Bless that Big Mac!
**Disclaimer: I just want to admit right up front that I am all too guilty of sitting down to a 'meal'... usually at breakfast when I'm alone...and opening a book, or worse, my laptop. It's a habit I do wish to change...
Okay, so, on the topic of giving thanks or expressing appreciation in some form or other before partaking of the bounty before you.
It's healthy for you!
We were taught in shiatsu school that chewing your food thoroughly will actually create greater flexibility in the body. The connection between ease of digestion (in the stomach), and the suppleness of muscles (the Stomach meridian) would be made apparent when having to sit in seiza for hours at a time.
But in addition to that, and more importantly, is the necessity of activating the parasympathetic nervous system when sitting down to eat. All too often, nourishing ourselves becomes one more task on our to-do list, if it's intentionally on there at all, and we accomplish it in the same state of mind as picking up the dry cleaning, finalizing the budget, or making sales calls, (or driving! Yep, guilty again!) and with a similar degree of hurriedness.
In 'to-do' mode we are more likely in an activated orthosympathetic state... that branch of the nervous system that governs fight-or-flight. The physiological characteristics of this state include more rapid breathing, more focused vision, increased heartbeat, and the rush of resources (blood) to the muscles and extremities, and away from the internal organs. Not the best state in which to digest food.
Whether or not you acknowledge a higher power as blessing you with the food on your plate, taking the time to stop and feel appreciation will give your nervous system a few minutes to switch into a more appropriate mode for eating.
Even better, make space and atmosphere to enhance that switch: clear the table of anything non-meal related, dim the lights, (softer vision is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system), add an item of simple beauty to the table - flowers, the 'good' plates, cloth napkins -- make it a sacred space even in a small way. This environment will also enhance your sense of appreciation.
Any or all of these acts will signal to that busy brain of yours that this period of time is delineated, it's sacred, and taking care of nourishment time in this way is taking care of yourself.
~ Allowing yourself a few minutes to 'anticipate' the meal primes the pump. Did you know most of digestion occurs in the mouth? When you smell enticing food, or even think about it, you begin to salivate and secrete enzymes in your mouth that go a long way toward breaking down the food before it even hits the stomach. (Interestingly, the Stomach meridian begins just under the eye.)
~ Your food wll taste better.Or not. Preparing the space and saying a blessing sets the intention to your mind to be more present to your meal. You will notice the flavors and textures if you aren't distracted by other things. And if you're food isn't turning you on, (like say, you're noticing for the first time that that Big Mac isn't all that appetizing after chewing it thoroughly).. maybe it's time to reevaluate what you're feeding your body.
~ You'll be more aware of when you've had enough. Mindful eating includes awareness of being satisfied. If weight is an issue, this is a big plus.
Try this for a couple weeks and see if it makes a difference in how you feel overall.
"…good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people." ~ Sir Henry Guildford: Henry VIII, I, iv
Need some ideas for 'giving thanks'? Here are some links to phrases of gratitude, both religious and secular. Personally, I've always dug the Quaker tradition of silent bowing, and if with company, holding hands around the table.
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