Cleveland Clinic Wellness
Time your meals for better health.
Your body has rhythms. We don’t mean the toe-tapping, musical kind, though those can be a fantastic (and healthy!) part of life. We’re talking about biological rhythms that govern important bodily functions.
When our habits align with these rhythms, everything hums along in harmony. But when they don’t, our
bodies get out of tune, so to speak. Take the typical modern eating pattern: a small breakfast (or none at all), medium-sized lunch, large dinner late in the evening, and lots of snacking from morning until close to bedtime. Research suggests a more restricted timetable is better for health, including a recent study that
linked eating at night with obesity.
We pay a lot of attention to what and how much we eat, for good reason, but when we eat matters too , said Michael Roizen, M.D Medical director Cleveland Medical Wellness and co-author of What to
Eat When: A Strategic Plan to Improve Your Health and Life Through Food. The body grows less sensitive to insulin throughout the day, said Roizen, which means that the same foods in the same amounts affect you differently early in the day than they do later in the evening.
Over time, eating most of your calories later in the day can contribute to weight gain, increased
Waist size and inflammation, and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. If you are a late eater, consider resetting your “food clock” with two strategies from What to Eat When:
1. Eat by the sun, and “front load” your calories. Try eating within a 12-hour time window or less, and only when there’s daylight (or when the sun is supposed to be out). Aim to eat about 75 percent of your calories before 2 pm, with a substantial breakfast and lunch, and a lighter final meal. Make these changes gradually, said Roizen, starting with a few days a week. And don’t worry about “breaking the rules.” You get a new chance to start again every day when the sun rises! Know that eating this way even five days a week can be beneficial.
2. Stop stereotyping food. Misguided notions of what breakfast, lunch and dinner should be don’t benefit your health. Think “dinner for breakfast,” with a savory morning meal that includes nutritious sources of protein and fat, like sweet potato and salmon or black beans and avocado. On the flip side, steel-cut oats with nuts and berries can make a delicious, light evening meal.
Struggling with healthy habits? Explore your purpose.
The latest “secret” to a long and healthy life isn’t a specific omega-3 or omega-7, cruciferous vegetables, brisk walks, or sun salutations, although each of those helps keep your brain and body young. This secret may make you more likely to partake of those health boosters.
Several recent studies confirm older data that shows a link between having a sense of purpose in life and enjoying good health. A new study helps to connect the dots. The study involved sedentary people who were shown health messages about the benefits of physical activity. Those who had a stronger sense of purpose were more likely to agree with the health messages and, based on brain scans, experience less inner conflict while thinking about them. It may be that having a sense of purpose creates inner clarity and lowers stress, which can pave the way for healthy habits.
If you don’t feel a strong sense of purpose, set aside time to reflect on activities and pursuits that are meaningful and important to you, however lofty or mundane they might seem. Does teaching, gardening, helping others, making art or music, traveling, writing, being in nature, or taking care of your children or grandchildren light you up? Aligning with your purpose may require patience, shifting priorities and commitments, or an investment of time or money. But the potential rewards, including better habits and health, are truly priceless.