Hello beautiful friends –
I’m writing to you from Cape Town, South Africa today. I just got here yesterday after a long layover at the Doha Airport (I need to write a whole blog post JUST on the Doha airport…) and I’m still getting my bearings. After being in Bali for almost a month, I feel like a fish out of water in a new place! But I’m excited to explore. I had a great phone call with Dr. Lipman and his wife Janice (they’re from South Africa) and they gave me tons of advice and tips about what to see and where to stay. I’m even staying for a few nights at their friend’s cottage in Camps Bay.
And I’m listening to South African music while I write (this album)- that’s one of the things I love doing when I get to a new country, it really helps me get into the energy of a place. Plus, South African music is so fun, it’s putting me in a good mood. :)
While I was in Bali, as you may already know, I spent a week at the gorgeous Zen Resort. It’s definitely one of the best places I’ve ever been in my life, which is why I went this year for a second time (also for the salad dressing ;) ). What you may not know about Zen Resort is that it’s an Ayurvedic resort. This means they have an Ayurvedic doctor on call for consultations, they have Ayurvedic spa treatments, and although their food menu isn’t strictly based on Ayurvedic principles, they have spices available to sprinkle on your food that balance each dosha!
Zen says: “Our kitchen does not cater solely to Ayurvedic cuisine but offers a wide variety of food inspired from Indonesian, European and Indian cuisine. After a guest’s consultation with our resident doctor, an Ayurvedic diet may be drawn up and produced by our kitchen depending on the guest’s particular health needs and individual goals.”
Here’s a description of Zen’s approach to Ayurveda, including the benefits of each Ayurvedic spa treatment.
While we were on our Creative Rehab retreat at Zen, we met in the dining area for 3 meals per day. Breakfast was around 7-8am, lunch around 1pm, and dinner around 7pm each day. In between meals, there weren’t really snacks (although of course you could order more food anytime you want — there isn’t a gift shop filled with snacks or anything, like most American hotels).
In Ayurveda, snacking is discouraged, for the most part, in favor of having 3 meals per day. Read this MindBodyGreen interview with Ayurvedic Doctor Vasant Lad. In it, he says:
“Constant munching might lead to overload on the digestive fire (agni) and slow it down. As a result, the food will not be digested properly and you will get a heavy bloated feeling in the stomach.
People who’s digestion is overtaxed often have a white buttery coating on the tongue. It is a sign of toxins in the body. Another sign is unclear foggy mind and bad breath. Ayurveda says that constant munching builds up toxins in the body. Eating before a prior meal is digested will slow down Agni, weaken metabolism, and will lead to weight gain. This why Ayurveda says that three meals a day is ideal for a healthy digestion and proper assimilation of nutrients. This Ayurvedic approach to diet and lifestyle is very basic but it creates radical and profound changes in the body, mind and consciousness.”
Here’s another post about it: To Snack or Not To Snack? An Ayurvedic Perspective
And here – by Dr. John Douillard – The Dangers of Frequent Eating
Keeping this in mind, I decided to do my best to not have any snacks between meals (at all) for the whole week, and see how I felt, and I’ve continued it for over a week since the retreat ended. Turns out it feels GREAT!!!*
When I say I feel great, I specifically mean – my digestion and energy levels felt stable and strong throughout the week – and my weight seemed to stabilize on it’s own – I think I may have lost a couple of pounds, which felt effortless, because I was soooo incredibly well fed at the meals (all of our meals were 3 courses).
I should probably mention that my Ayurvedic constitution is pitta-kapha, and my digestion tends to lean more towards kapha (strong but slow), so taking extra time to digest fully between meals feels good for me.
*Please note that this is simply my experience, not a professional recommendation. :)
I had a few simple but profound realizations from this no-snacking-between-meals experiment:
- Most of the time, in “regular life,” as soon as I feel a small amount of hunger, I have a snack. I think this is common for many of us – to grab something like chocolate, nuts, or crackers in between meals, to snack on something as soon as we feel the smallest hunger pang or craving, and to never really feel complete hunger before a meal. I felt hungry before the next meal time, and as a result, I felt so nourished and fed by it.
- I don’t often even check in with myself to see if I’m physically hungry before having a snack. It’s so common in our culture to just have constant snacks.
- I normally buy and travel with a lot of “just in case” snacks – which kinda seems like overkill. It’s one thing to have healthy snacks on hand if you don’t know what the food quality will be like where you’re going, but otherwise, having tons of snacks on hand isn’t really necessary.
- When I eat substantial, filling meals, and eat until I’m satisfied, I don’t even feel the desire to snack, except out of habit. I really enjoyed the feeling of having breakfast, lunch, and dinner, letting myself digest fully throughout the day, and being excited and hungry for the next meal.
- I’ve started to become so much more aware of my hunger levels, what my body is really asking me for. It actually makes me remember WHY we eat…our bodies ASK for food when it’s time for food. It’s OK to feel hungry!!!! I titled this blog “surprising” because it actually surprised me when I realized how little I ordinarily let myself get to the point where I’m feeling physical hunger before each meal. Sometimes, yeah, of course, but every meal every day? Definitely not.
- If I’m nourishing myself enough at meals (protein, fat, vegetables, feeling FULL), I don’t get that spacey, “hangry” feeling in between meals. For me, that feeling only comes when I’m having too much sugar in my diet.
- I still ate some snack food (rice crackers and salsa, nuts, etc) but I had the snack food AT the meals, more as an appetizer at meal time, rather than a between-meals thing.
Dr. Douillard (one of my favorite teachers from my nutrition school) says:
“When being fed every 2-3 hours, the body is not encouraged to burn any of its stored fat for energy. Why should it bother digging out the fat stores for energy when it is being spoon-fed all day long? When you eat 3 meals a day and have ample time between meals, the body is forced to burn that stored fat. Once the fat is restored as an active fuel supply, you will see better energy, more stable moods, greater mental clarity, better sleep, less cravings and natural and permanent weight management.”
After this experiment, I believe it….
So listen, I LOVE SNACKS, and I’m not saying that snacking is “bad” or that I’m “off” snacks. Haha. No extreme labels please. What I am saying, though, is that this no-snacking experiment has taught me a lot about what my body likes…and that it does feel good (to me) to give myself longer periods between meals, as long as I’m eating nutrient-dense, filling and satisfying meals!
I’m going to keep up the experiment, as a baseline, for now. If I want a snack I’ll have it, but I LOVE the curiosity and challenge that comes with noticing what’s simply a conditioned habit, and trying something new.
Ok, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever tried a “no snacking between meals” experiment? How did you feel?
What works best for YOU? 3 meals? Smaller meals throughout the day? Abundant snacking? None?
Tons of love,