Rushing has become our new norm. Life is crazy and slowing down to enjoy a meal is sometimes the last thing on our mind. In fact, more than 20% of all American meals are eaten in a car. Think about it, when was the last time you actually sat down, unplugged and savored a meal?
This constant state of rushing leaves our bodies distraught, and the truth is it contributes to a long-term chronic stress response which results in negative symptoms, disease and overall poor quality of life.
According to Marc David, author of The Slow Down Diet and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, the biochemical burden of stress will result the following changes in the body:
- Decreased nutrient absorption primarily due to decreased oxygenation and blood flow, decreased enzyme production in the stomach, pancreas and liver, and decreased bile flow from the gallbladder.
- Increased nutrient excretion due to urinary loss of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium and various other minerals.
- Increased blood cholesterol as stress all by itself will raise LDL levels.
- Increased cortisol which is associated with weight gain, abdominal obesity, inability to lose weight or gain muscle, and premature aging.
- Decreased gut flora populations as healthy intestinal bacteria are destroyed during stress leading to immune problems, skin disorders, nutrient deficiencies and digestive distress.
- Decreased thyroid hormone which can lead to a decrease in metabolic activity throughout the entire body.
- Increased insulin resistance as chronic low-level stress may cause cells to become unresponsive to insulin, a factor in diabetes, weight gain, heart disease and aging.
- Increased risk of osteoporosis as stress increases urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium and boron, all minerals necessary for bone strength.
- Decreased sex hormones resulting in low sex drive, low energy, decreased muscle mass.
- Increased inflammation which is the basis of many significant ailments, including brain and heart disease.
Yikes! That’s a lot to take in. The worst part, this is not even the full list! We hear all the time that stress is bad, but I bet you didn’t realize what stress really does biochemically inside the body.
Slowing down and focusing on eating our meals in a relaxed state will promote proper digestion and metabolic functioning, saving us from the long list of detrimental effects of stress. This simple change often results in weight loss, better sleep, lower blood pressure, decreased anxiety, improved mood and more.
I challenge you to begin to implement some lifestyle changes that will help you slow down.
- Add 5-10 minutes on to each meal time. Rearrange your daily schedule to make this a possibility – it is worth it.
- Unplug while eating. Actively choose not to answer phone calls, emails, or texts while you are enjoying your meal.
- Take 5 deep, slow breaths before taking your first bite of a meal.
- Find a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere to eat in. Do not eat in your car, at your desk or any other place that you associate with stress. If you must eat in a stressful place, try putting in your head phones with some calming music or a guided meditation (try Calm on your computer or phone).
- Pay attention to the texture, flavor and other details of your meal. This will help your brain focus in on eating and ease you into a more relaxed state prompting proper digestion.
- Find a “Slow Down Buddy” and work together on some of these ideas on how to slow down.
- Trust that the world can wait while you enjoy your meal – you deserve it!
People are always asking me what to eat, but the truth is, sometimes HOW you eat can have a much more profound effect on your health than WHAT you eat. For some people, just slowing down and reversing the chronic stress response is the most important part of healing.
Jessica Sullivan, LMSW, NTP, DBTC
David, Marc. The Slow Down Diet. Healing Arts Press, 2005.