Meal Timing is Everything

So last night I decided to drop in on a friend of mine on my way back from hiking in the park with the dogs.

Meal Timing is EverythingUsually, I’m really strict about getting home and eating at a set time, but last night I was feeling spontaneous and I hadn’t spoken to my friend in a while and it was time to check in.

I stayed later than I intended and when I returned home, I was ravenous. I had a fillet of fish and chicken breast in the fridge that I could’ve cooked up, but it was 40 degrees outside and that always kills my desire to cook. So I started munching – first cheese and crackers, then some nuts, a peach, some watermelon, more cheese and crackers, more nuts, half an avocado and finally a bowl of bran cereal and raisins. I went to bed feeling bloated and disgusted with myself.

It suddenly dawned on me that this must be the single most reason why people do not stick to their diets or why people have such a hard time losing weight. Busy people living busy lives. If you have to take your kid to soccer practice straight after work, your diet is going to suffer. If you have to go to a networking event after work, your diet is going to suffer.

Most of us don’t even think about what we’re eating, but let our emotions and cravings guide us. If you’re at soccer practice, popping a few coins into the vending machine for a chocolate bar just to tie you over seems reasonable. If you’re at your networking event that is usually held at a pub somewhere downtown that offers delicious greasy food and you’re hungry and there’s beer on tap – what do you think is going to happen?

By the time you get home, you’re starving and you think – what the heck, all I had was a plate of fries and two beers, that’s not enough to keep me going till morning. So you eat again. When you get home from soccer practice, you have to feed the family and you only had a chocolate bar and that’s not enough to keep you going, so you eat again.

The problem is now that your blood sugar is so low, your brain tells you to eat and eat and eat some more because there must be a famine because you haven’t fed your body for hours. That’s what our bodies and brains are hardwired to do. Instinctually, our brains are a little paranoid, always thinking that famine is around the corner, so when you mess with your meal times and your sugar levels, you screw with your mind and that causes you to overeat. Not only this, but the longer you go between meals, the more likely you are to pack on the fat. Your brain thinks there’s no food, so when it finally gets that nourishment, it stores it just in case.

So what do you do?

Eat less but more frequently. You still have your main meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – but you want to add a healthy snack in between each meal and yes, even have a little something before you go to bed to stop your blood sugar dipping during the night. If you know you have something scheduled straight after work, take a packed meal with you. It’s better that you eat a healthy sandwich on your way to the event than not eat for eight hours and gorge yourself once you do.

To some this sounds like too much work and not something you’ll stick to, but all it takes is a little planning and discipline. If you plan out your grocery shop properly, you can make it easier for yourself to have food at the ready for such emergencies and I say emergency, because ultimately, this pattern of eating is not only bad for your waistline but your overall health and it will affect your longevity.

I’m really anal when it comes to meal planning, but if I don’t make sure I stick to the plan then I’m eating when I shouldn’t and not eating when I should and it even affects my moods and levels of energy. So it pays to be strict with yourself. Here are some tricks I’ve learned that keep me on track and never without healthy food:

  1. Batch cooking – this doesn’t mean that you have to eat the same thing every day. What I’ll do is take some skinless chicken breasts and cut them up into bit-size pieces and fry them in a little oil with some seasoning (I’m a big fan of Worcestershire Sauce). I’ll cook the chicken to the point where it is just done, so that when I use it in the next coming days, it won’t be overcooked and rubbery and lacking nutrition. I can now use this chicken in a curry, or a Caesar salad or soup. The options are endless. I make no more than 3 days worth in a batch. Any larger and I’ll freeze it for another time, but rarely do I do that because I like to keep it fresh. If I had a large family though, I would definitely freeze it.
  2. Buy in bulk – I buy yogurt, nuts and dark chocolate in bulk so that I’m never short of a healthy, portable snack and nothing makes me grumpier than running out of chocolate!
  3. Plan lunches ahead of time – that way I’m not scrambling in the morning. Again, I use batch cooking. Lucky for me, I have a few recipes for sandwich stuffers that I love so much I can eat it every day. I’ll do that for three days out of the work week and then by Thursday and Friday, I’m onto the next option. I usually always take a whole wheat wrap for lunch and stuff it with either fish that I’ve cooked ahead of time with some lemon, dill, olive oil and garlic in the oven for 20 minutes (just another little tip there) or a spicy turkey burrito or grilled chicken. It’s all good and mixed with some leafy greens and herbs like cilantro, it’s better than anything you could buy.
  4. If I’m going out after work, I always eat beforehand to avoid giving into temptation when I’m out and to avoid dips in my blood sugar.
  5. Avoid anything that comes in a box. Processed foods are your enemy. Always buy fresh and make food from scratch so that you can control what goes into every meal.
  6. Don’t keep any junk food in the house – just in case you do succumb to bingeing.

I hope some of these pointers will help keep you on track. Nutrition should never be overlooked and the more you give in to temptation the easier it becomes to do it again and again and again.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

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