By Aubrey Turner, certified Functional Nutritionist
The energetics of eating- the how of eating, not the what of eating! This is my jam and I’m so excited to share it with you!
I’ve spoken here twice before about our 2 different nervous system responses: fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest and I’d love to do a quick recap for you as this is the basis for the energetics of eating.
The body’s automatic response to stress; by “automatic response” I mean our body innately goes into this response at any sign of stress because to the body all stress equates to a life or death situation.
When in flight-or-fight, with the only focus being survival, certain functions are paused including digestion.
While fight-or-flight has kept us alive throughout the centuries, staying in this innate response has surprising detrimental effects to our health.
Rest and digest is a state of reset and recovery for the body, mind, hormones, and digestion; however, we do not automatically enter rest-and-digest, we must actively bring ourselves into this response state.
Unfortunately however, it's not always easy, possible, or realistic to just stop being in fight-or-flight; as important and beneficial as entering rest-and-digest is, me time, rest time, and sleep (all of which will help active this restful response) just won’t happen every day or as much as we need it to!
But it is crucial to access rest-and-digest when we eat (at the very minimum) to have optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination- so we must do something!
Enter: the energetics of eating!
Eating energetics are here to help you calm down, settle down, focus on your food, and create space, time, and energy to have healthy, functioning digestion.
Below, I have listed five eating energetic concepts- they are easy, quick, zero-cost, and will help your body digest food smoothly, absorb all nutrients as best as possible, and eliminate (poop :)) everything else as easily as possible.
Bring your focus to every meal and snack
Even though we need to eat to fuel ourselves and create energy, we love eating for so many other reasons- come back to those reasons. Come back to savoring your food, tasting your food, & focusing on your food. When you’re able to, allow the food that is in front of you to be your sole focus; allow the flavors, textures, and taste to keep your attention- focus on how you feel while eating mind, body and soul.
Pause before you begin to eat
This one is a biggie! Did you know digestion begins in your mind?...with the seeing and the smelling of food? It's called the cephalic phase of digestion and it begins with your eyes and nose! During this phase your brain (through your gut/brain connection) sends signals to your mouth, stomach, and other digestive organs to begin producing digestive acids, enzymes, and juices necessary for proper and healthy digestion! To pause, in the form of gratitude, prayer, starting conversation, etc, before eating ensures your digestive juices are flowing and pumping and ready to break down the food you are about to eat.
Put your food down after each bite/Focus on chewing
Putting down your food after each bite is a great way to slow down the eating process; slowing down your eating process allows you more time to savor your meal and snacks (tip #1), gives your digestion time to work most effectively (#5), can help reduce any bloating or reflux, and allows the message of fullness to travel from your stomach to your brain in a more timely and effective fashion. Putting down your food after each bite is also the perfect way to focus on chewing- the goal here is to be a Professional Chewer! :) The more you chew your food, the more you break it down in your mouth; the more you break down the food in your mouth, the easier it is for your stomach to really break down the food; the more you break down the food in your stomach, the better the ability the intestines have to absorb and utilize the essential nutrients needed by the body! And this is all a result of good chewing!
Don’t move around too much while eating, but especially in the middle of chewing
When you move you take in air- when you take in air while eating, you can not only confuse your digestive system, but it also blows the doors wide open for uncomfortable and possibly painful bloating! Plus, depending on the type of movement, you could potentially set off some fight-or-flight alarm bells, and this is the exact thing we are working to avoid!
Allow time for your stomach and digestive tract to rest in between meals/snacks
There is much science and nutrition on the benefits of giving your digestion, in its entirety, time to rest! Although I do not advocate any sort of “time restricted” eating, I do appreciate letting the system rest! Food can sit in your stomach then small intestine for 4-6 hours getting fully broken down, and absorbed, then finally being moved into the large intestine; giving your digestive tract time to recover and reset helps with sustained energy, [sugar] cravings, and mood! Aim for 3 hours in between each meal and snack!
Know you can always come back here- smack in the middle of eating, half way through the day, or after a single bite of food- applying any of these tips at any time is beneficial in keeping your digestion healthy and functioning properly. Digestion (healthy or not) takes a lot of energy, by applying these tips when and where you can, you are easing some of that required energy, and giving it back to your day, your mood, your kids, + yourself!
I can’t wait to take over the Extra Lucky Mom’s social today and go a bit deeper into these energetics!