Chronic Stress Part 2: Five approaches to eating to improve digestion and reduce stress.
I just spent an hour making dinner. It's one of my favorite new recipes, chipotle butternut squash and black bean tostadas. I've also made my favorite kale and strawberry salad. The meal checks all the boxes for me. It has plenty of vegetables, it's flavorful, and it's filling. Not only that, for my lunch the next day, I'll reheat a tostada and plop a fried egg on top. Delicious!
I set the table, since everyone's been in other parts of the house doing their thing. I'm fine with that, since I go into a meditative state when I cook, or sometimes I listen to podcasts or my music. I'll add one more thing: I'm sort of messy when I cook and my husband almost always cleans up after dinner. And we both want the kids to help more with the clen up. We agree on that point.
I call everyone to dinner and the first thing that happens is my husband states adamantly, "You kids are cleaning up tonight." Chaos ensues. My daughter has homework, my son already took out the garbage, plus he "always helps," and I get irritated because I just want everyone to enjoy the meal, especially me. Figure out the clean up later, after all, even if it's a mess, it doesn't take nearly as much time as making the meal.
And the worst part is that I know stress and conflict isn't good for digestion!
Last week, I shared that when a person is stressed, they are in a fight of flight mode, and whether there is actual danger, a source of immediate stress, or worry about the future, their body can’t properly digest food. Read more here. Oxygen and blood are diverted away from the gut and the body produces less saliva, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes.
So if you can form a habit of eating in a relaxed state, your digestion can improve, even before making any changes to what you are eating.
We can't necessarily control everything about mealtimes...obviously. My very, very soon plan is to sit down with all parties involved and try for some agreement around our family's approach to our dinners together. Or maybe they could just read my blog....
1. Make meals a problem free zone.
Sometimes leaving problems behind at mealtime can be difficult. As my kids have gotten older and all of our lives have gotten busier, sometimes mealtimes are the most significant amount of time we spend together. On one hand that’s all the more important to make it pleasant, but it can also end up being the time when we discuss, plans that need to be made, and what’s working or not working.
It can also be a time to discuss current world events, which can also be stressful. On one hand I appreciate that my teenage daughter is taking an active interest in world events and politics, but the passion and idealism she brings, isn’t always great for the digestion.
Finding a separate time to discuss family logistics and world events is helpful. Creating some kind of ritual around mealtimes is also helpful.
Our lives are all so busy, but if we can treat mealtime as a sacred time, whether we’re eating with others or by ourselves, it sends a message to our bodies. Try setting a nice table no matter what the meal. Plate your food in an aesthetically pleasing way to promote relaxation.
Creating a relaxing mealtime will positively impact your gut and the way you digest your food.
2. Be aware of your body
Pay attention to your body and it’s sensations as you eat. If we’re eating without connecting to our bodies, we can miss sensations, such as fullness.
There are many ways you can tune into your body while you’re eating.
Try paying attention to each bite of food you eat. Notice the flavor and texture of the food you’re eating. You may even try putting down your fork or spoon in between bites and fully chewing and swallowing before you take the next bite.
You can also take a few deep breaths before you eat or pay attention to your breath as you eat to create awareness and bring a feeling of relaxation or peace to your body.
3. Express gratitude for your food
Praying or blessing a meal has long been a part of religious traditions, but you don’t have to be religious to experience the benefits of expressing gratitude or giving thanks for the meal in front of you.
My favorite way to approach this is to express gratitude or awareness of where our food came from. Think about the earth it was grown in, the farmer’s that cared for it and picked it.
This is another reason to try and visit farmer’s markets it they are available to you, because this connection becomes stronger. Even better, if you grow some of your own food because you can recall the time spent gardening, which for many gardeners is a relaxing time.
4. Make mealtime a distraction free zone.
This one can be difficult, especially when eating meals alone or during the work day.
Try to make mealtime a work and technology free zone. Leave your workspace if at all possible, turn off phones and televisions. Taking time away, especially during the work day, can actually make you more productive later in the day. Looking at a screen, whether on your phone, computer, or television can cause tension which effects your digestion.
Give it a try, when you’re eating, just eat, even if you are sitting by yourself.
5. Eat in pleasant surroundings.
Set the scene for a pleasant, calming meal. Remove clutter from your table or counter. Experiment with playing relaxing music, or lighting a candle. If the weather is pleasant, eat outside. If you’re at work, is there a nearby park you could take your lunch to? Is there a coworker you could invite to have lunch with you?
If you live alone, is there a neighbor or friend that you could invite over for a meal?
If the meal I described at the beginning sounds appetizing (minus my family drama), click the links below for the recipes. I got them from my weekly meal plan service, but some of the contributors to the meal plan, have their own blogs, so you can get the recipes there!
Chipotle Butternut Squash Tostadas
Strawberry Kale Salad With Granola Croutons
Just remember, that while the actual food we eat is important, the way in which we approach mealtimes is at least as important if not more so.
Please share this article with anyone you think would enjoy this (or with your friends and family, hint, hint.)
Leave a Reply.
Click below to join my FREE Facebook Group-
Women's Wellness Circle: Create Your Extraordinary Life
Hi, I’m Crystal!
If you'd like to access my Farmer's Market Friday posts from 2018, click here!