Now, most people think of good nutrition as kind of a numbers game, meaning that, if you have the right amount of nutrients, and if you avoid certain junk foods or toxins, and if you cut calories, then you’ll have the best chance of greater nutritional health. And there is truth to this. But what I want to suggest is that WHAT you eat is only HALF of the equation, that there is more to the story of good nutrition. And the other half of the story is HOW we eat, meaning your thoughts, your emotional state, your level of stress when you eat, and the level of attention that you are bringing to each meal.
Now, why is it true that how you eat is so important? The most important thing I can do for my clients is to help them reduce and/or cope better with stress.
The negative effects of stress on the body are numerous, including an increase in inflammation, increased food sensitivities and allergies, increase in insulin resistance... just to name a few. And eating during stress will generally lead to digestive upset, decreased nutrient assimilation, and unwanted fat storage which leads to weight gain.
There are four main ways that you can experience stress. So, it might be…
Biological and chemical (in the processes of the body)
Mental or emotional (in our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings)
Spiritual (whether we feel connected or not to something greater than ourselves)
Structural (in our bones or muscles)
Let’s get a little science-y for a minute…
The branch of the Central Nervous System (CNS) that most influences the gastrointestinal function is called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is responsible for stimulating the digestive process.
There are two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System:
The parasympathetic, which relaxes the body and turns on digestion
The sympathetic, which turns off digestion when there is no food in your belly or when you’re in fight-or-flight stress response.
It might be helpful to think of these two parts of the nervous system sort of like on/off switches. Simply put, the same part of our brain that turns ON stress, turns OFF digestion. And conversely, the part of the brain that turns ON the relaxation response, turns ON full health digestive power. So, eating healthy food is only part of the equation of good nutrition. Being in the ideal state to assimilate and digest it is the other crucial part.
Eating during stress (sympathetic nervous system dominance) will generally lead to digestive upset, decreased nutrient assimilation, and unwanted fat storage which leads to weight gain.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, the relaxation response turns on and healthy digestion, assimilation and calorie-burning capacity is amplified.
The bottom line: Switch from eating in a state of stress to slowing down, savoring, enjoying, and making eating its own activity.
You can make huge strides in all sorts of health conditions if you can transform HOW you eat. Often, even more so than changing WHAT you eat.
There are seven strategies for getting into the parasympathetic relaxation state before eating. We call these “The Famous Secret Seven.” These seven steps are the easiest, cheapest fixes for resolving digestive issues, for increasing weight loss, for gaining energy, for dealing with a host of health issues. And it's one of the most effective ways to ease into dietary changes. Because - let's be honest - not everybody is super psyched about changing their diet.
Here is something that you will want to keep in mind as you are learning these – It is scientifically impossible for the body to release weight or heal when it is under a stress response.
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