As daylight lasts longer in the summertime, we often find ourselves pushing the evening meal time back later and later. This is a big disservice to our health. Modern medicine is discovering the importance of schedules in the maintenance of well-being, but many ancient systems from around the world have known this for ages. The guidelines of Ayurveda (a medical science system, originating from India over 5000 years ago) can help us understand why eating an earlier, lighter supper is a good habit to practice.
Mealtimes have been changing as our culture puts more focus on productivity and less focus on nourishment. Ayurveda uses the doshic (constitutional) clock to understand when to do certain things, like eat, for the greatest benefit. Bile production, as well as supportive solar energy, are highest during pitta (fire element) time of the day 10am-2pm, which means this is the best time of the day to consume the most calories and make the best use of them. This is lunchtime!
Many cultures take a break in the middle part of the day to eat a nourishing meal and take a little rest before returning to work. This meal used to be called dinner. At the end of the workday, there was a meal called supper. Supper was supplemental, only meant to tide you over until breakfast the next day. In eating earlier, by 6pm, and consuming light and simple fare, people were able to get better sleep and wake feeling more rested because their bodies weren’t trying to digest food while they were sleeping.
We have now swapped dinner and supper because of convenience and the push for productivity. We deprive ourselves of a nourishing lunch and thereby create too much hunger at the end of the day, leading us to eat more than we need and make unhealthy choices. Eating late creates toxic buildup in the digestive tract from undigested food. Our culture is more obese than ever, more autoimmune classifications are added each year, and it is no longer rare to know someone suffering from allergies.
What do these things have to do with eating an earlier, lighter supper? Everything! Weight gain is inevitable when eating heavier foods later in the day and not giving the digestive system a chance to fully process the food before going to sleep. The food that is undigested stagnates in the digestive tract, creating a toxic buildup. Autoimmune issues arise when there is too high of a toxic load in the body, which creates inflammation, and the body starts to attack itself. Giving the body time to do deep cleaning at night, instead of digesting food, allows the body’s natural intelligence to keep inflammation at bay. Allergies arise when the immune system is compromised. Again, allowing the body a rest from processing food when you sleep is the biggest issue (along with making healthy dietary choices) to naturally treating allergies.
Are you ready to give this a try? The best options for supper are choosing one of the following: Soup, Salad or Smoothie. If you eat animal protein or dairy, do that at lunch. Let supper become an insignificant event in your evening. Instead, focus your attention on what you might do to connect with your home, family and community after eating. Go for a walk, do yard work, play ball with your kids, etc. Don’t just take my word for it, try it for yourself and see what a difference true supper can make. You might just lose weight without feeling deprived, your chronic inflammation may subside, your allergies might disappear. You won’t know until you try. Put this time-honored (and free) support for your health into place in you daily schedule now. You will be glad you did!
Hannah Levin is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Yoga teacher and is the director of Kula Wellness, a new wellness center in Brasstown. She coaches clients online and in person, and teaches group classes through HeARTfelt Wellbeing LLC. For more information visit www.heartfeltwellbeing.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.