We live in a culture of fast food and snacking. Obesity and diabetes is rampant. Many people start the day with coffee and croissants or muffins, more coffee mid-morning with another sugary snack, pasta or sandwiches for lunch, big dinners and late-night snacks of crisps or popcorn, cookies and cakes. Over time this will lead to weight gain and low energy and mood. When we are constantly snacking and eating, especially if these snacks are made up of poor-quality carbohydrates with the addition of coffee, the body will not be able to burn its fat stores properly, as it is constantly working to digest the last bit of food that came in. Blood sugar is raised quickly, the body experiences a rush of energy, but then it quickly drops again, leaving the person on a constant energy roller coaster, always in need of the next snack or caffeine-containing substance to keep going. This leads to weight gain, depression, inflammation, low mood and energy and a host of other ills.
Many people are told that they should eat 5-6 small meals per day to help balance their blood sugar. In the short term this can certainly be an effective strategy for someone whose blood sugar is out of balance, but it is not a sustainable long-term solution for health and vitality. If we look to various European cultures, like the French for example, who have low rates of obesity and diabetes, we can see that they mainly eat 3 meals a day, with little to no snacks in between. In the UK and the US, however it is common to eat throughout the day, right up until bedtime. Up until a few decades ago however, most people would have their
dinner at 5 or 6 pm and eat nothing again until 7 the following morning. This gave the body a full 13 hours every day to fast, burn fat and properly detoxify. Most people have had the experience of going to bed on a full stomach and waking up in the morning feeling groggy, tired and cranky. (This condition even has its own name, a “food hangover”).
All we have to do is take a look at how people looked and felt just 30 or 40 years ago. There were very few overweight individuals and depression was not as common as it is today. We are now at our heaviest and most depressed and it is partly because we live in a culture where food is accessible 24/7, where people are constantly eating, and this is simply not healthy or natural. It is good for the digestive system to have a break and for the body to actually feel hunger and appetite. Having an appetite is a good thing. Too many people fear their appetite, they are afraid that they will gain weight, but fearing our appetite is not natural or healthy. Food is there to sustain us and give us life, it just doesn’t need to be eaten all the time!
To top it off, many people eat on the run or when stressed and this simply adds to the problem as it lowers our ability to digest and assimilate food properly, therefore we end up eating more. Food MUST be eaten slowly in order to be digested and assimilated well. When you are eating, make sure you put away the computer, the ipad, the phone, don’t watch TV, just eat, enjoy and notice the difference in your health and vitality!
If you are on a blood sugar rollercoaster, there are several things that you can do to bring more balance and energy into your life. First of all, make sure that you have a substantial breakfast that includes some form of protein. Think eggs, nut or seed butters, good-quality protein powders, or animal protein. Your breakfast should give you enough energy to get you through comfortably until lunchtime, no snacks and no cravings. I am a big fan of “dinner for breakfast”, that is, eating savoury in the morning and avoiding anything sweet. Think last night’s spinach-lentil soup reheated with a squeeze of lemon and a slice of
gluten-free whole grain bread. (I am not a big bread fan, but I know that this is a tough one to let go in the beginning, so go easy on yourself and have some good gluten-free options from time to time.)
Lunch should be the biggest meal of the day since our digestion is strongest between 12 and 13:30. Once again, include some protein at lunch and you will have enough energy to get you through again until dinnertime. If you don’t, then have a small snack in the middle of the day, but once again, make sure that it includes some protein and fat. This will satisfy you for much longer and you will eat less of it. Avoid anything with sugar or low-quality carbs, things like crackers, biscuits, cakes, muffins, the list goes on and on!
Dinner should be smaller than lunch and preferably be eaten at least 3 hours before bedtime. Going to bed on an empty stomach is hard in the beginning for some people who are used to going to bed full, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak, so just try it for 1 week and see how you feel. Most people will have more energy. They wake up in the morning feeling invigorated and happier, and that’s never a bad thing!
So give this way of eating a try and don’t hesitate to email me with any questions or comments. email@example.com. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013 to all of you!