As a society, it is fair to say that we are pretty weight obsessed. The U.S. weight loss market totaled $64 billion in 2014, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a research firm that tracks the industry.1 We obsessively count calories, eat boring, so called “healthy” food and are always on the lookout for the next fitness craze. Not to mention all the weight loss supplements on the market, yet the obesity rates are skyrocketing.
With all the things we do in an effort to “speed up” our metabolism and lose weight, we most likely have overlooked the simplest and best way to promote optimum metabolism…just slow down! In today’s modern world, we are constantly on the go and in many respects society prides itself on our fast paced lifestyle. It often feels like a competition to see who is the busiest and who can multi-task the most. If you are like me, you eat your lunch at your desk, all while checking email or surfing the web. Or maybe grabbing a few bites of food as you are chasing your kids around the house.
Life is inherently stressful and our bodies are designed to deal with periods of stress. When we are exposed to a threat, there is an automatic chain of chemical and physiological reactions that are set off. This is called the “Fight or Flight” response or the stress response. In a stress response, our adrenals release hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, which increases our breathing and heart rate, pumping oxygen and glucose to our muscles so we can get away from the threat, while other less vital functions decrease in activity (i.e. digestion).2 After all, are we really focused on digesting our lunch when we are being chased by a bear? Once we get away from the threat, we return to a period of relaxation, which allows our body to recover and replenish. However, all this daily go-go-go actually puts the body in a constant, low level state of stress, often without the benefit of a relaxation phase, which can have detrimental long term effects on the body.
If you believe all the TV ads, there are tons of products out there to speed up your metabolism and control appetite. However, many of the things we are doing are actually having the opposite effect. We kill ourselves with punishing exercise, which often adds even more unnecessary stress to the body or we hype up on caffeine and other stimulants. One of the best things we can do for our body to promote optimal digestion and calorie burning is to find ways to reduce stress, slow down and relax. I know “easier said than done,” but there are a few simple things you can do:
Before you begin a meal, take 8-10 deeps breaths. Breathing is a quick and easy way to slow down the body and to quickly promote relaxation. Relaxation puts the body in a state where optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients happens.
Slow Down and Listen to Your Body
How many of us mindlessly eat? I know so many people who literally shovel a sandwich and chips in their mouth at lunch in under 5 minutes and then they wonder why an hour later they are still hungry. Your mind did not even notice you ate! Not to mention the fact that you will likely eat past the point of being full. It takes your body about 20 minutes before your stomach registers the feeling of being full.3 Take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. Really tune into how your body feels and when you start to feel full.
Many of us love to multitask, especially when eating. Next time you sit down to eat, make the meal the main event. Turn off the TV, stop reading emails and actually enjoy your meal. Limiting your distractions while eating not only helps you to be present, but also many of those distractions are inherently stressful. Food should be pleasurable and pleasure promotes relaxation, which in turn supports optimal metabolism.