Rorion Gracie introduces a three phase process to help get used to the Gracie Diet lifestyle. The first phase involves spacing your meals at least 4 1/2 hours apart. No snacking whatsoever between meals. The reasoning behind this is to allow for complete digestion of one meal before consuming the next. As Rorion Gracie wrote, “The chemical reactions resulting from the continuous addition of foods before the digestion is completed, will increase fermentation and blood acidity” (page 35 – The Gracie Diet).
Mastering this first phase has been quite the challenge! Leaving 4 1/2 hours between meals was tough for me. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to snack — it’s just that I was hungry!
When I first started to work to lose weight and I really cleaned up my nutrition, I was eating 4-6 small meals throughout the day and I was still losing weight. So, the thought of not eating small meals and increasing the time between my meals didn’t sit right with me in the beginning. I was worried that it would send me back to bad eating habits — starving for long periods of time and then binge eating.
It took me a LONG time to get used to the 4 1/2 hour space between meals. I’d say it took me around 6 weeks before I really got the hang of it and wasn’t constantly staring at my watch counting down the minutes until my next meal.
The biggest challenges for me were:
- Not having an afternoon cup of tea/coffee. I came to realize that I was mainly having this out of boredom/habit. I did not really need the beverage. If I did, water or coconut water would do just fine.
- Staying disciplined with my meal portions. Even though I needed to be disciplined to wait between my meals, what I really wanted to make sure I focused on was not overeating when it did come time to have a meal. Just because I didn’t eat for 4 1/2 hours didn’t mean that I needed to gorge when it was time to eat.
- Weekends. During the week I have a basic routine to follow. This means that I’m busy throughout the day so I don’t have a lot of down time. Weekends, however, are another story. There’s extra down time — which means there’s extra time to perhaps snack!
- Scheduling the meals. My day didn’t fit into 4 1/2 hour chunks of time. I had to literally come up with a schedule for my meals. This entailed what I ate and when, depending on what activity came before/after my meal. It was quite a task — more on this later.
Here’s what I learned:
- It’s not at all impossible to leave 4 1/2 hours between your meals. It takes some time to get used to it, but the body does learn.
- I did not feel a dip in energy by leaving such a long gap.
- I did not feel an overall improvement in my digestion of food, so I don’t think I can comment on whether leaving such a long gap was beneficial for my digestive process or not. Perhaps once I add the food combinations to the picture I will feel differently? I’m not sure. Overall, though I felt fine.
- It takes time for change to happen. I believe your body learns what you teach it. If it is used to being fed all the time, it will want food all the time. Similarly, if you leave a consistent gap between your meals, your body will learn to adapt to that as well.
- I do not need to snack! The biggest reward of leaving this gap between meals has been the realization that I don’t snack. I used to mindlessly munch on things throughout the day. Even though for the most part the snacks were healthy – raw nuts, fruit, veggies and hummus – they were unnecessary calories. I was just snacking out of boredom. Again, it took practice and a lot of discipline to stop snacking, but it worked!
- It’s about spacing between meals, not necessarily the number of meals. At first I thought that we could only have 3 meals a day, but upon further reading I came to realize that you could have as many meals during the day as you needed, provided they were at least 4 1/2 hours apart. I’m glad I realized this because it made my meal scheduling a lot easier.
I’m happy with the 4 1/2 hour gap. It was quite a battle at first, but I fought and I succeeded. As I said, I didn’t find any obvious changes/benefits in relation to digestion, but I have started to enjoy the lightness of leaving that gap in between meals.
It is still hardest for me to stick to this on weekends or when I’m traveling, but I know with discipline I’ll be able to keep it up.