We all seem to know what to eat to be healthy, but many miss the big picture – the lifestyle around healthy eating.
I wanted to explain that the emphasis on eating healthy is good, but if you are not eating in a relaxed environment, understanding false advertising in ‘healthy products’, and not getting enough sleep, or creating boundaries all this ‘healthy eating’ may lead to disappointing outcomes.
Let me explain:
We have two types of nervous systems:
Sympathetic – Fight and Flight (directs the body’s rapid involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations.)
Parasympathetic – Rest and Digest (decreases respiration and heart rate and increases digestion.)
You can only have one on at a time, like a light switch, meaning if you are stressed or angry you can not digest food.
Having the best ‘healthy diet’ cutting out all sugar and processed foods is one step, but we tend to forget about when and how we are eating!
We can eat low fat or low carbohydrates, we can have exact amount of protein, our plates could be filled with colours of the rainbow, but if you:
- Eat in a stressed state
- Eat on the run
- Eat when angry or distracted
- Wearing toxic products
- Eating highly processed foods
- Not chewing food
All of these, plus other things alike, trigger a stress response, placing you in a sympathetic state – no absorption of nutrients will be done here.
If we stay up all night in front of screens, be it work or Netflix, we disrupt our circadian rhythm (natural internal clock) that helps us to go to sleep, stay asleep, wake naturally, digest food and resist food.
If we continually have artificial lights on and wake to screaming alarms our body has no idea what time of day it is and again all the healthiest choices become null and void due to cortisol levels being up when they should be down, and when cortisol is up, digestion is not happening, or in limited levels.
If we do not have the right amount of sleep we do not rinse out toxins in our body that happens in our night cycle. Storing more toxins leads to more inflammation in the body which is a stress on the cells and body.
Not allowing the body to rest and repair, to grow more lean muscle to help improve our metabolic rate – no matter how much time you spend in the gym – it won’t help to grow muscle if not resting.
There are so many forms of stress and we will never be stress free, we were meant to stress to help alarm us when we are in danger, to run faster and to react in a way to save ourselves.
Now we live in an alert state all the time with our current lifestyles of social media and instant notifications, emails, remote learning, processed foods, less sleep and toxic products.
These all affect our sympathetic nervous system, and whilst many
- eat while working at their desks
- eat in the car on the way to meetings or events
- eat late at night
- or eat directly after intense workoutAll of these eating situations are unhealthy, no matter how nutrient dense your meal is.
When your body is trying to keep you alive it’s natural actions are:
- Blood thickens
- Bowels loosen
- Immune system shuts down
- Digestion stops
So when food is entering into your stomach your body ignores this while it’s on alert to help keep your body safe.
Please realise that as much as healthy eating is a great focus to have, so is the situation you are in when eating, and this also applies to not being obsessed by every gram of food you consume.
Creating boundaries to when you eat:
- not at your desk,
- not late at night,
- not gulping but chewing is the first step.
THEN start to focus on what you are eating, enjoying what you eat, and taking your time to chew and taste your food.
Exercise and movement is a part of healthy eating.
Eating then exercising straight afterward can cause gut disturbances and lack of digestion, so too can eating straight after intense workout when the body is still in sympathetic mode (heart rate is up and directing blood to the muscles).
COACH’S TIP: After a workout and before you eat, take some deep belly breaths to signal to the body that you are ok and it’s time to rest and digest. Same goes before every meal.
If you’d like more help with your health journey contact me
Here’s another good tip to help your hydration.