We all make assumptions, but there is a fine line between intuiting (based on known factors) and assuming (based on supposed factors). Like author and habit expert James Clear writes, assumptions are “how we fool ourselves without realizing it” and fooling ourselves removes opportunities to learn. One of my many strategies as a functional medicine health coach is to guide people as they uncover and replace unhelpful assumptions related to their health and well-being.
For example, here’s a popular assumption that we can all root out. Many of us think that drinking lots of water before a meal reduces hunger and helps with weight management. Well, not so fast.
“There’s so much misinformation out there on this topic,” says Ali Miller, RD, CDE integrative dietitian and owner of Naturally Nourished. “But yes, this practice can do more harm than good. Excessive liquids during meals can lead to bloating, indigestion, and even nutrient malabsorption.”
– The Surprising Reason You Shouldn’t Chug Water with Your Meals from Prevention magazine
Quoting from Dr. Sam Robbins:
Drinking during your meal is a bad habit because it actually is preventing you from chewing your food more thoroughly, which is part 2 of digestion.
You should take your time chewing your food, breaking it up into smaller pieces because it helps digest and absorb the nutrients. It also reduces digestive problems like gas, bloat, acid reflux, and so forth.
Unfortunately, most people just vacuum up their foods, barely chew it, and use liquids to push it down their throat and into their stomach. This creates more of a burden in your stomach, leading to stomach and colon problems.
Ayurveda has taught that drinking water no less than 30 minutes before a meal and only sipping water during a meal if needed as part of healthy eating. Otherwise, you should refrain from drinking right before and right after all your meals and reserve drinking water to in-between meals. This is a 5000 year old teaching that we are now discovering scientific truth behind! Ayurveda is all about healthy digestion and absorbing what you eat and you cant do that if you dilute your digestive juices.
Now that we’ve got that assumption out of the way. The replacement habit is to drink more water between meals and chew your food more thoroughly during meals (so you don’t have guzzle liquids to push food down).
Let’s recall that part of the assumed benefit of drinking water right before a meal is weight loss. It’s interesting that researchers have found a “link between diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) and chewing. … The researchers found slow eating and thorough chewing not only increased DIT, but it also enhanced blood circulation in the abdomen. … the difference in energy expenditure is small but will add up across daily meals, and may be another tool to help with obesity and metabolic syndrome prevention efforts.”
Bottom line: hydrate more between meals and chew food slowly during meals to support those same weight-management goals — minus the water-logging indigestion That’s a win-win!
Next month, we’ll keep talking through how we can prompt ourselves to think and evaluate our habits for better health. Specifically, I’ve got two more popular assumptions that we’ll tackle and replace together!
In the meantime, have questions? Drop me a note.