A woman joined me at the retirement center where I sat drinking coffee and sighed. “My doctor wants me to lose weight, but I don’t eat that much. I skip breakfast, have a muffin mid-morning and only sit for a meal at dinner. Still, I’m gaining weight.” My companion suffers from Type 11 diabetes, so I know her doctor or a nutritionist has schooled her about a proper diabetic diet: 3 meals a day, menu carefully balanced between protein, carbohydrates and fat. Skipping meals is a no-no, as is eating high sugar foods like muffins — not to mention wine, which is prevalent in her diet. I gave her a sympathetic glance but we both knew her habits were toxic for anyone, let alone a person with her illness.
Dietitians have longed deemed breakfast the most important meal of the day, but new research from the American Heart Association, published in the journal Circulation, shows skipping breakfast not only plays havoc with our metabolism, but it can damage the heart. “How we time our meals and snacks may have a big impact on our health – including our risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiac diseases.” (“The Right Time for Mealtime,” by Candy Sagon, AARP Bulletin, April, 2017, pg. 21.)
The study showed people who ate breakfast within 2 hours of waking had a lower risk for “heart disease, high cholesterol and blood pressure compared to those who skip breakfast.”(Ibid pg. 21) One shouldn’t need a medical degree to understand that after sleep-fasting, the body requires energy to cope with the new day. Eating late at night, by the way, is bad for us. Our bodies slowdown in the evening, anticipating sleep. Food eaten at a late hour remains undigested in our stomachs, making us sluggish in the morning, and increasing the probability we will gain weight. As for regular bowel movements, don’t get me started. (For circadian rhythms see blog 11/11/15.)
My coffee companion, who fasts throughout the day only to gorge at a dinner and wash her meal down with wine, may feign surprise at her weight gain. but she’s not fooling her body. She is on a debilitating spiral and facing an early death. She’s not alone in her folly. Type 11 diabetes is a problem for too many Americans who practice dietary habits they know run contrary to good health. Unfortunately for them, there’s no negotiating with their anatomies and no algorithm to override their problem. Our body rhythms were fixed centuries ago. If we want to live well, we must eat well.
(Originally published 4/20/17)