How would you feel if someone told you to stop eating all the time? I imagine your answer might be something that cannot be printed in a family magazine. But what if they’re right? Whether you want to hear it or not, research shows that one of our biggest health problems is that we never stop eating.
Not too long ago, we were advised that it was healthier to ‘graze’ to avoid blood sugar spikes and troughs. Now everyone talks about ‘intermittent fasting’ or ‘time-restricted eating’ (eating dinner early and breakfast late, with a 12-16 hour ‘fast’ in between).
New Scientist recently praised a ‘longevity diet’ that recommends fasting and all the health gurus, from the measured (Dr. Rangan Chatterjee) to the more woo-woo (Gwyneth Paltrow), are doing it. So what has changed? It all depends on awareness of insulin levels, which brings us to the scientific part…
“Constantly elevated insulin levels interfere with leptin, the hormone that provides a feedback mechanism to tell your brain you’re full,” explains Dr. Andrew Jenkinson, a bariatric surgeon and author of Why We Eat (Too Much). It’s like the fuel gauge in your car.
You panic when you see that it is blinking empty. But the problem is not that the tank is empty, it is that the indicator is broken. The western culture of eating sugar, highly refined carbohydrates and processed foods means that insulin levels never go down.’
How would you feel if someone told you to stop eating all the time? I imagine your answer might be something that cannot be printed in a family magazine. But what if they’re right? Whether you want to hear it or not, research shows that one of our biggest health problems is that we never stop eating (stock image)
This jargon about hormones and blood sugar levels can be overwhelming, so let me introduce you to the simplest dietary concept there is: the SEAT (stop eating all the time) plan. You don’t need to count calories or buy ‘diet’ versions of foods.
Now when I walk past the fridge and reach for the cheese, I tell myself: stop eating all the time. When I smell croissants in the bakery, I think: stop eating all the time. Try it. Your secret health weapon may be as easy as changing the way you think.
If that sounds like deprivation, the way I see it is this: Food should be delicious and thoroughly enjoyed, ideally with other people. To me, that means mealtime. Snacks are often returned without thinking, in a state of boredom or stress. So even though I’ve ditched the snacks, I still enjoy a good meal every day, and I actually enjoy it more because I’m hungry at dinner time. It’s common sense and it’s the only diet that’s easy to follow, because it’s not a diet: it’s a way of thinking.
Dr. Jason Fung, author of The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting, says that this simplicity is at the heart of why fasting works. “It’s easy to understand,” he explains. ‘It’s also convenient, so it saves time and makes your life easier. And it’s flexible: you’re always in control of how and when you fast. You can fast more if you need to lose weight and less if you are on vacation.
Experts in the smart way of ‘SEAT’
fasting guru Dr Jason Fung
‘Hunger doesn’t keep growing if you don’t eat. Instead, your body will use the calories it needs from your body fat, and hunger will decrease. Stay busy to take your mind off eating.
Nutritionist Karen Newby
‘If you feel shaky or weak, have a high-protein snack, such as nuts. For something sweet, eat fruit or dark chocolate, but have it soon after your main meal to avoid an insulin spike.
Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Andrew Jenkinson
“Sugar and refined carbohydrates get people high, so resisting them can be like giving up alcohol. Realize that the desire is going to reach a crescendo and then pass. I call it desire to surf.
Dr. Megan Rossi, Gut Health Specialist
‘Make sure it’s hunger you feel, not thirst. Then find a distraction like going for a walk. If you’re really hungry, have a high-fiber snack like hummus with celery or carrot sticks.
People often think that they will get tired or run down at work if they don’t eat, but in practice the opposite is true. “It increases energy and focus,” explains Dr. Fung. ‘During fasting, your body releases norepinephrine, which gives you more energy and focus. That’s why the hungry wolf is so dangerous.
What about the hungry wolf? Anecdotally, women who haven’t eaten are more likely to report a feeling we’re all familiar with: being “hungry.”
‘Hangry’ is a classic sign of low blood sugar,’ says Karen Newby, nutritionist and author of The Natural Menopause Method. “The reason this gets worse after age 40 is that our metabolism starts to change as estrogen gets out of balance. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, also increases in middle age.
Newby compares eating sugar or refined carbohydrates, like cookies and chips, to pouring gasoline on a fire. It will burn intensely but briefly, leading to more cravings. “But proteins and beneficial fats, like oily fish and walnuts, are like throwing coal on a fire,” he explains. They keep our energy factories running so we don’t have to chop as much.
Newby says that fasting can be effective for women of any age: ‘Intermittent fasting overnight for 12 to 14 hours, and having mini-fasts between main meals, helps us to be more mindful of the food we eat. We also give our digestive system a break, like we used to do, even just 100 years ago. Snacks are a very modern invention, created by food companies with a market value of billions.’
But not everyone sees fasting as a cure-all. ‘Most of the evidence [of the benefits of fasting] it comes from animal studies, and we are very different from mice,” says Dr. Megan Rossi, an expert in gut health and author of Eat More, Live Well. “I’ve recommended intermittent fasting for some patients because it can be effective for weight control, but that has more to do with the fact that if you shorten your eating window, you eat less.”
The important thing, he says, is less about when you eat and more about what you eat. “If people are too hungry, they tend to binge on ultra-processed foods. The focus should be on nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods, which feed your gut bacteria and regulate your appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
So the key to not falling headlong into a post-fast cinnamon swirl is to make sure your meals contain plenty of nutrients and fiber (in other words: vegetables) and some protein (meat, fish, eggs, lentils, beans, etc.). tofu). A 14-hour fast wouldn’t be of much benefit if your eating window consisted of chips and ice cream. Once you get down to business, it’s easier than you think to add seeds to your porridge, nut butter to your toast, or a ball of frozen spinach to your pasta.
Focusing on getting all the nutrients you need tends to naturally crowd out sugary or ultra-processed foods. What I cut out is the mid-morning cake and late-night snack and surprisingly I don’t miss them. So give it a try. I promise you that your life will be better if you stop eating all the time.
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