Food timing, insulin, obesity, and our health.

In the past fifty years or so our culture has changed from eating three meals a day, to eating all-day long.  This has had a significant impact on our body fat levels and physical well-being.  Doctors are finding that the over-abundance of insulin in our systems is wreaking havoc on our health.  There are a couple of significant contributing factors…

  1. One is that we’re simply consuming foods that contain more sugar and this causes us to produce more insulin in response.  

  2. The second is the number of times a day we consume calories.  In our grandparents time of three-meals a day, no snacking was the norm…maybe there was an afternoon tea or coffee.  These days, even if we’re only eating three meals a day, we’re often sucking on a sweetened drink all day long.  Even that green smoothie you think you should order instead of the vanilla latte can increase glucose levels and our bodies were simply not designed for this continuous sugar rush, and resulting insulin flow throughout the day.  

Eating many small meals a day became popular with body builders, given their physical exertion and energy burn, this style of eating may support their fitness goals, but does not translate well to the lifestyle of the majority of the population. And now even athletes are reconsidering this many-small-meals-a-day strategy.

I am not an expert in this field, not at all, just an interested party as diabetes runs in my family genes and I’d rather not go down that road myself.  Here are some of my favorite resources on this subject:

  • The Obesity Code & the Diabetes Code by Dr. Jason Fung


Having looked at what and when we eat, there is something else to consider with regard to insulin output and resistance.  I have a cousin with child-onset (Type I) diabetes.  This differs from late-onset (Type II) diabetes in that it’s an auto-immune disorder and cannot be corrected through diet.  My cousin has a blood sugar monitor attached to him at all times and an insulin pump so he can easily release insulin into his body to correct for his blood sugar readings.  His experience is that his stress level has significant impact on the amount of insulin he needs.  You may have heard of the hormone Cortisol… it’s often referred to as the stress hormone and it’s necessary for our day-to-day functioning.  However, when we experience stressful feelings this hormone is often released in quantities greater than necessary and has a cascade effect which increases the amount of insulin our bodies produce.   

We now have a perfect trifecta of physical trauma: we’re eating sugary foods, eating throughout the entire day, and experiencing constant stress. Leaving our bodies faced with an ongoing barrage of insulin. To protect ourselves we develop insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is not only a way point on the road to diabetes, it is also a mile marker on the road to obesity. 

This is a wonderful example of the Mind-Body connection.  When we are resting regularly in a peaceful mental state we slow the cortisol release. We are also able to make better choices about how and when we eat, less gripped by habitual, addictive behavior .  We may even be able to go a step further and, with a clear mind, be able to not only make choices that support our physical health, but to do so with lightheartedness.  How often have you heard someone discussing the “shoulds” and “should nots” of healthy living with lightheartedness? 

What if we were able to make a shift from food being “good" or “bad" and this or that way of eating as being “right" or “wrong”? What if we were able to take the morality judgements out of it, and instead see the impersonal and, quite frankly, beautiful, complex design of our bodies as living systems?  Living systems that are in fact fed and supported by the living systems around us (plants & animals).  What if we could rejoice that we have tastebuds and the capacity to thoroughly enjoy the experience of a meal.

With a clear mind the possibilities are endless.  We do not need to abandon logic, but are continually supported by insights that guide us to new ways of understanding and experiencing the world. 

Christine Higgins