Ever wonder why so many spiritual traditions have a ritual designed around blessing the food you consume? Although they are different, many serve the same purpose. To get you to a place of parasympathetic response before you eat. Thus upping the chance that you will get the nutrition you need and be better prepared to survive.
This is the nervous system state you are in when you are calm, feeling centered, connected, and safe. It is often called the “rest & digest” state. In this state your neuro-chemistry is working in your favor to help decrease the stress load on the body. Food items are chemicals that must be broken down to be useful. For the body optimal digestion happens when the body can focus on this task (not stressful events and vigilance) and work to give you the nutrients you need.
If you are stressed when you eat, the body cannot focus on breaking down your food well. It has to maintain vigilance to survive your environment. Events like driving your car, fights with family/friends, office politics, watching the news, worrying about household tasks to complete – can be stressful events your body is attempting to manage instead of focused digestion.
What is physically happening when you are stressed
When your body is stressed you are activating your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). This is the circuit that manages your stress chemicals. When it is active the body has to attend to the adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones because they are being pumped into the system for a reason. The body knows the “fight & flight” feelings they create are about keeping you alive aka … are important. So the response to them dominates the rest and digest option.
When you are working to digest food under a high stress feelings, the body holds calories (often depositing them around your middle). This is because it is concerned that it may need these extra sources of energy for escape. You might truly feel like you need to escape from the office board room during your working lunch, however you probably do not want the calories you are consuming during it contributing to your muffin top.
Reasons to say a blessing over your food
To optimize our food choices we must be in a state of calm when we eat. Saying a prayer, blessing, thank you, or even just taking a deep breath before you eat helps the nervous system calm down and be better prepared to digest and use the food you are about to take in.
Try this little experiment on yourself. Next time you eat find a comfortable spot that you enjoy being in, sit down, spread your food in front of you so you can examine its textures, colors, smells. Take a deep breath and say a small blessing (can be as simple as thank you) before you eat. Acknowledge how you are feeding yourself to take care of you and then enjoy. Pay attention to your level of fullness as you eat and take a break or stop eating when you begin to feel full. Enjoy the space you are in and notice the colors, sounds, why you like it, what makes it interesting and unique to you. After 5 or 10 minutes decide if you would like to continue eating and what you would like to add to your meal. Then enjoy. Note your experience of the food while you ate and how you feel for a few hours and/or days after.
Contrast this experience with the rushed, harried, absentminded, and overwhelmed experiences you have had or had since the experiment above. Which meal nourished you?
You might find, practicing a nourishing meal experience more often may be the key to successful weight loss, positive mood states, and overall better life balance.
Share your experiences with us by commenting on this post in our FB community. I think you’ll find a common experience and support to continue to feed yourself well even when it is not an easy task.