Just in time for the holidays, our nutritionist Laura Palazzolo shares some insight into bringing minfulness to the table.
Stress in an inevitable part of life, but for many of us, it takes center stage. It even has been dubbed “The Killer Disease”, because of the physiological toll stress takes on our body. Stress does not happen in a vacuum. It often spills over into every aspect of our lives, including meal time. Many of us eat in our cars, at our desks or on the run and we are “paying for it” with a massive number of gastrointestinal issues and an adult population that is two-thirds overweight or obese. Although stress around meal time is not the direct cause of the myriad of chronic diseases in our society, it is a contributing factor.
When we are stressed we activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and when we relax we activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Stress and activation of the sympathetic nervous system can alter the way in which the gut works, making you more susceptible to gastrointestinal upset. Remember, you are not just what you eat, but what you absorb! Mindful eating is a technique you can employ to not only improve your digestion, but your relationship with food, and increase balance in your life.
The Basics of mindful eating are:
l Breathe and Belly Check for hunger and satiety before you eat: take some deep “belly breathes” and rate your hunger. A hunger scale can be useful here. Use a scale of 1-10, with 1 being famished and 10 being you are so full you cannot take another bite. Your hunger should be somewhere between a 3-4 prior to eating and a 7-8 when your finished.
l Assess your Food: Look at your food. Does it look appealing? What colors do you see? How does your food smell?
l Slow Down: A complicated hormone cascade begins to take place to prepare our body for digestion the moment we smell food. When we take our first bite, other signals are initiated, giving information to the body about what we are eating and how often. It is thought that when we eat quickly, our hormones do not have enough time to exert their effect and therefore overeating is more likely.
l Investigate your hunger and satiety throughout the meal: Use the hunger scale at intervals throughout your meal to assess where you are. Are you full? Still hungry? It may take you some time to really understand your own hunger. Remember it will not be the same from day to day.
l Chew Your Food Thoroughly: Chewing is an essential part of digestion – it helps break down the food into smaller pieces and exposes the food to digestive enzymes found in saliva. The stomach does do some mechanical breakdown, but cannot take the place of the teeth! Chewing more thoroughly can also help if you are prone to fast eating by forcing you to slow down.
l Savor Your Food: What does your food taste like? What is the texture? Does it taste different from the first bite to the last? How does it smell? It’s very easy to overlook this, especially if you are stressed or distracted during meal time.
Are you ready to try? Challenge yourself to mindful eating 2-3 times this week!
If you are having trouble managing stress, check out a recent post on the how to manage stress by Dr. Garas.
Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
The Slow Down Diet by Marc David