You can digest anythingJul 12, 2022
Breathing, Eating, Sound and Movement make up the 4 Pillars to Good Health. As we explore each of these topics, which are simple and basic and things we do every day - we’re focusing on the how of it.
As I dive into eating - fear not, I’m not pushing any diet or agenda because while my choices are important to me, and work for me, they aren’t for everyone! Food is emotional, connective, social, and we feel passionate about food and how we enjoy it. So stay in the passion of it and enjoy what’s on your plate.
I’ve had challenges with my digestion since I can remember. Constipation was a constant throughout my childhood and into young adulthood. In high school, my stomach often felt like it was on fire. I always had a bottle of Mylanta in my backpack, and I would take swigs out of it before track meets, and anytime I felt stress. As I moved into adulthood, my nerves felt like they lived in my stomach so anytime I was nervous, stressed or anxious I didn’t even try to eat. I couldn’t.
Needless to say I was holding a lot in, emotionally and physically. I’ve shared the Mylanta story many times and would laugh recalling myself as the intense 16 year old that I was. But when my therapist reflected, it sounds like you needed someone to talk to… I saw that story in a new way, and felt deep compassion and sadness for that young person who felt she needed to hold it all in/together, and deal with the physical consequences of it.
When I started practicing yoga and meditation in 2007, my digestion began to get a little better. Some of it was that I (very slowly) began to change my eating habits by making fewer trips to McDonalds - scarfing cheeseburgers and a huge diet coke while driving to my next crisis call. A big part of it was that I began to physically and emotionally process my past and present experiences through my yoga practice. Moving my body helped release past and present traumas from my tissues (more on this next week) and sitting in meditation helped me safely explore and process those experiences.
But it’s when I transitioned first to becoming vegetarian, then vegan that my motivation to improve my digestion shifted. Due to ethical reasons, I’m passionate about eating plant based and want to successfully and healthfully keep it up. I put the focus on improving my digestion.
Step one was eating more of the foods that I enjoyed and felt good to eat. Step two was strengthening my digestion through how I ate. And the result… in the last 2 years, my digestion is stronger than it's ever been. I’ve been able to add foods that I previously avoided (like salads, raw veggies and seitan) and have more variety than ever.
Here are my top three digestion strengthening tips:
- Hot water sips. It calms and soothes your nerves and digestion. Imagine using a heating pad or hot water bottle for cramps or sore muscles, this has a similar effect, but inside your body.
- Avoid eating when upset, stressed or anxious. Mealtime is not the time for arguments or difficult conversations. If this happens around mealtime, complete the discussion before you eat, if you can, or agree to finish it at another time. Take a few sips of hot water and go for a short walk, this will help your nervous system return to rest and digest. When you feel calmer, eat slowly, take your time.
- Chew your food and enjoy your meal. This has been incredibly helpful especially when eating foods that have been challenging. Engage all of your senses. See the food and all of the colors, smell the aromas, listen as you stir or cut your food, feel the textures as you take a bite and chew, taste all of the wonderful flavors. Feel gratitude and enjoy the entire experience of your meal. For me, this has been a game changer so that I can digest nearly everything (still a work in progress).
This week, use your calendar and schedule time to work through Module 2 (Eating) in the 4 Pillars to Good Health mini-course, and learn more about optimizing your digestion for maximum clarity, vitality and energy. And commit to enjoying your next meal with every ounce of your being.