Fat for Fuel
I listened to several speakers today during the online Future of Nutrition Conference hosted by Marc David of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating one of which is one of which is one of my favorite wellness leaders — Dr. John Douillard.
John is an Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of the LifeSpa in Boulder, Colorado. I am reading his book right now, The 3-Season Diet, so I was excited to get to hear him relay some of this info in his talk today. He spoke about the importance of having a body that uses fat for fuel and how much of this comes from a proper functioning digestive system.
The gallbladder plays a primary role in the digestion of fats in the body. It holds bile produced in the liver until it is needed for digesting fatty foods. (Check out a previous post I did on the importance of bile).
The gallbladder (and liver) can get clogged with stones, which slows down the digestive process. There are many causative factors behind the formation of these stones, a couple of which relate to the time that we eat our meals.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Growing up, I recall the statement, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Fast forward to my studies in Ayurveda and I’ve learned that according to the body’s natural processes, this is not the case.
The body’s digestive capacity is much lower in the morning and evening time (especially past 6 PM), suggesting that these meals should be lighter.
The production of bile and intestinal digestive juices peaks during midday, suggesting that the biggest meal of the day should be eaten at this time. If the bile produced during this time is not used up with a large enough meal then the left over bile forms gallstones.
Thus — lunch should be the largest meal of the day. This important meal deserves our time and attention 🙂
According to John Douillard, “If the body is not satisfied at lunch, it will strain through the afternoon and crave an emotional meal or drink at night.”
After spending years in a corporate environment, I cut my lunches short so I could leave earlier. This meant I was limited to a microwave and a half hour. Often times I’d just eat something small. If I did eat something substantial my eating time was rushed so I could complete errands or some other project during this time.
I know that when I have a light lunch or it just includes a bunch of carbs that around 2:00-3:00 PM I’m craving sugar and if not satisfied this craving extends into the night. Have you noticed this?
Three Meals a Day is the Way…
Another eating pattern that can cause digestive issues and the formation of gallstones in the liver and gallbladder is eating between meals. According to Ayurveda eating before the previous meal has been digested is one of the major causes of illness.
In his book John writes, “The human digestive system is designed to eat a large meal and fully digest it before taking in substantially more. A large meal can take from one to three hours in the upper digestive tract. By eating small amounts throughout the day, we never give the digestive tract a rest — it is constantly engaged and this is unnatural for the body, which depends on cycles of rest and activity.”
The interruption of snacks between meals forces the stomach to leave the previously eaten meal half digested so that it can attend to the newly ingested food instead. This half digested food clogs up the colon, ferments and putrefies, causing toxins in the digestive tract leading to further distress.
Undigested foods eventually clog up the lymph nodes and toxins no longer have an exit from the body.
If the body is used to the practice of snacking between meals then it becomes conditioned and starts to expect these small feedings every couple of hours. If the body misses one of these mini meals then blood sugar and energy levels drop and trigger a craving for “emergency fuel” in the way of carbs or sugars.
This causes an insulin response resulting in peaks and valleys in blood sugar and a message to the body to save and store fat.
Eating three solid meals a day helps create a steady energy flow and encourages the body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose.
On the Positive Side?
I’ve been trying to implement these practices in hopes of developing a healthy rhythm in my day to help the ebb and flow of my energy levels and any digestive distress.
I have put greater attention on my lunches and now that I’m working from home I take an hour. I make sure this is the biggest meal of my day and include protein. I start the day lighter with a smoothie or the like and end the day with a lighter meal in the way of soup and salad.
I do feel that by eating a bigger meal at midday that I feel better. I have definitely been conditioned to snack in between meals so I admit that not snacking is hard sometimes!
After reviewing the reasoning behind these practices — the body’s natural rhythm and digestive stimulation, I am putting these practices back on my radar – setting an intention to be disciplined for a good thirty days to see if it makes a difference in my energy levels and digestion 🙂
According to John Douillard, changing these patterns of eating made a big difference in his health and the health of many of his patients. So it’s worth a shot….
What about you? Have you tried just eating three meals a day? Made lunch your biggest meal of the day? What impacts has this had on you? I’d love to hear from you….