~By Tina Leigh~
Until about a year ago, I harbored a shameful secret: I was a “car texter.” Routinely, while speeding down the highway, I’d rest my iPhone in my hand and type as I drove––one eye down, the other on the road.
The worst part: It’s not as if I didn’t understand the consequences. Each time I fell into the texting trap, I would think, “I really need to put the phone down. Like, right now. Put…it…down!”
Quickly, I’d finish whatever message I was typing, press send, and set my phone back in its designated holding place. Then I would say to myself, “See? I put it down. I’m safe. Everyone else is safe. We are alllll good here.”
Three minutes later, maybe less, I’d be at it again.
I don’t do this anymore, and choosing to make the shift was easy once I accepted––and I mean, sat myself down and really accepted––that I was putting not just myself but also others in grave danger.
Nothing is so important it can’t wait. This is a fact.
Now, here’s an interesting byproduct of this change: For months, my stomach had been upset in the worst of ways, and no matter what foods I eliminated or added, the problem had persisted. Yet the day I quit car texting, I got better, and I continued to improve until all signs of gastric distress were completely gone.
Incredible, right? But firmly grounded in science because our gut consists of millions of neurons––so many, in fact, that scientists are beginning to refer to the gut as our second brain. These neurons fire off rockets of information to and from our skull brain via the Vagus Nerve. And what do you think this nerve was doing as I texted and commuted every morning? It was preparing me to think fast and act faster in the event I needed to hit the brakes or swerve or react in a million other ways to the danger I was putting myself in.
To unwind from this contracting and “clamping down” sensation that the Vagus Nerve was sending my way would take my stomach hours––sometimes all day. I’m sure you can imagine what this was doing to my digestion. It wasn’t pleasant.
So what do you think happens when you eat on the go, hurrying down the street or trying to beat traffic to work? When you wolf down food right before a stressful call, or when you’re working on a problem that’s giving you anxiety? Worse still, when you’re bickering with a loved one throughout dinner?
It’s simple. You do not digest, assimilate, absorb, or eliminate optimally.
Data shows that the stomach’s pain receptors even become more sensitive, spinning any discomfort you feel into a vicious distress cycle.
In other words, what we think of when we eat can be just as important as what we eat. Used right, this is powerful knowledge.
Mindful eating and drinking means you set the stage for optimal digestion. No phone. No email. No TV. No rushing about. It means you eat slowly, and not too much. When you eat slow enough, your brain will be alerted via a biofeedback loop that you have had enough.
What mindful eating also means is you show appreciation for the food you are enjoying. It means expressing gratitude for where it came from and for who grew it.
Eating mindfully means tuning into how food makes you feel as it goes down. Does it give you energy or weigh you down? Does your meal move through you with ease or settle in your stomach like a brick? This practice is all about paying attention, being present, and honoring the act of food consumption.
I invite you to practice mindful eating. Eat only when hungry. Eat until you are about 80 percent full. Set the table. Light the candles. (Or at the very least, eat without any devices dividing your attention.) Make a meal from scratch. Eat outside in nature. Do any or all of the above and see how you feel. Your two brains will thank you.
Enjoy more stories & healthful tips like this from Tina on our next Power Up Living show, where she encourages you to “Go With Your Gut.” Discover how the familiar knot in your gut is a secret weapon to you achieving optimal health! Click here to tune in to this episode.
About the Author
Founder of Haute Health, Tina Leigh is a compassionate and intuitive optimal living practitioner and plant-based chef. She has a gift for supporting others in their wellness journey by clearly seeing their blind spots. With these insights, she is able to offer guidance, and approachable lifestyle tools that support in manifesting a healthier & happier life.
She is no stranger to the ups and downs of the health journey and as such is her own client––constantly evolving, learning, and studying––right along side her clients.
She is a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and has been a student of wellness since the age of sixteen. She has authored Balanced Raw and Superfood Juices & Smoothies, and co-created The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Low-Fat Vegan Cooking, and Heed Your Call.