Food combining is one of diet culture’s newest trends. And I’m here to tell you don’t even bother trying it. Why? Because it’s total BS.
Simply put, food combining claims to help prevent bloating through an extensive list of rules:
Don’t combine starches with proteins
Don’t combine protein with fat
Only eat one type of protein at a time
Only consume dairy on an empty stomach
Only consume fruit on an empty stomach
Eat fruits and vegetables separately
Eat sugar alone
Sounds restrictive (and a hassle), right? Don’t listen to social media influencers trying to sell you food combining (which doesn’t actually work), ditch diet culture, and just simply listen to your body. Eating should never be so complicated!
Food combining supporters claim that this way of eating prevents us from putting too much strain on our digestive system like when we, for example, eat starches with proteins; it causes a “traffic jam.” The most common analogy used is peanut butter on toast: peanut butter would take longer to digest compared to toast, so it’ll cause a “traffic jam,” theoretically taking it longer to digest the food which would lead to bloating. This is all completely false. “Traffic jams” don’t occur in a healthy digestive system. Our digestive tract is made to multitask - we have numerous enzymes breaking down varieties of foods. Needless to say, food combining is just another diet culture gimmick.
So, why do we bloat?
Bloating is just a part of our digestion process; it’s normal, and everyone experiences it. When we eat, our stomach is in charge of breaking down the food into smaller pieces so it can be digested. Throughout this process, we are fermenting dietary fiber and breaking down carbs, which also produces gas, causing us to bloat temporarily. So you see, bloating is just part of another process our bodies go through, turning our food into fuel. Plus, if we truly think about it, would we really want our food to digest faster? We need that food for energy, especially if we are lifting.
Everyone bloats after we eat, which is something that should be normalized in our society! It’s such a normal part of our experience as humans, yet diet culture seems to shame us for it.
Bloating in Terms of Recovery
When recovering from an eating disorder, bloating can be a side effect. Why is that?
When restricting foods, not only does it cause our metabolism to slow down, but also our digestion. So when more foods are introduced during recovery, you could also experience Gastroparesis, which is when food stays in your stomach for a longer period of time than usual. This is a survival technique our bodies go through in the healing process. Our bodies will want to hold on to that food for as long as possible, since it’s used to being in a state of restriction. It’s important to remember that this is only temporary, and with time and recovery, digestion will speed up to its natural state.
Some of the best meals come from combining all different types of foods, which would also ensure we’re getting all the nutrients we need in a balanced meal. Ditch diet culture, forget food combining, and eat intuitively.