Americans are eating more than ever. A 2004 New York Times article published a 30-year study on American eating habits from 1970 to 2000. According to the study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “in 1971 a woman’s average calorie intake was 1,542, and a man’s average calorie intake was 2,450. By 2000, that average had grown by 22 percent for women to 1,877 calories and 7 percent for men to 2,618. A majority of the increase in calories was due to greater consumption of carbohydrates, particularly sugars and processed foods.”
LESS IS MORE
We live in a time where food is easier to get and consume any time of year and 24/7, and it may be killing us. Research shows that eating less is actually better for our health and our longevity. According to a small clinical trial published in March of 2018, people who reduced their caloric intake by just 15 percent over two years experienced a significant decrease in their metabolism. These folks also saw improvements in bio-markers associated with slower aging and longer life span, said lead researcher Leanne Redman, associate professor of clinical sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research in Baton Rouge, La.
Specifically, people who reduced their caloric intake developed a lower core body temperature, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, and significant drops in hormones that moderate metabolism. “We know these things are lower in people who live longer lives,” Redman said. Additionally, the group lost about 20 pounds on average, mostly in the first year, even though half entered the study at normal weight, and the rest were only modestly overweight.
These research results correlate with 5,000 years of Ayurvedic wisdom. In Ayurveda, we are taught that we should only eat to 75% full, never 100%. Digestion works best when we fill our stomachs with 1/3 food, 1/3 water and 1/3 air. It’s like washing or drying your clothes in the machine. With just the right amount of clothes, water and air, the clothes come out of the washing machine clean, fresh and free of residue, and they come out of the dryer dry and wrinkle-free. On the other hand, if the washing machine or dryer is too full, the clothes can’t tumble properly, and they don’t get completely clean or dry.
Similarly, if you overfill the stomach, it won’t properly churn and digest the food. Food that is improperly digested doesn’t break down enough for the nutrients to be assimilated into the body. As a result, there is a tendency to crave more food in an effort to satisfy the body’s unmet needs. On the flip side, the right amount of high quality food supports proper digestion and energy levels, as well as satisfying the body’s nutritional needs.
CALCULATING THE RIGHT PORTION FOR YOU
There are a couple of ways to determine how much food is right for you. One way is to cup both hands together, fill them with an uncooked grain, and pour the grain into a measuring cup. The measurement you get represents the amount of food you should eat at any one meal. For more easy measurement tools like this, download this awesome chart by Color You Healthy.
You can also pay close attention to your body while eating. When you experience your first light burp, that’s your body telling you that you are done.HO-SmartSizePortions
Now for the right quantity of each food group daily. For steady weight loss and maintenance, I like to follow Cooler Plan #2 of Tosca Reno’s “The Eat-Clean Diet.” Loosely, the daily plan recommends:
- 6 portions complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables
- 2-4 portions complex carbohydrates from whole grains and starchy carbohydrates
- 5-6 portions of lean protein
- 2-3 liters of fresh water with no sodium
- Clean sweeteners in moderation
- Healthy fats in moderation
- Avoid juice, commercial salad dressings or sauces, and fried, refined and processed foods.
If you’re familiar with the Ayurvedic Six Tastes, each dosha has different guidelines for how much of each taste should be consumed in a day. In addition, Ayurveda provides guidelines for meal frequency. For example, Vatas tend to eat smaller, more frequent meals, as much as four per day. Pittas eat three moderate-sized meals each day. Kaphas can get by on two or even one meal daily. No meal should ever be more than what fits in two cupped hands.
There are all kinds of tricks to help us feel better about eating less. One of these is using smaller plates so you don’t feel so deprived. Another is to sit down when you eat and eat slower so your brain has a chance to tell your stomach it is full sooner.
Rather than making the matter too complex, the best approach is to keep it simple and just get started. For most people, this means using your hand to gauge portion size and eating more vegetables and protein throughout the day so you naturally feel fuller. Don’t over-think it; just start small and see how you feel.
Want to Live Longer? Eating Less Might Be the Key: https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20180322/want-to-live-longer-eating-less-might-be-the-key#1
Portion Control – How Much Are You Actually Eating? https://chopra.com/articles/portion-control-how-much-are-you-actually-eating
Eat to Live – Ayurvedic Tips to Avoid Overeating: https://www.halepule.com/blog/eat-to-live-ayurvedic-tips-to-avoid-overeating
The Dosha Balancing Diet: https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/the-dosha-balancing-diet
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at info@positivelyayurvedic.