Two years ago: Sometimes I ate lunch at noon. Sometimes I’d skip it for a snack and satisfy my hunger with a big dinner. Sometimes I’d eat lunch at 2:00 p.m. so I could eat with a friend. I was never regular. Then, whenever I felt gassy, I’d research tips like go on a juice cleanse or fast to feel better.
The truth is Ayurveda had the answer right from the start—an answer that made me feel clean and strong in one week.
If you do one thing, eat lunch at the same time every day.
When our digestive system knows when to expect food, it lights up the digestive fire (agni), secretes hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach, prepares digestive enzymes and gives you the sensation of hunger. The body readies itself for the food and then appropriately digests that food so we feel both satiated and refreshed after a meal.
Your body desperately wants to help you live a long, healthy life so it spends time prepping for you. How cute. If you tease your body and deny it food when you’re hungry or keep dumping food into the digestive tract, your body just can’t digest well. When a function like digestion isn’t working well, there is a lot of waste left in the body that can cause disease. With improper digestion in the short run, you’ll feel gassy, bloated, heavy, have loud stomach gurgles, can be constipated, or get bouts of diarrhea. In the long-run, you’ll start facing systemic complications like IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, acid reflux, ulcers, etc.
Q: Can I eat my other meals whenever I want?
A: Ideally, it is best to time all your meals at the same time every day and space them out by four to six hours to give time for complete digestion. Four hours might be okay for vatas, and six hours is better for kaphas. Staging your mealtimes at the same time everyday can seem daunting, so I suggest you focus on lunch because that’s when your digestive fire is strongest.
Lunch should be your largest meal of the day precisely because that’s when you digest the best.
Breakfast and dinner can be light if lunch really is your most sufficient meal. In fact, breakfast literally breaks the fast of your night’s slumber. Dinner is called supper because it can be considered supplemental nutrition. Most anthropological studies show that across many past cultures, lunch is the main meal.
Lunch is vital to your health. Opt for a meal that is filling not skimpy.
Once you start creating an actual “lunch-time,” you’ll start feeling better and will naturally find a rhythm for your other meals. Mealtime routine reduces digestive discomfort and hence gives you more peace. If you can’t kick the habit of snacking, snack around the same time at least three hours from your last major meal. Some of you with low blood sugar issues (hypoglycemia) when you wake up, may have a light snack a few hours before bedtime.
Q: How do you do you develop a lunch-time while working?
A: I tell my team and clients that I work better when I eat lunch at the same time daily (it’s true). You would be surprised how much people want to accommodate your health if you simply explain why. I then build in time to either warm up my food or to travel to a lunch spot to eat. Lunch prep starts at 11:30 a.m. I eat at 12:00 p.m. I finish by 12:20 and chill between 12:20 and 12:30. Sometimes you can’t control circumstances when you eat out so I try to keep within 30 minutes of my meal time.
Happy lunching! See you at noon?
Author: Tina Shah
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jure Gasparič/Pixoto