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Small Snacks vs. Big Meals Hiking Edition

Small Snacks vs. Big Meals

There is a bit of debate in the diet world about which approach is better, small snacks vs. big meals. As a someone on the opposite side of the weight loss spectrum I would just say eat both! It might not help with weight loss but it could make you feel really happy inside.

I started to think what this debate would look like in other aspects of the world. As a hiker, I immediately went to the trail. I realized that is how I have spent the last year hiking and I thought I would share it with you.

The Snacks

My first year of hiking was spent on more of an exploring mentality. It was all new to me and I was trying to take in as much as I could. An “all you can eat buffet” of hiking if you will. This second year has turned into a more regimented approach. I took smaller bites but that doesn’t mean it was bad, or even bad for me.

While small snacks vs big meals might be a debate in the diet world, I wondered what it would be like to look at hiking in the same way.
The top of a cliff is always my favorite time to contemplate small snacks vs big meals

The Comfort Snacks

We all have that one go to snack. For me it is string cheese. (Yes, I am older than 11 but it is good!) I also realized that I had a go to when it came to hiking. Anytime I got a new piece of gear or only had time for a quick hike I made my way to Staunton State Park and would hike the Davis Ponds trail. This is a short and easy hike. Like string cheese, the Davis Ponds hike is exactly what I think it will be. It can be enough to fill me up but I usually want more as soon as I am done.

Next up is the short trails that I have done but were completely new to me. Usually these are a bit of a drive and something I have to work for. The Narrow Gauge Trail comes to mind. I had to drive almost three hours to make it there so I wasn’t up for a super long hike but I still wanted something nice.

These hikes are like the Oreo and milk of my world. The beautiful hike surrounded by mountains are the Oreo. Small and sweet, the cookie is the main ingredient of the snack but can also stand alone. But the drive through scenic mountain towns also needs to be included and that is the milk that makes the entire trip worth the time.

The Appetizers

I also spent a bit of time on road trips this year. I went to the southwest through New Mexico and Arizona and then made my way to Utah to visit the National Parks. Now trips like this are so much more than just a snack. They graduate to the top of the line in the snack world…the appetizer!

A lot of the trails that I took in the parks were short and easier trails but the views and experiences made up for the short tracks. To me this is like ordering the sampler platter. There is so much to take in that your soul feels as full as your belly does after that third potato wedge. Trips to National Parks are like going to the Applebee’s on Friday after a long week and just filling up on everything that is amazing and wonderful. You don’t worry about the calorie count you just gorge on all that you can.

No better place for me to contemplate small snacks vs big meals than on the edge of the Grand Canyon!
No better place to contemplate small snacks vs big meals than on the side of the Grand Canyon

The Meal

No matter how many appetizers and snacks you have sometimes you just never feel full. That is how I have felt over the last few weeks. I had taken a lot of short and satisfying hikes but nothing that really filled me up. When even my most ambitious hiking buddy and I bailed on a game of Hiking Chicken I knew it was time to stop the snacks and try a meal.

Because the Fatman never does anything the easy way I decided to go from snacks to a full Thanksgiving meal. No prep work. No slowly working my way up. I just went for it. I decided to do a hike that I haven’t done in a year and, like Thanksgiving, it left me both full and in pain all at once.

I decided to hike to the top of Lions Head in Staunton State Park. Staunton, as you know is one of my favorite places, so I figured I would try to top the highest peak there. Thirteen miles and a few thousand feet of elevation gain later and I was stuffed.

My legs were as wobbly as the Jell-o salad, my lungs felt like they were filled with gravy, and my ankles must be made of wishbones because they seemed to break several times. And I loved every second of it.

I spent five hours taking in woods, and rocks. Mountains, streams, and ponds. Throw in a waterfall for dessert and my day on the trail was like six course meal. Complete in every way from challenging and laborious to beautiful and relaxing.

Me on top of Lions Head at Staunton State Park Contemplating small snacks vs Big Meals.
The top of a cliff is always my favorite time to contemplate small snacks vs big meals

What I learned

On my non-scientific research project I figured a couple of things out. First off, snacks, appetizers, and full meals are all amazing. The quick hitters give you that short time in nature to clear your head. Just like a quick snack fills your belly. The appetizers can be as fulfilling as a full meal even if they aren’t as big or enjoyed as often. For me though, the big hikes, like the big meals, are the most satisfying.

Any time you can completely immerse yourself in something it brings more nourishment. If you spend an entire day on trail it will clear your mind and soul. But, like a good Thanksgiving dinner, it can leave you motionless, recovering on a recliner for a day or two!

More from the Fatman

If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.

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