Disclaimer: This website is for information purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice.
Before you dive into Simple Strategies Part 2, read Part 1 for a good foundation of evidence-based dietary approaches to improve weight.
As a fitness coach years ago, I suggested frequent meals and snacks to help “boost” metabolism. Well, it turns out that this recommendation isn’t based on biochemistry, or much science for that matter. After all, grazing is for growth; it’s best designed for infants and adolescents, and not for mostly-sedentary adults.
Let’s first talk about calories. It isn’t as simple as calories consumed versus calories burned. Fifty calories of sugary candy doesn’t equal 50 calories of almonds. The body processes sugar (specifically the processed fructose) differently than the fiber-rich and nutrient-dense almonds. Candy causes glucose to be released more quickly than almonds, with a rapid insulin response to help guide glucose into the cells and bring blood sugar levels down.
Insulin is the fat storage hormone. The more you consume processed sugars and starches, the more insulin will be produced and the more you will want to eat. In addition, the more you consume in one setting, the more likely that large amounts of insulin will be released to counteract glucose. The end result is typically increased body fat accumulation, often around the mid-section, known as a “muffin top.”
Aimlessly following the standard American diet (SAD), many individuals become less sensitized to insulin. Overtaxed, the body needs to pump out more insulin to help bring down blood sugar. Elevated glucose levels may not appear right away in the early stages, so a blood glucose test may come back normal. Instead, look for symptoms of insulin resistance* that may include fatigue, cravings for processed foods, poor sleep, hormone imbalance, and added “muffin top” weight. Do you have any of these symptoms?
There are two main ways to balance and re-sensitize the insulin response, making the process more efficient and less prone to fat storage. The first tactic involves diet, while the second approach controls the stress response. Both processed sugars/starches and stress signal the insulin response, so managing diet and stress can do wonders for weight management and overall health. Let’s break down the dietary approach, and we’ll talk more about mindfulness practices to reduce stress in an upcoming article.
Now, for the dietary approaches to balance insulin levels, avoiding big highs and lows in blood sugar, there are two major paths. One strategy involves what you eat, focusing on whole foods that minimize glucose/insulin spikes. Beneficial foods such as unprocessed, low-natural sugar foods are part of that equation. Now, let’s focus on the second strategy that involves modifying when you eat to help balance insulin, reduce cravings, and re-program true hunger signals.
When I was a young child in the 1970’s, I ate dinner around 5:00 pm, finishing by 6:00 pm, and didn’t eat again until breakfast the next day at 7:00 am. This wasn’t considered restriction or a fad. It was simply normal. My body had time to digest and rest, re-set metabolism, diversify gut flora, and develop true hunger signals in those 13 hours that I didn’t eat.
Now, research confirms the benefits of a long-gone era of no snacking. In academic literature, it’s called “time-restricted feeding,” but I prefer to call it Timed Interval Eating. This term is more consistent with mindful and intuitive eating, and I feel more empowered using this phrase.
Timed Interval Eating may not be recommended for the following individuals or medical conditions:
The goal is to use intuitive eating concurrently with more structured eating patterns. If the caloric needs are higher, blood sugar is less regulated, or this dietary pattern is used to mask an eating disorder, the approach can back-fire. Always seek guidance from your physician before changing eating habits.
Timed Interval Eating can be accomplished through these tips:
When real foods are consumed, with the correct macro- and micro-nutrients required by the body, you can experience tremendous benefits. Recapped, here are a few Benefits of Timed Interval Eating:
That’s quite a benefits list, isn’t it? If you want to feel your best, snack less and eat less processed crap. That’s easier said than done though. Timed Interval Eating may help reset the glucose/insulin response to make eating fewer processed foods more biochemically possible.
If you need support to customize Timed Interval Eating to meet your unique needs, please schedule a free 15-minute consultation here.
Author: Laura Farnsworth, MS, CNS, CN, Integrative & Functional Nutritionist at Craving4Health.com
* Insulin resistance: a condition that contributes to weight gain when insulin receptors don’t work effectively to lower and use available glucose, the body’s fuel source, https://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/3/263
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