If I said there was a way for you to save money, lose weight, live healthier, live longer and to achieve all of that you had to actually do LESS of something, would that whet your appetite? Well there is a way and I have already lived longer than when I wrote this to prove it.
We’ve all been bombarded by not only the content of this book but from every angle and through every type of media and for ever and ever about what we should be eating. But what I am about to discuss is not about the components of your diet; it’s not about telling you what to eat. This is about a far more fundamental and advantageous change you can make to your relationship to food. This is about eating less.
Why Eat Less?
I will confess to indulging in a feeding frenzy from time to time where I consume ridiculous amounts of food and drink. But eating better, less and less often is a lifestyle ideal that I am continuously chipping away at. I’m convinced that while I may not live forever – in fact I have serious doubts that I will, I will live longer and healthier by eating less. Eating too much is at the root of so many human and earthly problems that we have today. Simply eating less is one big step we can take to improve the health of both.
Eating better is covered in the previous 12 chapters. This chapter is all about why eating less is something you should consider.
- Resource Usage. Eating less takes pressure of both global resources and your own. If you eat less the earth will need to produce less, you will need to buy less food so you will need less money. If you need less money you will need to work less or at least you will have financial resources available to spend on something that lasts longer.
- Live Longer. . A growing body of research is showing why eating less and fasting add up to you living longer. In rodents research has shown that low calorie diets extended their lives by 30 to 40 percent compared to rodents eating standard diets. Further up the food chain a long term study done by the University of Wisconsin on human-like Rhesus monkeys showed the calorie restricted monkeys had way less incidence of diabetes, heart and brain disease and cancer than those that ate more. Dr. Mosley from the BBC show Horizon tells us that it’s the higher metabolic rates that lead us to earlier mortality. The metabolic rate measures how much energy the body uses for normal bodily functions such as eating. ‘The bottom line is that it is the only thing that’s ever really been shown to prolong life. Ultimately, ageing is a product of a high metabolic rate…’
- Become Smarter. The link between eating less and improved brain performance such as cognitive ability and IQ has been proven over and again. We are just wising up to this now but restricting diet to become more switched on has been practised in many cultures for millennia.
- Reduce Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance increases chances of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Researchers in Japan linked fast eating to insulin resistance.82
- Heartburn & Gastroesophageal Reflux. Rapid eating can cause acid reflux.83
Seriously folks, this is a big one and it’s not at all hard to implement. Not only that but the impact is felt immediately. Here are the big ticket items if you want to eat less. These are the ones that make a big difference right away.
- Eat Slower. It takes the brain about 15-20 minutes to tell you once the stomach is full. So if you are eating at 100 miles an hour a lot more food is in your belly before your brain can tell you to stop eating. If you eat slower, your brain will tell you that you are full by removing your appetite before you have had a chance to eat too much.
- Chew More. Chewing more reduces your calorie intake by increasing the satisfaction you get from less. The more you chew the more you break food down letting the gastric juices work more efficiently and allowing more nutrients and fluids to enter your gastrointestinal tract. You metabolise food more efficiently. Chewing also strengthens the jaw and helps prevent plaque build-up and tooth decay.
- Mindful Eating. This builds on the previous two items. Focus on the food you are eating, remove distractions, turn off the television and leave your other electronic devices alone. We eat more when we are distracted. When you’re eating slowly, and chewing more, enjoy the taste, aroma and texture of every bight. This will slow you down even more as the flavours lurks around in your mouth. Extended contact with your taste buds will give you more of a feeling of fullness. Buddha says to take it a step further and meditate on your food. Experience your food more intensively. Experience the pleasure of it.
- Fasting. Clearly you eat less when you fast – you eat nothing. Cells in your body experience a stress reaction with fasting as they do with exercise. This in turn extends your lifespan.84 How? Your body burns fat instead of food-sourced glucose for fuel. Fat is a cleaner fuel than glucose as burning it produces far less free radicals. Free radicals cause cell and DNA damage. In addition, evidence suggests that when your body is provided with energy when it is not needed, such as before bed or when you are sleeping, cells leak electrons that react with oxygen and produce even more free radicals.85 So by fasting not only are you promoting fat loss but also cell health. Poor cell health and cell dysfunction is linked with accelerated ageing and is behind many illnesses and diseases. So what, when and how often you eat is key. Cell health is achieved by eating real food, not eating several hours before sleeping to avoid excess glucose based energy and fasting. Other benefits of fasting include a general reset and cleanse of the digestive system, greater mental clarity, cleansing of negative emotional patterns and a general feeling of lightness together with increased energy levels.
- Intermittent Fasting. Intermittent fasting is all about minimising free radical damage by teaching your body to burn fat for fuel by paying attention to the timing of your meals. For the first 14-16 hours of not eating, your body uses up all of its carbohydrate (glycogen) energy stores. After that it starts to use fat stores for energy. The fast should last longer than this but I don’t like to fast longer than 18 hours on a regular basis as I may start burning lean muscle mass for fuel by that time. So with 16-18 hour fasting window, it means I have 6-8 hours of eating all my daily calories. I try to do this at least for 2 days of a week, although some would argue every day is better. This means I’ll hold off on eating anything until around 10am, and eat my last meal at 4 or 5 pm, but you can choose your own window of time. This reduces the body’s habitual dependence on carbohydrates. Another popular way to intermittently fast is for 2 days a week, only eat 25% of your usual calorie intake, but I find it too hard to work that out. Aside from all the benefits from producing less free radicals, lowered cancer risk and greater fat loss have been demonstrated.86 Scientists have also recently discovered that intermittent fasting can help regenerate stem cells which are used by the body to renew itself.
And now some simple tricks to help you eat less.
- Use Smaller Dishes. This is nothing more than mental trickery. The same amount of food in a smaller plate just looks like more. Additionally a full plate seems to look better to hungry eyes than a bigger plate that is half full.
- Serve 20% Less. This is the amount you can reduce your serving size by without really noticing it. I’ve heard this referred to as the mindless margin. If you plonk this reduced volume in a smaller dish, you’ll notice it even less.
- Hide Food. The less you see, smell and even hear food, the less you will be inclined to eat it. Do this by serving from the kitchen and leaving excess there, instead of on the dining table. It also helps to keep food in cupboards not out in the open.
- Avoid Night Time Snacks. You’ll never burn these calories so if you must snack, eat healthy snacks, fruit or just drink water. Soda water does the trick for me.
- Drink Water. Before, during and between helpings drink water to fill the gap instead of eating more food.
- Brush Your Teeth. If your fangs are clean you’ll be less likely to want to affect that clean, minty feeling going on in your mouth.
82 Otsuka R, Tamakoshi K, Yatsuya H, Wada K, Matsushita K, Ouyang P, Hotta Y, Takefuji S, Mitsuhashi H, Sugiura K, Sasaki S, Kral JG, Toyoshima H. Eating fast leads to insulin resistance: Findings in middle-aged Japanese men and women. Prev Med. 2007 Aug 3
83 Wildi SM, Tutuian R, Castell DO. The influence of rapid food intake on postprandial reflux: studies in healthy volunteers. Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Sep;99(9):1645-51
84 Mercola, “Studies Show Eating More Slowly Benefits Your Health and Waistline”, http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2016/03/25/health-benefits-fasting.aspx#_edn1, accessed 19/5/16
85 Mercola, “Studies Show Eating More Slowly Benefits Your Health and Waistline”, http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2016/03/25/health-benefits-fasting.aspx#_edn1, accessed 19/5/16
86 Mercola, “Studies Show Eating More Slowly Benefits Your Health and Waistline”, http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2016/03/25/health-benefits-fasting.aspx#_edn1, accessed 19/5/16