By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Here are some simple mindful and intuitive tips that support the cephalic phase of digestion and beyond. The cephalic phase of gastric secretion starts before food enters the stomach. It results from the sight, smell, thought, or taste of food. Ultimately what we think, our senses, habits, as well as food nutrition and energetics have a direct impact on our health. The following tips will help you strengthen your mind-body relationship with food and optimizes your well-being.
“Mindfulness, he says, is more about simply being present when you cook, fully engaged with the food and your relationship to it, from the earth it was grown in to the table. It’s being aware of the food with all your senses, and of how you transform it with your hands, knives, herbs, and heat – making it taste alive, nourishing yourself and those who eat your meals. Your awareness can be in bringing the activity alive and giving it some energy, vitality, and exuberance” – Laura Fraser, The Joy of Mindful Cooking
Avoid consuming cold fluids and foods since this hinders digestive fire. Chew on a few pieces of fresh ginger root, or consume 1 - 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with a pinch of dried ginger in a little warm water, 5 - 20 minutes before a meal to stimulate gastric juices and enzymes. A little bit of warm water with food is okay. Right before your meal take 3 deep breaths to innervate your parasympathetic 'rest and digest' response.
Eat when hungry. Ideally, you will be hungry for three main regular timed meals, which will support your circadian rhythm. Your largest protein rich meals can be eaten at breakfast and lunch when the sun is highest and digestive fire is at peak. Aim to stop eating by 6 or 7 pm. Our digestive system naturally slows down at night to rest and repair. Eating at night makes it hard for the stomach, liver, and spleen to process, which causes stagnation, dampness, and heat.
Enjoy your meals in a relaxed manner, without distractions, while sitting and maintain good posture to facilitate digestion. Relaxing while eating activates the ‘cephalic response’, altering secretion of hormones, peptides, and neurotransmitters that affect the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems.
"Eating in a hurried or unconscious way, as so many of us have learned to do, is like receiving a love letter from the Earth but never taking the time to read it." - John Robbins, May All Be Fed
Chew your food thoroughly and stop eating when you are 2/3 full. 2/3 full will be when you feel satisfied and content rather than stuffed and lethargic. Chewing pre-digests food, producing less work for the digestive organs and efficient nutrient assimilation. Keep in mind that it takes a while for the brain to signal to your stomach and your intestines that you are full. Over-eating causes stagnation, heat, mucus, and spleen deficiency.
Practice food gratitude, mindset, and enjoy your meals! It can start with something as simple as ‘Thank you’, or "Thank you for the food before us, the people beside us, and the love between us." A positive food relationship mindset, including enjoyment, attitude, choice, and loving acceptance allows your body to do the same in accepting the food for digestion and therefore effectively getting the most out of it.
"Thank you for our food security. We/I take this nourishment in gratitude to all beings. Thank you for the earth, farmers, and all people and processes who helped cultivate this food from farm to plate. May the energy in this food renew, repair, and strengthen my body. May this food bless my body and nourish my soul – bless this meal to my/our good use and to your service."
INTUITIVE EATING GUIDELINES
Once a constitutional whole foods baseline is adapted in tune to mindful eating, intuitive eating naturally develops over time. When you tune into intuitive eating you no longer crave following 'diets' because your body and conscious awareness tells you what it wants and needs to thrive. Intuitive eating requires inner cultivation; acceptance, compassion, awareness, and supportive decision-making.
Who will give me the support I need?
How can I get nourished?
How can I become centered and stable?
How can I get what I want from the world?
How can I feel I belong?
Who will really understand me?
- Angela & John Hicks
This doesn't mean cravings won't arise or that they can't be a part of your healing; it means you will reach a point where you can decipher and honour with tolerance emotional cravings, opioid food cravings (read this post for more info), blood sugar swings, versus true hunger. Explore the following guidelines throughout the day and as you mindfully eat. With practice, curiosity, patience, and gentleness, you will learn more about yourself and your relationship with food.
"I'ts not about the food, but it's not not about the food." - Geneen Roth, Women, Food, & God
1. Am I hungry? On a scale of 1 – 5 how hungry am I?
2. Where do I feel hunger inside of me? Is my body (stomach, cells), mind (cognitive, thoughts), or heart hungry (soothing, comforting)?
3. What do I want? What foods would feel nourishing?
4. What does my food look like, how does it smell, and what is the taste and texture? While eating, what does your mind say about your food?
5. How did I feel after I ate that particular meal or food? Is your stomach, mind, and heart satisfied?
"This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard, loving work. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet, and reverse the process of global warming.We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
If you’re interested in diet therapy as complimented by acupuncture I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online or call 250-590-4341. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
Wishing you love & vitality,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC