by Tweaking This One Thing That you do Everyday
As a society, we can’t do things quickly enough. It seems the latest thing to fall victim to this sprint mentality is eating. Our world is insta-everything, connected 24-7, and everything is focused on convenience and “saving time.” As a result, our bodies are operating in chronic stress mode and have more stress and less energy.
As a coach, I have never been told that someone wants less energy; however, I am always asked how clients can reduce stress. Through my certifications in holistic stress management and integrative nutrition I have learned powerful, yet simple techniques to reduce the effects of stress and boost energy. They have one thing in common, the mind.
I continually seek ways that are simple and effective in helping me improve the quality of my life. Once I learn these tools, I pass them on to my clients and everyone that I meet. The latest tool comes from my training and personal experience in mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the 1970’s defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally”. Essentially, practicing mindfulness whether for five minutes or forty-five, anchors you in the moment, removing you from ruminating about what happened yesterday or fixating on what’s to happen tomorrow. The outcome is the absence of suffering. Suffering is being anywhere, but in the moment. Without stress and suffering, we have more focus, attention, awareness, and contentment. This same principle can be applied to something that we do everyday, eating.
I view eating as an opportunity to heal by tuning into the intelligence of the body and our own intuition about what it is that our bodies need in the moment. The human body is extremely intelligent and the gut is actually referred to as the second brain and makes up the enteric nervous system. It is where the immune system is housed and how we bring the outside world in. Our bodies are continually sending us signals and warning signs. Unfortunately, we often miss them because we are so busy and distracted.
Here is a snapshot of how stress manifests in the body over time. When your body is in chronic stress mode all of your systems are on high alert all the time and your organs are working way harder than necessary (lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, stomach, intestines).
Your mind does not know the difference between a real threat, being chased by a lion and the thoughts circulating in your mind that are of a threatening nature. Such as, you are worried that you are going to loose your job. So, your body’s fight or flight mechanism kicks in, ready to deal with the threat in either scenario. The trouble is, the fight or flight response is only supposed to last for the time in which your body deciphers something as a threat, and either fights or flees and then returns back to homeostasis. However, your body never gets a break from this cycle, and it becomes chronic.
This is extremely taxing on the mind~body system as a whole. Over time it can create anxiety, sleep disturbances, digestion problems, relationship problems, weight gain, palpitations, exhaustion, and memory issues.
Our bodies’ response to stress has not evolved with time and instead of slowing down and using effective techniques to de-stress, we continually add fuel to the fire. I never imagined that eating quickly could cause my body more stress.
So, how can you reduce the effects of stress and boost energy by tweaking one thing that you do everyday?
Eat mindfully at least once a day.
The road warrior diet (eating in the car), corporate diet (eating as you multitask at your desk), and nurse diet (scarfing down a few bites as you steal away to the break room), all diets that I have been privy to are a few examples of adding fuel to the “stress” fire through mindless eating.
When we eat mindfully we can watch for and notice important clues about how nutrition affects us and make changes accordingly but more importantly in my book, enjoy our food.
Digestion is a bodily process that takes a ton of energy. When we are ingesting a meal in a stressful manner, we are creating even more stress for our bodies. During the stress response, the blood is shunted away from the digestive organs to the primary organs in preparation for a fight or to fuel the muscles to flee quickly.
So, you can kill two birds with one stone, reduce stress and receive the maximal nutrient benefits of your food by taking the TIME to slow down and eat a meal in a relaxed way. This is a way to eat mindfully.
Everyone eats and the body can not survive without fuel. So many people are making the effort to eat healthier but have no idea that greens for example must be chewed up into very small pieces in order for the gut to be able to absorb the nutrients. Instead, we take one bite and slam it with a swig of our favorite diet beverage or coffee. Not to mention, we have no idea what the food tastes like because we scarfed it down so fast we don’t have time to smell it.
Food is meant to be enjoyed in my book. When I take the time to enjoy my food, my body receives maximum benefits and I only eat what I need.
Studies show that the first several bites of our food are the peak of our sensory experience with it and this declines over the course of the meal. This is referred to as the satiety cascade. We eat for fuel, but another big part of eating is a sensation of satisfaction or a feeling of satiety or fullness. If satisfaction peaks during the first few bites of our food and we are not paying attention to the taste, flavor, smell, texture, or how it makes us feel, we miss all the benefits!
The result is, more stress to our already stressed out bodies, more food than we really need and we are never truly satisfied. End result: more stress, weight gain, and less energy.
I invite you to pause before your next meal. Consider treating your meal as a sacred event. Your body is your vehicle for everything. If you have a Porsche, I am sure you treat it with the best fuel that money can buy.
Simple ways to enjoy a mindful meal:
Find a place where you can sit down at a table. Place your feet on the floor.
Offer gratitude for your meal.
Pretend it’s the first time you have ever had this food.
Use all of your senses to heighten your satisfaction of the meal.
Smell your food before you take the first bite.
Try and chew your food at least ten times before swallowing. This helps the flavor linger in your mouth longer and helps break down the food, especially greens so you get maximum absorption and energy in the gut. It also helps slow you down.
Eat in silence.
Put your fork down in between bites.
Eat with your non-dominant hand.
Enjoy a conversation over your meal.
Refrain from multitasking as you eat.
Make your meal your main focus.
Make this an opportunity to heal.
Ask your body what it really needs.
Notice how you feel emotionally before you eat.
Ask yourself if you are hungry before you eat.
Notice how you feel after you eat.
I hope that this information serves you in the best possible way and that you can implement some of these techniques to improve the quality of your life.
Life is too short not to live fully.
Please share what tips you are willing to try and what struggles you have had with eating mindfully.