Holistic Healing: Intuitive Eating & Digestion
What is intuitive eating and how does it affect my digestion and mood?
You hurriedly grab your baon bag (food-to-go) on your rushed way to work. You feel proud, last night you spent an extra five minutes stashing those tupperware with left over food and the greens you’ve been trying to avoid.
Work was about meetings, chatting to colleagues about the meeting, meeting deliverables and meeting your productivity goals for the day. You’ve met everyone’s expectations except your grumbling tummy.
Ay! Teka Muna (just a moment), you muttered to yourself.
Kain muna ako ( Let me eat first).
You warm up your tupperware you’ve used so much, the lid seemed like it belonged elsewhere. Can you relate?
As you return to your desk, you let go a sigh of relief and stuff your face while you still have time. You might surf the net, check your instagram feed and viola, before you know it, lunch is over.
Time to go back to work.
In our fast paced world where being productive and bullet journaling your efficiency progress can cause havoc to your digestion.
You certainly can multi-task while eating but it doesn’t mean YOU SHOULD.
Just because you know you ate, it doesn’t mean your digestive system had time to process this.
Our ancestors ate in a communal setting. Chewed their food before swallowing. Shared conversations with the group; took their time to savor each element of morsel in their mouth.
And, dessert? Thought you’ll ask. We know that honey was only available at a special time of the year for early humans. When it was available, they consume with gusto, returning back to the site frequently until it’s gone. (notice how they can only take so much & have to exert effort for more).
In our modern time, honey, a.k.a. sugary foods like cake, donut, bread are consumed all-year round. Nature, obviously didn’t ban dessert for human consumption but gave the message that it should be consumed sparingly.
Eating what feels good to eat while leaning into your instinct (like ancestors) is intuitive eating.
When modern times sway us into constant mindless movement, it’s possible that your brain didn’t register that you’re reaching out for that donut for the 3rd time today.
You’re reaching for what you think will boost your energy for more power to run on an empty fuel with…donuts.
Do you love donuts?
Don’t worry, this post isn’t about donuts but on how you and I rush to eat or eat to rush. And equally important, how giving your digestion space to maximize what it knows how to do, consequently, also benefiting your mental health.
MOOD AND DIGESTION
When there is mental illness, there is digestion dis-ease, Leslie Korn (2018). You don’t have to have a diagnosis to relate to this. We know that stress can slow down the digestive process. You can tell by reaching out for a cupcake (giving donut a break) after you just had a full meal.
In addition, stress can cause havoc in your digestive system causing hiccups, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea among others. We also know that stress exacerbates conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease & stomach ulcers.
Observe yourself when you’re in a “good” mood, how differently do you eat versus when you’re stressed or rushed at a minimum?
We eat with our brains and senses first rather than just the mechanical movement of the mouth chopping down food. Digestion involves being in a parasympathetic state (relaxed state) with these instruments as part of the choir: chewing, swallowing, esophagus, liver, stomach, intestines and the process of elimination.
The good news is you don’t have to worry about them playing a beautiful chorus; you just have to give them the stage to do so by slowing down.
CULTURE AND EATING INTUITIVELY
Many years ago, I had a Korean exchange student live with me and my husband for a year. I tenderly call him, “my Korean son.” Dinner was a time to catch up, chat about our day’s peaks and lows.
My husband and I enjoyed our foodversation (food and conversation) that sometimes last for an hour (pre-children). My Korean son had a difficult time eating & talking at the same time. I noticed him eating rapidly so he can join our conversation and curiously asked why.
He shared with me that growing up,his father rarely talked to him while eating. It gave him a message that mealtimes are for eating not for chit-chat. It was interesting during that year how we influenced each other. My Korean son ate so much faster and we ate slightly slower to meet each other’s pace. In total, one hour of sit down foodversation pivoted to about 40-45 minutes.
Cultural practice influence the way we perceive eating, it’s purpose and benefits. In the average Filipino household, there would be exchange of stories, of checking in or some may call this interrogation. But, whatever feelings it gave you, note that. Note what feelings this left you with when you think about mealtime memories.
Some children have been forced-fed and scared straight to eat what’s on their plate, these can leave imprints on our children without an alternate positive memory. Please give your children positive feelings & memories so they won’t have to spend months and years un-doing these negative imprints.
You can start this by learning the facets of intuitive eating & allowing your digestive system to assemble into a choir of instruments that play beautifully well.
In order for the digestive system to function properly, you need to be relaxed shortly before and while eating. There is a long standing association with stress and digestive-upset.
Here are some recommendations. Choose one or two that you can follow consistently and add more as you please.
- Write three things that you do that relaxes you. Choose one and do that 10 minutes before sitting down to eat. For example, you can stretch with your fav soothing music or peel an orange but pretend you’re teaching an alien how to do so….meaning, very slowly and explaining every inch of a movement.
- Remove yourself from your “work place.” Eat in places that induces relaxation rather than stress. I used to bring my baon and look for playground benches. The sight of children playing makes me relax. Are you into bento boxes? I enjoy them for myself & my children, it enforces food preparation as a craft. And, no, I don’t make elephant faces. At best, I use these bento molds when I have extra energy, otherwise, I prep and go.
- If you eat in a rush, try helping yourself to eat slowly with a use of a visual timer, this 30-minute timer helps you know how much more time you have rather than looking down at your watch every minute. The sand slowly moving is also meditative and can help induce relaxation.
- Employ rituals of communal eating, like giving thanks, blessing the food, & potlucks. This can induce relaxation and improve digestion. Make your dining place a sanctuary, I like these wooden utensil sets whenever I’m on the go or picnicking with the kids.
- Chew 50 times for each subo (spoonful into mouth) or until your food liquifies. This allow your senses, your brain and digestive workplace know you’ve clocked in.
- Place your spoon/fork down 15-30 seconds or more between bites. This HAPIFORK gadget takes the intuitive counting task so you can focus on your intuitive eating.
- Eat with less distractions as possible, no TV and put down your cellphone please. I find that reading can either slow me down or let me forget my intuitive eating intention. But, I found that when I pick up my book during chewing times when I place my fork down, it lengthens my subo interval. This is positive but when I don’t put my book down while putting food in my mouth, it shortens it.
- Breathe rhythmically while eating, natural deep breaths.
- Note that smoking, caffeine and alcohol consumption affects digestion as well. Reduce or eliminate if possible.
These recommendations are meant to slow you down, relax and allow the process of your parasympathetic system in your digestion to work as it should.
*Please consult your primary provider if you have medical condition or taking medications that can be counterintuitive with the above list.
As mentioned in another blog, what you do for your body, you do for your mind. What you do for your mind, you do for your body.
Digestion occurs in your relaxed state. Our modern society and your perception of productivity can wreck havoc on your digestion.
Rush is to modern society as slow down to intuitive eating, giving your digestion the much care it needs.
Remember that to maximize your potential, holistic care of your basic needs need to take place.
Prior to managing your time, tending to the essential -sleep, food, connection with others, movement….is the true secret to productivity while running on a full tank…not with donuts but with what your body needs intuitively at the moment.
When used sparingly like our ancestors, maybe a donut, isn’t so bad?
Listen to your body and you shall hear.
Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 12 years. She has frequented at least 400 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care. Check out her Free Webinar Speak the Pinoy Love Language here.
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