What’s the single biggest thing that impacts your health?
Stress. Real or perceived threats.
And all forms of stress, whether it be from an argument with a significant other or co-worker, an injury sustained from an accident, the neighbor’s relentlessly barking dog, an empty bank account with a stack of bills to pay, or the trials of parenthood, affect the physiology of the body.
Let’s say a lion crosses your path or someone tries to steal your wallet. A stress response in either of these situations would absolutely be beneficial. In situations like these, there is often no time to think and you need an automatic response.
Under stress, your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases, adrenaline and cortisol hormones are released, and blood is routed away from the brain and into the muscles of the arms and legs. You are biologically hard-wired to take one of three actions under stress: flight, fight, or freeze.
The problem is your body can’t tell the difference between the sources of stress. To the body, almost being eaten up by a lion is equal to your boss finding out you’re late for work. Either way the level of stress you experience can be the same.
Now, imagine that you just ate lunch and your digestion is in full gear. Then suddenly you get into an argument with your significant other. You are stressed and all the blood that was aiding your digestive system now races to your muscles so you can fight or flee as needed.
When the body is stressed it goes into survival mode and digestion shuts down.
What this means for you is that even if you’re eating healthy foods and doing things like yoga, you won’t get the full benefit of all those nutrients or exercise if you’re racing to class or scarfing down your food under stress. The body never receives the nutrients it needs to function properly, and you may end up hungry much sooner than you may have expected.
Plus there are many other consequences of stress.
- Increased cortisol production, which can lead to weight gain in the belly and difficulty releasing weight.
- Decreased nutrient absorption due to reduced enzyme production and reduced oxygenated blood flow to the digestive organs.
- Decrease in nutrient absorption due to high excretions of valuable vitamins and minerals.
- Increased salt retention, which can lead to increased blood pressure.
- Increased insulin resistance, resulting in weight gain and/or diabetes and heart disease.
- Decrease in sex hormones which can cause lower sex drive, less energy, and decreased muscle mass.
- And many others.
Here’s the bottom line:
- If you want to boost your metabolic power by 30 to 40%, slow down and get into a relaxed state before you begin your meal.
- One of the best things you can do is take five to 10 slow, deep breaths before meals.
- When you eat, make it pleasurable. Focus your attention on the aromas, the flavors, and the beauty of the food you are eating.
Who would have thought that by simply being present with and for your meal, you could significantly improve your nutritional status?