Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors didn’t have the modern conveniences (grocery stores, refrigerators, or packaged foods) that we have today. Different hypotheses exist as to how our ancestors ate, but one hypothesis is that they had to hunt their meat and gather their vegetables, which took a substantial amount of time. They would snack on the fruits, nuts, and seeds they found along the way. When evening fell, they would commune to cook and feast on the game hunted that day. The largest meal was oftentimes the last meal of the day. They would go to bed with their tummies filled but yet they would wake up the next morning, energized and restored for the next round of hunting and gathering.
We have all heard that we shouldn’t eat within 3 hours of sleep, either because we will get fat or because we will get sick, as our bodies cannot digest while we sleep. But we also heard not to swim (or exercise) after eating. So which it: do we rest, or do we move?
Our bodies are controlled by 3 parts of the nervous system: sympathetic (“fight or flight”); parasympathetic (“rest and digest”); and enteric (digestion). If we are being chased by a lion, the body is too occupied pumping blood to the legs and heart to focus much on digesting. Nowadays, we aren’t being chased by lions, but by our boss or our spouse or by a deadline or a bill payment — we are constantly being chased, and therefore our digestion begins to suffer. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is a good read.
Next time you get a hankering for a chunk of cheese at 10pm, go ahead and have a bite – but just a piece, not the whole wheel.
Photo credit: By W.carter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52312628