These days life is moving faster than ever. You’re typing on your laptop, talking to someone on the phone, while having a secondary conversation with someone else physically right in front of you.
Stress has become part of the everyday routine. Most people just ignore stress and keep going because they’ve got a to-do list that is a mile long and important appointments to keep. What they don’t realize is that, whether they ignore it or not, stress has a direct affect on your body and specifically, your metabolism.
Stress and Your Body
Your central nervous system functions on two different levels—sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight” response, is characterized by quickened breath, pulse, and heart rate, cued by the rapid release of the stress hormone. When you are running around in fast-forward and your day is a blur, you are functioning in this state.
The parasympathetic nervous system, or “tend or befriend” response, is characterized by slow heart rate, calm, deep breathing, circulation to the organs in the core of the body, and feel-good hormones like oxytocin, nicknamed the “love hormone” flooding through you.
When the parasympathetic branch is active, your body as a system is in a state of equilibrium and relaxation.
As you might imagine, your body is much happier and functions at optimal levels when this branch is active. When you spend your days with the sympathetic branch active, digestion can get sluggish or even shut down.
Why does the body do this? Imagine being chased by someone or something in a typical fight or flight scenario. You wouldn’t want your body to be using up precious energy with silly tasks like digestion when you need that energy for things like survival!
So, if you are constantly eating on the run or while distracted, you could eat the healthiest food in the world but your body may have serious issues digesting it and properly processing the nutrients.
Your body isn’t built to operate in this state of stress on an ongoing basis. Your system gets all out of whack—your hormones are erratic, you don’t sleep well, you have major mood swings… and your metabolism slows way down. This is the state of being that causes not only weight gain, but also disease.
Bringing Your Body (And Your Metabolism) Back Into Balance
Any action that brings you a feeling of joy helps to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and as a result, gets your whole body communicating once again. When you slow down, breathe deeply, take a walk, meditate, exercise, laugh, play… you activate the parasympathetic branch.
And if you really want to kick your metabolism into high gear, stop multitasking while you eat. When you remove all distractions (like technology) from your eating practice and you slow down and pay attention while you eat, you allow your body to relax and prepare for the meal.
In other words, this flips all the digestion switches on, so you’re “all systems go” and your body can do what it’s made to do.
By eating in a relaxed state, your nervous system, endocrine system, immune system, and the neuropeptide network in your body will all function at optimal levels, which allows your metabolism to burn mega calories as well.
Further, your body will be better able to break down nutrients for maximum absorb too. Being present as you eat fully engages all parts of the process of digestion. Have you ever felt your taste buds activating when you smelled or looked at yummy food? That’s the beginning stages of digestion!
Things like saliva, gastric acids and enzymes, blood rushing to the digestive organs, your stomach, and intestines… all of these need to be turned on in order for digestion to go smoothly. If you are rushing through meals and are not fully engaged in eating, this doesn’t happen and your body can’t prep for the incoming food. This is where indigestion, bloat, and gassiness come in.
Your body is an amazing machine and it can do some pretty miraculous things, but in order for that to happen, you’ve got to do your part. That begins with kicking your self-sabotaging habits to the curb and building, new supportive ones!