The stomach lining changes over about every 5 days, your taste buds change every two weeks, every day you shed over a million skin cells, the uterine wall for a woman sheds every month. We are constantly changing and from day to day we are never living in the same body. How will you begin the process of coming into relationship with your body and your gut for who they are and what they need today?
Happy Day after July 4th! You might have gone to a big BBQ yesterday, ate a lot of food, and now today feel perhaps sluggish, tired, bloated, and gassy. Additionally, often times after a large meal there is a judgmental voice that pops up. "Why did you do that?" "You are such a failure for eating that much." "I have to restrict what I eat today to make up for yesterday." "I have to go to the gym today and work this all off."
Do any of these sound familiar to you? This list goes on in terms of what that voice can say, but it is a voice that is loud, mean, and not looking after your health and well being.
So here are a couple of steps you can take after eating a big meal:
1. Focus on Emotional Nourishment
Being with friends and family nourishes us in a similar and different way than food. We can get filled up by the experience of being around loved ones. Chatting, catching up, funny stories, playing games, effect the way we digest our food. When you are being emotionally nourished by the situation your body is in a relaxation response and your digestive tract can handle any input of food easier. So as those voices pop up, redirect your thoughts toward how you were nourished by the situation. Often big meals are eaten in the company of others. Instead of focusing on how much you ate, reflect on how the people, the situation, the environment was ultimately very fulfilling.
2. Be gentle with yourself
Think of the negative, harsh, internal voice that arises after a large meal as your inner child. The more you ignore the fact they are whining, the louder they get. Listen to what your inner child is saying, rub their back, and tell them everything is going to be alright. The voices may still be there but you can acknowledge them and choose not to do anything about them. This can be an opportunity to delve deeper into what the voices are really trying to say. Is eating a large meal mean you deserve less love? Is feeling overly full mean that people won't like you anymore? Be super gentle with yourself after a large meal and think about what you can emotionally nourish yourself with throughout the day that doesn't have to do with restriction or self punishment. Take a bath, take a walk, listen to some music, call a friend, do something that nourishes your soul. It is all about coming back to self love.
3. Eat something fermented/take your probiotics
I of course had to add this in! After a big meal, there might have been a lot of sweets, sugar, or carbs that were consumed. By eating some kimchee, sauerkraut, taking a probiotic, drinking some Kevita, you will be flooding your gut with beneficial bacteria which will go to work to make sure those foods are not sitting in your stomach and fermenting. Getting in the good bacteria after a big meal will help keep your mood up and aid your belly in digesting all the yummy food you just ate. Additionally if you take your probiotic with a glass of water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in it you will increase your stomach acid to also help break down the large meal.
And just remember every time we eat is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Every meal is a chance to explore our relationship with food and others. There is no judgment here. Be curious like a child and explore the situation with fascination and inquiry.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition defines Primary Food as the type of nourishment that fills you up first. This comes from healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice which can satisfy your hunger for life. "When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary."
The Conscious Cleanse has a term called Soul Food where again how we are living our life can nourish us in a way that food can't and that often times when our soul is not being fed adequately that is when food can be used inappropriately.
This weekend my primary nourishment or soul food has been filled to the brim. My mother came to visit. I never wanted to move to the west coast and be so far away from most of my family, and especially her, but that was where my life was calling me. So I only get to see her about twice a year, which we talked about this weekend how this needs to change because it is just too little.
I am literally fed by her presence, her laughter, our chats, our hugs, that food becomes secondary. I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am full. Suddenly, when I am truly present and being nourished by my life and those around me, food has less power. It becomes something that is needed to keep me going and keep my focus on getting back to feeling satiated by my life.
Sometimes this is a concept I forget when things get super busy. I can often lean on meal times as a crutch to feel some calm in a busy day. So this weekend was a nice reminder that when the stress levels rise and things get hectic and busy, this is the time I need to reach out to my friends and family even more to talk, to laugh, to take walks, to decompress. When we are filled up, satiated, nourished by our surroundings we feed ourselves the things that feel good and give us energy.
So the next time you find yourself reaching again for a food that leaves you tired or drained or bloated or guilty try asking yourself what else could fill you up in that moment that has nothing to do with food. Perhaps you need to take a bath, or call a friend, or put on music and dance wild around your apartment or house. Create a list of these things and put them up on your fridge so that every time you go to reach for food you get the reminder to ask yourself what is it that you are truly craving/needing/desiring in that moment. Are you truly hungry or are you grazing? Do you need physical nourishment from food or are you looking to fill some emotional hunger?
No matter what you decide to do, this is all just information to use to empower you to make the best decisions for yourself. And your primary nourishment or soul food list on your fridge can serve as another tool in which to remind yourself to connect back with you.
I love my mother fiercely. And it wasn't always this way. When I was a teenager (like most teenagers) my mom and I would get into fights all the time. As I have gotten older, the things I used to make a big deal out of seem trivial now. Somewhere in my twenties I realized that life is short and my mom won't be around forever so I might as well make every opportunity I have to enjoy her wonderful and amazing presence in my life. She is my best friend and I am not ashamed to say that out loud. She has more common sense, intuition, and wisdom than anyone I know and I feel like she was just born that way. And at the same time she knows how to let loose when she needs to and have fun. As she has aged I have seen her find meaningful friendships, go out, take classes, learn new things, and just laugh and laugh more so than the woman I grew up with. I love her laugh. It is literally infectious. And when she gets going she laughs so hard she cries.
So here are four big lessons I have learned from my mother:
1. Don't burn any bridges.
I really live by this one day in and day out. My behavior is a reflection of myself and I can't control anyone else but I can decide how I show up. We never know when we will cross paths with someone again. The world may be big, but it is also surprisingly small. That one person that you said all those mean things to when you were younger or at your current job may just end up being the CEO of some business that in the future you want to try and get a job at. You just never ever know. I am not saying don't speak your truth. If someone is legitimately being rude I am a big proponent of being honest and telling those around you how their behavior effects you. But pointing your fingers at someone else doesn't solve any issue it just creates more. When I speak with "I" statements, I own my own reactions and behaviors and I work to leave any bad situation feeling as though I am on at least good terms with those who have crossed my path. Ultimately, just be kind, considerate, and respectful to everyone you meet. And speaking of respectful...
2. Say hello when you enter a room and say goodbye when you leave.
For the most part, people don't like it when they feel like they are being ignored. When you enter a room a transition has happened. A simple act of just saying hello (whether it be to a loved one, a family member, a stranger) can smooth that transition and let the other person know you come in peace. Whenever I came home or left my mother just wanted an update on whether I was there or somewhere else. When those around us have to guess what we are up to or when we are coming home or leaving a little bit of tension can be created. There is an uncertainty and an unknowing of what to expect. When you inform those around you of your presence or lack of presence they get to be at ease and not make up stories. And when you say goodbye, you are honoring the time you have just spent with that person and ease another transition happening. For example, you wouldn't just answer the phone and not say hello. The other person would probably hang up not knowing you were there. And if you don't say goodbye and just hang up you leave the other person hanging on to the experience that just happened with no definitive end. How you enter and leave a situation not only eases your life but it creates peace in those around you as well.
3. You eat an elephant a bite at a time.
I get overwhelmed easily. Whenever a new school year would start, I would look at all my syllabi and think how am I going to get this all done! (thinking I needed to get it all done the next day and forgetting I had an entire semester to complete all these tasks). I would immediately call up mother crying and looking for support. Her response was always, "Stephanie, you eat an elephant a bite at a time." Elephants are huge. And to imagine eating an entire elephant would be a daunting task. But when given permission to take as much time as needed to eat the entire elephant, the pressure is off and the ability to rise to the challenge increases. While this may be an odd image, it always helped me. Anything that feels huge, daunting, scary, overwhelming is doable. What gets in the way is our thoughts. What gets in the way is fear. Fear of mistakes, fear of failure, fear of success. When I was able to take the pressure off, I could start being creative again, rebuild my confidence, and challenge my internal voices. Nothing is too big for you. Give yourself all the time you need.
4. Have fun in your life.
I have always been an old soul. I take life pretty seriously and I work hard. I could probably view everything in my life as a task to be done and there is part of me that enjoys that because I like the feeling like I am getting things done (and yes I could challenge that but I'll save that for another post). Breaking loose from routine and the ideas of what we "should" or "should not" be doing with our time is really important. Letting go of what I think is healthy or the best for me and doing something entirely different has given me opportunities to experience life, to make mistakes, to learn lessons, to meet new people, to create memories, and to laugh. I have made the best memories around times when I drank too much, ate too much, danced, and laughed my ass off all night long. If I am stuck in worrying about a situation, I try and ask myself now would this really matter in 5 years? Usually the answer is no. To invite fun into life is a practice for me, but one that I have learned from my mother makes your soul come alive and gives your life more meaning.
I hope these lessons help you as much as they have helped me and Happy Mother's Day!!!
Stephanie Mara Pollock
Here to discuss the many ways we can find nourishment.