Meal planning!? Really? This is a topic for a testimony? Well, feel free to take a breath of relief. This is not a lecture or meant to tell you what to do in your life. I plan to share my own experiences, and only that. My personal choices, changes, and the effects they have had on me and my family.
So... what is my family meal schedule?
Let me start off by stating that I was a snacking queen. Working over 270 hours per month for some years, and later being unemployed in a foreign country for 18 months... no matter how busy I was or how much time I had at home, I ate something all the time. For years I would eat something or nibble something every time I walked past food in an edible form. I tried to stock my kitchen with mostly healthy and fresh foods (according to what I knew at the time) and of course took this as free license to snack throughout the day. I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) over 10 years ago, and my ongoing symptoms of dizziness, bloating and frequent abdominal pains encouraged me to keep eating, feeling as though I need regular small samples of food rather than large meals. Of course I opted for regular snacks as well as large meals, and then accepted that I simply had symptoms that were here to stay for keeps.
In this article I will spare you the long details of my changed outlook, but you are welcome to view my personal testimony on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Pp9un7ef5S4 for more detail of why I ended up changing the way I lived.
Long story short, I learnt some new things. Turns out that the digestive tract, made up entirely of muscles (which I knew but somehow ignored), needs proper rest as much as any other muscle group. I totally understood the need for muscle rest. That ache in your calves or thighs when you try going for a run for the first time in years. The ache in your abs when you do sit-ups for the first time in months. The pain in your arm muscles when you carry your sleeping daughter for over an hour. Of course muscles get exhausted. And ultimately stop working. I have felt this countless times.... the quivering of muscles as they give in and fail to function any further.
Once I learned that my digestive tract muscles need rest just as much as any other muscle in my body, the penny dropped. I finally understood the value of regular, spaced meals and giving the entire digestive tract ample rest periods. And this is what we do now. As a family we make sure we space meals at the very least 4-5 hours apart (for fully plant-based meals). In between meals, we have completely stopped snacking. We drink clear fluids like herbal teas or water at least 1 hour away from a meal, and we allow enough time for food to digest fully, completely and without fermentation.
As a family (yes, including our 5 year old) we only eat two meals per day, and try to stick to regular meal times. We tried to squeeze three meals into a day, but that meant my little one ate shortly before bed, which I know is not ideal. So to ensure that we all go to sleep after our food has digested, we eat a very substantial breakfast, and slightly smaller late-lunch around 3pm. That way, our daughter has a gap between eating and her bed time, and my husband and I are good with just a hot drink at night. During the past almost-a-year of eating this way with only plant-based foods, we have all thrived, and my daughter has grown physically and mentally in ways that still astound us.
Now you may ask, "why does meal spacing really matter so much?". I will share more about the technical details later, but for now, I can tell you that for the first time in 20 years, I am bloating-free, dizzy-free, ache-free and totally transformed in energy levels. Yes, there are various factors involved in our family's transition. But if I could make one major suggestion to anyone who wants to know the most important place to start in renovating their health, I would suggest a start with meal schedules.
Space your meals.
Fill up your car's fuel tank in the beginning of the trip, rather at the end (i.e. breakfast must be bigger than supper), and
give your guts a proper break between meals.
This is golden rule number 1 for nutrition that supports true health.
I have a gut-feeling that you will begin feeling better and better by the day.
Happy renovations everyone! It is a wonderful journey.
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Dr. Jade Erasmus