Week Two: Digestive System
The digestive system plays an important role in our health. It is through this system that we break down the food we have consciously chosen to eat into its constituent nutrients that inform our cells with the building blocks required for repair and growth.
One common misunderstanding is to confuse digestive improvement with metabolic enhancement. Digestive organs, from the mouth to the colon, are responsible for properly breaking down food, eliminating food waste, and sending nutrients into the body in the forms of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. Metabolism, regulated by the endocrine and nervous systems, is cells’ ability to convert these nutrients, existing in the form of potential chemical energy, into kinetic energy that can move the body, grow cells, and repair tissues inside the body.
Remember, “empty” calories (foods that provide energy or flavor, but contain limited nutritional building blocks) do not provide the restorative nutrients the body uses for cell construction and maintenance. Missing or imbalanced building blocks, especially combined with environmental stressors, can lead your body to crave even more food. Unless the body’s requests are satisfied with legitimate nutrition, enjoyed mindfully, the extra energy content in empty calories may be stored in fat cells, while other systems of the body work overtime to process artificial ingredients, preservatives, sweeteners, and other extraneous compounds.
Conscious eating is a popular form of mindfulness, because most of us have the good fortune to be able to choose what we eat every single day. We can be mindful not only of the flavor of food, but also character of its nutrients. Once we understand what foods will nourish the body and acknowledge the substances that may harm our being, a desire to control the quality of our nutrition grows naturally. Through this wisdom, we can appreciate the value of choosing foods that are generative and healing for the body as well as intricately pleasurable to consume. It is then intuitive to avoid ingesting foods and substances that provide only convenience or superficial pleasure then create uncomfortable states of body or mind thereafter. This isn’t forcing a diet or counting calories, but rather considering nutrients and caring for yourself. Let your intelligence and desire for health guide your actions.
While nutritional advice can be inconsistent and often changes over time, you can always perceptively observe your own body’s reaction to simple changes in food intake. This week, you will take the simple step of adding or taking away food groups or substances from your daily eating plan. Let’s be SMART again. Set a goal of repaying your cells for their tireless efforts by giving them what they need.
Take some time to observe your daily eating patterns. Being aware of the true needs of your body in terms of digestion and metabolism, what could you mindfully add to or take away from your diet for a period of time?
Write your SMART goal and make the honest decision to achieve it. This could be as simple as drinking four extra cups of water per day or eliminating a major food category (consider sugar, alcohol, gluten, caffeine, or animal products) for a period of time. The goal of this practice is to support your digestive system by becoming mindful of your eating habits and perhaps making lifestyle changes, as opposed to imposing a temporary diet. You may not lose weight as a result of this practice, but you will certainly gain more insight into your body’s reaction to what you choose to ingest.
You could also use this exercise as an opportunity to prepare more food at home, focusing on consuming whole foods and natural herbs or spices, while avoiding processed food and additives. Not only does this guarantee you exact knowledge and control of the ingredients in your food, it may also give you an opportunity to spend more quality time with family, friends, or loved ones. Your state of mind, along with the environment in which your meal is consumed, can influence your body's response as much as the food itself.
Duration and Frequency:
Try to be mindful of every piece of food you consume. Even if you continue eating some less nutritious foods, acknowledging them as such can naturally affect your eating decisions over time.
Write your first Development Log after spending adequate time observing and setting a goal, then continue with your next log at the end of each day to track your progress.
Set a goal you can achieve, choosing a change you can maintain. Modify your eating patterns for at least seven days, but preferably twenty-one days. This gives your body time to readjust to new patterns and, if applicable, purge the chemical effects of addictive substances. After this time, consider whether you want to continue, modify, or improve your practice.