Breakfast lunch and dinner: uncovering beliefs around food
Breakfast lunch and dinner: uncovering beliefs around food
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: 3 meals a day to stay healthy is pretty much indoctrinated into the Western consciousness, but with our current very poor report card on chronic disease, is it time to question our ideas and beliefs around diet?
I remember particularly as a teenager when the thought of breakfast would turn my stomach and Dad would say, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. This has only been reinforced by my nutrition training – along the lines of setting up your metabolism for the day, balancing your blood glucose (all dependent on meal choice!) and ensuring that you don't go for the convenient high calorie, low nutrient snacks when you do get hungry mid-morning.
I have certainly passed this onto my children, but now that they are teenagers there is many a morning that they are not interested in breakfast. I don't push them to have breakfast – they can choose and I settle my drummed-in programming by knowing they have a healthy lunch packed for school.
But now I am beginning to challenge all of this. The more I observe children and teenagers, when they are content and settled in their bodies I see an eating pattern that is less influenced by emotions and ideas, and coming more from the body.
Observing myself I see that a lot of my eating or 'hunger' actually comes from tension, and when I feel tension I eat to relieve it, to dull out the feeling. When I feel settled I am not hungry ... and it gets me questioning.
With more ease and natural vitality in my body, the less 'hungry' I am. So, challenging my training around nutrition I have begun to naturally prolong the time before I ‘break my fast’ for the day and my body is loving it. In the morning I am generally more connected and settled in my body and I don’t feel hungry. This process is challenging my ideas and knowledge around needing 3 main meals a day. It is about letting go of knowledge and allowing the wisdom of my body to finally have a ‘voice’; it is about honouring what my body is actually calling for, not what my mind thinks it should have.
A decent dinner the night before naturally means I am not hungry in the morning and if I eat because it’s ‘breakfast time’, this is simply ‘bashing’ my body with an idea from my mind and not what my body wants. Equally ‘bashing’ is the situation of being truly hungry and over-riding this fact with an idea that I should skip a meal.
What I have discovered is, the more I listen to the rhythm of my body (which changes in line with what is in store for the day ahead), the more supportive my eating patterns are. This is huge for me as there was a good chunk of my childhood where adequate food was not guaranteed, so letting go of fear about ‘getting enough food’ has been extremely healing.
Eating from what the body is asking for instead of from ideals . . . my body is loving it. I’m not losing weight, nor is it having wild fluctuations in blood sugar or drops in energy; even with a gym workout in the morning I have sustained vitality all day long.
It seems, at least in Western societies, we are eating a lot, often 5 times a day with only short breaks between feeding. This is certainly encouraged by the food industry – the amount of convenience based foods and snacks is astounding, and it is pushed at us from all angles. Even if we may not be eating more calories across the day, there is constant activation of the digestive system and a constant distraction from what we may be feeling.
Recent studies have shown time restricted eating (eating over a shorter period of the day), but with the same calorie intake for the day, leads to a decrease in adiposity, glucose resistance, liver pathology, inflammation[i, ii] and increased motor coordination and stem cell regeneration[iii] (this study was done in patients undergoing chemotherapy, who typically get told to just eat as much as they can and whatever they can). The concept of frequent feeding (even with healthy food) is certainly being challenged.
Apparently one meal a day is nothing new: Denise Winterman's article “Breakfast Lunch and Dinner”[iv] states that one meal a day was the norm, and it wasn't not until the 17th Century that people started eating breakfast. The Romans considered eating more than one meal a day gluttony and damaging to the digestive system.
Spending part of the day fasting activates a 'housekeeping' type of response in the body. Without the digestive system having to constantly work it can clean up all the debris from cellular metabolism and inflammation – this process is called autophagy and is super-supportive for the body. Who doesn’t like a clean house? ☺
Beside the amazing health benefits for me eating one to two (healthy) meals a day, there is also the simple yet powerful fact that I am not eating to cover up feeling and not dulling my capacity to bring more understanding to what is going on for me and those around me. Plus, there is a global effect – the earth benefits as we eat less and there is less drain on resources, which can then be more equally distributed for humanity.
Intermittent fasting, delayed eating, time restricted feeding or whatever you want to call it – it actually doesn’t have a label – the fact is, eating is not coming from an idea or from knowledge but about listening to your whole body and feeling what best supports you. It is surprising what you might find . . . the behaviour and/or emotions we unconsciously or consciously seek to bury with food.
NB: This article is not promoting skipping meals, but describing my experience and presenting the possibility that eating as per beliefs or ideals around timing of meals and what we have been told is ‘good’ for us, may not actually be the best thing for our bodies. It is about continually developing awareness of the communication we receive from our body and honouring that communication.