By Carolyn Dean, MD ND
I have GREAT news…
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body isn’t all about WHAT you eat.
Making improvements to HOW you eat can make a major difference in your body’s ability to assimilate nutrition, and can help you have more energy, a healthier body weight, and can lower the risk of disease.
And, on top of that, these ten simple mealtime tips will help you enjoy your food with less guilt, less bloating, and fewer cravings between meals.
DR. DEAN'S MEALTIME TIPS AND STRATEGIES
1. Eat Slowly Until You Are 3⁄4 Full
Protein powders make sense for people who tend to eat too much! If you get up from the table feeling full, you’ve probably eaten too much. Then the burping and flatulence later on convince you of that fact – but it’s too late! Think of your washing machine. If you fill it right up to the top with clothes and turn it on, it has trouble doing its job. It may even break. The clothes stuck in the middle certainly don’t get soaped, rinsed, and cleaned. The food in your stomach has to allow digestive juices to penetrate through and through in order to properly digest your meal.
Your stomach can become the weak link in your digestion. Its thin muscle lining can be stretched and weakened due to chronic overeating. Leaving some empty space helps the gastric juices mix with the food and makes it easier for your stomach to churn your food. This will allow you to get more energy and nutrients from less food.
Try enjoying leisurely European-style meals. Don’t cut mealtime short and use the time to chew. Most often, we are chewing way too fast and too little. Chew more, chew slower, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
How do you know if you’ve eaten the right amount? You should feel fine 20 minutes after eating – even if you walked away feeling a little bit hungry. If you’re still feeling hungry 20 minutes later, you probably didn’t eat enough.
Eating slower will also help give your brain, your liver, and your gut time to communicate and say: “Thanks a bunch, we got enough from this meal so you can put down your fork!”
Usually, eating fast and eating too much go together. You go on autopilot and only stop when your stomach is on “red alert.” Another way you can get into a fast-eating pattern is thinking you have to finish your food while it’s still hot. That puts you in a race against time. Hot food is no better than warm food. Actually, warm food might digest better than hot food. You certainly chew warm food more than hot food.
2. Cup your hands to know how much to eat
Generally speaking, if you cup both your hands together and pile your food into that space, you’d have a pretty good idea how much solid food you should be eating at one meal. (Of course, it all depends how high you pile the food!) The bigger your stomach, the bigger your hands will be. It would make sense, also, that our hands evolved to a size ideal for serving ourselves enough food.
3. Balance your fuels
There are basically four food groups and they all “burn” differently:
- Simple Carbohydrates (sugar, honey, fruit) burn like paper covered with oil.
- Complex Carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, yams) burn like paper.
- Proteins (nuts, legumes, dairy, eggs, meat) burn like wood.
- Fats (avocados, oils, butter, nuts, eggs, cream) burn like coal.
Breads, root vegetables, whole grain pasta, and potatoes fall somewhere in between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
Most people need a balance of all four groups. However, protein and fats are critical for life. That’s why we call them building blocks - essential amino acids and essential fatty acids. There’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Your body can turn fat or protein into carbohydrates if it needs to.
That’s the biggest clue. If you’re not getting enough protein or fat in your meals, you will feel deprived, even if your stomach feels full. In such cases, you are usually filling up on carbohydrates (either starches or fruits) or, more rarely, just eating vegetables. Depending on your metabolism, a high-carbohydrate diet will either burn up quickly, leaving you feeling drained, or it will be stored away as fat on your body. Neither sounds too desirable.
Our culture has moved to “quick” and “cheap” meals. Oftentimes, that means filling up on rolls for dinner or cereal for breakfast. The other scenario is the raw foodie, who is filling up on fruit salads and fruit smoothies. Such a diet may feel “light” but you are loading up on fruit sugar calories.
More infrequently you find people who just fill up on vegetables (usually very strict vegetarians). Such a diet may be fine for short–term cleansing, otherwise, vegetables alone is too low in calories, with insufficient amounts of fat and protein. A long-term vegetable diet will feel like a starvation diet. While vegetables are a great way to add bulk to your diet, few people can subsist on them alone.
Foods high in fats make you feel satisfied. Fat absorbs slowly, giving you time to burn it off before it gets stored on your hips. You just need to make sure you eat healthy, organic oils and butters. Also, don’t be afraid of high-fat proteins like nuts, organic dairy and grass-fed meats.
Many people do well with a meal consisting of a piece of fruit, protein, vegetables, and fat. Others need some heartier starches, like brown rice or yams, mixed in. Either way, you see the importance of keeping your meals balanced. Optionally, you could load up on fat, starch, and vegetables at one meal and a high-fat and protein dish with vegetables at another meal. The key thing is relying on foods that release energy slowly as you fill up on nutrient-dense vegetables. The vegetables have plenty of fiber, which also helps slow down absorption.
You’ll know your meals are more balanced if you find you feel content for 4-6 hours after eating. You can eat breakfast at 8am and not think about food until noon. After dinner, you’re not craving a bedtime snack. If you are craving too soon, then you may be eating too many high glycemic starches. Unless you’re a professional athlete, or you are doing a ton of heavy, manual labor, you should be able to eat and forget about it for several hours.
4. Chew, chew, and chew some more
My favorite “fad diet” was spearheaded by Horace Fletcher (1849–1919). Fletcher was a rotund and wealthy businessman, and he was so overweight and sick that he retired in his forties, took to heavy exercise, and began to chew his food to a pulp.
His feats of strength in carnivals and his unusual philosophy even caught the attention of “the learned men” at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Dartmouth, where he was invited to lecture. He explained that poorly masticated solid particles could not be digested and would pass into the colon, where bacteria would convert them into poisons that were absorbed into the bloodstream, weakening you and shortening your life. Fletcher was perfectly correct on that point. He did become more fanatic and died of starvation, thinking that not allowing any food into the intestines would stop maldigestion!
5. Support Your Stomach Acid
Clinics that test stomach contents for acid, with a tiny pH capsule that you swallow, find that most people with heartburn actually have an alkaline stomach pH. It’s not acid at all. That means further suppressing stomach acid with GERD drugs is not a solution for this problem. In fact, the less stomach acid you have, the less digested your food will be. Food will sit in the stomach a long time and won’t flow through naturally into the small intestine. As the food sits in the stomach, it begins to ferment, causing burping, bloating, and a feeling of fullness. It is little known that magnesium is a necessary component in the production of stomach acid.
Further down the GI tract, undigested food feeds bacteria and yeast, giving them a chance to overgrow. In their life cycles, these organisms produce many by-products. Yeast produces 178 different toxic by-products. These toxins can irritate the intestines causing gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. If they are absorbed through the intestinal lining, which can easily happen, they become allergens to the immune system. It’s just like Fletcher said 100 years ago.
6. Ban Water with Your Meals
I’ve had many clients tell me that my simple advice not to drink water with their meals “cured” them of their heartburn and indigestion. How so? If you drink water, especially cold water, with your meal, you dilute the stomach’s hydrochloric acid. Food will, then, only be partly digested. Just as the scenario with acid blocking drugs not allowing your food to be digested, your whole body can be affected. If you drink ice water, the cold will coagulate the fats in your meal and make them very hard to digest.
Our bodies love water; they are at least 70 percent water, after all. Here’s an amazing fact. Studies show that what many people interpret as hunger is really thirst! How crazy is that? If you find that an hour or two after you ate a good meal you feel hungry, drink a large glass of water. If you hate water, you can dress it up with some sea salt or lemon juice. You can also try some flavored Stevia to delight your taste buds. I’m not really in favor of carbonated mineral waters.
7. Snacking On Your Liver
Wait, wait! I’m not talking about snacking on the organ itself (especially your own). Instead, I’m talking about snacking on your liver’s natural storehouse of nutrients. One of your liver’s most important jobs is to regulate energy in your body: the burning of fat and the balancing of your blood sugar. It does that by storing energy as glycogen (a form of glucose).
Most people’s livers aren’t doing a good job at regulating energy. That’s why so many people find that their blood sugars are all over the place. They eat a meal and feel good. Two hours later, they feel low and think they need to reach for a snack just to get through the afternoon.
Next thing you know, they become insulin resistant – they still feel low, but have super-high blood sugar after meals. This happens to people who eat perfectly healthy food – including vegetarians, raw foodies, and juice feasters.
These symptoms are classic signs that your liver isn’t working properly. Your liver is supposed to deliver the snacks. After you finish digesting your food, it’s your liver’s job to start maintaining your blood sugar by using calories it has stashed away and, also, by burning fat.
I believe frequent snacking and eating between meals is a big reason why most people’s livers are not working properly. Liver snacking should really be Nutrition 101 in every school. Instead, this important information is ignored (largely to the benefit of processed food manufacturers). Most alternative practitioners don’t even know about it, which is really strange. All doctors should understand the basic biological functions of the liver: glycogen storage (and release) and fat burning.
It’s really clear – as you’ll soon see – that food snacking can be very detrimental to your health and cause congestion and confusion for your liver, because you don’t give it a chance to release “pent up” glycogen and fat.
Whether you eat meat, you’re a vegetarian, or you’re a vegan, it’s not about what you eat; it’s about how often you eat it. The strategy itself is very simple, but I think it’s critical that you understand the “why” behind it first. I’m talking about snacking. Unlike most health proponents, I don’t encourage it. At least, not the kind of snacking that involves putting food in your mouth at frequent intervals.
Some people cover up their snacking and call it eating many small meals a day. Many health gurus encourage it. It gained popularity as the hypoglycemic diet, where you have six small meals a day instead of three. You may also have fruit and nuts in between meals, but this kind of frequent snacking may be doing more harm than good.
Your Body’s Design
1. You eat a meal (it takes 15–30 minutes).
2. You digest and absorb food into your bloodstream (requires about 3 hours).
3. Your pancreas releases insulin to manage the sugar entering your bloodstream.
4. Insulin helps store excess calories as glycogen in your liver. (In fact, 60% of the calories from any given meal are not used right away and become back up “snacks.”)
5. Once your liver’s glycogen storehouse is full, the remaining sugar is turned into fat.
6. When your gut has finished absorbing your last meal, your pancreas stops producing insulin. As insulin levels decline, another hormone, glucagon, slowly rises and tells your liver to slowly start releasing the stored sugar (glycogen) into your bloodstream.
7. During waking hours, in the second and third hour after a meal, about 60% of your energy will come from the liver’s storehouse and the other 40% comes from fat burning. At night, this reverses, with 60% of your energy coming from stored fat.
The problem is, most people just cycle between points one through five, and only manage points six and seven when they are sleeping. Many people eat right before bed, thus cancelling out most of their fat–burning opportunity at night. That’s why I recommend that you eat less often, not more.
Instead of snacking on fruit or nuts, snack on the natural sugar supply in your liver. The beautiful thing about your liver is that it will release just the right amount of sugar you need – no more, no less so you won’t need any excess insulin. Because you are regularly using up your liver’s sugar store, your body will keep replenishing it. Instead of storing fat, you’ll start burning it.
8. Don’t be too strict
Don’t be so strict about not eating certain foods that you feel deprived, starved, punished, or otherwise put in a position of feeling “less than”.
Here’s what you can do instead. If it’s sugary treats that you think you “should” avoid, try just having a nibble and not a lot – or just settle for a small piece of fruit. If you tell yourself that it’s okay to have a nibble every once in awhile, then your body won’t think it has to overdose on it. You take the pressure off yourself with this simple tactic.
If you’ve read my Magnesium Miracle book you know I say that a chocolate craving can actually mean you’re craving magnesium. Taking care of your magnesium requirements often dissipates the intense desire for chocolate. If you are deficient in chromium and zinc, you can have sugar cravings. My ReMyte™ minerals include zinc and chromium, and many people comment that they no longer crave sugar and carbs after taking ReMyte™ for a few weeks.
9. Don’t feed the yeast
If you feel that your cravings for sugar and carbs are off the charts, and a nibble just makes your cravings worse, look at yeast overgrowth as a possibility. I tell my blog readers and radio show audience that yeast in the intestines can be like The Borg in Star Trek with a mind of their own. Their group-mind is telling them that they want sugar, and they give you that signal. It’s very common that after avoiding sugar and simple carbs on a yeast-free diet for about two weeks, you can lose your cravings, because you’ve starved the yeast back to a normal amount. When you avoid sugar, wheat and gluten foods you starve intestinal yeast – 178 yeast toxins released from dying yeast flood the bloodstream causing symptoms from head to foot. A meal replacement powder with very low sugar can go a long way in providing you key nutrients while not feeding yeast.
10. Food as an Emotional Mirror
Yes, this is the part when I remind you that when you’re stressed, sad, depressed, happy, or excited, you may “celebrate” those feelings by eating. After all, every holiday and birthday means a food bash. It’s our conditioning to eat with our emotions. If you feel that’s the case, start making a daily food diary. Simply being aware of this aspect of your eating habits brings you more in touch. You can do it on your computer or in a small notebook. Make the following headings:
Was I Hungry?:
My Emotions-Before Eating: My Emotions-After Eating:
Check in with your food diary now and again and observe how your emotional states may be driving your appetite.
Also, when you think about eating a particular food, really consider how you “feel”. Does it make you feel anxious, satisfied, bloated, or happy? Imagine what you will feel like an hour after your meal.
Now, bookmark this article so you can come back to it and start to integrate these mealtime strategies. It will help you improve your relationship with food, take control of your health, and feel better between meals.
Dr. Carolyn Dean
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MEET THE DOCTOR OF THE FUTURE
Dr. Carolyn Dean has been in the forefront of health issues for almost 40 years. She is not only a medical doctor, but also a naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, intuitive, lecturer, consultant, author, inventor, capitalist, and purveyor of commonsense! She’s authored and co-authored over 35 books including The Magnesium Miracle, IBS for Dummies, Hormone Balance and Death by Modern Medicine, and 110 Kindle books. Dr. Dean is on the Medical Advisory Board of the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association. She was awarded The Arrhythmia Alliance Outstanding Medical Contribution to Cardiac Rhythm Management Services Award 2012, presented at The Heart Rhythm Congress, organized by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), Sept 23-26, 2012. In September 2014, she received an Excellence in Integrative Medicine Award at the Sacred Fire of Liberty Awards in Washington.