1. Fast overnight for at least 12 hours
- This allows digestion to complete, which takes about 8 hours. Then your digestion can have a rest while your body has energy for other repair and maintenance processes.
- Studies show a correlation between eating in a smaller window of time during the day and weight loss, without the need for conscious calorie restrictions.
- It is possible to extend the time to more than 12 hours, depending on the size of your evening meal. Wait until you are hungry to eat in the morning rather than eating out of habit.
- Don’t try to be a hero and wait too long to eat after you start being hungry. Some current books and blogs encourage really long fasts but it can backfire for some people because it becomes too much of a struggle.
2. Eat at predictable times
- Even if your schedule changes from day to day, make sure there are predictable patterns to meal times. Your body, and even each individual organ, operates according to circadian rhythms. Constant shifts go against the optimal functioning of your physiology.
- When we don’t know when and what we will eat, we tend to overeat as “insurance” against starving before the next meal.
- Plan when and what you will eat before getting hungry. Making rational healthy nutrition decisions while hungry is nearly impossible for most people.
3. Hydrate between meals
- Drinking a lot of fluid with meals dilutes digestive juices. Instead, drink most of your water between meals for improved digestion.
- Drink water first thing upon waking in the morning. This is when you are the most in need of fluids after drinking little or no water overnight. This will start your digestion and encourage healthy elimination.
- Being well hydrated in the morning will also help with #1, “Fasting for 12 hours,” because you will be less likely to feel hungry.
- Drinking enough water between meals can make you feel full and limit the urge to snack. Sometimes we think we are hungry when we are in fact thirsty.
4. Eat meals rather than snacks.
- While popular advice and food marketing is full of snacking suggestions, snacking is best kept to a minimum. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious meal that keeps you full for several hours is healthier for digestion. Eating too frequently can stress the digestive system.
- Once we start eating, it can be hard to stop. A very small snack may be enough to fill you up so you are not famished before the next meal, but you are likely to eat much more than you need unless you are very vigilant about keeping track of how much you are eating. Extra calories can quickly add up.
- See item #3, “Eating at predictable times”: when your meal schedule is regular, you know how much to eat at each meal so that snacking is not necessary. If you do need a snack, you also know through repeated experience how much is appropriate to make it to the next meal.
- You should be hungry (not starved) when it is time for a meal. Excessive snacking obscures hunger cues. Being physically hungry (which is not the same as emotionally feeling like eating) tells you that your digestion is ready for food. Plus, you will enjoy your meal more. Not getting physically hungry before meals can be a predictor of weight gain.
5. Go to bed earlier
- Going to bed earlier is one of the most reliable ways of getting more and better sleep. Lack of sleep causes stress. When we are stressed, we are likely to overeat and make poor food choices.
- Studies show that sleep deprivation is associated with increased hunger, metabolic disorders, and weight gain due to hormonal changes. By going to bed earlier and sleeping better, you reduce your risk of experiencing these problems.
- Going to bed early and getting a good night’s sleep also makes #1, “Fast overnight for 12 hours,” really easy, because you will be sleeping for much of that fast.
By adopting these 5 healthy habits, you will improve your digestion and nutrition. No dieting and deprivation needed!