Feeling bloated is never comfortable. We’ve all experience it. It feels like your food is just sitting at the bottom of your stomach. You look in the mirror and you think, “when is my due date?” Sweet relief can come when you follow a few simple steps that will improve your digestive system and can even help with to lose weight.
But first let’s talk about your digestive system and why its so important. We all know that digesting our food is important, sometime along the way, in science class, we learned WHAT our body does with food. But as an adult, with a more developed brain and intuition, have you ever really looked at WHY it’s important? Many time people don’t even consider learning about things like digestion until it becomes a problem or a pain point. So let’s talk about it now.
We all know that suffering from digestive problems such as gas, bloating, re flux, stomach cramps, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease can seriously hinder our daily functioning and make us miserable.
Your gastrointestinal tract (GI) tract acts as your body’s food processor and if it’s blocked, overloaded, polluted with toxins such as food additives, pesticides and preservatives, or otherwise irritated, it is going to let you know how it feels by having one of the reactions listed above. Your GI tract first breaks down your food by the mechanical process of chewing and then by a multitude of complex chemical processes that extracts nutrients to feed your system and expel toxins. Which brings us to our first tool to prevent belly bloat…
Reduce bloating after you eat…by CHEWING your food.
The best way to ensure that we are helping make it easy for our bodies to digest our food is to chew A LOT so that our food mixes with our digestive juices so it can be easily digested and better absorbed for optimal nutrition.
Believe it or not chewing is one of the most important aids to our digestion and it’s also one we often take for granted so much so that we sometimes just swallow our food whole, forgetting to grind our teeth altogether!
Learning how to chew your food properly (up to 30 times per bite) will help you extract the maximum nutrients from your food and get your digestive juices flowing right AND help keep your weight down and your tummy flat.
How? Because if you eat healthy food packed with nutrients that you chew properly with each bite, you will be able to recognize once you feel full and you will therefore eat less!
My clients find that learning how-to chew helps to:
- Sense intuitively when you are full
- Gain way more satisfaction from eating
- Develop a healthier relationship with food
How to chew better for optimal digestion:
To get in the habit of chewing, try chewing each bite of food at the beginning of your next meal 30 times. (Putting your fork down and breathing between bites will help.)
Even if you only have 5 minutes for a meal, let the chewing relax you and use it almost as a meditation. That way you’ll enjoy the whole spectrum of tastes and aromas that make up the meal, trigger cephalic phase digestion, and your body and brain will be satisfied even with a quickie.
Reduce bloating after you eat by…RELAXING while you eat.
Think about your typical lunch break or dinner. Are you constantly eating on the go? Multi-tasking during the meal? Engaging in gossip? These are all ways in which we feed the stress response. Stress is the opposite of relaxation. Eating under stress is not only commonplace, it’s socially acceptable and often a prerequisite for managing a job, a family or having a life. When moving through life too fast we inevitably eat fast, which destroys our metabolism and creates digestive upset aka bloating. The slower you eat the faster you metabolize. Metabolism is the process in which your body turns what you eat and drink into energy, instead of it sitting in your stomach, eventually turning into fat. So you see people who may have skinny legs or skinny arms and they tend to gain all their weight in the belly – stress.
To stop belly bloat, your task is to do something of great difficulty: RELAX! To boost metabolism, you must RELAX! Taking 10 deep breaths before you eat can release the feeling of stress and allow the digestive system to kick back in.
Reduce bloating after you eat by…HONORING your hunger and fullness.
So what does that mean? Let’s start with hunger…how do we honor hunger? Honoring hunger is about recognizing what happens internally before you get hungry.
Instead of waiting until you’re so hungry you could eat a horse, you tune in to the internal signal that the body needs nourishment. It’s kind of like the gas tank on your car. There’s a buffer zone when you get in the red. When the gas light first appears, depending on your car you may have 20-30 miles to go before you actually run out of gas and come to a halt.
We don’t want to wait until we run out of gas to eat. Why? Because that’s when the crazy unleashes. Notice what happens when you are super hungry. Do your eyes glaze over and slump in your chair unable to do anything? Do you become hangry? Do you end up eating things that you wouldn’t normally choose to eat simply because it’s within reach and you feel desperate?
If you let yourself get too hungry, it’s almost impossible to think clearly or make good decisions for ourselves. The need to feel physically full becomes so irresistible you’ll eat almost anything – 5 pieces of toast, a candy bar, a whole pint of ice cream, cocoa powder with a spoon, tomato sauce and breadsticks.
And even after you eat all that, you may still feel unsatisfied (cue belly bloat) because it wasn’t a real meal. The body’s appetite mechanism is still searching for the meal, and it won’t shut down until you’ve had what feels like a meal.
So the first step is to recognize the hunger and your own internal signs. Create your own hunger scale from 1-10. 2 is when the gas light would come on. It’s the indicator that it’s time to plan for nourishment. 10 would be psycho bitch hangry. We don’t want to let it get past a 5 or there’s a good chance you’ll be setting yourself up for poor food decisions or a binge. Start to plan for food when you are at a 1-2. Make sense?
Now let’s talk about honoring fullness. We can also create a fullness scale from 1-10. 10 is so stuffed that you need to unbutton your pants to breathe. What we’re looking for is a 7 on the fullness scale. 7 is where you are nourished and energized from food, satiated not stuffed. It means eating to about 75% fullness.
Intellectually the hunger and fullness scale seems very simple. Start planning to eat when you are at a level 2 on the hunger scale and stop eating when you are at a level 7. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
Here’s the problem – most of us have habits of eating beyond fullness. Like when you go to a buffet and there’s so much food, it’s just sitting there in front of you and it tastes so good so you pick off one more piece from the serving dish… then you are engaged in conversation and you mindlessly pick another piece, before you know it your belly hurts and you’re wishing you didn’t overeat.
So let’s talk about creating some new habits especially around fullness because that’s where most people get tripped up.
Here are 6 ways you can practice honoring your inner intuitive hunger and fullness scale:
- Start planning what and when to eat when you are at a level 2 on the hunger/ fullness scale.
- Eat high-energy foods that your body wants.
- Eat for energy (aim for Level 7 on your inner intuitive scale, versus a Level 10 when you’re so full you have to unzip your pants 😉
- Make a physical gesture that your meal is complete by pushing your plate away, putting a napkin over it, or crossing your silverware.
- Declare out loud to yourself or whomever you are eating with that you are full. This will dissuade you from continuing to eat because you’ve already announced that the meal was complete for you.
- If you’re out, ask your server to box up the rest of the meal so it’s not calling you hither.
So the next time you sit down to eat a meal, be present and remember to chew, relax and honor yourself.
To Your Health,
Coach Leslie J.