Have you considered the profound influence the mind has on the body when it comes to eating food? When I was younger I wondered why I felt so good on vacation. I could eat whatever I wanted and not have a bit of a tummy ache. And yet when I came home to the stressful routine of a single mom, my tummy was in knots and I frequently ended up with a stomachache after meals, unable to metabolize my food efficiently.
Stress is an obstacle in all of our lives. Have you experienced your appetite being off when you were under stress? Perhaps you felt confused about what to eat. You may have over eaten, or found yourself eating comfort foods. Most of us are aware of the correlation between stress and the increase in cortisol and insulin, which effects weight gain and fat storage. How about the unhealthy bacteria stress can create in the gut which leads to food allergies and potentially increases unhealthy cholesterol levels? And there are many more bodily symptoms associated with stress.
So what happens to food in the belly when we are in stress mode? Research has revealed that stress has a great influence on digesting food. Here are some helpful tips to use when eating to reduce stress in your mind and body:
- Take a belly breath
Breathe into your belly when you first sit down at the table. This simple method clears the mind and relaxes the body prior to eating. The first time I used the belly breath before eating, my stomach tension went away instantly and my stomach remained relaxed throughout the meal.
- For the first mouthful: feel gratitude
When taking your first mouthful of food, take a pause feeling gratitude for your food. Gratitude naturally opens the heart, and begins relaxing your digestive system. When the focus is on gratitude, the worries of the mind dissolve, releasing tension in the body.
- For the second mouthful: try mindful chewing and tasting
I love this practice! Take a bite and chew, focusing on the flavor of your food. You may find yourself savoring your food as you enjoy the taste. This is truly joyful eating.
- For the third mouthful: feel it in your belly
Take a moment to focus on your happy belly. (You may place your hand on your belly to help you focus your attention.) You have taken the food in your mouth, mindfully chewed and tasted your
food, and now it is in your stomach ready to be digested. Enjoy your food and conversation. Your body will take it from here.
- Use an affirmation to assimilate your food
Here is an affirmation you can use after dinner: “My belly is relaxed and I am assimilating my food. My belly is happy!” You can use this affirmation or create your own. The affirmation “seals the deal” in your brain and body, and assists in creating a new, healthy mind-body nutrition connection.
Also, should the table conversation become heated or negative, kindly but firmly redirect the conversation. I remember my son at the dinner table wanting to talk about a horror movie or politics. Without saying, “let’s change the subject” I simply changed the subject by saying something positive with a happy tone. Our family also agreed to no texting, answering calls, watching TV or reading when eating. The body doesn’t like to multitask when it comes to eating. For the best digestion and assimilation, we must create a happy environment without a lot of confusion or distractions.
For all my child-rearing years, we lit a candle during dinner, and then one of the kids would make a wish and blow out the candle. What a pleasure it was to partake in a simple dinner ritual, and to enjoy being present with our food and each other!
Even now as an empty-nester, I light a candle before eating. I enjoy my food, and then blow out the candle making a wish. My friends love coming over for a meal and to experience the ritual of eating. They always feel relaxed with a happy belly and good food. The greatest secret I have learned is how to be relaxed while eating and receiving my food in a happy state.
Besides making eating enjoyable, you may also try some general stress release techniques such as having an exercise routine, doing yoga, listening to relaxing music, meditation, soaking in the bathtub, or listening to an audio guided meditation. For more specific stress relief, you can breathe into the area of tension or pain three times, suggesting relaxation. You may also use an affirmation with the breath, such as “I am relaxing my stomach, and my digestion is at ease.”
When you first use the mind-body nutrition exercises, you will need to focus on the technique. However after a while, it will be an automatic program and seem quite natural. This easy method can make a profound change in your digestion and metabolism over time.
I encourage you to try one of these simple techniques to begin changing your mind-body nutrition connection to support efficient metabolism and optimal nutrition in your body. Consider how one technique a day can change the chemistry of your brain and body, support vibrant health, create happiness, and maybe even reverse aging!
Karen has been an International Holistic Healer and Teacher for over 30 years providing Energy Healing Treatments, Craniosacral Therapy, Counseling, Nutritional Education, Wellness Programs, Yoga and Meditation Workshops. She supports women and men to heal, empower and return to wholeness!
Written by Karen Korona, M.S.
1703 W. Kettle Ave.
Littleton, CO 80120