It’s not until I’m visiting somewhere or hanging out with distant friends or relatives, that I realize how often I need to eat. My friends will tell you I’m always eating, but my norm is my norm, you know? It doesn’t seem odd to me. What seems odd to me is how some people can get by on eating 1-2 times per day. I would die. But only after getting the shakes, becoming incredibly cranky, biting everyone’s head off, eating it and THEN cacking over dead. You do not want to be around me when I’m really hungry. My daughter’s first response when I’m crabby is to ask me if I need a snack. 99% of the time it’s exactly what I need.
You’ve probably heard the recommendation of eating several small meals each day, right? You probably also grew up with a mother who told you that you’re not supposed to snack between meals because you’ll ruin your appetite. I hate to say it, but if you want your metabolism to run strong and have more consistent levels of energy throughout the day, you need to be eating light and often. Physically, your muscle cells need energy in order to function and your brain cells require energy in the form of glucose (a form of sugar resulting from breaking down the foods you eat). Giving your body and brain consistent levels of energy (glucose) throughout the day ensures that you have physical and mental energy all day long. It also prevents you from overeating, suffering from a food coma, and storing the excess energy in the fat cells.
I have to eat about every 3 hours. It’s not an enormous quantity of food – enough to make me feel satisfied, but not full. It can’t be just anything though… it’s got to be a combination of protein, carbohydrate and a little bit of fat. The protein and the fat are broken down in to energy and released in the body more slowly, so I feel fuller longer. Remember in the early 90’s how the nutrition fad at the time was low fat, or better yet fat-free? (For me this was during college, so I hadn’t learned all the nutrition information I have now.) I ate very little fat. Fat was evil! I loved Snackwell cookies, graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, fat-free granola bars, cereal straight out of the box, carbs, carbs and more carbs. No lie, I thought I had an eating disorder because I would eat a bunch of these foods, be hungry again in very little time, crave more of the above foods, eat them again in large amounts, feel bad for eating so much, be hungry again soon, try not to eat, then lose willpower and binge on fat-free foods again. It was an awful cycle. Little did I know I was eating only high glycemic foods and riding the energy rollercoaster. I was also very unhappy with my level of body fat.
If you haven’t figured this out for yourself or been taught this, here’s how to make your meals and snacks “stick to your ribs” longer, give you better levels of energy and help you manage your body fat levels: pay attention to the glycemic index of foods. Before I go any further, I am not advocating any type of “diet” here — I do not believe in diets. I believe in eating whole, natural foods and NO foods are off limits. I eat junk food every day. Yes, you read that right: I EAT JUNK FOOD EVERY DAY. Every day I may eat something like cookies, chocolate, or ice cream. And the full fat, good stuff at that. But it’s in moderate amounts. (I’ll write another time on how I came to a place of moderation…)
With that being said, the glycemic index is simply a measure of how quickly the foods we eat get broken down in to glucose (energy) and released in to the body. Foods are either high, moderate or low glycemic. High glycemic foods get broken down into glucose and released into the body very quickly, are a short term energy supply, and if you don’t use all the energy within a certain time frame, the extra will be stored as fat. Low glycemic foods get released in to the body more slowly, are a longer term energy supply, and less likely to be stored as fat because you have more time to use them. (It’s a bit more complicated than this, but there will be a future article I’ll post on the site you can read.) In general, try to eat more low glycemic foods.
How do you know if a food is low glycemic? Well, there’s always Google (I was going to add a link, but don’t want to endorse one particular site with crazy advertising on it – you can just Google “glycemic index”), but there are 3 things that will make a food lower glycemic:
The more fat, fiber and protein a food contains, the lower its glycemic index value. Whole grains, most fresh fruits and vegetables, many dairy products, nuts, and meats are low glycemic. As a general rule, the less processed a food is, the lower it’s glycemic value. For example, breakfast for me is always the same thing: toasted organic sprouted hemp bread, almond butter, organic jelly and ground flax seeds sprinkled on top. Nerd breakfast? Quite possibly. Satisfying? Definitely. It gets me through the morning AND an intense workout. A snack may be 1/2 a banana, yogurt, and granola cereal (with nuts). When I want chocolate, I usually choose one that has nuts, as it makes it lower glycemic.
This has turned in to a long posting, but it’s a complicated topic, of which I’ve just scratched the surface. I’ll talk more about it in future posts.
Hey — last thing — what have you done today that’s made you a better person? Don’t wait to do it until later. Do it now. You’ll be glad you did.