I’m sure by now you’ve read about the French diet paradox (those slim, beautiful women who somehow are able to eat pastries, butter, fat, and wine without consequence), or have witnessed for yourself that enviable friend who all the foods you wish you could eat, guilt-free, for brunch or lunch, and still manages to maintain her skinny physique. What is the secret?? Something so easy, and so engrained in our DNA that you won’t believe how naturally you’ll be able to reach and maintain your body’s healthiest weight without uttering the word “diet” ever again.
From our hunter-gatherer ancestors to the eating cultures of East Asia, much of Europe, and even the Pacific Islands, most of the day’s calories were eaten in the earlier part of the day, with dinner being a much lighter, more supplementary meal. Though this has always been a natural way for our bodies to consume calories, this runs very much in contradiction to the American way of eating, as well as the fad diets so many people fall prey to. Our metabolisms are not designed for small meals every two or three hours, and they certainlyaren’t designed to take in the bulk of the day’s calories at dinner (traditionally Americans’ biggest meal). Our bodies do best with three meals a day, with breakfast and lunch being the time to bring out the big guns. Finally, there is some scientific proof (for those skeptical of empirical evidence): A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggests that we’re built to consume high-fat meals in the early part of the day and low-fat meals in the latter.
Think about it this way… You wake up (still exhausted), have a cup of coffee and maybe a bagel for breakfast at 7am, are starving by 10am, reach for a granola bar, or some sweets around the office, make it to your light lunch of salad or a sandwich, totally crash by 4pm, needing more snacks, sweets, or coffee to get through the rest of the day, and then come home, tired and hungry, for a huge, calorie-ridden meal at 8pm. Your body doesn’t have the chance to burn off that big meal before bedtime, so you go to sleep with everything still sitting in your belly, and wake up exhausted, in need of that coffee that starts the whole thing up again. Sound familiar?
Now try this on for size… You wake up well-rested, have a delicious breakfast of eggs, avocado, whole grain toast and some fruit, have tons of energy all morning without even thinking about snacking, have a big, leisurely lunch of salmon, quinoa, salad, maybe even some sumptuous dark chocolate for dessert, are full, energized and productive all through the rest of your day, sailing by that 4pm mark without even glancing at the birthday cake in the break room, come home, still not starving (since you had that awesome big lunch), have a nice light salad or some soup dinner, and go to bed where you enjoy deep, restful sleep. Sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?
Eating larger meals with healthy fats in the first half of your day is not only more satisfying and energizing, it also prevents metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. And think about those extra empty calories you’ll be able to avoid! Those late afternoon snacks, lattes, trips to the vending machine, or dips into the cookie jar on the receptionists desk are all a function of low blood sugar. Big, healthy breakfasts and lunches (with healthy fats, protein, whole grains, and veggies) eliminate the need for any snacking by keeping your blood sugar consistently balanced. Meanwhile, light, low-fat dinners give your body very little to do in terms of digestion and fat-burning at night, which allows you to detoxify and rest your whole system while you sleep. Waking up feeling light and refreshed eliminates the need for coffee and sugary breakfasts, which in turn allows you to make healthier food choices right from the start.
So if you make one change to your diet, make it this one! You’ll be amazed at how much more simple and natural losing weight and being healthy is when you let your body do what’s designed to do!