It isn’t especially natural to eat three meals a day. If it was, then trying to get children to eat at the ‘right’ time and not eat at other times would not be an ongoing struggle for parents. In the usual scheme of things, we don’t get to eat when we feel hungry, we get to eat when our work patterns, and the school patterns that reflect work patterns let us.
How well your opportunities to eat suit your bodily needs may be just sheer luck. Part time work and shift work can be timed such that it really doesn’t suit your body. If you work in catering, you’re going to be working when most people are eating. Our mealtimes are decided primarily by the convenience for our employers, not for our health or wellbeing. That’s a rather large thing for many people to have no control over.
Eating when you’re not hungry because this is the time allowed to you for eating clearly isn’t going to do anyone any good. Equally not being able to eat when you are hungry isn’t helpful. We are to suppress nature as it manifests in our bodies, and most of us have grown up with that being totally normal and expected. You eat when someone else says you can eat. Your first meal of the day has to happen – if it happens at all – before your presence is required somewhere. Your last meal of the day happens after work time, plus commuting and food prep time. Even when you aren’t at work, the odds are work or school is determining when you eat.
Since my son left secondary school and I stopped the office job I had for a little while, when I eat is purely a negotiation with my household. I note that if I don’t have to go out, I often don’t want breakfast first thing. I may need an hour or two awake before I feel like eating anything. I’m finding increasingly that I don’t do so well with one big meal and that I’m better off doing smaller meals and snacking. How and when I want to eat is likely to change in warmer weather because I don’t like eating when it’s hot and would prefer to shift mealtimes to allow for that.
These are not things conventional work permits. However, covid changes mean a lot more of us are doing differently with food.
Having our meals regulated by work-time and clock time means we can’t respond to seasonal shifts, to our circadian rhythms, or our own specific needs. In order to function we have to ignore messages from our bodies about hunger or food disinterest. I’ve never seen any studies into what happens when we eat when we feel like it and how that compares to eating when we’re ‘supposed’ to but I do know that three meals a day doesn’t suit small children, and that small children are some indicators of what people are like when their bodies and minds haven’t been socialised into assuming anything is normal.