The most important guest at your table is Gratitude, find out why
Think about the last delicious meal you had. Seriously, close your eyes and think about it.
See it on the table in front of you.
Smell the amazing aromas.
Experience the anticipation before putting the food to your mouth.
Imagine putting the food in your mouth. Savor it. Really taste it.
As you’re tasting it, feel gratitude for whomever prepared that meal with so much love and attention.
Feel gratitude for the people who sold the food to them, for the farmers who provided the food, for the truck drivers who transported it from the farm.
Feel gratitude that you even had this experience, of savoring delicious food, the abundance of having food to eat. What a gift.
Now, you may have had the same reaction most people do. And that’s you not only got excited for the meal but your saliva may have started pumping. You can literally feel like you’re about to eat that meal again.
You just primed your digestive juices.
You think it’s all about your stomach but I’m going to let you in on a few secrets today…
Secret #1: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF DIGESTION IS IN YOUR HEAD.
The “cephalic” (literally meaning "of the head") phase of digestion is the very first and most important phase of digestion. It’s when we prime our body to start mobilizing itself for receiving the food, breaking it down and extracting all of its good stuff. The Cephalic Phase digestive response is simply a fancy term for taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction, and the visual stimulation of a meal. In other words, it’s the “head phase” of digestion. What’s fascinating is that digestive experts have estimated that as much as 30% to 40% of the total digestive response to any meal is due to this phase—our full awareness of what we’re eating.
So, my friend, If you’re in fight or flight, in stress mode, you won’t have any of your digestive juices or systems flowing and your body will ignore what you are eating to prioritize other actions.
The truth is your body doesn't know the difference between a lion trying to eat you or your boss making your life hell at work. Either way, your fight or flight mode will ignore digestion as a necessary primary tool of the moment. And instead, it will focus on mobilizing your muscles to run, your heart to beat fast and flow blood to those muscles, and your survival mechanisms to take over.
So what happens if you eat…
At your desk while you try to meet a deadline at work?
While you write an angry email?
While you are upset at a family meal and yelling at your spouse or children?
Your cortisol stress hormones will be kicked into high gear and your “relaxation nervous system,” your parasympathetic nervous system, will be set aside. Digesting your food will definitely not be your body’s first priority. That leads us to the second secret!
Secret #2: AWARENESS = METABOLISM!!
Think about that for a moment. Really let that soak in.
How you think about food can change how you receive that food. Simply amazing. YOU influence your digestion!
How you eat may be as important as what we eat.
If that’s true, think of all the times you ate food and didn’t even realize you had finished it because you were thinking about other to-do’s or worries.
How many times a day do you miss the chance to receive our food in the most optimal way our body needs?
So, this is where the third and most important secret of the day comes in!
SECRET#3: GRATITUDE CAN BE YOUR BEST FRIEND FOR ANY MEAL!
Gratitude can be the tool you use to stimulate your relaxation system and let the cephalic phase of digestion do its magic.
What if you commit to starting any meal with just a few moments of gratitude?
If it doesn't come so easy to you, start by simply directing the gratitude to the food you are about to eat. Imagine all the people who made it possible for you to have this food from those who grew the food to those who harvested it, transported it to the store, sold it to you, cooked it for you today and on and on. Feel a deep sense of appreciation that so many are responsible for your privilege to enjoy that food. And in this way, we bring ourselves to the present moment.
As you practice more, you may want to extend the gratitude to more than just the food. You will see what feels right. But the important piece is that you practice gratitude and your experience at the table changes. Your digestive system is primed and you are able to receive this beautiful gift of having food to eat before you.
One of my favorite pre-meal salutations from my travels around the world is the Spanish saying “Buen Provecho.” I was reminded daily of this a couple of weeks ago when I was working in Puerto Rico. It literally means “May you digest well.” A beautiful wish for a meal well received.
So, I hope you will get more in your head for this one. Stop and get out of the busy-ness of the day before you eat. Use gratitude as the pump that primes your digestive juices and allow your body to receive what it well deserves.
Invite gratitude to your next meal. It's like eating with a dear friend.
Live (and digest) well,