Eating at regular intervals throughout the day is the healthiest way of fueling your body. In India’s ancient healing system of Ayurveda, proper digestion is the vital to physical health. They use the term “Agni” to describe the “digestive fire” that is the key to optimal health. Your metabolism is like a fire that you want to continually stoke so it keeps burning steadily. You don’t want to smother it with a ton of food at one meal and once all of it is finally burned up, you skip another meal so the fire goes out.
Skipping meals to lose weight sabotages your efforts to lose weight because your body simply doesn’t want your fire to go out, metaphorically speaking. Skipping meals forces your body to go into a “starvation mode” where your metabolism slows down. You burn fewer calories than you otherwise would because your body is trying to conserve calories. Your body doesn’t know when you might decide to eat again, so it holds onto calories and fat “just in case” it doesn’t get any other food for a while. But by eating regular meals and not skipping meals, this gives your metabolism a steady source of fuel to keep your fire burning brightly. Skipping meals also usually leaves you ravenous at the next meal and you will usually overdo it which further sabotages your efforts so don’t do it.
You want to eat a good breakfast within one hour of waking up in the morning. The meal is called “break-fast” because you have been literally fasting all night long while you were asleep. So when you start your day, you need to give it fuel so you don’t go out into the world running on empty.
Breakfast is usually the most often skipped meal in today’s busy culture, but it vitally important to start off your day right. It normalizes your blood sugar levels, gives you energy to tackle the day and sets you up to eat more moderately at lunch and dinner because you are less likely to be famished when you sit down to eat those later meals.
Eat lunch at your midday and be sure to have dinner at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. Eating too late at night makes your body store more of your dinner as fat because it doesn’t have the time to fully digest it before you head off to sleep when your body shuts down active processes so it can rest.
Snacking is Good
Regularly eating to fuel your metabolism also means having snacks in between meals as well. Yes, snacks. Really. Eat healthy snacks in between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner. This helps your metabolism burn steadily throughout the day and it helps you to show up to your next meal so hungry that you overeat and take in more calories than you need.
Your AM and PM snacks can be a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. These snacks should not be cookies or crackers. Make them healthy additions to your eating routine to keep your metabolism going and your body burning calories throughout the day.
There are hundreds of diets out there that each claim to have “the right” percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrates that you should eat at each meal. My advice to you is that it will take some experimentation on your part as to what food amounts, proportions and types will work best for you – and the other Eat Well tips here will certainly help you along this way.
But a good place to start for you comes from a pretty simple, healthy eating style that is called the “Paleo Diet”. The Paleo Diet is based on the philosophy that our bodies are most healthy when we eat more like the way our ancestors did like in the “Paleolithic” or “Old Stone Age”. It says our bodies have not adapted well to the overabundance of empty carbohydrates that have become so commonplace in our daily diet. Empty carbs are white-floured based breads, crackers, chips and pretzels and all of the sugared treats and desserts that are all around us.
The fundamental principle of the Paleo Diet is to eat lots of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables. The general guidelines of the Paleo Diet is to eat 30% of your calories from protein, 30-40% from fat and 30-40% carbohydrates but those carbs are from fruit and vegetable sources not chips and bread. Of course, your food proportions are going to vary from meal to meal, so it is better to look these proportions from the perspective of what you eat in the day, or even the week, rather than specifically at each and every meal. Concentrate on lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish and limit your intake of fatty meats like hamburger, steaks and bacon. Load up on all varieties of fruits and veggies.
From a biologic perspective, this is the way we humans ate for over 2.5 million years. It was only relatively recently, some 10,000 years ago, that the Agricultural Age introduced these new grain based foods. Then add to that the last 100 years of biotechnology that has completely altered the foods we eat now. So it makes sense that our bodies haven’t been able to adapt well enough to all of the new foods that are available to us in today’s supermarkets and that they are the source of a lot of the health problems that we suffer with today.
All of the preservatives, additives and refined, processed foods that have been manufactured in the last few decades are completely new biochemically to our bodies, relative to the thousands of years in our evolution. Because our bodies don’t recognize the chemicals we eat and don’t know quite how to handle it, our bodies then treat it like it is a toxin and just tries to get it out of you. So very simply, eating more regular meals, and eating cleaner, more natural foods are the way to go.
*Exerpted from the Being Well Lifestyles Home Study Course by Dr. Jay Warren.
Drawing on over two decades of experience as a hands-on holistic practitioner, Dr. Jay Warren is a primary healthcare provider and licensed chiropractor in the San Diego area. He has spent tens of thousands of clinical hours helping his patients achieve their optimal health potential through holistic approaches bolstered by years of personal experimentation, education and research. Dr. Jay creates customized plans integrating exercise, nutrition and stress management strategies to overcome a myriad of health challenges. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.DrJayWarren.com.