Have you noticed that there’s a huge number of diet books, nutrition systems, and eating experts telling us what to do – and that they’re all saying something dramatically different. What’s even more fascinating, those experts are offering scientific proof of why their approach works best. Who’s right? How can science prove so many conflicting nutrition viewpoints? And how can we make sense of all the nutritional chaos and find the best way to nourish ourselves?
Clearly, we are suffering from a “high fact diet.” There’s lots of nutrition information, but very little wisdom that truly nourishes. The field of nutrition is like the wild west. We have lots of villains – “bad foods”, we have heroes – the “good foods”, and the bullets are always flying around who’s system is going to make you forever happy, healthy, skinny, and hot. It’s time for a whole new approach to food and health, for a way to understand eating that’s evolved, intelligent, crispy and fresh. And it all begins with the most important missing ingredient in our nutritional understanding – you.
The field of nutrition has left out the heart, mind, and soul of the eater. Of course we are a body, and we need to understand the biology of it, yet we are so much more than a collection of chemicals. As we invite all of us to the table when it comes to nutrition, something profound and beautiful happens. We get in touch with our inner nutritional wisdom, we feel sweetly empowered, and our metabolism takes some new and interesting turns. Stated in the most simple and practical way – what we eat is only half the story of good nutrition. The other half of the story is who we are as eaters. That is, what we think, feel believe, our levels of stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and the inner stories that we live out all have a real, powerful, and scientific effect on metabolism.
Advances in the mind-body sciences over the last 30 years have been proving what ancient wisdom traditions have been saying for eons – that the mind, body, heart, and soul exist on an exquisite continuum, and indeed profoundly impact one another. Nowhere does this play out more clearly than in the phenomenon called “stress.”
Can you recall what your body sensations are when you eat during a state of anxiety or stress? Most people report such symptoms as heartburn, cramping, gas, digestive pains, overeating, and intense hunger. During stress the body automatically shifts into the classic fight-or-flight response. This feature of the nervous system evolved over millions of years into a brilliant safety mechanism that supports us during life-threatening events.
In the moment the stress response is activated, heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, respiration quickens, hormones that help provide immediate energy such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the circulatory system, and most importantly, the digestive system shuts down. It makes perfect sense that when you’re fending off an angry gorilla, you don’t need to waste energy digesting your Froot Loops. All the body’s metabolic functions are geared directly for survival.
So, you could be eating the most healthy food in the universe, but if you aren’t eating under the optimum state of digestion and assimilation – which happens to be relaxation – you literally and metabolically are not receiving the full nutritional value of your meal. What’s more, our calorie burning ability actually decreases during long term, low-level stress. The implications here are profound. As a nation, we tend to move too fast – we’re stressed, anxious, in fear around money, terrorism, health, weight, love, life… And all this stress changes our nutritional physiology in a real and powerful way – diminishes it, lowers our ability to absorb nutrients, to calorie burn, and to heal.
So a life of relaxed living, trust, faith and joy becomes a key ingredient for our nutritional health. Equally unknown to most eaters, there’s an exquisite science behind the nutritional power of Vitamin P – Pleasure, the nutritional power of Vitamin A – Awareness, and the nutritional power of Vitamin L – Love. It’s high time that we bring all of who we are to eating. Are you ready?
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating