Weekly Lessons #4 - Eating Habits

Weekly Lessons #4 - Eating Habits

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How you eat is almost as important as what you’re eating. Eating in a balanced method helps with nutrient absorption, bloating, gas, and overall hunger regulation. How do we balance it? Do we set a timer for every 2 hours? Do we eat 5 square meals a day? Do we not eat 3 hours before bed time? Messages are mixed and the truth is, everyone is different. We all have different needs, lifestyles, and desires.

To answer the question, the remedy is simple: eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Don’t over-analyze it! When our bodies need fuel, we upregulate the hormone ghrelin to signal feelings of hunger; therefore, we eat. When we are reaching full-ness, our bodies release the hormone leptin (secreted by fat cells) to decrease your appetite. If we are well-hydrated (are you drinking enough water yet?!), your body will naturally tell you when you should be eating. Our appetite levels will increase or decrease on a daily basis based upon our activity levels, type of activity, and lifestyle.

Now that’s easier said than done. If we all just ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full, it is likely that many of us wouldn’t be as overweight as we are today. What’s the secret to maintaining a good balance that enables us to be able to listen to our bodies?

THERE ARE 3 FACTORS THAT ARE IMPORTANT IN THIS:

Balance Your Plate
The goal with any meal or snack is to have a balanced ratio of the three macronutrients - protein, fat, and carbohydrate. When we consume these in equal ratios, it increases our satiety. Fat slows digestion and signals fullness. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle, skin, and hair, while carbohydrate signals our bodies to store these necessary compounds. Will an unfettered amount of carbohydrate lead to an excess amount of storage in the form of fat? Yes, but eating these all in conjunction with one another helps regulate that. By eating foods that slow down digestion (fats, fiber), it decreases the amount of insulin spiked upon the consumption of carbohydrate. Amount of protein ingested with carbohydrate also effects this insulin spike.

There are many factors that come into play here (fat, fiber, protein, hydration levels), but the bottom line is if you are eating whole, unprocessed foods, then eating them in balanced fashion will lead to the most favorable absorption.

Stop When 80% Full
This one is simple. Rather than eating until we are Thanksgiving-stuffed, eat until you are satisfied and not hungry anymore. Does that mean that you can’t indulge every so often and enjoy eating 5 plates of brisket and potato salad at your 4th of July BBQ? Most certainly not! But what it does mean is that a majority of the time, for most of the meals of your week, eat until you are 80% full.

Eat Slowly & Chew Your Food
Gassy? Just eat what seems like a ton of food and still feel hungry? Burping? These could all be signs that you are eating too quickly. When you eat, monitor the pace of your consumption - take a bite, put your utensil down, chew it thoroughly, grab a drink of water, breathe, then take another bite. When you are eating, concentrate solely at the task at hand and do not perform other duties. When we slow down our eating, we allow our bodies to catch up and signal the hormone that we are getting full. When we chew our food properly, it enables our salivary enzymes to help break down food in our mouths further for digestion within the stomach and then the intestines. By physically breaking food down, it helps our bodies absorb nutrients better and minimize unwanted gas and bloating.

Aim for a meal to take you 20 minutes to eat. If you are eating plenty of veggies at every meal, it should take you pretty long to break all of that roughage down! For each bite of food you place in your mouth, aim for that mouthful to take 30 chews before you swallow. I’m sure you have never counted how many times you chew, but this will be a good experiment for you! So get the timer on and start counting ;)

WEEK 4 HOMEWORK

WE’VE INCLUDED A NEW TASK FOR YOU THIS WEEK, COUNTING HOW MANY TIMES YOU CHEW ;) COMPLETE THIS EACH DAY, ONE TIME, WITH ONE MEAL. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED!

Janet Navarrette