While WHAT we eat is fundamental to our health. I thought I would bring up some other factors around food and eating that also can make a difference in your health and maintaining a healthy weight.
My previous blog post: How you eat is as important as what you eat discusses the HOW. Things such as posture, mindfulness, and chewing food well can make a real difference for you. Check out my post on that here.
Today, I’m going to provide a few tips on WHEN to eat. The timing of our meals can help us with energy and weight loss also! If you are trying to lose weight, you are likely already very mindful of what you eat, but the “when” is something that you maybe haven’t thought about.
Many of us try to manage our food intake by skipping breakfast, then having a light lunch such as a salad with fat-free dressing for lunch. Without sufficient food intake in the first half of the day, and a lack of protein and healthy fats, the 3 pm fatigue and cravings strike. At this point, we tend to grab something sweet, which sets us on a downhill spiral for the remainder of the day and results in late night snacking.
This is not your fault! It’s a common pattern. Sometimes we get too busy to eat during the day. And the late night snacking isn’t a lack of willpower, it’s a matter of the body telling us we’re hungry!
Today we will cover what is going on in your body and how the timing of your food intake can help.
Eat with circadian rhythm
Eating with the rise and fall of the sun may not be in the forefront of our minds, but our bodies are very attuned to the energy and light of the sun, so this makes sense to think about as an overall strategy for our health and weight loss.
Research studies on the timing of eating have shown that those who ate earlier in the day lost more weight. This isn’t just a matter of not skipping breakfast. It’s an overall strategy of eating sufficient quantities of the right foods at regular intervals throughout the day to help prevent overeating at nighttime. Eating late increases the risk of higher BMI since we burn calories less efficiently in the evening.
Also, it’s hard to get to sleep unless our body temperature is falling, so anything that raises our body temperature in the late evening (e.g. exercise or food) can be counterproductive to a good sleep. A restless sleep can also mess with our hormones and lead to further weight gain.
If you would like a meal plan with recipes and guide to follow so that your meals are timed well throughout the day, check out this 5-day plan here.
Create new habits around certain activities or emotions
Sometimes, we are eating when we are not hungry. We just automatically associate a certain activity (e.g. TV watching) or emotion (e.g. stress) with going to get a snack. The second one is definitely me!
The human brain naturally wants to make as few decisions as possible because thinking is energy taxing. Our preferred way to function is to make as many decisions by instinct or habit as possible.
So if we’re used to food with TV for instance, then the next time you sit down to watch, hunger may strike. Or, if emotions are the trigger, then as soon as we feel that negative emotion (such as stress or loneliness for instance), we suddenly get the urge to go to the kitchen for a snack.
The key to changing your habit is to identify your cue and then make a list of acceptable eating alternatives for you. Some people like stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, journaling, or a bath. Others like something more active like a walk, yoga or other exercises.
Eating in line with your circadian rhythm and changing your habits around food is simple, but that does not make it easy. Change takes practice, practice, practice … and is likely to be more of a journey than a destination (at least it is for me!).