Eating on the run is one of the most underestimated no-no’s. But we all do it and with life being as busy as it is, we seem to be doing it more and more!
You bust through the front door, starving. You find some resemblance of food to shove into your mouth while scurrying around your house. Putting things away, tidying, running around, and getting ready to leave again with food hanging out of your mouth. Sound like something you might do, have done or do regularly? I’m guilty, I think we all are.
Eating while on the run is one of the most underestimated health no-nos.
We all do it. It’s accepted as part of the course in our fast paced culture. But, that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Eating a sandwich while on the way to a meeting is not a benign activity. You’re thinking “how harmful could that be?” Satisfying your hunger while checking off a to-do on your list seems more helpful than harmful, right? Wrong.
If you’re an, eating a granola bar in the car on the way to work kind of person, you might be interested to know that eating this way can wreak havoc on your energy levels, interrupt digestion, and pack on a few extra pounds. But how?
Digestion of food requires energy.
This is the work of our autonomic nervous system, more specifically our parasympathetic nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system works behind the scenes without us telling it to do so. You don’t have to tell your stomach to digest your breakfast it does so automatically.
There are two components of the autonomic nervous system. The first is the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for what is called the “rest and digest “ functions of the body and secondly is the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the “fight or flight” reactions in the body.
Our energy is usually devoted to one or the other, parasympathetic or the sympathetic.
If you eat while experiencing stress, your food only gets partially digested. Meaning each digestive organ (your stomach, small intestine, large intestine, etc) only gets part of the job done!
When we are home, relaxed eating dinner with our families, the parasympathetic system is working – digesting food and keeping us nourished. When we are physically or mentally stressed and feeling threatened, however, our sympathetic nervous system takes over.
For example, if you were being chased by a bear your “fight or flight” response would be completely engaged. So, when we are run-ning around, stressed out, thinking about our to-do list, we are directing a lot of precious resources away from digestion. Instead, our brain and muscles are busy using up energy reserves.
If you eat while experiencing stress, your food only gets partially digested. Meaning each digestive organ (your stomach, small intestine, large intestine, etc) only gets part of the job done and you don’t absorb all the essential nutrients from the food. Improper digestion not only contributes to nutrient deficiencies but can also lead to bloating, constipation, headaches and even allergies.
Eating on the run confuses your internal “I’m full” alarm.
The human body is incredible, we have a built in system that tells our brain when we have had enough and when to stop eating. This system involves hormones, feedback systems and multiple organs. When we aren’t paying attention to what we’re eating we end up engaging in mindless eating.
This lack of attention also means we don’t even recognize when we are full. When eating on the run we tend to eat faster, chew less, and consume more. Before you know it you’ve inhaled an entire meal and you’re probably still hungry!
You don’t often see someone walking down the street, texting and eating a big salad. Eating on the run by default limits the foods and meals you choose to eat. On-the-go food tends to include things like burritos, burgers, sugary ‘energy’ bars, and at best a sandwich.
So, when eating on the run, you are likely to be choosing foods that aren’t the best for you.
There is another reason why we benefit from not eating on the run and this is simply the joy of eating. Each meal should be savoured and enjoyed. You might be surprised to learn that this connection with your food is when digestion actually starts.
You eat with your eyes, nose, thoughts about and anticipation of food before the chewing even begins. Sitting and giving your food your full attention gives you the opportunity to fully engage in all the sensory bliss of chowing down.
So, when we are running around, stressed out, thinking about our to-do list, we are directing a lot of precious resources away from digestion.
Eating on the run is not all together healthy as it:
1. Interrupts digestion.
2. Makes you eat more.
3. Encourages poor food choices.
4. Deprives you of the joy of eating.
All of this leads to lower energy, unexplained weight gain, digestive complaints, and overall a lack of joy.We only take short cuts when we think it won’t matter. Cheating yourself from the pleasure of eating while sitting in peace and quiet or with family and friends will and does impact your health. Take as much time as you can, I know it can be tough. You might not be able to do this for every meal but recognize that this is a goal worthy of the extra effort.
So pull over, sit down, close the computer, put away the phone, turn off the TV and have a date with the three F’s : food, family and friends.
Article by: Ashley Madden – Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Plant Based Chef, Pharmacist.
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