Practical habits for optimal weight, chronic conditions prevention and longevity

There is an overwhelming amount of information on weight loss and different diets promoted for weight management nowadays. Most clients, who come concerned about their weight and consequently their health, have tried at least several different diets in the past and end up frustrated with lack of results or inability to keep the weight off.

The quality of food is of the highest importance, in my opinion, and it should always be addressed first. Furthermore, any health problems that can cause or contribute to stubborn weight loss should also be of a concern. They include hormonal balance, gut health, toxicity and the impact of stress for example. Although the majority of people see positive results after improving food quality and addressing underlying health issues, there is still one lifestyle change to consider. It is very powerful not only for weight loss but also for optimal health and longevity. This is when and how often we eat. There is a substantial amount of research available, including the great work of Dr Satchin Panda, on the impact of circadian rhythm on our metabolism and health in general.

Most of us are aware of the master clock, located in the brain, that responds to light and regulates our day and night cycles. The newer research shows that we also have other peripheral clocks. In fact, all organs of the body have their own clocks, putting a lot of stress on the cells when they are out of synch. The liver and the gut, for example, time themselves and are regulated by when we eat, not so much by the light, which has only a little impact on them. As these clocks regulate our metabolism, it is important to eat when we can digest and process foods best. It has been shown that by changing only when they ate, participants in the trials were able to lose fat while maintaining or increasing muscle mass, improving their endurance, energy levels, and sleep quality. This approach worked for different diets and did not include calorie restriction, hence, it was easier to achieve and sustain long-term. This is not a diet protocol but a fairly easy way to implement lifestyle change and it can be used to support optimal weight as well as health. In addition to weight loss and optimal body composition (increased muscle mass) it also lowers inflammation (underlying many chronic conditions) and boosts our repair mechanisms and rejuvenation. Numerous chronic health problems are linked to circadian rhythm disruption including mood and cognitive function, indigestion, IBS/IBD, cardiovascular disease, poor sleep quality and insomnia. If we want to optimise our weight, sleep quality, energy levels as well as prevent chronic conditions by supporting healthy digestion as well as repair mechanisms and rejuvenation this may be something to consider.

The basic principles are easy to understand and to implement. It is recommended for most people to fast overnight for at least 12 hours. It is important to remember that first bite of food or a sip of a drink (excluding water) breaks the fast. Depending on the individual goals and health status, it can be extended to 14 hours or even 16 hours. The frequency of the meals, which affect hormones spiking insulin levels, also matters. Avoiding snacking in between meals can improve results and bring additional benefits, but it is not the vital part of the protocol. Most healthy people should be able to safely and successfully implement time restricted feeding (TRF) while a trained practitioner can help to modify the plan based on their individual goals and needs. It may not be necessary or beneficial for some people to fast for longer that 12 hours every day for example. They can adopt a more flexible approach whilst still getting benefits from less frequent fasting, more suitable for their activity levels, health status or simply their work/life schedule. Timing your first meal accordingly to your daily routine can also make a difference. You may achieve better results by shifting your feeding window in either direction to take advantage of the hormonal response changing throughout the day. People with any chronic health problems, taking medication, or elderly should seek professional advice before implementing any changes to their eating habits.

My clinical experience shows that although it can be difficult at first to adjust to the new routine, it becomes rather easy usually after a couple of weeks. We can feel hunger or experience cravings at the times we used to eat but it doesn’t last long and we shift fairly quickly. Unlike many other diets or protocols, the majority of people are able to continue long-term with some room for flexibility when they want to socialise or attend special events. This approach is fully sustainable, practical and doesn’t cost anything.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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