One week ago I moved into a house with roommates in Somerville, Massachusetts. In that first week of transition I had a lot on my plate, so I did what most temporarily scattered people would do – eat shitty food. I ate plain ramen, peanut butter bread, cheese on toast, dunkin donuts sandwiches, rotisserie chicken from Shaws… barely any vegetables or fruit. I also exercised very little… maybe a few push-ups and sit-ups. I wasn’t depressed but I felt like I was just… existing.
But today, I feel like a million bucks. Here’s what happened…
Yesterday morning I was having my peanut butter on toast with banana slices when one of my roommates explained why he makes fruit smoothies every morning. “I eat fruit only in the morning.” he said. “It’s actually really good for you and the body breaks it down quickly, which in turn gives you a lot more energy to burn.”
“And mixing fruit with other food is not good for your digestion. It’s as if you never ate it and your body won’t process it well.” It made sense to me but I didn’t understand why. And that’s when he asked if I had read “Fit for Life” which is a New York Times Bestseller and focuses on how human beings used to eat… a loooong time ago!
I borrowed his copy and started reading about the how and when of efficient food consumption. With proper food combinations (the how) and keeping in mind how long it takes to process them (the when), your body rewards you with more natural energy. For example, most fruit takes 20-30 minutes to digest but processed food and meat can take up to 8 hours! Meat eaten alone or with vegetables will take closer to 4 hours. And if you try to process fruit while the stomach is acidifying proteins and starches, it will not properly absorb the nutrients of your fruit- hence, my roommate’s comment – “your body won’t process it well.”
By eating fruit on an empty stomach in the morning, your body has an undisturbed chance to break it down and provide you with a boost of energy for the day. Lumberjack breakfasts take forever to break down and actually slow you down because there’s so much different stuff in there that needs to be processed in different ways.
My first day
Today I figured I’d give the concepts in Fit for Life a whirl. It started with an apple and at about 10am I ate a banana. I wasn’t hungry after the fruit for some reason. (Maybe because I didn’t put bread and coffee in there with it?) I planned my lunch for 11:30am which is what I was used to in China.For lunch I cooked up rice with potatoes, onions, and mushrooms with garlic. It was a typical stir fry dish which tasted great. And after that I went to a meeting.
I got home from my meeting at about 4pm feeling quite refreshed. The lunch I had eaten included 2 starches (rice and potatoes) and there was no animal protein. The digestive system was allowed to work on fewer types of food and probably did so more efficiently. Even with a large helping of rice I didn’t feel heavy.
Now, at 5pm, I feel like I could eat soon but I don’t have any real cravings. I’ll probably eat fish and salad, without bread or rice. But overall, I feel great! I don’t need stimulants of any kind- no coffee in the morning or wine at night. It just feels right.
A lot of what I try to cover in Asianliving relates to traditions and getting back to the old ways of cooking, eating, and drinking. There’s a lot that we can learn from our grandparents… but there’s even more that can be learned from humans who existed thousands of years ago. They normally ate only one or two foods at a time. Just like how wild animals eat their prey or snack on leaves. Let’s simplify our meals and eat more like our ancient ancestors did. Your body will probably reward you for it!
For future reference, I’ve added the Detoxinista’s food combining chart below (Click to zoom in):