What you Eat is Only Half of the Equation

We are always hearing about what we should be eating, whether you are on a low-carb, no-fat, high-fat, no meat, all meat, or vegan diet, the focus is often only on the what. However, the when and the how matter a great deal, particularly the how.

Did you know that if you are eating in a state of stress your body cannot optimally digest the food you are eating, no matter how healthy it is? We experience stress in four ways and if we are not able to reduce our stress it will continue to be a barrier to our goal of a healthier life.

If we can identify the four main ways we experience stress, we can treat the stress and create the optimal environment for proper digestion and optimal health. 

  • Biological or Chemical Stress: the processes in the body

  • Mental and Emotional: Our thoughts, feelings and beliefs

  • Spiritual: Our sense of connection to something bigger

  • Structural: In our bones and muscles. 

If we can begin to ask ourselves what state we are in before we eat, we can reduce our stress and create optimal health.

So how can we do this? Here are a few tips for reducing Biological Stress:

  • Take at least 20 minutes to eat every meal. Sound impossible? Start with five if that’s all you can handle and then incrementally add time. Try to put down your phone, and your work and just give your attention to eating.

  • BREATHE while you eat. That’s right! Just breathe. Stop at least three times in those twenty minutes and take a deep breath. When you breathe more, you burn more. 

  • Chew slowly and mindfully. This sounds kind of silly but it really does go a long way to send signals of relaxation to your brain and subsequently your gut. 

  • Put your fork down at least three times: This just helps you pace yourself and listen to your body, which leads us to the final tip:

  • Try to stop eating when you are 75% full. It takes our bodies about twenty minutes to register that we are full, so give your body time to talk to you. 

These are just a few things we can do to reduce our stress while we are eating. There is a reason cultures with built in Siestas do not have the same obesity epidemic that we do in America, even though they eat rich foods. We must learn to check in with ourselves and slow down. It just might be the difference between feeling stuck and achieving our healthy goals. 

Valerie Liao, M.D.Comment