Right now, we have very little control over what is going on in the world, but we do have control over WHAT we eat and HOW we eat.
Did you know that you could eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you eat in a stressed out, anxious state, your digestion is dramatically diminished?
When moving through life too fast we inevitably eat fast, which destroys our metabolism and creates digestive upset. It results in meals eaten under a physiologic stress- response, which diminishes our calorie-burning power.
Do you often eat at your desk and work at the same time without taking a lunch break? Or eat while on the go? Unfortunately many of us do, but there’s a simple connection between stress and metabolism that should slow you down!
Stress and Metabolism
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for digestive activity. There are two branches: The Parasympathetic and the Sympathetic.
The Parasympathetic is also known as the rest and digest response. This is the optimal state for digestion. When the parasympathetic is activated our metabolic power goes up.
The Sympathetic is also known as fight or flight. This is our stress response. When we are stressed out, our digestion shuts down. The classic textbook example is that if a lion was chasing you after lunch you wouldn’t be concerned about digesting your sandwich. The sympathetic nervous system would act effectively to shut down digestion, direct blood flow away from the belly and out to your arms and legs for quick moving and up to your brain for quick thinking.
This is a brilliant mechanism in place for our survival. While most of us do not have to confront lions on our lunch hour, we do encounter stress. On a physiological level your body doesn’t differentiate between a lion chasing you and your boss yelling at you, responding to a stressful work email or getting tense in a traffic jam. One is life threatening the other is not, but guess what…on a physiological level they are the same, they both trigger the body to shut off digestion and store fat. This decreases our metabolic power.
You may have heard of a hormone called cortisol. This is the hormone that is released when we are stressed out. Studies show that increased cortisol in the system leads to fat accumulation.
People who tend to gain weight primarily around the belly, likely experience chronic low -level stress, as excess cortisol production has this strange effect of fattening up the belly. Make sense?
I’m guessing for many of you, your work environment has changed in the past few weeks and you are now working from home.
3 Tips for Lower Cortisol Levels
So here are 3 tips to help you decrease the amount of cortisol that is released in your body so you can stress less and boost your metabolism:
Tip 1: Schedule into your work calendar consistent meal times. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (aim for 20-30 minutes). If all you have is 10 minutes, that is fine. 10 is better than 0!
Why? Slowing down and taking a break to eat an actual meal will help prevent you from eating random junk in your fridge. It will also prevent the all out binge if you have gone hours and hours without having a proper meal and are shoving anything in your mouth because you are starving.
Tip 2: Move away from your workspace to eat. Shut the computer and put your phone in a different room. Get a magazine or listen to music. JUST EAT.
Why? Multi-tasking during a meal feeds into the stress response.
Tip 3: Eat SLOWLY to honor hunger and fullness. Eat when you start to get hungry, not “hangry,” and you feel like you could eat a horse. Stop when you feel full- not completely stuffed where you have to unbutton your pants. Set a timer for yourself and gift yourself some time to eat and RELAX.
Why? The slower you eat the faster you metabolize. The more relaxed you are throughout the day then the more energy you will have.
So the next time you are shoveling food in your mouth while on the go, reading or sending email, remind yourself that the body cannot take in nutrients and the metabolism slows down.
Not to mention, by taking a lunch break, you relax, clear your head, and you can come back to work more energized and more productive versus feeling sluggish and run down.
This week, I challenge you to take a lunch break! You deserve it. You are worthy of a lunch break. Everyone around you will thank you for it.
You can’t show up well for others, when you yourself are depleted.
If you have little ones running around, ask for help so you can get a break.
I was recently had the pleasure of working with a client who had a major breakthrough after her “Stress and Metabolism” session. When she was intentional about changing her lunch routine by moving away from her workspace during her lunch break and eating in a separate space, she noticed that slowing down and allowing herself to relax without multitasking had huge effects on how she felt. She stated, “I was able to appreciate the nourishment, notice when I was full, feel good, and I also started noticing changes in my body.”
I absolutely love helping people find ways to slow down in the midst of their busy lives, gain more energy, with an un-diet mindfulness approach to food and life. I help them create a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and themselves by nixing many of the negative inner self-chatter and replace it with a more positive approach.
Often times, we know what to do, but we don’t always do it. That is where I come in. I am someone to be that extra accountability and support to help you follow through for yourself in a way you have never done before. Through 12 one-on-one sessions (over the phone or zoom) we can work on small steps that can lead to big changes!
One new healthy habit can change your life!