Rule 1. Keep clean gaps between meals
The clean gap is the complete absence of calories, in any form, between meals including snacks and “liquid” calories (coffee, tea, milk, juice, etc.). Often, healthy eating behavior implies that we are too busy and so we don’t have snacks, talk about food, read recipes and watch cooking programs. Now many health and nutritional problems arise precisely because of the habit of constant snacking, and many people underestimate its impact.
Keeping a “snack diary” will allow you to notice hundreds and thousands of extra calories unknowingly consumed each day. Your brain is unaware of the number of snacks you eat mechanically. Besides calorie intake, the impact of snacking on dietary patterns and metabolism is important. Imagine eating is like a washing process. You collect different types of laundry, put it in the machine, add the washing powder and start a certain program. If you forgot to add a towel, would you open the door without switching the machine off? You should deal with food in the same way: after a meal, you should not interfere with the work of the gastrointestinal tract.
How did the problem arise?
Traditionally, every meal was strictly regulated; people ate together at fixed times. Our grandmothers forbade us “to steal food”, and “to spoil your appetite” and considered it very important to work up an appetite and to eat at the table. In many countries, such as France, snacking is prohibited. Unfortunately, this eating culture is being gradually watered down, up to 72% of women in European countries snack. Food on the go is replacing structured nutrition, organized at fixed times, and this leads to many health problems.
People used to eat less often. When refrigerators and convenience foods were absent, people kept set times for eating. Today we are constantly surrounded by convenience food. Traditionally, different cultures regulated their meals. People came together to eat at the dining table, observing certain rituals. Even in the fields, workers used to take a tablecloth and eat at fixed times. Snacks, food on the go, and solitary eating were extremely rare. Researchers found that since the fifties, the number of meals has been steadily increasing.
Traditionally, different cultures regulated their meals. People came together to eat at the dining table, observing certain rituals. Even in the fields, workers used to take a tablecloth and eat at fixed times.
Now people eat often. Today we are witnessing a snacking epidemic. People eat often and on the go instead of at fixed times. Eating has become random and chaotic. This exists because of the widespread availability of various ready-made food, the breaking down of the traditional food culture, and aggressive advertising. Unfortunately, people consider eating whenever they want to as the new norm. People stopped being guided by hunger and external stimuli began to dominate. Such chaotic eating makes it impossible to instill healthy nutritional habits! I want you to understand that the eating pattern is the backbone of your diet and without it, in the long run, it’s impossible to follow healthy habits!
How does it affect health?
Impaired metabolism and the work of hormones. Snacking reduces the level of ghrelin — a hormone responsible for the feeling of hunger which in turn can increase anxiety and cut satisfaction. When you take even a relatively small amount of food, it causes the release of digestive enzymes, the production of insulin, and the decrease in ghrelin. These fluctuations, repeated many times a day, can have a side effect that decreases the sensitivity to hormones (resistance), which is harmful to health. The disturbances in the production of the leptin hormone, which is the main regulator of appetite along with ghrelin, are particularly harmful. Snacking provoke fluctuations in glucose level in the blood — the “sugar swing”. You may have noticed that even a small piece of food, taken when you are full, can raise hunger.
Overeating. One of the adverse effects of snacking is the undistinguished consumption of a large number of calories out of mealtimes. Snacks often have a big caloric value and the ability to increase appetite. A piece of food randomly grabbed at work, in stress, taken with tea turns into an unnoticeable but significant overeating. It is harmful to health, even if it does not yet affect your body shape, as the most dangerous fat is not subcutaneous but internal (visceral) fat.
Eating while driving or talking on the phone also reduces satiety and leads to excessive food intake. Snacks are also harmful to people without obesity, as scientists have found that people with normal weight can improve their health by cutting daily calories by 200–300 kcal. Sometimes children are snacking so much that they can barely eat their main meals and parents are surprised by their lack of appetite. Give up snacks and they will regain their appetite!
Violation of eating regimen and eating behavior. The more snacks you take, the less healthy food you eat during main meals. A vicious circle is forming: by eating snacks, you eat less during main meals and get hungry again. This disrupts normal eating behavior and creates unhealthy habits. I have seen people indulging in snacks to cheer themselves up when stressed. But such a habit can lead to a disruption of normal brain functions and an increased risk of depression.
Sometimes children are snacking so much that they can barely eat their main meals and parents are surprised by their lack of appetite. Give up snacks and they will regain their appetite!
Other reasons. Periodic or occasional snacks increase health risks but their health benefits are unproven. Snacks increase the risk of liver diseases such as fatty degeneration of the liver. They cut the cellular regeneration intensity and self-cleaning, i.e. autophagy. In addition, an increased frequency of meals increases the liver load and the acid load on the teeth. Unfortunately, we see the active promotion of snacks in nutrition, which is not good for health. The manufacturers of various sweets and convenience foods carry out an incessant advertisements for snacks.
Keep clean gaps between meals. An important rule of a healthy diet is to keep up calorie-free gaps between meals. Remember that magic does not happen when you eat, but it does when you don’t eat! Exclude the calories in any form, including calories from drinks.
It is important to understand that even a small number of calories in the form of snacks is not just a mechanical addition to the amount eaten but is in fact an extra meal and the start of the entire digestion process such as the excretion of enzymes, change of intestinal motility and release of hormones. Adhering to the rule of clean gaps is the basis for healthy eating behavior, strengthening self-discipline, and improving metabolism.
Sensory stimulation, looking, smelling, and speaking about food. It is scientifically proven that looking at and smelling food can affect insulin secretion. Therefore, not being surrounded by food in any form will be the most ideal for work purposes. Do not work at the dining table and do not have lunch at the desk.
Just water. During clean gaps, you can drink only still water. With rare exceptions like caffeine-free zero-caloric drinks, tea, herbal teas, hibiscus tea, and sparkling water. However, it is preferable to do without them. You should take tea and coffee without cream, sugar, or sweeteners and — of course — any treats. Take my advice and never eat chewing gum.
How to follow the rule? Ideas and tips
Meal timing. Remember that meal timing comes first, it’s the method and the pattern of nutrition, which is most important for improving your health. Genetically, we control access to food not by restricting calories but by extending the length of time between eating. Gradually, over time, such a diet will become a habit, which will be the support and the backbone of your diet.
Moderation is a sign of dignity. After all, if you want to use the toilet, will you satisfy your need in the middle street? Why should it be different from food? Look at clean gaps as if it’s your training in self-regulation. Temper your spirit.
Change the food environment. You should not put a lock on your fridge but don’t tempt yourself unnecessarily. If you are going to eat sweets, eat them as part of the main meal and not during a clean gap. Our willpower is limited; do not let food weaken it.
Do not bargain with yourself. Do not discuss bans and do not bargain with yourself. Turn your attention to your current concerns, and think about food only while eating. We always have a tendency to give in to food temptations when there is a “do not eat” rule.
Obsessive thoughts about food. The more you try not to think about food, the more you think about it. Distract yourself with walking or something similar. If you have thoughts of food think of them in an absurd way, for instance, if you are thinking of a donut: think of a superhero donut man, a donut machine, how many donuts I can eat until it blows me up, etc. Make fun of your thoughts and laugh at your temptations. Not funny? But you are an adult suffering from a piece of fried dough with fat! This is hilarious.
The more you try not to think about food, the more you think about it. Make fun of your thoughts and laugh at your temptations. This is really funny because you are an adult suffering from a piece of fried dough with fat!
Do not watch food porn. The term “food porn” is the exciting images of food in social networks, magazines, and websites. Refrain from viewing pictures of such food, discussing recipes, and watching cooking programs. Food is only a part of life don’t fill your life with it more than is necessary. It has been scientifically proven that viewing such images can cause hunger even if a person is totally full.
Do not ban but make rules. Do not focus on what is not allowed or forbidden to you. After all, bans can increase cravings for food. Create your own diet by not forbidding food but as nutritional rules. You can eat what you want but do it during the next meal. There are no bans but there are clear rules. Structure and organize your eating and don’t deprive yourself of everything!
Create positive eating habits. Eat only at the dining table, not over a laptop or on the go. The latter is dangerous because a conditioned reflex develops when, at the sight of a laptop, you get hungry. Clearly define where the dining place is, and decorate the table with a tablecloth. This will create the right mood.
My appetite is good. Normal appetite is a sign of health. After several hours of refraining from the food, it will not upset your stomach with acid, it will not slow down your metabolism, and you will not eat twice as much as a result. These are myths, many of which we will analyze later in this book.
Eat only at the dining table, not over a laptop or on the go. The latter is dangerous because a conditioned reflex develops when, at the sight of a laptop, you get hungry.
Break the craving. If you find it difficult to control your appetite, then intense tastes, like sour or spicy, will help. Brewed spices, like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, or hibiscus are good for health. They almost contain no calories and help control appetite.
The least harmful snack. If the situation is already so unbearable that you need a snack, refrain from farinaceous dishes and sweet food with a high glycemic load or glycemic index and give preference to raw plant food or fats. You can eat raw nuts, and raw vegetables that you can crunch, like carrots, celery, bell pepper, or green salad. You can also add a spoonful of butter, coconut butter, or olive oil to tea or eat it separately. Fats effectively suppress the craving for sweets.
Habits will let you down but don’t be discouraged. At first, it can be difficult, failures can happen without thinking — for example, find yourself with food in your hands while doing something else. This is the result of long-term habits. If you had a snack in the car once, the brain will suggest you do it again. Do not feed habits and they will fade away.
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