Like many of you, I have been exposed to dozens, maybe hundreds, of dietary theories. We all know by now that eating greens and moving our bodies is helpful in achieving optimal health. But did you know that how you eat (and what you think) is equally important? What if you could increase your metabolic power without changing what you eat?
I am super excited to introduce our guest blogger this week, Marc David, founder, director and primary instructor for the Institute for Psychology of Eating. A visionary leader in the fields of health and nutrition, Marc is a Nutritional Psychologist and the author of two classic and acclaimed bestselling books: The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss and Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well Being. His humorous, engaging, and informative speaking style has made him a popular and well loved presenter and his non-dogmatic approach to nutrition appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for positive, inspiring, and innovative messages about food and metabolism.
Marc has been my personal mentor and much of my coaching, writing, speaking and thinking has been influenced by his teachings and our work together. Specifically, I help my clients achieve long-term results by slowing down, taking pleasure in the eating experience and becoming fully engaged in the nourishment process. They come to realize that feeling nourished is not just about the food.
As Marc illustrates in this post, the key to unlocking your metabolic power is all around you. Could it really be that simple and accessible for all of us to look and feel our best? Read on. You may just discover some new tools to take your health to a whole new level.
Do You Know What the Best Kept Nutritional Secret Is?
By Marc David
Here’s an important piece of nutritional information that you likely didn’t know: there’s only one true miracle nutrient, it has a profound metabolic power, you can get it for free any time and any place, and yet it tends to remain a secret. The miracle nutrient is Vitamin O – Oxygen. And we need lots of it. With food, quality is what’s important. With oxygen, quantity is what counts. I know lots of people who restrict their food intake, but few of us go on an “oxygen free diet.” Try it sometime and see what happens – such an experiment won’t last very long. Indeed, we can survive for about 4 weeks without food, approximately 4 days without water, but we can’t even last 4 minutes without oxygen. Talk about a highly essential nutrient! Believe it or not, oxygen has been and always will be our highest nutritional priority.
When it comes to your greatest metabolism, the bottom line is this: if we don’t have full healthy breathing, then we don’t truly have a meal. The entire process of digestion is designed to break food down into microscopic morsels that can be sent to our cells and combusted with oxygen so we can fuel our biological machine. Over 95% of all energy generated in the body comes from this basic combining of oxygen and food. Without oxygen our meal is scientifically useless. Light a fire in your fireplace and the few things that concern you most are good wood (fuel) and the right amount of air circulation. Without oxygen, the fire couldn’t come alive and the fuel wouldn’t burn.
The same is true for the body. Indeed, the body is quite literally a heat-producing cellular machine. Just about every chemical reaction inside us has, as a by-product, heat. At the cellular level, then, food is the fuel, and oxygen exists to fan our metabolic flames. That’s why the most commonly used measurement for our metabolic rate is oxygen utilization. Metabolism is oxygen. And oxygen comes to us by way of breathing.
It’s fascinating how breathing is such a vital yet overlooked part of our nutritional well-being. In high school biology, many of us learned that oxygen combined with carbohydrates (food) results in energy liberation. Yet few of us learned this key secret:
When you breathe more, you burn more.
So, here’s a great exercise to try: at every meal or snack, or any time you eat, ask yourself “Am I about to eat under stress? Is my mind anxious or out of control?” If the answer is yes, then gently pause. Then take 5-10 long, slow, deep breaths. The simple steps would look something like this:
- Sit in a comfortable position with spine straight, and feet flat on the floor.
- Eyes can be open or closed, but relaxed
- Hold your breath for several seconds
- Exhale fully
- Repeat this cycle 5-10 times
This simple breathing practice can shortcut the stress response in as little as a minute, depending on the intensity of your anxiety or rush. Even if you’re in a situation where breathing is socially unacceptable, like a business luncheon with tough-minded characters who have little regard for oxygen, you can still use this technique. Simply stay focused on breathing while you continue to look at others and follow the conversation at the table. People will think you’re listening to them respectfully, but what you’re really doing is secretly stimulating the physiologic relaxation response. It’s really quite exciting.
Here’s the simple and elegant science behind this strategy. By holding in the breath for several seconds, the carotid bodies – tiny clumps of nerve tissue containing specialized chemical receptors and located along the carotid arteries – are fooled into thinking that blood pressure is rising. The carotid bodies then send a message for blood vessels to dilate, which creates an overall drop in blood pressure and thus a diminishment in the physiologic stress response.
Next, by breathing in to only two-thirds of our lung capacity, we ensure that blood pressure won’t go up from the sheer exertion of forcing the lungs to maximum expansion. By breathing out more fully than we breathe in, we help move stagnant air out of the lungs. Slow, deep breathing has also been shown to increase endorphin release in the body, producing a lovely sense of relaxed pleasure.
With basic deep breathing, it’s generally preferable to breathe in and out through the nose. Air entering the nasal passages is quickly warmed to body temperature because our lungs work most efficiently with warm air. Step outside on a cold winter day, breathe in through your mouth, and you’ll prove this to yourself rather easily because cold air causes our lungs to contract. Nasal breathing also has a potent effect on the central nervous system as nerve receptors in the nose reach directly to the brain. If your sinuses are clogged and nasal breathing is difficult, breathing through your mouth will still work just fine.
A useful variation on this technique is to place a hand on your belly, or even one hand atop the other over your abdomen. This can help you focus more specifically on your digestion and relax more deeply.
Hopefully, you’re starting to grasp the true metabolic power of oxygen when it comes to nutritional and metabolic function. Are you willing to incorporate more of this vital nutrient into your meals as a simple yet powerful nutrition experiment? Are you ready to breathe in more air, and breathe in more Life?
Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom, The Slow Down Diet, and Mind Body Nutrition. He has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. The Institute for the Psychology of Eating is the world’s only teaching organization dedicated to a forward thinking, positive, holistic approach to nutritional psychology. IPE is unique and revolutionary in its approach – teaching students and professionals how to effectively work with the most common eating challenges of our times. Learn more at www.psychologyofeating.com and be sure to get their FREE audio gift.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post you’ll want to join us for a free teleseminar on June 18, De-Stress and Eat Less-But How?, where I interview Marc David and introduce you to some powerful concepts in the fields of Dynamic Eating Psychology and Mind Body Nutrition. This lively discussion will leave you with a whole new approach in harnessing your metabolic power. You’ll come away with simple, straightforward and practical strategies to empower your relationship with food, plus a brand new perspective on appetite. Click here for registration details.
Question of the day: how will you add some extra Vitamin O into your life today?