By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
The traditional Ayurvedic approach to eating emphasizes when you eat as well as what you eat, and it is literally the best and healthiest key to permanent weight loss, lifelong weight management, and optimum health and digestion. It points to the body’s ideal time for consuming the biggest meal of the day.. and it’s certainly not when most Americans think it is.
Our bodies are designed to consume the majority of the day’s calories before 3pm, when digestion is the strongest. This means a balanced breakfast that is nourishing and filling enough to get you through to lunch without feeling hungry (and without needing that mid-morning cup of coffee or snack!). Our bodies function best when lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Midday is when our digestion and metabolism are the strongest, and our system is in need of nourishment and healthy calories. So guess what? That soup or salad just aren’t going to cut it. Your typical light lunch is what’s responsible for your late afternoon energy crash, your high hunger levels in the evening, and your struggles with weight! Making your lunch healthy and dinner-sized is the biggest secret for longterm weight loss, and the end to dieting forever. This big lunch keeps you full and energized throughout the day, and keeps you from overeating in the evening, which is when calories eaten go directly to your problem areas and contribute to weight gain. Dinner, or better yet “supper” (sharing the root of “supplemental” or “soup-like”), should be the lightest meal of the day. Soup is the absolute ideal supper, although a salad is also great.
This way of eating certainly has history and culture on it’s side, being the traditional way of eating for many Eastern cultures, and even much of Western Europe, before eating habits and work cultures were Americanized. But now, there is also cold, hard scientific evidence supporting it! A new study recently published in the International Journal of Obesity proves once and for all that eating your main meal of the day in the evening contributes to weight gain. In the study, a group of 420 overweight men and women were evaluated over five months. During that time, half the group ate their biggest meal of the day before 3pm, while the other half ate it after 3pm. Both groups had the same amount of exercise, ate the same amount of calories throughout the day, and got the same amount of sleep throughout the study. Over the course of the 5 month study, the early eating group lost an average of 22 pounds, while the late eating group lost only 17 pounds.
Further supporting this evidence is a study from the University of Alabama last year, showing that eating higher fat meals in the first half of the day, and a lighter low-fat meal in the second half of the day (see The Key to Sustained Weight Loss) support longterm weight loss. So here’s how to eat:
- Eat three meals a day, and don’t snack.
- Make lunch the biggest meal of the day.
- Make breakfast big enough to get to lunch without feeling hungry.
- Make dinner light and “supplementary.”
Even if you change nothing else about your diet, just this shift alone will give you some results! But of course, for this to be the last and best diet you’ll ever need, you’ll want to make some changes to what you’re eating as well.
- Eat less meat and dairy, and more low-mercury fish and healthy plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, and healthy oils.
- Eat more vegetables!!! Better yet, eat mostly vegetables! They are nature’s perfect foods.
- Eat less processed grains and flours, and more whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, millet and oats.
- Eat less sugar. If you need a little sweetness, get it from fruit and healthy sweeteners like stevia or raw honey, all in moderation.
Doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Want some healthy meal ideas? Check out What Do I Eat? Healthy Eating is Easier Than You Think!, and our Healthy Recipes database.