We're involved in a crisis. It's epic. It's huge.
We're starving, yet we're fat.
We're suffering from a severe deficiency. As much as we eat, we're lacking nourishment.
Our bodies are deprived, and I argue, it's because we've lost our minds. Literally.
When I hear, "Kori, I'm hungry all the time," I automatically go to the structure of the diet. What are you eating, when are you eating it, and how much are you eating? I'm looking at the blood sugar responses they are creating based on these factors as well as other variables.
The second place I go, perhaps because I'm a behavioral therapist, is straight to the heart of the matter. The heart: it’s what I'd argue is the center of our wisdom. What's in there is what we're constantly trying to feed, except the nourishment we're giving it often leaves us feeling more empty, more deprived, and hungrier.
So we're starving, but it's not for lack of food. We're starving for contentment, we're starving for authenticity, we're starving for connection, we're starving for competence, we're starving for worth, we're starving for freedom, we're starving for the creative capacity to be ourselves in a world that says we're not good enough as we are, we're starving for presence, we're starving for attention.
Wrapped up in this spiritual starvation (the "whole" of who we are) is the stress response. When I say we're starving for attention, I am not referring to the attention we get from others; I'm speaking to the attention we're giving the moments of our lives—the awareness with which we approach each situation, event, person, task, meal. The attention we put into this second, right now determines our embodiment—the essence of our being. How in tune am I to what's occurring around me and inside of me; how open am I to experiencing it?
Sound a bit hokey?
Consider the results of a published in Gastroenterology assessing the concept of "dichotomous listening." (Imagine being at work and trying to listen to the individual on the phone when your boss walks in and starts talking about some new ideas). In this study the subjects were given a mineral drink when in a relaxed state, and then again when exposed to the same sort of a situation as the one described above. Absorption for sodium and chloride was tested for both conditions. Absorption in the small intestine occurred at a rate of 100% for the relaxed group. Care to guess the rate for the distracted group?
Paying attention to two things at the same time resulted in 0% absorption. Now think about what happens when you inhale your meal sitting in front of the television with your computer on your lap checking for text messages on your smart phone.
Something similar happens when you're in fight or flight mode. First, remember how this response came about. It was necessary and useful when we were at risk of being eaten by lions. But the threats of the 21st century are often far from life-altering. Well, let me rephrase: what we perceive as threatening in the activities of our daily lives does not necessitate the kill-or-be-killed reaction. Second, digestion stops when we're in stress mode. Finally, the stress response prompts fat storage through an increase in cortisol production, which dumps glucose into the blood stream, causing a subsequent release in insulin. When insulin is released you cannot burn body fat—it prompts fat storage.
Which brings me to the stockpiling effect: most of us appear to be living in big bodies, yet we're not operating with big minds. We're not big thinkers—curious, inquisitive, open, captivated, and thirsting for knowledge. Instead we're mindless automatons just doing what everyone else is or what everyone else says we should. So we're stockpiling fat and we're stockpiling meaningless information and most of the time we aren't even aware it's happening. Fritz Perls, an astute psychotherapist and father of Gestalt Therapy, said, "Awareness cures." I couldn't agree more, particularly when you consider what's involved with assimilation of the food we eat.
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."- Michael PollanTweet It!
Wrap your brain around this: the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR) relates to the "experience" of eating—the textures, the aromas, the colors, and the satisfaction surrounding a meal. It is, in essence, a digestive mechanism that originates from the tops of our bodies—cephalic means "of the head." Recall the last time you were googly-eyed over the brownies you saw on your friend's Pinterest board or when walked by a local bakery. That fresh baked bread aroma wafting through the air might have caused you to notice an instant salivary response. That's the CPDR in action! Just by noticing or smelling a food, your body releases saliva, gastric juices, pancreatic enzymes, hormones involved in appetite, and so forth. Our bodies know what they need to function well. Except, what if we're not following Fritz's advice, operating like we're living in the zombie apocalypse—oblivious, stressed out, checked out, and maxed out. And what if we're freaked out about not losing weight quickly enough or the "right" way? And what if we're obsessed with the Food Network and spend all of our time collecting recipes and drooling over pictures in magazines of meals that we "can't eat" or that "won't fit our diet"? What if we’re saving them for a later date when we're no longer dieting?
You've created the optimal metabolic position for fat storage outside of any caloric considerations.
Nourishment travels far beyond food. Our brains and our minds must experience pleasure through the food by way of awareness and presence to function in a manner that says, "I'm full." You know what it feels like when you've had a heart-to-heart with your best friend? You feel full. You feel nourished. There is no gnawing hunger for more.
We can experience the same feelings when it comes to food and take the first step toward curing our deprivation crisis with awareness.
Dr. Kori Propst has been at the helm of The Diet Doc, LLC’s general population weight loss programming and Mental Edge Peak Performance and Life-Emergence services since 2008. Kori specializes in a blend of coaching and therapeutic modalities, including cognitive behavioral, positive psychology, mindfulness, and strengths-based experiential techniques all geared toward integrative self-determination. Her expertise includes physical and mental training and mind-body integration, optimal athletic performance, and overall well-being. Kori has guided top-level athletes toward optimizing their strategic plans for success, as well as individuals working toward self-development, empowerment, and control.
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