I had the honor of being one of a handful of entrepreneurs who received a sneak preview into Jessie’s works almost two years ago and I was smitten from the first moment.
I’m about to reveal one of the most effective, simple, AND OVERLOOKED tricks to boost your digestion, assimilation, and metabolic power.
Good health is often said to start with digestion. However stress keeps optimal digestion and assimilation from happening. Stress activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system which governs the biochemical processes required for a fight or flight response. The parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, on the other hand is responsible for relaxation and digestion. Any stressor, real or perceived, will thwart digestion by diverting blood from the digestive organs to the heart and muscles of the limbs for fight or flight.
Eating under stress, results in compromised digestive functioning. Low levels of stomach acid due to stress may increase intestinal permeability leading to leaky gut syndrome, which leads to food sensitivities over time. During stress, the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes is slowed and intestinal contractions and nutrient absorption are hindered. Eventually we won’t produce enough digestive enzymes to properly digest our food, which results in nausea, constipation, gas, and bloating. Because of the above digestive shutdown, we can be eating the healthiest diet and taking the best supplements, but if we are in a physiologic stress response, we will not be able to absorb the nutrients. We aren’t what we eat. We are what we absorb and assimilate instead.
When we eat quickly, while multitasking, feeling guilty, or according to externally imposed food rules, we initiate a low-level stress response. The stress response triggers a hormonal cascade that deregulates appetite, increases cravings, hinders digestion and assimilation, and causes weight gain and inflammation over time.
Call it a detox or call it a diet: Tight food restriction has some serious implications for our health. Many people, especially those dieting, have a heightened stress response around food. In addition to everyday stressors, mealtime stressors include anxiety or guilt around food, skipping meals, restricting caloric intake, multitasking while eating, fast eating, poor quality foods, food sensitivities, or cortisol-inducing substances like caffeine, ephedrine, alcohol, and sugar. In studies, cognitive restraint around controlling caloric intake or avoiding certain foods, actually causes significantly higher stress hormone levels resulting in resistance to weight loss.
When we eat a meal while stressed, whether because we are dieting and eating something we feel guilty about or because we carried home our stress from the workday, we miss the Cephalic (“head”) Phase Digestive Response. This accounts for 40-60% of our digestive assimilative, and calorie burning potential. If we miss this phase, the body does not register that it has actually eaten and we continue to crave food. Furthermore, cortisol interferes with the experience of pleasure. This makes sense. We don’t want to be enjoying the smell of the flowers or savoring the sight of the sunrise when we are running from a lion or fighting off a predator. So when we skip this experience of pleasure during a meal because we are under stress, the body continues to crave pleasure- a hardwired psycho- physiologic need. This often results in binge eating or overeating, or strong cravings for foods with intense flavors to quickly quell our desire for the experience of pleasure.
High cortisol due to stress has also been shown to actually promote sugar cravings, increase the appetite, and impair the usual metabolic increase that normally happens after a meal.
Presence equates to metabolic power.
So ditch your diet rules and find out what you really want. What would really nourish your body and feed your soul. Opt for the highest quality ingredients that you can find.
Make at least one meal a day a soulful affair. Many of us overeat food to feel grounded and relaxed. By proactively relaxing and grounding through alternate practices before eating, we can help ourselves stop when we are satisfied rather than when we feel sedated and full. Drop yourself into the relaxation response by lighting candles, turning on some gentle music, and taking some deep breaths. Make the meal you desire with great care and attention.
Take your seat and feel your sit bones on the chair and your feet making contact with the earth. Breathe into your belly. Anchor into gratitude.
If you are enjoying a meal with your partner or children, this is a beautiful opportunity to create warmth and connection within the home.
Parents, you may be thinking, “Yeah right, try this with three fussy toddlers!” But small children are actually incredibly sensitive to the level of stress and tension in their environment and oftentimes fussy eating behaviors are a response to this experience. So do your best to model slow, relaxed, mindful eating and create a calming environment at meals. With repetition and perseverance, you may even be able to break out of the cycle of frustrating family meal times!
Enjoying even just one mindful meal a day is a powerful daily ritual that allows you to connect with your heart and body through the soulful act of nourishment. You may find that over time, it begins to gradually transform your relationship to food and self care and that weight, health, and digestive issues improve with ease.
I am a Certified Master Nutrition Therapist, Mind-Body Psychology Coach, Bodyworker and Yoga Teacher. A tree hugger and lover of all things nature-inspired: flower essences, essential oils, herbal elixirs and teas, and whole food delights. I believe that magic happens when we simplify and root down into body wisdom and earth medicine.