“Don’t eat after 8pm.”
“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.”
“Eat every 2-3 hours.”
There are so many food rules that I’m sure you’ve heard and guess what…most of them you don’t need to follow. The moment we impose rules and restrictions on our food intake, we stop listening to our bodies. I’m not saying you should turn your nutrition plan into a free for all (there are still some recommendations to follow) but you can definitely relax a little and not stress about it so much.
Let’s discuss some of those “rules”…
“Don’t eat after 8pm.” I think a better recommendation would be “Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime.” If you go to bed at 10pm then, yeah, don’t eat after 8pm. But if your bedtime is midnight then your regular dinner time might be 8pm. We’ll talk about your sleeping habits in another post! Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep by causing heartburn or interrupting the chemical process that helps you feel sleepy so adjust your last meal of the day to accommodate your normal bedtime rather than a set time on the clock.
“You have to eat every 2-3 hours.” You’ve heard the idea that eating every few hours keeps your metabolism running and your blood sugar stable and for many people this might be the right thing for them. For others, it might be too much. You may overeat just trying to fit all your meals in to your day and you could possibly develop insulin sensitivity over time. Three meals a day plus a snack before or after a workout works great for most people. If you like eating every few hours and it’s working for you, then stick with it. But if you feel like you’re forcing yourself to eat all the time, then let it go and just focus on your three squares a day.
“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.” Eliminating entire food groups is a really bad idea. Most people who lose weight on a low-carb or no-carb diet have really lost weight because they’ve cut down on calories and refined foods. I suggest replacing rather than eliminating. Replace refined, “white” foods with complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads. Fruits and vegetables are also sources of complex carbs, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
“You have to drink 8 glasses of water a day.” This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. You might need more or less depending on what you have planned for the day. Intense workout in heat and humidity? More water! Rest day on the couch? You probably don’t need 8 glasses. Sipping water throughout the day to stay hydrated is a smart idea rather than guzzling a bottle all at once. If you are drinking water all day then you’re getting enough.
“Don’t eat a lot of fruit because it has too much sugar.” This one makes my head hurt! If you’re worried about too much sugar in your diet, fruit is not what you need to cut out. Work on reducing your simple carbs first. White bread and rice. Cookies, brownies and other pastries. Most breakfast cereals and sweet yogurts and fruit juices. Fruit in whole form has unprocessed sugar along with nutrients and fiber that you don’t get if you eat a candy bar with the same amount of sugar in it.
“You need animal products for protein.” This is another one that makes my head hurt! Protein can be found in many plant foods including vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and some grains like quinoa. Sure, animal products are a more concentrated source of protein but they are not the only source of protein. Many large animals like gorillas are herbivores. They didn’t get to be large because of their LACK of protein. Think about that for a minute. If you don’t want to consume animal products, don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of protein. If you do choose to eat animal products, just choose wisely.
Create a healthy eating plan that suits your tastes, needs and schedule and will help you reach your wellness goals but let go of “rules” that don’t work for you.
P.S. Did I miss any rules? Let me know some things you’ve always thought you were supposed to follow.