Wellness Works #6

Please tell me you remember that game show on Nickelodeon. 

It doesn’t have much to do with today’s post (which happens to be the last in the Wellness Works series, by the way) except that it was called GUTS.

And the theme song, besides being kind of an ear worm, asks, “Do you have it?” Guts!

I mean, we all have guts in the literal sense. And some of us have more of them in the physical sense. 

But do you have them in the figurative sense?

Like, the kind of guts that inspired such inspiring phrases as:

  • Go with your gut.
  • Gut instinct.
  • Gut check.
  • Gut feeling.
  • Feed your gut, feed your mind.

That last one’s mine.

Did you know there’s a huge connection between the health of your gut and the health of your mind?

Turns out, about 95% of your serotonin is produced in the gut. And serotonin is the neurochemical that makes you feel happy. 

So we need to nourish our gut to nourish our mind. And help us make those gutsy calls.

That means not only eating healthy foods (plants, maybe?) but also eating in a mindful way.

It’s true we’re wrapping up the Wellness Works series today. While that makes me sad, I’m also pretty excited because this topic is near and dear to my heart.

And I think it’s something we all need to work on.

Even me. Sometimes especially me.

Be honest. How often do you mindlessly munch on your lunch when you’re checking emails? Or reach for something crunchy mid-afternoon out of habit? Or just simply inhale your food like you’ve never eaten before and you’ll never eat again?

It’s not an easy habit to break.

But, with practice, we can start to make connections between how we eat and how we feel. 

Like, did you feel good after you ate those five brownies? Did you feel happy and satisfied? Maybe in the sugar-dazed immediate after glow you felt pretty damn pleased with yourself. But I’m willing to bet about a half hour later you started to feel a little displeased and a little sleepy.

You probably felt like shit.

It happens. 

Why, just the other day, I plowed through a whole bag of Beanitos just because I was thinking about something.

How’s that for transparency? 

You probably won’t be able to stop those thoughts completely (we have more than 70,000 a day, after all), but you can start to shift your perspective. You can start to slow down. And you can start to feel better.

Don’t Multitask When Eating

My first tip would have been helpful to remember when I was halfway through that bag of chips. 

It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you’re at work. The email is dinging, the phone is ringing, and your coworker is singing.

(Maybe he’s humming the GUTS theme song?)

But if you don’t focus on the task at hand, pretty soon you’ll end up eating more than you needed to. You won’t hear your body telling you, “No more food, for the love of all things holy!” 

Plus, it takes your body about 20 minutes to start sending out that “I’m full” signal so you might miss it among all the other input.

Even worse? You might end up eating more later in the day.

Chew Your Food

We have teeth for a reason, right?

Chewing your food helps your body start the digestive process. There’s all kinds of good stuff in your mouth (like enzymes) that helps you break down food so your body can process it better and absorb more of the nutrients.

If you’re sending your stomach not-so-bite-sized bites, it kind of doesn’t know what to do with it. And it might cause your stomach to send out an SOS.

Plus, when you chew, you actually get to taste your food!

Some people say chew your food 20 times. Other people say chew your food 30 times. I say, chew your food until you can’t chew your food no more.

Some food is easier to grind up, so just do your best to liquefy it.

Thank That Food

Woo woo?

A little.

Worth it?

Totally.

By taking just a few moments to pause and say thanks, you’re putting your body in a better place to receive nutrition from your food.

I’m not saying you have to spend ten minutes praying. (Shout out to the good old Catholic school days when we had to recite The Angelus before lunch.)

I’m not saying you need to join hands and say grace out loud.

I’m not even saying you have to say anything.

Just take a good, long look at that food. And say, “Hey, I’m so glad I get to eat this.”

Maybe, “This looks great. I’m so stoked to chow down.”

Words like blessed, grateful, plentiful, Mother Earth, and divine glory don’t have to enter the conversation if you don’t want them to.

Just pause, reflect, then eat.

Evolve Beyond Emotional Eating

Okay, easier said than done.

But you ever notice how, when you’re stressed out mentally your stomach is stressed out physically?

Like, you need to deliver that report to the client in about an hour, but the printer jammed, it’s out of paper, and where the hell did that giant ink blot come from...and suddenly your stomach is all in knots.

This happens to me all the time.

And it’s taken me a long time to not only recognize but accept that mind-gut connection.

Nothing good comes of eating in situations like that.

Either you’re going to nosh on something not so good or you’re going to eat way more than you should or you’re going to upset your poor stomach even more.

Try not to overwhelm your body. Let it handle that stress before you ask it to digest.

Lunchtime Doesn’t Have to Be Lunchtime

At my last job, we were encouraged to take our lunch break between 12 and 1 p.m.

If you didn’t, you were supposed to put your non-traditional lunch hour on the calendar so everyone knew where you were.

But what if I wasn’t hungry at noon? What if I was hungry at 11:30? Or 1:15? 

And what if I didn’t want you to know exactly where I was?

I definitely fell into the trap of thinking that lunchtime was lunchtime. I dutifully waited until 12 p.m. to push away from my desk and grab my lunch.

(And bring it right back to my desk...)

Folks, don’t eat when you aren’t hungry or just because corporate mandates a company-wide lunchtime.

It’s your body. Eat when it wants to eat. You’ll feel so much better.

I know, even if I had my mid-morning snack, I was still pretty ravenous by 12 p.m. So what did I do? I inhaled my lunch. 

I definitely wasn’t chewing. And my mind was most likely going nuts wondering why I was adhering to this silly rule.

See how it all ties together?

I hope you’ll take at least one of these tips and try it out. I think you’ll notice a huge difference.

And then you’ll be encouraged to keep at it because you’ll feel so so so much better.

Like ain’t no stopping you now.

P.S. Need a reminder about that whole mind-gut connection? How about an in-your-face computer wallpaper to always remind you? Grab it below!