Eating in the right frame of mind

Our 24/7 culture has us burning the midnight oil and eating on the run.  There are the demands of our work, our families and other responsibilities that keep us moving at warp speed.  Yet despite this go, go lifestyle, there are those of us who are disappointed that our metabolism isn’t keeping pace with our super active lifestyle or our revved up drive.  We’re putting on weight.

It’s difficult to know what to eat these days.  What kind of food is best for eating on the run?  A busy schedule?  There’s so much conflicting advice that it’s no wonder we get fed up and give up on eating healthier before we’ve even begun.

The problem is that when we wolf down our food, grab something to eat on the go or peck at our food or graze throughout the day we’re eating under stress.  In fact, even if we’re not racing around all day and we’re simply stewing about something or we’re anxious or worried, the state of being in stress will affect our digestion.

The way to speed up our metabolism is to slow down our eating.  It may seem counterintuitive but here’s why it works:

When a person is experiencing stress (anxiety, worry) the body will kick into its fight or flight response automatically.  Back in cavemen days, this response was used to fend off wild beasts, survive natural disasters or flee speedily from dangerous attackers and so on.  While in this state, the caveman’s blood pressure would rise, his heart would pound faster, his breathing rate would quicken and his body would release hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol in order to give him the needed energy boost to deal with his situation.

And while his blood supply was being shifted from his midsection to his head (for faster thinking) and to his extremities (for added power to flee or fight), his digestive system turned off.  And this makes sense.  When in survival mode, your body isn’t going to want to waste energy digesting food.

Today when your brain detects stress (demands, experiencing anger or hurt or pressures, certain memories, fear, almost anything), your body will go into fight or flight mode because it’s programmed to do so by evolution.  Your body cannot differentiate between a real threat such as an imminent attack by a lion and an imagined threat (perceiving threats in situations that aren’t really there).

Nevertheless, your body will shut down your digestive system to some degree.  And it may take minutes or hours for your digestive system to reset to normal functioning.

When you’re stressed, the sympathetic nervous system will shut down your digestive processes and when your body is relaxed, the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system will restore your digestive abilities.

Basically, when you’re in a relaxed frame of mind, you will be able to eat more and lose weight simply because you’re eating and assimilating your food in a relaxed and pleasure-oriented state of mind.

I remember eating at a small restaurant in Chartres, France, on vacation one summer with my family.  There were four us at our table and at the only other table or I should say tables that were moved together was a party of about 14.  They were laughing and clinking their wine glasses, and I remember thinking they must be celebrating an important event.  I was sure our waiter was planning on serving them a birthday cake, and I was wondering if the waiter would sing Happy Birthday when the cake was brought out.  No cake was served, and I asked the waiter if he knew what the group was celebrating.  He explained to me that they were friends who lived in the neighborhood and they got together weekly for dinner in his restaurant.  When we left, the gathering of friends was still going on and I thought how lovely it would be to spend frequent carefree summer nights dining with a large number of friends in such a manner.

There are numerous books written about the French and how they stay thin.  Their manner of dining in a relaxed and pleasurable fashion is something to emulate if you want to enhance your body’s ability to burn calories and metabolize stored fat.

Remember that rushing, worrying and stressing over what you eat actually produces the stress that will cause you to put on more fat and store it due to your diminished metabolism.

So gather your friends, enjoy a leisurely meal together, feed yourself fully with a glorious dining experience and celebrate all the good in your life.

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