Get Optimal Energy with Nutritional Self Care

By Ben Benjamin(PhD), Lois Orth-Zitoli, January 17, 2012

Get Optimal Energy with Nutritional Self Care

By Ben Benjamin(PhD), Lois Orth-Zitoli,
January 17, 2012

It is our experience that massage therapists are some of the most giving, compassionate people on the planet. While we might be exceptional at caring for others, many massage therapists put themselves last when it comes to their own self-care.

Being a massage therapist is a physically and emotionally demanding job. If you feel totally spent at the end of each work day, then applying a few small changes to your daily eating habits may give you the necessary boost of optimal energy to meet the demands of each day.

Over the next several issues, we will talk about how to eat, when to eat and what to eat to keep your energy levels steady. This information is particularly useful for those of you who always feel tired, those of you who experience a daily 3 p.m. slump, and for those of you who wonder why you can't seem to lose any weight, despite eating a diet of healthy foods.

How To Eat

People seem to be moving at a pace previously unknown to humankind. Words like multi-tasking came into existence to describe this trend. While many think that multi-tasking makes you more productive, it often backfires when applied to mealtimes. According to recent research, multi-tasking causes us to lose focus and decrease productivity. Have you ever shared a meal with someone who eats like they are in the Indy 500? As you are enjoying your second bite of a lovely meal, suddenly you notice your friend's plate is already empty! Or maybe it's your plate. So, why is this relevant?

While you can eat the healthiest meal imaginable, if you are not in a relaxed state during this time, your metabolism is literally shut off. As therapists, we are aware of the "fight-or-flight" response. When you eat in a hurried state, even if you aren't feeling stressed, you are placing the body into a "fight or flight" mode. All the physical changes of the stress response are activated: heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, respiration quickens, blood reroutes away from the midsection of the body and hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) are released into the bloodstream. Not the greatest scenario for your digestive tract. In fact, when you eat a meal while in a stressed state, you actually absorb up to 50 percent less nutrients from your food. Therefore, if you want to improve your digestion and metabolism, pay attention to how you eat. Also, schedule breaks between clients that are long enough to incorporate the following Mindful Eating Tips:

  1. Sit down to enjoy your meal.
  2. Look at your food and appreciate what you are about to eat. This visual observation initiates the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR) and the flow of gastric juices.
  3. Take five long, slow, deep breaths (food + oxygen=calorie burn).
  4. Chew every mouthful twenty-five to fifty times.

If you tend to eat while standing up, driving or watching TV, then you might find the practice of mindful eating challenging at first. The key word is "practice." Bad habits do not change overnight. If these Mindful Eating Tips seem insane or impossible to you, then just choose the easiest one of the four tips and try it for two weeks. After two weeks, try to add another tip to your Mindful Eating practice.