete’s sake!).

How so, you’re wondering. Let me explain. If you’re familiar with the color code, I’m half blue, half red, with a little yellow (personality type) and absolutely no white. Although I should note this was taken a few years ago. Now that I’ve been married to my even-tempered husband for nearly 5 years, perhaps his personality has rubbed off on me. But I think it’s still safe to say, at least according to the color code, I’m a pretty passionate person, like to get things done, have a lot on my plate, creative, like to be in control, ect. and this does not always lend itself to living moderately or predictably.

I’m either really into something, or I couldn’t care less. I don’t watch movies that I’m not super excited about. I don’t even bother with T.V. because I think most of it’s a waste of time and don’t have the time or patience to filter through the muck. Once I become interested in something I must learn everything about it, saturate myself, so to speak, in whatever I’m learning. This is how I was when I initially began my journey to finding out what it means to truly be healthy. I wanted answers, so I read everything I could get my hands on. It was only until I read The China Study and other similarly related books that things became clear: whole foods, especially ones that come from plants, are what humans are designed to eat for optimum health. Although this statement is so simple, it took me reading several books to really understand the truth behind it. So then I began reading everything as it relates to a plant-based diet and because there are a variety of approaches to the diet (oils, no oils; soy, no soy; raw vs. cooked; ect.) I continued to read cookbooks, blogs, web sites, and books. It’s funny, you can hear something all your life, a truth, if you will, and not pay much attention to it–blow it off, or not treat it as significant or applicable to YOUR life. It’s only until you act on this truth that it becomes meaningful to you.

I suppose I’m sharing this random thought with you (and I hope I’m making sense!) because I’ve changed how I eat recently. Not WHAT I eat, but how I eat. It’s the ELMO (Eat Less More Often) approach. I’ve been familiar with the don’t skip meals idea, eat smaller meals throughout the day to ensure steady blood sugar and avoid insulin spikes, but I didn’t feel like it applied to me. I like to eat, so typically I’d eat a huge breakfast or lunch and a very small dinner or vice versa. I just haven’t been good at pacing my eating. And I sort of liked it that way, because it seemed easier to eat a lot at one meal and not have to worry about eating for 6 or 7 hours. By eating this way, I would get really really hungry, then eat a ton. I’d have to, because in order to get the calories I need, and since I was skipping meals or not snacking enough, I had to eat much more when I did eat to sort of make up. This habit has led to chronic acid reflux, something that can be caused by eating highly acid foods, but this is not the only cause as we see in my case, since I eat a purely vegan whole foods diet high in fresh, raw foods.

In my quest to discover the solution to this annoying problem (the acid reflux), I revisited some familiar advice: eat small meals frequently throughout the day. As I said before, I never really paid attention to this, in part because I’d read that it’s better for your digestive system to have a break and eating one or two big meals a day is better than more. The variations on this theme are: fast until lunch, the only food you eat before noon is fruit and then work your way up to heavier foods and use food combinining (I’ve tried all of these approaches, and while I think it’s great to do if you need some extra cleansing, it’s not practical for the long term). This advice comes mostly from many natural hygienists, or raw fooders, whose recommendations, are not usually based on scientific evidence, but rather anecdotal/storytelling advice.

It’s been a few weeks now that I’ve been eating about 6-7 small meals (I don’t like to think of them as snacks since in my mind snack equates pretzels/crackers/chips, which is not what I’m talking about here) a day, and I love it! Not only do I not experience acid reflux (as long as I don’t overeat, which is avoided by having these smaller meals), it’s much easier than I thought it would be. I just feel better because I never get ravenously hungry or uncomfortably full like I used to. It’s also much better for controlling insulin levels (which has been scientifically proven), which as I’m learning, is important for everyone, especially if you want to lose weight and is not just diabetics or hypoglycemics.

And how, when, why, and where you eat are also just as important factors as WHAT you eat.

More on this in a future post, because there’s so much more to say about it!


  1. Kim
    on June 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm said:

    Have you tried taking any deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) preparations to help with the acid reflux? DGL is naturally healing to the stomach and gut, and helps restore the proper balance of stomach mucous – kind of like natural Pepto-Bismol. I started having terrible acid reflux last year as a side effect from allergies and candida, and was on Prevacid for a while, and was having bad side effects (I don't do well with Rx meds). I also was having an issue with only being able to eat really small portions, because I would feel really full super fast and then get heartburn. It is awful! When I started seeing a naturopath last August, she had me start taking DGL Plus by Pure Encapsulations. I would take 2 right away in the morning and 2 right before bed, and stopped taking the Prevacid. I noticed a difference immediately, and haven't suffered heartburn since. My stomach isn't as touchy, and I can actually eat more than little tiny bowls of food without feeling uncomfortable. And overall, I feel the DGL has helped heal my gut. I am now down to taking only 2 capsules in the morning, and still no regular heartburn. I think it is amazing, it has made such a difference.URL for the DGL supplement I take: are also other DGL preparations that can be found at co-ops and Whole Foods, I sometimes use the DGL supplement from Enzymatic Therapy if I have some random reflux or stomach upset (like my all-natural alternative to Maalox!): hope this information might be helpful for you – it has certainly helped me!

  2. Vegan Mothering
    on May 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm said:

    Howard, see I’m with yah, I was eating the way he recommends as far as frequency of meals, but I just can’t do it without getting acid reflux. I really can only fill my stomach 3/4 full, which is very easily done on a small amount of calories (1 pound of vegetables =100 calories, 1 pound of fruit=300 calories). And because the foods I eat are calorie-dilute, nutrient dense, I have to eat a lot to keep my energy up. On top of that I am very physically active, running 20 miles a week or more, on top of cycling (stationary bike) and yoga, on top of the fact I’m a nursing mom. I just can’t get all of the calories I need in 2 or even 3 meals without overextending my stomach and experiencing acid reflux. I find that I still only eat when I’m hungry, since I never fully fill my stomach, I get hungrier sooner and still I feel a lot better. I still have about a 14 hour period from 7 pm to 8 am where I’m not eating. I suppose either way can work, but for many people, eating more frequently is the solution to avoiding getting super hungry and overeating, as well as keeping blood sugar at stable levels, which is an issue for many people. EVERYONE: Thanks for your great comments. I should post what a typical day looks like.

  3. Howard Veit
    on May 27, 2009 at 11:41 am said:

    Sounds like you are in tune with one of my favorite Oscar Wilde Quotes:“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” I can’t do anything 1/2 way either. I don’t do moderation well, especially when it comes to eating. But, when it comes to meal frequency, I am not sure I agree. One of my eating style gurus, Joel Fuhrman, M.D. ( advocates a highly nutritious, plant-based diet, eating only when you are truly hungry, and not overeating. He describes the tremendous health benefits from giving your digestive system plenty of rest between meals (mini-fasts). I usually go 12-14 hours between dinner and first meal the next day and 4-6 hours between meals during the day.He describes the physiological signs of ‘true hunger’ in the throat and mouth and says that overeating sets in when you start to be aware of (feel) your stomach while you are eating. To me, this usually means 2-3 meals per day. I don’t have 3 young children, though, and everyone’s eating style has to accommodate their overall lifestyle.

  4. Deja
    on May 27, 2009 at 12:39 am said:

    Okay, so now I’d be interested to to see what a typical day looks like with this idea, as opposed to the last typical-day post with several big meals.

  5. Kim
    on May 26, 2009 at 6:07 pm said:

    I also find the ELMO approach (i like the acronym!) useful – I’ve been doing it for a while and it helps. I was getting back blood sugar lows, and eating more often helps with that, especially if I include a little protein each time. Sometimes I’ll still overeat at a meal and feel uncomfortable – oops – but overall, it has helped with my ability to moderate portions and leave me feeling lighter and better overall. good advice!