Don’t ignore your hunger pangs
Arvind Chaubey, 31, works as a project manager in a software firm. He routinely skips breakfast and settles for an early lunch, except when his mother is in town, which is rare. The reason for not having breakfast — he cannot tolerate his maid’s cooking more than once a day. While lunch is at 12.30 p.m., dinner could be anywhere between nine and twelve hours later. He might have a puff pastry in between or whatever else is available in the cafeteria so he is unable to make healthy choices. “The team needs me. I don’t want to upset the rhythm and if I take time out to eat, I feel, it will have an impact on the project.” Chandra, (name changed on request ) 47, executive in the travel trade, is a classic case. “There is so much to do before I leave for work that I am always rushed for time in the mornings. As for lunch, work spills over every day in our trade and you hardly have time to eat. You don’t think of food when you are working. When I get home in the evening, I am hungry so I eat something and then skip dinner. Because of these erratic habits, I get hungry at odd hours and eat the wrong food. My weight is not what it would be had I been eating properly. It’s been like this ever since I started working from the age of 19.”
This is nothing uncommon in today’s work situation. But why are hunger pangs ignored? People get so absorbed in their work that they don’t realise time has gone by (especially if there is no fixed lunch hour). They also avoid food because it will make them drowsy post-lunch, or they just don’t make time for it.
“The gut-brain axis should be regularly activated so that digestive enzymes are secreted at regular intervals. When this is disrupted because of irregular food habits, there is an effect on the stomach that leads to hyperacidity. Long gaps between meals leave the stomach empty leading to formation of painful ulcers,” says Dr. T. K. Neelamekam, consultant surgical gastroenterologist and laparoscopic surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.
Dr. Vijay Viswanathan, M. V. Hospital for Diabetes, Royapuram, says, “The period between meals is a sort of fasting state in which many of the anti-insulin hormones such as glucagons work to produce more glucose from the liver. If this period is prolonged, then too much glucose is produced which can increase the glucose content in the blood (not a good thing for diabetics). Besides other chemicals like ketones which appear in the blood when the body burns fat for energy will also increase and in the long run, it is not good for one’s metabolism.”
Says Jyotsna Raja, nutritionist, “Make yourself a priority. Career is important but you have to be in good health to have a good career. If people can plan big businesses, I don’t see why they can’t plan a meal for themselves. When you eat after a long break, you eat the first food you see and that is invariably junk (cakes, chips or pastries). Research today points towards overweight being the main cause of heart disease and hypertension.
“Skipping breakfast is not a good idea because you have starved the whole night. Your brain needs glucose to function. Eat within two hours of waking up in the morning when the metabolic rate is high and you have the whole day to burn the calories. Have a light snack between breakfast and lunch because lunch sometimes gets pushed if you have a meeting or a class to attend — the simplest snacks I can think of are fresh fruits, fruit juices, popcorn without butter, puffed rice with fried gram (you can add some chilli powder to spice it up) or some almonds. Lunch should be around 12.30 or 1 p.m. So save that time for yourself. Have phulkas and low fat sabjis and a raita (chicken breast or grilled or steamed fish for non vegetarians) or if you are a rice person have rice with a lot of vegetables and some yoghurt. Have a light snack between lunch and dinner if you are working late. And avoid oily foods at dinner (whole grain rotis or brown rice with vegetables or cereal are good) and stay off sugars. Eat dinner early and avoid late night snacking. (If you must, go for vegetable sticks with dips such as mint chutney)”
Suggests Dr. Vijay Viswanathan, “The ideal time for the last major meal would be around 8 p.m. so that the body has enough time to dispose of the calories in that meal before one goes to sleep. A late meal produces more free fatty acids and leads to excess fat deposition in the body especially in the abdominal area which is a major cause for insulin resistance contributing to diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks.”
So, the mantra should be “Eat at regular intervals and the right food.”SUDHA UMASHANKER