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                        GRAZING ~ NEITHER BINGEING nor STARVING


An Insight into Grazing

Some people think the best way to regulate food intake and lose weight is to eat (two to) three meals a day. It may work for some, but the best way to lose weight in the long-term is to eat 5-6 smaller meals spaced evenly throughout the day.

Compare the habits of (say) a horse with a bear and the advantage of the former is clear. Horses are lean, fit animals; bears are chunky with good reserves of fat.  The horse is active ~ constantly moving around, grazing on grasses; whereas bears usually have one very big meal when they have made or found a kill.  Bears tend to be relatively inactive the rest of the time to conserve energy, uncertain of their next supply of food.   The horse is a grazer; those bears are starving and bingeing.

Some Facts about Energy, Body Composition and Eating

¨       Your body needs energy for life and for exercise.  Any fitness programme will be hampered if you do not eat correctly.

¨       Energy needs for life and activity are met either from carbohydrates stored in the muscles or fat stored all over the body.

¨       Food can be converted into fat or energy.  You can either store what you eat, which means that you will probably put on weight  ~ or you can use it as you expend energy in life’s activities.  Whether food is stored or burned is determined by a number of chemical reactions which are activated by enzymes, which in turn are dependent upon vitamins and minerals.  However, not all types of food are easily converted into energy and when conversion is not possible in the body, they are stored as fat (excess intake of protein is an appropriate example here).

¨       Toned muscle creates a faster metabolism than wasted muscle and fat ~ with the result that after a while on a correct fitness programme, you are effectively burning up excess-food fat stores, even when you are sleeping.

¨    The goal for most people is to reduce or control stores of fat, but maintain stores of carbohydrate. There is no point in trying to reduce carbohydrate stores, as it is not healthy and you will not look better or toned as a result. In addition, unless you eat sufficient carbohydrates your exercise will be compromised, which means less fat burning. 

Eat Regularly

With most diets, you lose only a small amount of fat before your natural fat-protection mechanisms begin to work.  If you starve yourself ~ particularly going without breakfast and eating little or nothing through much of the rest of the day before getting home ravenous for an evening meal (binge) ~ your body will have been holding onto the fat stores as reserves to produce glucose to maintain brain functions (in case this “famine” goes on much longer!), breaking down muscle and losing water.  Your metabolic rate will be reduced in these circumstances quite quickly as a measure of energy conservation against future needs.  It takes much longer to get your metabolic rate to increase again.

So, missing meals or severely restricting nutrient inputs results in the body taking measures to protect itself, by holding onto fat stores and reducing metabolic rate.  In the long term, this is contrary to what people think they are going to achieve by … reducing nutrient intake and missing meals.  On the other hand, if you eat little and often, your body then “knows” that food is plentiful and it allows the metabolism to work normally and energy stores to be maintained at naturally healthy levels.  As a guide, apart from overnight, when your nutrient needs are naturally taken from ‘storage’, you should be aiming to eat something every three to four hours at most.  This will help to maintain your blood sugar levels on a relatively even keel if appropriate food choices are made.

Healthy Eating Habits

The following food plan should offer some ideas for people thinking of developing an healthier eating habit :

Breakfast :

ALWAYS (always!) eat a healthy breakfast.

Choose :  Porridge, Muesli and Milk, Fruit salad and Natural Live Yoghurt, Beans on wholemeal bread toast (i.e. Whole Earth Baked beans without added sugar or salt ~ sweetened with natural fruit juice).

Avoid : Muffins, white bread toast, commercial sugary cereal, fried foods.

If exercising early in the morning, make sure that you have eaten something light about 30 to 60 minutes before you exercise ~ i.e. a banana (fructose, fibre and potassium supplies) and a handful of mixed seeds and nuts (see the “Healthy Snacks” article in this Library) ~ ideal for a supply of complex carbohydrates for slow-release of glucose to the blood stream, and source of fibre and essential fatty acids.

Morning Snack ~ “elevenses” :

A piece of fruit to maintain energy levels (or see the “Healthy Snacks” article in this Library).

Lunch :

Combine protein, carbohydrate and fresh vegetables

Choose :  Sushi, Baked potato with cottage cheese and salad, Fish/Chicken sandwich and salad, Rice and fish with vegetables.

Avoid : Fried food, crisps, burgers, cheese and meat sandwiches, pies, pastries, quiches.

Teatime ~ the afternoon snack :

Another piece of fruit, yoghurt (or a sandwich for men) ~ or see the “Healthy Snacks” article in this Library.

Avoid : biscuits, cakes, crisps etc at this time.

Dinner :

If you workout later in the evening, then include some carbohydrate in your meal.

Choose : Risotto / Pasta with chicken or fish with salad, Stir fry chicken with vegetable and noodles/rice, Fish/Chicken (white meat) with potato and vegetables.

If you workout in the daytime, it is best to stick to protein and vegetables only.

Choose : Fish/Chicken (white meat) with fresh vegetables and/or salad.

Avoid : desserts, ice cream, fried food, pastry, rich sauces.

Once you have worked out ~ replenish your carbohydrate reserves within one hour (two hours at the absolute MAXIMUM), or else your recovery from that exercise will be slowed up considerably.  Carbohydrates consumed in this one to two hour “window” are used entirely to replenish the muscles’ glycogen stores, the nutrient storage form that provides energy swiftly converted into glucose.

Try to eat in the evening to leave at least two to three hours before you go to sleep.  Eat no protein after that time, and any later snack should be a carbohydrate source - which will encourage the release of tryptophan through the blood-brain barrier and from that the release of the relaxing brain chemical, serotonin.  This will encourage a good night’s sleep.

Grazing (Finale)

Eating little and often need not, indeed generally should not, necessitate increasing your food intake ~ you are merely allocating the nutrients out throughout the day in different, “bite-sized” chunks.

However, once you are exercising regularly and following a natural eating pattern each day as outlined above, your metabolism will be functioning optimally and your food intake and weight will naturally find a level appropriate to you.  At these levels, you will be able to maintain your weight over the long term, and thus break away from the disillusionment of yo-yo dieting.  It is possible, say, to eat more, be healthier and lose weight.  In some instances, once your metabolism is working properly, it would be essential to eat more to maintain a healthy weight and body fat composition.

These eating patterns are not so restrictive that you cannot eat out, enjoy a treat, or are destined to spend the rest of your life counting calories or points.  There are natural alternatives to dieting, and they achieve generally better, safer and longer term results …

To read more around these topics, I suggest that you review a copy of this book (see our Bookshelves webpage for more information) :

¨       NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO DIETING  by Dr Marilyn Glenville, published in 1999 by Kyle Cathie Limited


Article (b) : SNACKS for HEALTH and ENJOYMENT


Many of the most common eating and weight problems experienced by people are caused by the habit of going too long without ‘proper’ food between meals.  Like many people, I was brought up trying generally to avoid eating “between meals” in order not to “spoil my appetite”.  However, it has been proven that eating healthy snacks throughout the day can be far more beneficial than arriving at a scheduled meal-time ravenously hungry.  

If you do not eat any quality foods for over 6 hours each afternoon, from lunch until the evening meal, this increases the likelihood of overeating in the evening.  This may be in terms of extra snacks and fast food to fill up because you are feeling tired and hungry. 

A better way of eating would be to always remember to eat something healthy between meals. The people with most to gain from “grazing’ (or eating little and often) fall into two main categories. They are those with:

¨       Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia); and

¨       Weight problems

Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycaemia)

There is no doubt that people with a tendency to low blood sugar feel better and more energetic, and think more clearly, when they eat little and often. Such snacks should preferably contain some form of protein ~- nuts, seeds, peanuts, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu or other soya product, cheese, poultry or fish - together with fruit, vegetables or other complex (unrefined) carbohydrate such as wholemeal or rye bread, Ryvita, oatcakes or rice cakes. Such foods are low on what is known as the “Glycaemic Index of Foods” and, because they are broken down slowly into glucose, the fuel for both the body and the brain, they are able to keep blood sugar levels balanced for much longer.

Although a sugary snack provides a short-term “quick-fix”; achieving a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, it will not take long for those sugar levels to drop again, thus requiring another coffee or chocolate bar or cigarette. The worst time of day is often 4 o’clock when blood sugar levels are at an all-time low.

Weight Problems

Recent research has shown that if two sets of people eat exactly the same quantity and quality of food throughout the day, with one set dividing the food into three meals and the other dividing it into three meals plus three snacks, those who had the additional snacks lost weight more easily. When I put people onto a specific diet for low blood sugar problems, they are amazed at how much they are expected to eat, and even more amazed when they lose weight on the diet. It really is preferably to eat a little of the right type of food before getting hungry.

Snack Foods for a Healthy Digestion ~ some ideas to get you started

¨       Low sugar cereal, nut, hemp or fruit bars

¨       Sticks of raw vegetables with a small pot of cottage cheese or a protein dip such as tahini (sesame seed base) or hummus (chickpea base)

¨       A blend (to taste) of sunflower, linseed (flax) and/or pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts or almonds (nuts and seeds are available from health food shops, although nuts are best if recently shelled, as their “healthy oils will not have been made rancid by exposure to light and air)

¨       Fresh fruit ~ with one of the above seeds or nuts, or the blend as referred to in last item.

¨       A little dried fruit (especially dried apricots ~ but avoid the very “orange” specimens that have been treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve them) ~ again with one of the above seeds or nuts, or the blend

¨       Home-made milk or soya shakes ~ or a smoothie with freshly juiced fruit  and live yoghurt included

¨       Plain, live yoghurt with some crunchy muesli (beware fat and sugar content)

¨       Rice cakes, Ryvita or oat cakes with cottage cheese, tofu “cream cheese’; hummus or a nut butter

¨       Cheese and celery or apple

¨       Wholemeal scone with tofu cream

¨       Lightly toasted sunflower, pumpkin, hulled hemp and sesame seeds. Add 1 tbsp tamari for extra flavour.

¨       Fresh peanuts, lightly roasted in the oven (not salted ~ or use a sea salt or low salt)

¨       Cottage cheese and pineapple

¨       Feta cheese and tomato (sun-dried, cherry or vine are all excellent for flavour in this combination)

Getting Started ~ that could be the most difficult bit

OK ~ sounds good in theory, but often it may be hard to achieve practically. 

So, here are some solutions :

¨       Buy a stock of fruit and healthy snack bars at the beginning of each week.

¨       Take them into work with you to store in your desk (or car, if you are regularly on the road).

¨       Set up a reminder on your PC scheduler or Palm Pilot ~ to alert you at 11 am and 4 p.m. every day.

¨       When you see your reminder, take a piece of fruit or a healthy snack bar.

¨       After a few weeks, you will not need the reminders, as it should become a habit.

Good quality and tasty snack bars to look out for are :

¨       The Food Doctor fruit and seed bars (available in most Tesco stores); and

¨       Wholebake 9 Hemp bars (available at good health food stores).

Both of these bars are low in fat, high in energy and nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids.


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