DIET Part 2: When
When I was growing up there was this standing cultural joke about old people eating early, you know, like the “early bird specials” at restaurants frequented by “senior citizens”. In movies, comedy skits and even in real life, it seemed like older people were almost always stereotyped this way. If you were older, you were probably sound asleep in your recliner by 7 pm, were abnormally cranky, had bladder control issues, acted a bit crazy and ate dinner at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
I didn’t really get the eating by 4 o’clock pm thing when I was younger, other than as a point of sarcastic humor. But I get it now. I used to believe older people only ate early because they had to be cheap, living on a fixed income, and saving a few bucks on a meal and social time was saving a few bucks. Now I understand that eating dinner early is an important part of a diabetic reversal lifestyle.
It is now an important part of my healthy lifestyle. Thankfully I am not also asleep in my recliner by 7 pm (I don’t even own a recliner) or having bladder control issues (yet). I am, however, a bit cranky at times and, frankly, I have always acted a bit crazy.
Most days, except special occasions, I am done eating for the day by 5:30 pm.
I am now one of those “early birder”, although not quite senior citizen, eaters. Go on. Go ahead and laugh at the irony. I have, many times.
It is true that for many years as a young woman in my first marriage, we usually kept “loggers’ hours” when it came to meals. That meant my first husband, who was a logger, was out of the door by 3:30 am in the summer (5:30 am in winter), having eaten a good breakfast, packed a HUGE lunch and was home and ravenous by 3:00 pm. That meant that I, as a logger’s wife, also kept those hours and had dinner on the table by 4:00 pm most days.
Years and years later, and after I regained my freedom and was on my own, I found I had a preference for eating dinner in the later evening. That hour for mealtime just felt right, somehow civilized, to me. Such a schedule also gave me time to get home from work and really prepare something that was creative and thoughtful for my evening meal. I usually ate dinner after 7 pm, often as late 8 pm and thoroughly enjoyed it.
After the diabetes diagnosis and during the subsequent reversal process, I found that if I ate dinner at a later hour, even if I stuck to my approved foods list, that my blood sugar was high when I checked it first thing in the morning. I was puzzled by this because I thought that all I had to do what was change what I ate. I was losing weight and feeling good, and otherwise asymptomatic by this time. Since I was visiting and revisiting the information I had on reversing diabetes, I decided to find out if there was any principle I might have missed that correlated to my experience of later eating and high morning blood sugar. My suspicion was confirmed when I read in Dr. Colbert’s book (and other sources) that eating after 5:30 pm can leave you with high blood sugar in the morning.
It seems like I had to fight denial every step of the way in making the changes necessary for reversing diabetes. It couldn’t really be the time I ate, could it? I enjoyed eating dinner with my (current) husband in the later evening. But a continued series of high morning blood sugar readings helped me make the decision to try changing the time I ate dinner. I started making sure that I FINISHED dinner no later than 5:30 pm. It worked. My morning blood sugar levels went back down.
As much as it pains me to eat dinner early and not with my husband, I find that if I keep to that schedule, don’t eat any carbs (except for green leafy vegetables), keep the meal light and don’t snack after dinner, it still works. I have a favorable blood sugar reading in the morning—almost every time. And I am finding ways to compensate for the lack of a shared evening meal with him.
I still sit with him while he eats, maybe drinking glass of sparkling water with lemon or even a cup of clear chicken bone broth, sometimes red wine. We make it a point to talk and visit just as if we were sharing a meal. On weekends we intentionally share a full breakfast and eat dinner early and together. Weekday mornings we share coffee and a protein shake before work—intentionally building that time into our schedule. We find this works very well for us and not much has changed, except I am not talking between bites anymore in the evenings. My husband is fully supportive of my health efforts, for which I am very grateful.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
I am about to further complicate things. Yes, reversing diabetes is about what you eat. It is also about when you eat. I have also found that lowering my blood sugar also depends upon when I eat what.
I know, I know. That sounds complicated. I did warn you. But I have found that timing is very often everything, and there is a right time for eating certain foods when you are reversing diabetes.
For instance, if I am going to eat something a bit more “carby”, like keto bread or fruit, I eat it in the morning so I have the full day to burn that converted sugar off. That way, I can still eat some of things I really want, but also maintain my health. I have even sneaked a piece of gluten free pizza or a pastry in on a weekend morning and had a good reading the next day. But only in the morning. Also, I eat the majority of my calories in the early part of the day, making dinner my lightest meal. The larger my dinner meal, the higher my blood sugar is in the morning, so keeping it light in the evening keeps the numbers down. And keeping the numbers down is my main goal.
It will be your goal too if you choose to accept this mission—regaining your health and reversing diabetes!