Timing Is Key For Good Energy Balance

I injured my left leg rather severely when I was hit by a car at age 7. I suffered permanent damage to my left patella, which was eventually removed some 10 years later. Considering my love for soccer at the time and intentions to pursue a career in the game, the surgeon opted to forego a replacement patella as it would likely not last very long under the strain of training 4 days a week, with games on the weekend. Instead, he suggested I go through a few years of rehabilitation to rebuild the muscles up around the quad area to support the knee joint and tendons and muscles that were fused together. This proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated, but I did what I could over the next two years to get back on the field.

I learned very quickly over that time that when it came to making forceful contact with the ball, that I didn’t have to kick it hard to generate power or distance; I simply had to get the timing right. With a bit of practice I managed regain some confidence was back playing sooner rather than later, with a left leg that was significantly weaker than the right. The fact that I was left-footed suddenly wasn’t a hindrance to my aspirations anymore.

Fast forward some thirty years; and, working as a psychologist in the weight loss industry for the last 13 years, I’m constantly reminded of this phrase ‘timing is everything’. When talking to patients about their weight problems and associated behaviour, I often hear of bad habits that have generated out of poor timing, and poor time management for that matter.

I feel we’re living in an era where stress has become the norm; and, our exposure to stressful events is on the rise. The demands of work, family, and managing our health can eat away at any precious time we have left to manage our eating habits appropriately. Before we know it, we’re not sleeping well and it seems like we’re just spinning on a manic wheel. Sometimes we’re just too resilient for our own good and we accept it all as ‘normal’.

I am astounded by the amount of people I see who have lost that balance. It’s like the world’s gotten the best of them and they simply can’t escape the rut. They’re skipping meals, eating on the run, eating what they can, when they can; and, in the end, eating too much, eating the wrong foods, at the wrong times, and simply lacking in energy balance. This often leads to little or no exercise, not enough sleep, and a significant dip in motivation!

One thing I constantly preach in my line of work is timing: having a schedule to follow with eating patterns. Just like poor timing is the precursor to bad eating habits, good timing is the precursor to establishing good eating habits. If you have children, you’ll appreciate the value of maintaining a consistent routine. It’s the foundation to healthy eating patterns, sleep patterns, general behaviour, and mood. Somewhere along the line, as adults, we’ve lost our appreciation for this foundation; and, it’s getting us into trouble when it comes to our waistlines. 

So, yes ‘timing is everything’; but, what I’m really referring to here is the goal of establishing some energy balance, which brings us back to the importance of timing when it comes to eating. This is especially important if our motivation is to lose weight, as any intended changes to our choice of food throughout the day may very well depend on when, what, and how much, or little, we ate beforehand. Poor energy balance may well lead to a loss of control over your appetite. Your gut has hormones that help regulate your appetite and satiety, or fullness, and these hormones are intricately connected to the hypothalamus, the control centre for reward and appetite regulation.

The bottom line is: if you looking for motivation to eat healthier throughout the day, get on a timely schedule and stick to it! Most importantly, don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, have a dietitian help you get the right balance of nutrition from your food, and work on balancing out your energy with more frequent eating patterns to also bring your main meal portions down. Inevitably, you’ll start to feel better and have more energy. Chances are you’ll start to feel like you’re in control again and may even start sleeping better.

My suggestion is, try and eat around the same time every day for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. Keep your portions for your main meals small and consistent, and get help incorporating adequate nutritional density to your meals and snacks to achieve this energy balance. You’ll curb your cravings, regulate your appetite, and have more energy, all of which is needed if you want to put more effort into a weight loss program that includes exercise.

Warren Artz,
Psychologist at WLSA