How to Eat Better: Part Three
Seeking answers about personal health issues, we often wait for someone else to tell us what’s wrong. This places power and knowledge outside ourselves. Oftentimes, this is absolutely critical. But your very own, one and only body in which YOU live 24/7 is sending informative messages all the time! Be a health detective, and keep a journal of what you ate, were you hungry? (Tip 1- Eat only when you’re hungry), what were the conditions under which you ate (How to Eat Better Tip 2-When You Eat, ONLY Eat) and how you felt an hour later, six hours later, and the following two days. There ARE clear causes and effects which our body signals all the time. Begin to observe and notice that what you put into your body, and when, affects how you feel. The first step is noticing; then, you have the choice to make a shift.
How to Eat Healthier Tip 3: Eat your biggest meal at lunch.
Digestion is strongest in the middle of the day, so from a physiological perspective, it makes sense to eat the largest meal at that time. If your work schedule causes you to rush through lunch or just grab a quick bite, you may become hungry again in just a couple of hours later, and by mid afternoon, need to eat again. So are you really saving much time? In the long run, if you eat a hearty lunch, you’ll be more satisfied and fueled for the rest of the afternoon, and less likely to choose snacks loaded with caffeine and sugar. If eating the largest meal in the middle of the day is new, try it over the weekend. Have a “dinner style” lunch at home on Saturday, and on Sunday go out for brunch. Notice how you feel later in the afternoon. Are you as hungry? Probably not, so have an earlier, light dinner in the evening. Notice how deep your sleep is, and how you feel the next day. I go into this more deeply in the How to Sleep Better series.
In Ayurveda, the digestive fire, or agni (the same root as the word "ignite") is strongest in the middle of the day. Agni is associated with the Sun, which is one of the ways Ayurveda seeks to connect our mind and body with the environment
Eating the largest meal in the middle of the day, takes advantage of the strength of digestion in full force. Contrast that to eating late in the evening. Not only is the digestive fire weaker, but laying down in bed, digestion is not as efficient. Another important component to healthy digestion, is that if we're in the early stages of digesting while we're sleeping, our body cannot do the deeper level of repair and digestion needed for optimal health.
Shifting eating habits can be tough, but the effects can be life changing. Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I usually ate my largest meal at night, sometimes as late as 9 or 10 o’clock. I often experienced heartburn and nausea, as well as severe bouts of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I popped Tums most evenings and prescription meds for the IBS. Once I started practicing yoga, most of those symptoms dissipated, a wonderful side effect of learning to better deal with stress, and learning how to listen to the body's messages. Studies show yoga is very effective at reducing the symptoms of IBS. But since I began eating less at dinner, it has all but eliminated any digestive issues. Eating a bigger lunch makes this much easier, because I’m simply not as hungry at night. There's a load of social resistance to this shift, and attachment to doing things the way we always have. We’re used to eating a big dinner, even several courses, in the evening. But if you're dealing with ANY digestive or sleep issue, making this change can make a profound difference in your health and well being.