Ready or not, here come the holidays. First up is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving! I love cooking, eating and spending quality time with family and friends. These things are all great and hopefully you enjoy each of these aspects of the holiday as much as I do. I’d like to switch gears for a second and discuss one of the often-overlooked aspects of Thanksgiving, and in my opinion the most important, which is giving thanks and practicing gratefulness.
Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to holidays and for Thanksgiving in particular. Be it the recipes that are prepared, the location of the celebration, the time of day everyone congregates or the manner in which we give thanks. In our household, as we assemble around the table to enjoy a wonderful feast, we go around and share what each of us is Grateful for. We refer to this practice simply as “Gratefuls”.
I am of the belief that taking just a few minutes any (and every) day of the year to acknowledge what it is that I am Thankful or Grateful for is the perfect way to bring me back to a balanced state. I am able to refocus and recognize how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head, food on the table and incredible friends and family to share life with. It is easy to take these things for granted and to get wrapped up in the negativity and interference in the world around us.
Mike and I have made saying our Gratefuls a daily practice as we sit down to a meal. By taking a few seconds to state out loud to each other what it is we are grateful for or appreciate in our lives, it allows us to celebrate our present state, which yields a feeling of consciousness, happiness and value.
A very dear friend and mentor, Mary Lore, author of Managing Thought writes; “When we are focused on being thankful, something amazing happens. As we practice being thankful, we invoke a power within. We experience a dramatic improvement in our spirit, our relationships, our creativity and in our lives.” Since beginning the ritual of “Gratefuls” with Mike, I’ve felt this power within myself. The power to remain grounded and centered in this complicated world we live in. I feel the happiness that comes along with being grateful. It’s incredibly empowering and I believe that if we all take a few moments each day to state out loud what we are grateful for, our homes, communities, relationships, our city, state, country and planet can be a better, happier place.
With all of that said, I’d like to ask you. What is it that you are grateful for, and how can you begin to incorporate the practice of Gratefuls into your daily routine?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines stress as:
1) A State of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work
2) Something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety
3) Physical force or pressure
Think back to your last stressful situation. Did it involve eating? Let’s face it; we have to eat, even in times of stress. I have noticed that eating under stress is a growing trend. In fact, not only has eating under stress become commonplace, it’s socially acceptable and often a pre-requisite for managing a job, a family, or even having a life.
Let’s step back for a second and answer these few questions:
> What is stress for you?
> Who are you being when you are stressed out?
> What is your relationship with food like when you feel stressed?
In my experience dealing with stress, I tend to feel chaotic and overwhelmed. I move at warp speed, eat on the go, multi-task during meals and often forget to make healthy decisions… like chewing!
When we encounter a stressful situation, or experience a threat or fear, our bodies react. Stress can cause digestion to shut down. When the human body cannot digest properly, it does not absorb vitamins and nutrients properly. This means you could be eating all the kale in the world and not benefit from any of the nutritional value it has to offer. This happens because our sympathetic nervous system releases a hormone called cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone. Studies have showed that increased cortisol in the system can lead to fat accumulation and a slower metabolism.
The classic textbook example is that if a lion was chasing you after lunch you wouldn’t be concerned about digesting your kale salad. The sympathetic nervous system would act effectively to shut down digestion, direct blood flow away from the belly and out to your arms and legs for quick moving and up to your brain for quick thinking. While most of us fortunately do not have to confront a lion on our lunch hour, we still encounter stress. On a physiological level, our bodies don’t differentiate a lion chasing us from a boss yelling at us, or a tense traffic jam frustrating us. One scenario is life threatening and the others are not, and guess what… on a physiological level, they are the same. They both trigger the body to shut off digestion and store fat. This decreases our metabolic power, which is not the best
state to be eating or living in.
There is more to living a healthy lifestyle other than eating well and exercising. In order to receive the full benefit from living a healthy lifestyle, removing stress from our plate and adding more relaxing practices are vital!
Here are 5 stress-reducing practices that can help you slow down, relax and enjoy your food and receive the full nutritional benefits.
1) Breathing – Any time food is about to pass across your lips, ask yourself “Am I about to eat under stress”? If the answer is yes, pause. Take 10 long slow deep breaths. When we are in a stressful state, a deep and rhythmic breathing pattern can
help fool the central nervous system into relaxing. This 2-minute exercise results in a shift from a state of low digestive activity to a state of full digestive force.
2) Gratefuls – This is a 30 second exercise that will have you feeling enlightened and present with your food. Before any meal, sit, get comfortable and state out loud what you are grateful for. This is something Mike and I do every night when we sit down for dinner. Once dinner is ready and our food is plated, we sit at the table and before anyone eats, we state 1-3 things we are grateful or thankful for. For example: “I am grateful that I got to go for a run today” and “I am thankful for my friend who brought me soup while I was sick.” Try to state one thing you are grateful or thankful for about yourself and one thing about the world. Practicing what you are grateful for will open up your awareness and
appreciation which in turn will allow you to open up and receive more from the food you are about it eat. This is also super fun to do at a dinner party!
3) Take a Few & Chew – Add five minutes to any or all meals that you eat. Use these five minutes to practice chewing your food. A fun exercise to try in order to mindfully chew your food is to take a bite, put your fork down, fold your hands in your lap and CHEW. Repeat with a calm, slow pace. The art of chewing is a natural and automatic way of slowing down from head to toe. One thing to watch out for is to not chew your frustrations away. Optimize your home and work schedules as best you can to provide yourself with more time. Commit to providing yourself the gift of more time at each meal.
4) Set the Mood – Step away from all distractions including your work desk, computer, phone, book, and T.V. Make your meals a pleasant and peaceful experience. Use your fancy plates, drink water from a wine glass, dim the lights, play calming music, use your plate as a frame and artistically plate your food. By “setting the mood” for a peaceful meal, you will create peace inside your body and fully appreciate and absorb the nourishment of your meal.
5) Plan Ahead – When it comes to food, not planning can cause one of the biggest stresses of all… the struggle to decide what to eat. Whether it’s super early and you’re still groggy, you have a small window to grab lunch or after you’ve had a long day of work and no energy to make dinner, these are all stressful situations we all experience. Most “Quick and Easy” options are either highly processed, deep fried, or covered in cheese. This is why planning is so important. Having healthy meals ready to eat, either by menu planning for the week and preparing it yourself OR ordering from a service like ours, will make meal times much less stressful and in turn, more enjoyable and nourishing!
One of the reasons we do what we do is to help our clients stress less about food. Whether that means delivering health supportive meals or coaching and creating healthy habits, LESS STRESS and MORE HAPPINESS in the lives of our clients is our mission!
Cheers & Chew Well,
Beth & Mike
As summer slowly turns to fall, we transition from one hectic time of year to another. Whether it's back to school or catching up from summer trips and vacations, it's crucial to have a plan for how to eat well. Let's face it.. summer means BBQ's, ice cream and cold beverages, so why wait until January 1st to "get back on track"? Here are some great tips for how to set yourself up for success, along with some ways that Grateful Plate can help you along the way.
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