March 17, 2014

We Are How (Not Just What) We Eat. ~ Hannah Brantley

eating and biking

The phrase “you are what you eat” is just the beginning of abundant health.

We are reminded through television, books, magazines and articles that there are “10 foods you should be eating daily.” What we’re missing is not just what we are ingesting, but how.

I will be the first to admit that I am the type who eats while thinking about eating seconds. I grew up eating fast so I could make it back for a second helping before my three brothers ate everything.

While having an overwhelming infatuation with food, I wasn’t slowing down to be enamored with the sensual quality of food.

Elevating gratitude and being cognizant of where our food comes from is the first step in how we eat for optimal health. Cultivating thankfulness allows our brain to focus on the food we are eating, creating a more fulfilling, pleasurable experience.

When we are watching television or standing over the kitchen sink, our brain never receives the satisfaction of eating, which is why we overeat and crave sugar immediately following meals.

Do you ever feel full and bloated, yet hungry at the same time?

This is your body letting you know you are deficient. It is trying to get the nutrients it desperately needs, so your gut smartly communicates with your brain to turn on the hungry signal. This could merely be a pleasure deficiency. As humans, food is something that is meant to bring bursts of pleasure throughout our day.

When we don’t receive this form of pleasure, our brain still continues to seek it.

Not only are we fulfilling the pleasure center in our brain when we focus on what we are eating, we are also fueling it with vital minerals and nutrients that allow it to think clearly and stay on task, instead of constantly being distracted by food.

To obtain maximum nutrient absorption from food, we must chew, chew, chew. Nothing new, right?

Many nutrients are stored behind a plant’s cell wall, which is only obtainable through mechanical breakdown: chewing. Our stomach enzymes are not strong enough to penetrate the tough cell wall to reach the essential nutrients behind it. Grains are also important to chew well because humans only contain the enzyme amylase—which breaks down grains and carbohydrates—within our mouths.

This is why we have a hard and uncomfortable time digesting most grains: our stomachs are not well equipped for them.

Fatigue is also a common symptom of fast overeating. When we overburden our digestion so quickly, all of our energy focuses on breaking down those tough, large particles that have barely met our teeth.

When we put our fork down, and savor every bite, we will know what the term “revived” and “rejuvenated” after meals truly means.

In our hurried culture, under-chewing has led to an epidemic within our stomachs called “leaky gut.” You have probably heard this phrase tossed around, and it was a veritable diagnosis for many mysterious stomach disorders. Leaky gut occurs when particles that have not been digested into their simplest form are leaked through the gut into the blood stream. Our blood cells see a large particle that they do not recognize, and begin attacking the invader, creating an immune response.

We are overwhelming our digestion with a task it was not meant to do. We casually throw away many critical nutrients by hurriedly wolfing down our meals.

Chronic stress is also a hefty burden for our sensitive digestion, especially partnered with the amount of antibiotics present in our current health system. We have taught our bodies to reside in a sympathetic (stressed) state, as opposed to a parasympathetic (relaxed, calm) state.

Imagine yourself in a very stressful situation, say running from enemy spies. Your body is pumping out adrenaline and cortisol to help you strategically maneuver away from your enemies. The last thing it is focused on is digestion. This is how we treat our bodies every day with high stress jobs and lifestyles-with chronic stress that repeatedly skews our bodie’s natural rhythm.

The main thing to remember is that our bodies can heal, and they want to heal.

However, we must supply it with the necessary tools to do so. Slowing down, chewing, and relaxing while eating a meal is free and a readily available tool whenever you wish.


Relephant Reads:

Emotional Eating: 3 Steps to a Binge-Free Life

Dangerous Thoughts Lead to Dangerous Eating

Foods That Will Lower Your Anxiety Levels


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: WarmSleepy/Flickr

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Hannah Brantley