The SEAT diet – the easiest weight-loss plan you’ll ever try

We may be living in a body-positive age, but one of the best pieces of health-boosting and weight-loss advice doesn't sound so good. In fact, it's vaguely reminiscent of what an outspoken relative might say to an overweight child.

“Stop eating all the time.” Or SEAT. An easy-to-remember acronym; not particularly inclusive—but devastatingly effective, and backed by science.

“It's a simple idea: We really don't need to snack all the time,” says Helen McCarthy, author of “The Appetite Doctor,” who encourages her patients to want to “sit down”—especially between meals. “We haven't evolved to eat continuously. Some animals have to – but we're not cows, and if we ate grass all day we would get fat and lose our ability to endure hunger.”

As it turns out, French women were right all along. On the other side of the channel, people have long been disgusted with novel eating habits, and the French have basically reversed the intermittent fasting trend that is popular here. Instead, they rely on tried-and-true formulas with few snacks and reasonable portions.

“Feeling hungry is key,” McCarthy said. “There's now a lot of research showing that when we stop eating between meals and stop using our digestive system continuously, other processes start to happen, including cellular repair and gut cleansing.”

Science now backs this up. New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that the frequency and size of meals have a greater impact on weight loss or gain than the time frame between the first and last meal. In other words, eating less and eating less is the most effective way to lose weight.

“We all eat too much,” confirms the study's senior author Wendy Bennett of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “People need to learn to recognize when they're full and try to do things that make them eat more slowly and stay full for longer, whether it's drinking more water or eating different foods.”

Interestingly, the study suggests that the much-lauded link between intermittent fasting and weight loss isn't as strong as we thought. “Meal timing doesn't matter,” Bennett said.

“Skipping breakfast can trigger unhealthy eating habits in some people,” McCarthy added. “They start to get restless — it makes more sense for them not to eat between meals.”

Here, McCarthy makes an interesting point about hunger anxiety and points out that we are trained to think that hunger is a problem to be solved – which is not the case.

“Biologically, high levels of hunger are often a red flag,” she said. “It means food shortages and potential starvation, so it still triggers fight or flight for us [instinct]But in a country like ours, that's largely untrue – yet we still think hunger is a bad thing, and big business pushes the narrative because they want us to buy more snacks. “

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