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Mindful Mealtime | How to make your diet a spiritual practice

Posted on February 07, 2018 by LBOR Team

Meet Wendy Weeks

Wendy Weeks is a RYT 200 registered yoga instructor that lives and practices in Denver, Colorado. She created Bends and Bites with the intention of inspiring through wholesome nutrition choices and ingredients.  Always willing to share her love and knowledge of yoga. She has always been fascinated by food and its capability to change the human body - both good and bad. She believes in nourishing our bodies with whole, organic, thoughtful and nourishing foods.

Mindfulness & Digestion

Mealtime isn’t something that most people think to be “mindful” about. Who has time to sit and eat without distractions three or more times per day? Turns out, we do a real disservice to our bodies if we don’t.

Did you know: digestion isn’t only about what you eat but how you eat it? Most people eat quickly, distracted or on the go, which minimizes the body’s ability to digest the nutrients consumed. Eating quickly and without intention encourages nutrients to sail through the digestive tract without proper breakdown or utilization.

As practiced in yoga and meditation, focusing inward instead of on what’s happening around us allows the body and mind to find peace. This intentional focus shifts our nervous system from a sympathetic state of “fight or flight” to a parasympathetic state of “rest and digest.” It’s not called “rest and digest” for nothing! For many of us, our days include many different types of stress – traffic, a quick breakfast, work meetings, a jam-packed schedule, financial worries, etc. – and when we experience stress consistently, we become trapped in a chronic sympathetic state.

From an ancestral point of view, humans only experienced significant stress when faced with life-threatening situations like the sudden need to run from a vicious animal. Although our stressors have shifted over time, our reaction to them has not. Our adrenal glands pump cortisol and epinephrine in stressful situations, which shift the priority of the body from relaxation with the ability to digest to a state where digestion comes last. These two hormones can be lifesavers, but when we’re consistently in a state of stress they can wreak havoc on the digestive, nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Being in a state of “fight or flight” instead of “rest and digest” while eating suppresses the secretion of digestive enzymes, which are essential for the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Lack of nourishment can lead to sugar cravings and when appeased, can lead to further hormonal imbalances, weight management issues and put a damper on your overall emotional and mental wellbeing.

Long story short: in order to digest, we cannot be running around like a chicken with our head cut off, so to speak. We can’t be stuffing our mouth with food as we fight rush hour traffic. It’s essential that we drop into a parasympathetic state prior to eating. All it takes is 30-60 seconds of disciplined conscious breathing and the willingness to enjoy our food through all five senses in order to show our bodies some love. Give it a try with the step-by-step process below!

Getting the most out of your food

    1. Ditch distractions (TV, phone, work, etc.)

    2. Keep your brain gently entertained with a relaxing music playlist or good conversation instead of silence. Silence makes it more tempting to reach for distractions!

    3. Before taking your first bite, ground down:
               -Root into your seat
              -Grow tall through the crown of your head
              -Release tension in your shoulders by melting them away from your ears
              -Close your eyes and lips
              -Inhale through your nose to the count of 5
              -Exhale through your nose to the count of 5
              -Repeat 4-5 times
              -Open your eyes
              -Explore the beautiful aromas and colors of your food for a few seconds
              -Express gratitude (even just a “thank you” out loud) for your meal
        1. Chew! Aim for 20-30 bites per mouthful. Chewing stimulates the secretion of saliva, which helps break down food and initiates the secretion of digestive juices.
        2. Put your fork down between bites
        3. Enjoy!

        Digestion is so much more than getting food into the stomach and relying on the body to do the rest. In order to utilize nutrients, we need to be intentional about mealtime and evoke all five senses. Although following this exact sequence isn’t always realistic, I encourage you to give one or two a try at every meal. You may be surprised to experience more energy, less discomfort and less stress – especially at mealtime!

        Find Wendy's recipes here.

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