For 5-months I had the honor to take a weekly, tele-class with Marc David, the founder of the Institute For the Psychology of Eating. Marc David is also the author of great books like The Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom. There are so many meaningful things that I learned, but to simplify, these are the top 8 that I believe are the keys to unlocking your nutritional metabolism...because there is a LOT more to it than just the foods you eat. We need to look at how to eat, not just what to eat:
- Relaxation - if you are a fast and furious eater, it's time to change gears because the slower you eat, the faster you metabolize. The same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off metabolism. Eating healthy food, although necessary, is only half of the story. Being in the ideal state to digest and assimilate food is the other half. The French, for instance, take a few hours for lunch and they drink generous amounts of red wine with their meals. They are fanatics about using fresh foods and high-quality ingredients and they don't exercise as much as Americans. They are also thinner and celebrate meals as opposed to eating and running like the Americans do. Americans only take several minutes for breakfast and lunch while eating larger portions and usually don't insist on high-quality ingredients. Since the French are eating in a relaxed environment they are getting maximum digestive function. The amount of time they take for a meal and their ability to savor it and connect with other people probably help them let go. They place a high value not only on food but on nourishment and pleasure. Eating isn't considered to be some nuisance biological requirement to get out of the way. You can help yourself relax and slow down to increase your metabolism by committing to providing yourself the gift of more time. Trust that the world can wait while you take a few more minutes with your food and reclaim your right to dine in a sitting position, avoiding the impulse to answer your phone or engage in any form of work. Relax. Take deep breaths into your life, be a little more peaceful, and give your calories a chance to burn.
- Quality - elevate the quality of your food and you can elevate metabolism. Quality is everything. In every major nutritional study that's ever been done comparing the diets of industrialized nations - mostly consisting of refined, mass-produced, poor quality food - with the diets of traditional cultures - fresh, wholly, locally cultivated and vibrant - those on traditional diets fare dramatically better in every major health category. If you are concerned about weight, the poorer the quality of our food, the more quantity we'll consume. The problem with overeating in our nation is not that we have a collective willpower disorder. We overeat because our food is nutrient deficient. It lacks vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and all the undiscovered x-factors and energies we require. The brain senses these deficiencies and wisely responds by asking us to eat more food. By choosing organic foods, your diet becomes more nutrient dense. Organic means "real." So no matter what food you eat, choose the highest quality version of that food.Your primary task is to try making a list of everything that would stand in your way of including quality food in your life. Then uncover ways to help circumvent these concerns. Identify all the quality restaurants and "take out" establishments near where you live and work. Who has the best salad bar? Homemade soup? If you order food in when you are at work, make the decision to make the best choices in regard to quality and freshness. Also pay attention to drinking quality water and use skincare products that you can almost eat by choosing natural and more environmentally-friendly varieties of soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, cosmetics, deodorant, shaving gel, toothpaste and mouthwash. A health food store or food coop is the best resource for natural brands. Quality household products also support health and ease the toxic load we are continuously exposed to. Do the best you can to replace dishwashing soap, all cleaners, laundry detergents, bleach, drain cleaners, and so on with more earth-friendly versions.
- Awareness - awareness is presence. It is our ability to be aware of what is. It is our capacity to experience what is life is doing in this moment and when we bring awareness to our eating experience, it is a wondrous metabolic force. Awareness is metabolism. The power of awareness to catalyze nutrient assimilation, digestion, and calorie-burning ability is best exemplified in something scientists call cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR). CPDR is the pleasures of taste, smell, satisfaction, and visual stimulation of a meal. It's the head phase of digestion. 30-40% of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR - our full awareness of what we are eating. If we choose not to be aware of our meal and fail to register any sense of taste, smell, satisfaction, or visual interest, then we are metabolizing our meal only at 60-70% efficiency. Lack of attention translates to decreased blood flow to the digestive organs which means less oxygenation and hence a weakened metabolic force. With less enzymatic output in the gut we become susceptible to digestive upset, bowel disorders, lowered immunity and fatigue. When we eat too fast or fail to notice our food, the brain interprets this missed experience as hunger and so we reach for more food. That is why nine out of ten people do not have an overeating problem, they have little awareness of their meals and fail to satisfy their CPDR requirement which results in longing for food. The less awareness you bring to the table, the more you'll need to eat and the greater your weight will be. Our appetite is genetically designed to be fulfilled rather than suppressed. Give your body and soul exactly what they want - an experience of eating that's rich in the fruits of awareness and you'll never need to fight yourself again. Your primary task is to be present at each meal. Notice your food. See it, touch it, and taste it. Absorb all the nutrients of your meal - the colors and textures, the people with whom you are eating and your conversations, all the ambiance and nuances of the eating experience. Allow yourself to be gently alert no matter what you eat, who you are with or where you are eating.
- Rhythm - master your rhythm and your metabolism. One of the simplest ways to measure the metabolic rate of a human body is to take its temperature. The hotter you are the more metabolic you'll be. Because you are naturally heating up in the morning, eating at this time is a smart bet if you are trying to lose weight. Adding food to your gut will increase metabolic rate even more and provide your body with the nutrients it's already preparing to process. Think of your gut as a furnace. When you add fuel, the heat rises. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Body temperature continues a slow steady rise and peaks around noon. Our digestive force is therefore the hottest at lunchtime. It makes sense then that our largest meal would be consumes at this time, when our ability to pulverize food is strongest. Body temperature then dips for the period between 2-5pm, a good time for a siesta. In Latin America they have their biggest meal at lunchtime then their businesses shut down, social activity goes quiet and people snooze. They honor that natural rhythms of the body. At around 4-6pm our body temperature starts to rise again. That is when people start to feel their energy return. It is when the English stop for teatime. By 9pm the body temperature begins another downward trend in preparation for sleep. The act of eating raises body temperature so a big meal before bed would interfere with your slumber. In America, we tend to do a small or nonexistent breakfast, moderate lunch and more often than not a big dinner. That is exactly what you ought to do if your goal is restless sleep and weight gain. When you eat is as important as what you eat. For dinner, focus on having a smaller and earlier meal. If you know you are going to have a late dinner and that's simply your schedule, have a substantial snack sometime before dinner about 2-3 hours earlier and then eat less at dinner. The snack will decrease your evening-time appetite and you will essentially be buying these calories from dinner and expending them earlier when you'll better use them and burn them anyway. Because of our work style many of us ignore food and nourishment but this catches up with us. The minute we return home from the office, our brain finally has permission to attend to our needs. But instead of calmly informing us that we neglected to rhythmically feed the body and nourish the soul during our workday, it jumps all over us like a neglected dog and barks, "I'm hungry!" This ravenous sensations we experience can be overwhelming causing us to overeat. We then feel guilty and try to make up for our lack of willpower and control by following a tougher exercise regime. Your primary task is to eat regularly and consistently. This is the key to unlocking the metabolic power of rhythm. As best as you can, each evening plan your menus and your meal times for the next day. Know that you're going to have a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner. Choose rhythm. Make your mealtimes important. Commit to advanced meal planning and take your food with you when necessary.
- Pleasure - when you are turned on by food, you turn on metabolism. The nutritional value of a food in not merely given in the nutrients it contains but it also depends upon the synergistic factors that help us absorb those nutrients. Remove Vitamin P (Pleasure) and the nutritional value of the food plummets. Add vitamin P and your meal is metabolically optimized. So if you just eat what is good for you even though you don't like it, or you thing you can have a lousy diet and make up for it by eating a strangetasting vitamin fortified protein bar, or if you've simply banished pleasure because you don't have enough time to cook for find a sumptuous meal - then you aren't doing yourself and nutritional favors. You're slamming the door on a key metabolic pathway. The chemistry of pleasure is intrinsically designed to fuel metabolism. When we make intelligent use of this biological fact, our health can prosper. The key to pleasure's powerful effect in balancing your appetite is that it promotes a physiologic relaxation response. The times we overeat most are when we are anxious, stressed or unaware. A relaxed, pleasured eater has natural control. Pleasure also loves slow. It thrives in a warm, intimate, cozy space and reveals its deepest secrets when we drop all pretensions of speed and allow timelessness and sensuality to breathe us back into each moment. Exercise: write and inventory of all the foods you've learned are healthy for you and have the added bonus of delivering to you a pleasurable experience. This list might include fruit, fish, nuts, a fresh juice, an omelet, smoothie, a favorite salad, chicken soup, a bowl of oatmeal, fresh coconut, a cup of tea, glass of wine - anything. Keep in mind that you are accessing both your acquired knowledge and our own bodily experience. Eat with awareness, focusing on the pleasurable sensations on your tongue, in your belly, and wherever else pleasure registers in our body. Notice the unique ways that a healthy pleasure occurs to you. Does it give you a sense of accomplishment?
- Thought - One of our fundamental building blocks of nutritional metabolism is our relationship with food It is the sum total of our innermost thoughts and feelings about what we eat. Each of us is in an intimate, lifelong, committed union with eating. It is not by accident that the same words that describe our relationships with people equally characterize our relationships with food - love, hate, pleasure, pain, expectations, disappointments, excitement, boredom, uncertainty, change. Thinking is a nutritional choice. Negative thoughts about food can directly inhibit digestion through nerve pathways, hormones, neuropeptides and other areas. Positive thoughts about food enhance digestion via the same pathways. If you're feeling guilty about eating a certain type of food or judging yourself for eating it, this physically will inhibit your digestive system which can end up decreasing your calorie-burning efficiency which in turn will cause you to store more of your guilt-infused food as body fat. So, eating under stress diminishes metabolism but thinking stressful thoughts has the same results. The brain doesn't distinguish between a real stressor or an imagined one. Any guilt about food, shame about the body or judgement about health are considered stressors by the brain. You can eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you're thinking toxic thoughts, the digestion of your food goes down and your fat storage metabolism goes up. Likewise, you can be eating a nutritionally challenged meal, but if your head and heart are in the right place, the nutritive power of your food will be increased. There is no such thing as good or bad food. It is clear that certain foods will enhance your health while others will detract from it, but no food is morally good or bad. The distinction is of the utmost importance if you want to have even the slightest chance of a happy relationship with food and your body. So, if you choose to label a food "bad," does that mean if you eat it you are a bad person? And everyone knows bad people need to be severely punished so they don't want to do bad things again. When we moralize about food in this way, we put ourselves in the unusual position of being both the guilty party and the judge. Now we sentence ourselves to a miserable diet with extra helping of punishing exercise or maybe just to some good old-fashioned guilt, shame and self-abuse. Something else happens, when we label food good or bad, we stop the process of questioning and discovering. We stop being curious. If we label something as bad, we stop asking detailed questions to learn about some nuances or complexities. Moralizing anything or anyone severely limits our knowledge of the world and causes us to dwell in fear, ignorance, and judgement. Your primary task: Think nutritionally and identify thoughts that suppress metabolism and limit happiness. Exercise: with pen and paper, take an inventory of the most common thoughts you repeat to yourself about eating, nutrition, and your body. These are the one-liners that together form your relationship with food and that ultimately help or hinder metabolism. Use the following questions to help guide you in our inventory. Be specific in your answers. What do you tell yourself when you're eating? What do you expect food to do for you? What nutritional rules do you feel strongly about? Which foods are on our "good" list? Which foods constitute your bad list? What are your rules about health, weight, and longevity? What are your fears about health, weight and longevity? Is food your enemy or your ally, or is it a combination of the two. Next look over your list and put a check next to the thoughts that empower your metabolism and X next to the ones that diminish it. A metabolically empowering thought encourages openness, possibility, and a joyous life experience. An energy-draining thought feels heavy and limiting and is designed to lead us to self-judgement. Next replace the energy-draining thoughts with metabolically inspiring ones. For example, if you thought is, "Eating is a frustrating affair," your new thought might be "I am nourished by food." If your thought was, "Food makes me fat." your new thought would be "I let go of my fears about weight." Other positive and energy-enhancing thoughts (affirmations) can include; I trust in the wisdom of my body, I welcome my desire for food, I let go of punishing myself for eating bad foods, and I choose to relax about eating. Your job is to let new and inspiring thoughts to inhabit your inner airwaves each day.
- Story - The stories that move us are the powerful drugs that ignite our metabolism. There is a hidden narrative within each of us that puts the spin on every aspect of our journey. And that spin - whether it is positive or life affirming or negative sets our metabolism in motion and creates a biochemistry that is a mirror image of our inner world. As we become more adept at discerning the secret stories we unwittingly tell, and as we're more willing to author a generous and healing tale, our metabolism rises according to the new standard we set. To see the metabolic power of story in action, take a look at one of the most treasured possessions you have - your personality. Each of us is like a crowd of collective personalities and archetypes like mother, child, victim, clown, son, and warrior. The list is endless so when you sit down who is eating and what is your story? For some people they feel have a toxic story with core beliefs that they don't count. Under every possible issue we face with food, health or weight is a story that shapes our metabolic reality. Re-storying is a radical act of self-respect. Put a positive spin on your personable fable and you create the chemistry of relaxation and pleasure which gets the body to assimilate and burn calories. Maximize the metabolic power of story to invent for yourself a happy dietary ending. Exercise: First make a list of all the benefits you expect to receive once you've reached your goals with eating, weight, energy, fitness and health. In other words, why would you want to eat better? Why do you want to lose weight? Why would you want a different shape? More energy? Greater health? Take a moment to write down all the benefits you anticipate will be yours once you've arrived at your desired destination. More energy? Feel better? Feel lighter? More confident? Whatever benefits you expect to be yours at the end of your dietary efforts, simply receive them in the beginning, like now. Take on that personality, that role, that story. Act as if you already are the person you wish to be. If you look over the list of benefits you expect to receive, you'll notice that almost of them are a choice you can make in this instant. Why wait? Choose to be happier now, act more energetic and light now. Be more sexy or more energetic now and magically by self-generating the end results in the beginning, you'll create the precise metabolic environment for those benefits to truly materialize and take hold even more. Your Primary Task - Reflect upon how you author your relationship with food. This is your chance to surgically strike at the storylines that fail to serve and to leave in their place a healthier and more vibrant tale. Identify your nutritional story, recast it in a higher light, and experience the results.
- The Sacred - sacred metabolism is the chemistry ignited in the body when we are infused by the Divine. The Divine is a source of power, behind all powers, the chemistry created when we experience the Divine supersedes all known laws of the body. Some of the ways that sacred metabolism can be revealed in the body include prayer, fasting, meditation, experiences in nature, sports, yoga, music, dance, a sweat lodge, artistic pursuits, sleeplessness, illness, recovery, near-death experiences, falling in love and religious rituals of every variety. When the metabolic power of the sacred is activated in the body a portal is opened to a fantastic assortment of biological empowerments that have highlighted abilities such as clairvoyance, spontaneous healing, incredible strength, etc. This leaves us at the frontier. It is possible that the fulfillment of your metabolic destiny is to be found inside you, intelligently seeded there, behind the door, awaiting your discovery.
~ Information taken from the Slow Down Diet written by Marc David and written by Wendy Cuba-Danca