In today’s fast-paced life, more and more people eat meals on the run (in the car, at the computer, and even over the kitchen sink).
If this sounds familiar, there’s a good chance that you’re negatively impacting your health, even if you’re already doing a lot of things right.
The problem with eating on the run is that you’re putting food into your body before it’s primed and ready for optimal digestion. This leaves you feeling depleted, eating more food than you need, and craving stimulant foods such as sugar and caffeine. It can even contribute to annoying digestive discomforts like reflux, heartburn, gas and bloating.
Scheduling time in your day to “rest and digest” is important, and it’s easier than you might think. This shift allows your body and brain to slow down, calm your mood and regulate the enzymes and hormones that help your body digest and absorb the nutrients in your food.
Food digestion begins when you first look at or smell the food sitting on the plate in front of you. That’s when the hormones in your brain send signals to your stomach that food is coming. It’s this important step that is missing in many people’s digestive process today.
When you’re eating on the run, your body is in a state of “fight or flight.” Biologically, this means your body moves blood from your digestive organs to your extremities and creates a lack of communication between the brain and the digestive process. This may work in your favor if you’re fighting off a saber-toothed tiger, but it works against you when it comes to digesting your food and absorbing nutrients. Today, it’s your busy work and family life that creates this type of response, and if not addressed, it can start a vicious cycle that can eventually lead to fewer nutrients, less energy, more craving and even other more serious health issues.
This means you need to take the age-old phrase, “You are what you eat,” and change it to, “you are what you optimally digest.”
Here’s a few quick tips to help you move out of fight or flight and into a state of rest and digest:
Set aside a minimum of 20 minutes for your meals. If you feel stressed or rushed, take a five-minute walk, and take a few slow, deep breaths to relax your body. Take advantage of a good laugh with a friend or colleague or read a funny joke. These strategies reduce stress and can greatly improve digestion. A bonus tip on getting the most out of your food: make a conscious effort to chew each bite more than usual. Digestion starts in your mouth, and not chewing or salivating impacts this step greatly.
You may already focus on what you’re eating, but this week, focus on how you’re eating. Make sure to work on moving into a more relaxed state for meals. This will promote better digestion so you can get the most out of your food and feel better, look better and have more energy.
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.