Last weekend I had a the most amazing opportunity to attend the annual Canadian Holistic Nutrition Conference live here in Calgary! Since I did my program online, I never got to meet any other holistic nutrition people so it was great to network, feel the energy of the community and hear how everyone else is doing. The speakers were amazing – I can’t even describe how amazing they were but you know they’re amazing when an hour goes by and it feels like it’s only been 15 minutes.
The theme of the conference was ‘women’s health’ so there were quite a few talks covering hormones and the importance of balancing them. I love hormones – they’re complicated, confusing and challenging, but I really do love digging into their effects and the consequences of their imbalance (not to mention how everything else affects their production). And I know how important balanced hormones can be to a woman’s overall health, from reproductive health to weight management to disease prevention, including most cancers.
I wanted to take a step back from the deeper hormonal articles I’ve written and start with the basics of good health and how this can really fortify your attempts to manage your weight, stress levels and overall health. And these basics really just start with how you eat!
Your body needs to be in a state of relaxation in order to digest your food and one of the best ways to relax before a meal is to cook it yourself! Since you only need 15-30 minutes to clear your mind, relax your body and calm the mind before eating, you can easily whip up a quick dinner and still reap the benefits of the home-cooked meal.
Remember when we were young and we all sat down to the dinner table together to eat? And there were no TVs to distract us, let alone smartphones or iPads? Dinner time should always be like this. Gather everyone around the table and restrict electronic and other distractions for the entire meal. Take a few moments to really appreciate the smell and sight of the food by asking each person to state 3 things about the day for which they are grateful. Then dig in!
Chew your food carefully and set your fork down between each bite. This will help break down the food better and allow time for your stomach to signal the brain that you’re full so that you don’t overeat. Sip only small amounts of water or other liquids with your meals to make sure that your digestive juices are not too diluted so they can do their job well.
Finish one course or helping and wait 5-15 minutes before taking any more food. If you’re feeling comfortably full, about 80% or so, stop eating and just relax at the table for a few minutes.
And, if you have the time, get up and move after dinner – doing dishes counts, but it’s even better for your digestion to go for a good walk after each meal.
Why does all this matter to weight loss? Well, obviously, your satiety signals will be stronger and you should be able to eat less. But, when relaxing before a meal and appreciating the look and smell of it, your digestive juices are stimulated so that your stomach is primed to take in food. Digestive juice, or stomach acid, is needed to break down food (just like chewing) so that when food particles reach the intestines, they are small enough that the intestines can assimilate the nutrients for use within the body.
Poorly digested food particles in the intestines can cause inflammation, bad bacteria overgrowth, and malnutrition as these particles can’t readily be absorbed. So, while glucose and fat may get into the bloodstream, important nutrients don’t and you’re left feeling hungry shortly after eating. And the more irritated the gut becomes from improperly digested foods, the harder it is for the body to obtain the nutrients it needs from food. So, your cells continue to be hungry even after you’ve eaten. Blood sugar imbalances happen as well, which we know contributes to constant hunger.
Great health really starts with great digestion! Focus on improving your meal time experience and digestive abilities in order to achieve your health goals. Of course, there may be more going on in your body that requires additional support but creating a strong, healthy digestive system is the first step towards overall health.