Fifty-one percent of Canadians are overweight and 59 percent report feeling moderately stressed. Coincidence? Nutritional psychologist Marc David doesn’t think so. In his book The Slow Down Diet (Healing Arts, 2005), David suggests that if we want to burn calories at maximum levels, we may need to calm our stress levels.
“The stress response is our physiological adaptation to anything that threatens us,” says David. “All our energy wants to go into our extremities for fighting or fleeing.”
Calorie burning and digestive metabolism plummet when we’re producing stress hormones that pump us up. “When we’re rushing around,” says David, “we’re producing more cortisol, the stress hormone that signals the body to store fat and not build muscle.”
Slow Down and Enjoy That Meal
Another effect of stress is that we eat too quickly. “It’s just too stressful to consume a big meal really fast,” David says. “Breathing and eating slowly maximizes digestion, nutrient absorption, and calorie burning. The more time we take, the more we relax and the more oxygen we mix with our meal. Food plus oxygen equals calorie burning. The more oxygen you’re mixing with that meal, the more fully you will digest it.”
One good way to slow down is to make sure we receive pleasure from the food we eat. David recounts a recent study in which researchers from Sweden and Thailand looked at how well iron was absorbed from a meal fed to two groups of women from different cultures. One group got a simple Thai dish of rice and vegetables and the other got that same meal after it had been put through a blender. Women who ate the blended meal absorbed less than half the amount of iron compared with women who enjoyed the full meal.
Let the Juices Flow
“Just sensing pleasure on the tongue and in the mouth stimulates enzymatic output in the gut. It stimulates chemicals known as endorphins, which charge the digestive process. Without pleasure we metabolize less efficiently, we assimilate nutrients less efficiently, and cortisol desensitizes the body to pleasure,” he says. We need to eat more food before we feel pleasure.
“Simply by being aware of food we are eating, the body becomes more attentive and produces the enzymes it needs to help break food down. When we shovel our food, the taste buds can’t send as many signals back to the brain and to the digestive tract,” David says. “If we don’t really taste the food, the brain interprets that missed experience as hunger.” The less aware we are, the more we eat. Slow down and become aware of food and the pleasure of eating–its taste, aroma, visual stimulation, and texture.
If you’re working toward a stronger metabolism, but have not yet achieved success, maybe you’re moving too fast.
- Increase metabolism by choosing organic, whole foods. They increase fibre intake, which has been shown to increase metabolism.
- Time meals and snacks so that you eat every two to three hours so that blood sugar stays at an even level throughout the day.