Conscious Eating: "Fight or Flight" vs "Rest and Digest"


“Flight or Fight”

When we eat in a disturbed or busy environment, on the run, driving, or when we’re stressed, angry, or upset, we cannot adequately digest our food and receive the most nutritionally from our meal!   When we’re in these states of stress our Sympathetic Nervous System is stimulated, which is responsible for the famous “flight or fight response.”  In this state our digestive powers are subdued, as our body goes into survival-mode, and a cascade of hormones are released, including large amounts of adrenaline (also known as epinephrine).  Your body is less concerned with digesting food than it is surviving the perceived threat that started the response in the first place! 

These days it's more often mental and emotional stressors than it is running from a predator, but the reaction in our body is the same.  The smooth muscles in our respiratory system relax (think deep breathing aka ability to “run from the enemy!”) and the smooth muscles in the rest of our body constrict (so, not much digestive enzyme secretion happening). And instead of releasing bile to the gall bladder, our liver begins breaking-down glucose to give us the energy we need to get away from the perceived danger.  Most blood-flow gets diverted from our digestive organs and into our muscles and the brain.

“Rest & Digest”

Our Parasympathetic Nervous System is in charge of the “rest and digest” state, which is a relaxed state in which healing and tissue repair, digestion, and elimination occur.  Getting into this state takes more time than it does entering an Sympathetic Nervous System “flight or fight” state, since it’s not an emergency!  But engaging with some of the following practices, and adopting the idea of "conscious eating" around mealtimes will help greatly. Additionally, adding calming activities to your life in general and decreasing stress will of course help!

Conscious Eating-   

Promoting relaxation and calm around your daily nourishment

·        Dim the lights

·        Light a candle

·        Put on calming music

·        Take a moment of thanks before eating

·        Take a moment to inhale the wonderful aromas coming from your food

·        Always have a beautiful centerpiece to look at while you eat

·        Eat in the company of loved ones

·        Prepare your food with love

·        If you have young kids feed them first, then eat a nice dinner after they’re in bed!

·        Set aside time for meals in your day

·        Focus on your meal while you’re eating- no computer, tv, texting, reading, etc

·        Chew your food very well- take your time!  And of course, enjoy it!



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