One of the most common weight management mistakes I see is people who skip breakfast, often lunch, and start eating when they get home from work. This often ends in the consumption of large amounts of food in a very short period of time and also often ends in an “after dinner snack” driven by late night cravings. Now, there is some great research out there about intermittent fasting (which we will discuss in future articles as it is a strategy I want you to be aware of), but for the purposes of this article, I want to talk more about the dangers of saving most of your eating until evening.
To begin, our bodies are uniquely crafted to survive. No matter what, above all else, the body will adapt in order to make this happen. In the age that we live in with electricity, pizza delivery, and a pantry full of ready-made snack foods, we have gotten out of touch with the way our bodies are supposed to function. We spend hours at the gym and thousands of dollars on powered shakes, pills, and patches trying to fight our ever expanding waistlines, when really the answer is simple … remember how you were made.
Don’t Eat Late! Our bodies were made to sustain feast or famine, easily adapting to survive during both. Consider nighttime. Our bodies were made to survive (not die!!!) during long hours of darkness. Before electricity was discovered, and before humans lived in homes they built themselves, our ancestors lived in caves. During the time when the sky was dark, it was unsafe for them to leave their caves to look for food … but the creator of their bodies knew that! The human body was designed to live off of its own fat stores during this time. After 7-8 hours of rested fasting, the body has generally used all of its stored glycogen (from the last meal). After that, the body is designed to begin a process of “fasted fat burning” in order to sustain itself until the next meal. In some areas of the world, during certain times of the year, there is more time of darkness than there is light, so this process was critical to human survival. Now, obviously, we no longer have to worry about being eaten by wild animals if we are hungry late at night, but our bodies are still the SAME. Learning this principle can allow you to use it to your advantage. This is why you often hear not to eat after 6:00 or 7:00 at night. If you eat at 9:00, go to bed at 10, and wake up at 6, your body never has time to use up all of the stored glycogen and actually start to burn fat. A simple way to make this principle work for you is to back your dinner up to at least 3 hours before bedtime, if not more. If you are one who only sleeps for 6 hours, then it needs to be backed up even further. Your body has the potential to burn more fat during sleep than in a moderate workout, so imagine how much more efficient your body will be burning once you embrace this principle! It can take some time, so try backing up your meal by about 30 minutes a day, per week. So each week, try to eat your dinner about 30 minutes earlier until you achieve your desired time block. I have seen unbelievable results from clients just making this one change!
Eat Fruit Sparingly! Somehow along the way, we have become misinformed about how much fruit we should be eating. “Fruits and vegetables” have been lumped into one big “unlimited” category, leading many people who love fruit frustrated with their stalled weight loss efforts. Again, let’s look back at what our bodies were really designed for. Back before we had mass transportation (or obesity…..or diabetes), our access to fruit was VERY LIMITED. Fruit was only eaten in season and the amount was limited to what the fruit trees in the local area could produce. The human body was made for this … the occasional consumption of fruit, in season … not all day every day year round. Fast forward to today when you can find any fruit you want at any grocery store 24 hours a day. Couple that with the recommendation to eat tons of fruits and vegetables and you have too much of a good thing. Now, fruits have some great qualities to them, and they always trump a candy bar. Fruits are high in anti oxidants and have a great amount of fiber; however, the primary sweetener in fruits is fructose. In small amounts, eaten sporadically, this is no big deal, but fructose in any form, eaten multiple times per day, can add up to unwanted weight gain … again, not what our bodies were designed to consume.
There are many other examples of how our “convenience” age has contributed to the obesity epidemic, but these two are ones that are simple things to understand and fix. Understanding how the body is intended to function and learning to work WITH it instead of AGAINST it is key to weight control and good health without having to fight so hard.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Really look through the two principles above. Look at your patterns of nighttime eating and decide if some changes need to be made. If you are someone who works until late at night, take dinner with you to work and eat before you come home. Look for practical solutions that fit a caveman body into the digital age. And next time you reach into the refrigerator, reach for veggies instead of fruit when you can. You get the same antioxidant properties and fiber content for a fraction of the sugar. Remember, fruit is to be eaten on occasion and in season whenever possible.