Good Morning Beautiful…
OK, so this morning, I feel like feeding you some “scientific mind cookies.” I am borrowing this term from my teacher, Marc David. Marc founded The Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where I received my Eating Psychology Coach certification. He is a genius and played a major role in the changes in my life that led to my healing and recovery. Scientific mind cookies are bits of information to feed the left side of your brain, the side that handles organization and logic. You say your number one goal is to lose weight with a specific diet and exercise plan. Yet, you hear me talk about letting that go in order to get just that. Wait, what? At that moment, I tend to lose people. Just wait! I have your best interest in mind, and I will do whatever it takes to reach your goals. Together, we will work with both the physical and emotional sides of your eating life to reach your highest goals. So, I start with these scientific mind cookies to quench your hunger for facts and quick results.
I am going to start with something easy, something so simple you won’t argue you “can’t” do it. Slow down at meal time. Society, as a whole, is in motion at warp speed. We want what we want, and we want it now. How will slowing down improve your health? First, slowing down means activating the relaxation response and turning off the stress response. Second, adding slow, controlled deep breathing will help jumpstart the digestion process. Third, it enables you to be aware and present at meal time, which satiates not just your body, but your mind.
Now, what does all of this mean? I’m so glad you asked! Let me start with the stress response. I’m not talking about full on fight or flight here; I am talking about the constant low level stress we all deal with daily. We are anxious about work, kids, finances, and our relationships all at once. Can you remember the last time you sat down to a calm, relaxing meal without a care in the world? There is too much to be done, so we quickly shovel food into our mouths to get to the next task, therefore, living in a constant low level stress response. Scientific mind cookies…
There is a portion of our central nervous system, CNS, called the autonomic nervous system, ANS. The ANS is the part of our nervous system most responsible for our gastrointestinal functions. It gets our stomach churning, keeping digestion moving. There are two parts of the ANS, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. “The parasympathetic relaxes the body and activates digestion,” states Marc David in his book, The Slow Down Diet. The sympathetic activates the stress response. You want to activate the parasympathetic before and during your meal time. If you fail to do this, your body remains in a stress response and digestion is suppressed, like an off switch, so to speak. If we can relax, we turn on digestion. Marc says it best: “You can eat the healthiest meal in the solar system, but if you eat it in an anxious state, your digestion is dramatically diminished - your mood has affected your food. Salivary enzyme content in the mouth is reduced, the breakdown of protein, fat, and carbohydrate macromolecules in the stomach is impaired, and blood flow to the small intestines is decreased as much as fourfold, which translates into decreased assimilation of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It is not only important what we eat, then, but the mental state we are in when we eat it.” Wow! That is a lot to take in. The bottom line is that stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. You probably already knew that, but now, you know how it affects you from a nutritional stand point.
What can you do to activate a relaxation response? That’s easy, and it brings me to the second bullet point in this post. Oxygen, yes, good old vitamin O, just breathe. Before each meal, sit down with your food and take 5-10 slow deep breaths. As you are eating, about every 2-3 bites, put your utensil down and take another 3. This will help your body start and continue to relax. Have you ever been able to calmly breathe while you were stressed? No, the two cannot exist together. You can either be freaking out or be calm. By slowing down to actually sit for your meal and breathing deeply, you begin to pull yourself out of stress. If only for the 20 minutes on your lunch break, it is a start. Oxygen equals metabolic burning power, and metabolic burning power is the ability to burn calories. Think about a fire. What is absolutely necessary for a fire to burn? You need wood (fuel) and oxygen. In our bodies, food (fuel) is useless without oxygen to burn it off. A note from Marc again, “It’s amazing how the breath is such a vital yet overlooked part of your diet.” The more you breathe, the more you burn. And a little thankfulness can’t hurt. As you are taking those first relaxation breaths, use the time to thank God for the blessing of the meal before you. He is, after all, the reason your plate is full. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31. Getting into the habit of thanking God and giving Him the glory is a good practice. Adding this simple act of worship can do nothing but improve your quality of living. Along with the physical benefits, you will begin to feel more connected and appreciative of all things in your life.
That brings me to awareness. Being present and fully aware while you are eating is just as important as the food you are eating. From the Slow Down Diet, I learned the term, cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR). This is a fancy way of describing the brain’s pleasure in the appearance, aroma, and taste of our food. Think about your favorite food. I am thinking of a fresh, piping hot, molten dark chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream drizzled with hot fudge. Is your mouth watering yet? That is CPDR in action, being fully aware of what you are eating. Researchers have found this reaction is estimated to be responsible for 30 to 40 percent of the total digestive response(SA.Giduck, “Cephalic Reflexes: Their role in Digestion and Possible Roles in Absorption and Metabolism,” Journal of Nutrition 117, no. 7 (July 1987). If you ask me, that is huge! If all I have to do is pay attention to my food and enjoy the aromas and flavors to improve digestion, you bet I’m all in.
Being aware when you are eating is as easy as adding oxygen to your diet. As a matter of fact, as you are taking in your breaths before you eat, you are already becoming more aware, breathing in the mouthwatering smells and enjoying the colors on your plate. One goes hand in hand with the other. This can also help with any overeating issues you may have. The brain needs the satisfaction of eating the meal, not “falling asleep at the wheel,” if you will.
During the day, if you continue to mindlessly eat, your brain will not remember any of it, because it was mindless. Therefore, your brain now wants to satisfy its cravings and will signal you to eat again. This will most likely lead to overeating throughout the day and, most definitely, night binges.
These 3 simple ideas are just the beginning to enjoying all of the benefits of a full healthy meal plan. If you try these techniques and still find yourself having trouble with your digestion, overeating, and/or cravings I can still help! To learn more contact me directly for a complimentary evaluation.
Eating Psychology & Nutrition Coach