Have you ever heard someone say, “Every time I eat this or that it makes me gain weight?” Well, there is truth to thinking something will make you gain weight and actually gaining weight. The way we think about food and the way we feel about food impacts our ability to digest and utilize every macro and micronutrient.
Your brain is the first step in the digestion process… yes, your brain, not your mouth. Just think - Your Brain Eats! When we begin to think about food and anticipate eating something, the image of that food, say a candy bar, is registered in the cerebral cortex of the brain. The information about this yummy chocolate bar is then relayed electro-chemically to your limbic system. Your limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, and key physiological functions, such as hunger, sex drive, thirst, temperature and more. Once the message of eating a chocolate bar is sent from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system, it is interpreted by the hypothalamus (which is a pea-sized makeup of tissue). The hypothalamus then takes the emotional input and transfers the information into a physiological response. As you can see, the brain is the beginning point of your digestive process.
By eating anything with a positive mind (in this example chocolate) the positive mind and happy thoughts make your body respond differently versus thoughts of guilt. When you eat the chocolate with pleasure, your hypothalamus will take this pleasure and send activating signals to your salivary glands and your gut, activating all digestion needs. Your body will increase healthy bacteria and send more blood to the stomach during this process. This creates a physical response that will allow for a better breakdown of the chocolate while using more calories.
When you eat with a relaxed, mindfulness, your body is happy to help digest your food for you. Now flip this and say you eat the chocolate with feelings of guilt, judgment, and feelings of being deprived. This creates a signal of stress. This stress response and these negative signals are then sent down as inhibitory responses which means you will be eating the chocolate without an efficient breakdown. The body is stressed, and we know our bodies do not work well when stressed. This will cause the food to stay in your stomach longer, and your digestion system gets more stressed, lazy, and sad because you feel a yuck-guilt-judgment when you eat the chocolate. You are slowing down your body’s ability to function properly. This all comes from how you feel about what you're eating. Think of the people that you know that say they have stomach problems. Are they a highly stressed person? Do they have a poor relationship with food?
We must approach the food on our plate with thoughts like, “This food is going to nourish my body” and not “This food is going to make me fat, so I have to go run 5 miles after.” You must also eat in a calm state of mind. How do you feel when you eat? When you sit down to eat do you look at your food, smell your food, touch your food, and slowly chew your food with mindfulness? The more you can slow down, smile, and have positive thoughts about your food the more your body will produce the necessary responses you need for full digestion. Think of it this way. If you have a few things to accomplish today, do you accomplish them better when you are focused and happy or when you are stressed and overwhelmed? The result may be you finished what you needed, but I would bet that when you are in a happier, more focused state you can finish your tasks more efficiently with a higher quality of attention. The same goes for your digestive system. It will eventually do the work to digest your food, but if you are highly stressed it cannot do its job efficiently with the appropriate attention due to the hostile environment.
1. Before you eat tell yourself: This food is going to nourish my body & every cell will benefit.
2. Take time to look at your food before you eat it (I like to eat off of a white plate, so I can see the coloring of my food before I eat it).
3. Take a deep breath and relax before you eat.
4. Smell your food.
5. Chew your food 10-20 times before you swallow.
Challenge: Next time when you get hungry drink a glass of water and use a tongue scraper. This is to clean your palate. Then take a piece of broccoli or celery or a carrot. Take a bite of it with your eyes closed and with no external noise. Chew the piece of broccoli 20 times and feel the texture and think about all the nutritional benefits of the broccoli and how it is repairing any damage to your body. Report back how this makes your feel. Take 3-5 minutes in silence to eat a whole cup of this food.