Between Meal Snacks?

The concept of "snacking" is a modern one. In the not so distant past, human beings had to work hard for everything they put into their mouths. People didn't have the time or the excess food to spend on snacking. And our bodies are not built to handle this activity, either.

We have a world-wide epidemic of obesity today. It's not just the U.S. We have spread our SAD--Standard American Diet--across the globe. And our diseases follow wherever this diet goes. What are the components of the very SAD diet that makes us fat and sick?

1) Highly processed and highly palatable foods containing little nutrition but lots of calories. Companies have spent MUCHO dollars researching ways to make junk foods particularly delicious and addictive. You know those potato chips that claim you can't eat just one? High levels of salt, sugar, and fat combined with particular textures and mouth-feel make junk food impossible to put down. Once you start eating, you will not stop until the bag or box is empty. Examples: chips, Chex mix, cereal, cookies, candy, snack cakes, doughnuts, ice cream, etc.

2) Cheap vegetable oils--soy, canola, corn--are touted as healthier than saturated fat, but nothing is further from the truth. These oils create inflammation in the body. This cellular inflammation is at the root of many of the diseases that are killing us: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's.

3) Sugar, in its many forms, also causes inflammation. And our brains light up when we consume sugar, just like if we mainlined some heroine! This addiction is fueling our obesity epidemic.

Snacking usually means eating lots of cheap, non-nutritious, highly processed foods. In addition, snacking means eating outside of your regularly scheduled meals. This is a problem, too.

Our bodies were not designed to be constantly breaking down and processing food. We need time to recover from this activity--time where the stomach is empty and the digestive system is resting. In other words, we need to fast.

Studies show humans and animals live longer and healthier lives when we fast for a minimum of 12 hours out of every 24. The same way we need sleep in order to be healthy, we also need to fast. During the hours of fasting, our bodies "clean-up" cells that are dead or dying. This process is called autophagy. The longer we fast, the more opportunity our bodies have to do this necessary cleaning.

Constant snacking means our bodies never get a break. Eating late at night means your body is still processing food even as you attempt to sleep. (A full stomach can disturb sleep.) This cuts into the fasting window, giving your body less time to rest and recover. A good rule of thumb is to stop eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Longer is even better.

If possible, try to narrow your eating window. An 8-hour eating window is much better than a 12-hour. One option is to skip breakfast and begin eating around noon. Another option is to eat breakfast at 8am, but stop eating earlier in the day, say around 4pm.

And skip those between-meal snacks! Give your system some down time. Try this out and see what happens. It's possible you will lose weight, feel more energized, sleep better, and get healthier!