March 6, 2017, Information
The first health book I ever read, many years ago, was Harvey and Marilyn Diamond’s, Fit For Life. It still sits at the front of my bookshelf and every now and then I’ll refer to it for a reminder. It changed the way I thought about nutrition and how our natural body cycles influence the functions of the body. After reading this book I never ate a heavy breakfast again. If I get hungry before noon, I stick to fresh, whole fruit.
The premise is that the body has natural cycles or circadian rhythms that deal with digestion, assimilation and elimination at different times, and for optimal health and wellbeing, we should eat, and abstain from eating, along with these cycles.
Noon-8pm: eating and digestion.
8pm-4am: absorption and assimilation.
By this guide, we should be eating most of our food during the middle part of the day and no later than 8pm. That leaves about 2-3 hours of no eating before bed, so when we go to sleep we can enter the cycle of absorption and assimilation. No doubt we’ve all eaten too late at night and haven’t slept properly or have woken up feeling groggy. This is because digestion is forced to take place during the assimilation phase. Stop eating earlier for a week and see if you sleep better, feel better in the morning and generally have better digestion.
In the Fit For Life philosophy fruit plays an important role. An integral part of their recommendation is: from the time you wake up in the morning, until at least noon, eat nothing but fresh fruit. Have as much as you want but don’t overeat. This is allowed during the elimination phase as fresh fruit is very easily digested and has a cleansing effect on the body and when eaten on an empty stomach has a positive effect on the metabolism.
Food combining is another important principal in Fit For Life. For optimal digestion do not mix grains and starches with protein. The body is not designed to digest more than one concentrated food at a time. High water content vegetables are neutral thus can be eaten with either grains or proteins. Experiments have shown that eating complex carbs and proteins in the same meal prevents proper digestion and makes the process much longer. The entire point here is to avoid fermentation and putrification of the food we eat. Food should pass easily through the intestines causing no irritation, bloating, heartburn, gas and the easiest way to do this is to adhere to proper food combining. So instead of having steak, potatoes and a salad, have steak or potatoes and salad or lightly steamed vegetables.
Overeating can cause big problems when it comes to digestive function. The Fit For Life book devotes an entire page to the words typed boldly – DONT OVEREAT. Even the most nutritious, organic foods cannot be digested properly if overeaten, simply because the stomach only has enough digestive acids and enzymes to breakdown a certain amount of food. There are a number of reasons why people overeat. Most of them are psychological or behavioural. We eat by the clock, or when we’re bored, or stressed, or just happen to be standing in front of the fridge:) If we honestly listened to our bodies we would probably be eating half of what we do. On a physiological level, overeating can be a response to our body not absorbing or getting enough essential nutrients, thus we have a sense that we need more. If the villi in the intestine are damaged(gluten is often a trigger for this) or clogged up with mucous or waste the body is unable to absorb key nutrients. Alternatively, we may be absorbing properly but only eating processed food, so even though we are eating, we are still starving on a nutritional level.