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Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY
Nelson, BC, Canada
March 4, 2010
The Slow Down Diet
Producer/Host - Jon Steinman
Transcript - Kirk Heber/Bev Christensen
Jon Steinman: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner, a syndicated weekly radio show and podcast produced in Nelson, British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio, CJLY. I'm Jon Steinman.
Today we take a fascinating look into a subject that certainly does not receive the amount of attention it deserves here on the show, the psychology of eating. So often we examine how our food choices impact our environment and our communities, but how about the actual act of eating? How can a greater sense of awareness of how we eat influence not only ourselves but everyone and everything around us?
Marc David will be our featured guest for the next hour. He's the author of our focus for today - his 2005 book titled, "The Slow Down Diet - Eating for Pleasure, Energy & Weight Loss".
Join us for the next hour as we explore "A New Way of Seeing Nutrition" - one that moves from the status-quo whereby nutrition is made up of tangible building blocks to a new reality which embraces a more holistic approach where the mind and body are interchangeable.
Increase Music and Fade Out
Marc David: To me it ought to be headline news that the major nutritional influence on the body actually these days is not what you're eating, it's about, plain and simple, the polarity of stress and relaxation. When you sum-total up all the research that's done in this area, what you'll find is that digestive physiologists will agree that approximately 40-60% of your total digestive and assimilative power at any meal comes from this head phase of digestion - taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction, the visuals; i.e. your awareness of the meal.
What I will suggest is that the ultimate source of nutritional wisdom is you, the eater.
JS: That's Marc David, our featured guest for today's episode, an episode that will explore a new way of seeing nutrition, and where we'll learn how our body's ability to digest and metabolize food is not just determined by the scientific breakdown of the food itself but by our level of relaxation, the quality of our food, our awareness when we're eating, the rhythms with which we eat throughout the day, the pleasure we find in our meals, the thought that's put into the food, the story behind the food and the sanctity that we bring to the table.
Previous to his most recent book The Slow Down Diet, Marc authored "Nourishing Wisdom - A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well-Being". Marc earned his M.A. at Sonoma State University specializing in the Psychology of Eating. He has trained at the Harvard Mind Body Medical Institute and the State University of New York's Upstate Medical School. Marc is now the founder and director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and he also serves on the editorial staff of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal for complementary and alternative medicine.
Marc's 2005 release, The Slow Down Diet, effectively demonstrates a pretty common sense approach to eating - yet it's one that challenges so many of the systems of belief that our food system and its accompanying dieting programs are founded upon.
Some of those beliefs Marc introduces early on in the book as being the most common nutrition myths. Marc spoke to Deconstructing Dinner over the phone from his home in Boulder, Colorado, and to help introduce today's show, Marc outlines Myth #1 - that "The best way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more."
MD: It's more than a myth, it's a religion; it gets repeated over and over again in Western civilization, and the bottom line is, if this approach could work, it would have worked a long time ago. And the reality is it doesn't, because obesity or weight gain - let's just even limit this to North America - continues to be on the rise, continues to be an issue; so if somebody were to lose weight by eating less and exercising more, they would have done it already. It's interesting, the statistics are - and these are updated every year but it always comes out to be approximately the same stats, which is that anywhere from 96 to 99% of all humans who lose weight on a weight loss diet gain it back in anywhere from six months to two years. So that's pretty profound, and there are numerous reasons why this doesn't work. Some of the basic reasons why eating less and exercising more doesn't work is that, first and foremost, when we cut calories away from the body to the degree that we're limiting the actual amount of food that the body needs, the actual amount of nutrition that the body needs, the body gets a little concerned. There's something called the Survival Response: this is an evolutionary adaptation such that millions of years ago when our distant ape-like ancestors were roaming around, if their food supply got cut off for any reason, or if they got marooned on a desert island, the brain quickly perceives that and signals the body and says, hey, there's no more food around, our food supply is cut off; better hang on to weight, better hang on to body fat, better not build muscle because that takes a lot of energy. So the bottom line is, whenever the body senses this piece called, "Not enough food", it will go into survival response, and it will literally shift metabolism to that day. So what happens is, the more people calorie-restrict, the more they send that signal into their body, "Survival response - Not enough food."
JS: So that's Marc David's Myth #1 - that the best way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. As for Myth #2, another common belief, that the reason you eat too much is lack of willpower. According to Marc, that's not true at all, and the reason we overeat is not because we're weaklings, but because we're physiologically driven to do so when our meals are deficient in relaxation, time, pleasure, awareness and high-quality foods.
MD: Most people who are trying to lose weight will assert that my appetite is the issue, that food is the enemy, and that if I only had more control over my willpower, if I can just control my bodily instincts, if I can just control this enemy called my appetite, then I could lose weight. So what happens is, we have a huge amount of people walking around trying to exert willpower over the body, exert willpower over appetite, and of course they fail. I have yet to meet a single person - and I've been in this business for over 30 years now, counselling, teaching - I have yet to meet a single person who has said to me, "Yes, I have successfully lost weight and kept it off all these years because I exert willpower over my appetite and decrease it." And the few that can do that are in a constant state of vigilance and misery and upset, because it's hard to do. So the bottom line is this: the brain requires pleasure from food; we are all programmed at the most primitive level of the brain to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When you're eating, you're seeking the pleasure of food; you're avoiding the pain of hunger. When the body doesn't register pleasure from food because you're eating a low-calorie, nasty cardboard-like diet, the brain's not smart enough to say, "Hey, you're not getting enough pleasure". All the brain says is, "Hungry" - and then you think you have a willpower problem. The brain wants awareness of the meal. There's something digestive physiologists call the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response - this is a fancy term for the head phase of digestion, meaning taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction, your visuals of the meal, your awareness of the meal. The brain wants to know what you're eating, what it tastes like, what it feels like - that's how it gives your body feedback about, "Oh! Right... that's how much I need", or "Oh! I need more", or "Oh! Good! I got those vitamins, I got those macronutrients." So the brain wants the head phase of digestion to articulate the meal to itself, to figure out what's going on. If you eat in a rush, if you're eating on the run, you're getting into your car, you're stuffing food down your mouth - you're not getting taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction and visuals. And consequently you could eat a ton of food - and many people have this experience - they eat a ton of food but they eat fast, their belly feels full but their mouth feels hungry, and the reason why the mouth is hungry is because it didn't sense anything. The food went down so fast, and once again, the brain's not smart enough to tell you, "Hey pal, you should have slowed down, you should have tasted your food, you should have nourished yourself, you should have taken more time." - the brain doesn't know how to say that, the brain just says, "Hungry!". So then you're driven to eat more, from lack of pleasure, from lack of awareness, from lack of time with the meal, from lack of the nuances that your brain is looking for to distinguish the meal, and then people are overeating even though they've just eaten a lot and they think it's willpower. But quite the opposite, all they needed to do is take a deep breath, and slow down and actually do the thing that they're doing.
JS: Now much of what Marc David is introducing here will be expanded upon in much greater detail as the next hour of the show unfolds. But let's first move to Marc's Myth #3… that as long as you eat the right foods in the right amounts, you'll ensure good health and lose weight. As Marc suggests, what we eat is only half the story.
MD: It's pretty stupendous to me how the whole of nutritional science is founded on the simple principle that what you eat - the specific food, the chemical make-up of that food, the nutrient breakdown of that food - that determines nutrition in the body. So therefore, if we eat the right foods, the right nutrition, then we will obtain optimum health, optimum metabolism. What I will suggest, and strongly so, is what you eat is at best half the story of good nutrition. The other half of the story is who you are as an eater; meaning what you bring to the table; meaning there is a very powerful, distinct and clear mind-body-nutrition connection; meaning your level of stress and relaxation affects the metabolism of a meal. Your level of pleasure, your level of awareness affects the metabolism of a meal. The thoughts you are thinking will create a certain chemistry, a certain metabolic milieu within the body. The rhythm at which you eat - rhythm meaning are you skipping meals, are you starving yourself for half the day - the speed at which you eat; so all of these things are factoring in to influence your metabolism, influence your physiology. So the point is you could be eating the healthiest food in the universe, but if your emotions and your being and your thoughts and your feelings and your level of stress - if they're negatively impacting you, then you're not going to be receiving full nutritional value from that meal. So it's almost like saying you can get the best gas for your car, but if the car is falling apart and is no good anymore, it doesn't matter what you put into it; the car has to be functioning in order to utilize that fuel properly.
JS: So that's Myth #3 - that as long as you eat the right foods in the right amounts, you'll ensure good health and lose weight. And the final Myth that Marc introduces in his Slow Down Diet, is that The experts are your ultimate source of reliable and scientifically accurate nutrition information. Marc cautions us to not wholeheartedly listen to the "experts" as he believes we're currently in the "wild-west" of nutrition expertise. As a result of so many of us gravitating towards the so-called experts, he believes many of us suffer from a "high-fact" diet. Instead, Marc believes the best nutritionist is within each of us.
MD: If you walk into the average well-stocked bookstore, you can find at least a hundred nutrition books. They're each written by an MD, a PhD, a dietician or a famous nutrition expert, and they all tell you something different and they all give you scientific proof of why their system is the best. And this is consistent across the board, anywhere you go - that's a fascinating phenomenon. Right there it tells me that really we're living in the Wild West when it comes to nutritional expertise. I have seen more people walking around in misery suffering from what I call a "High Fact" diet - way too much information, and ultimately somebody outside of you: an expert. Yes, perhaps they can give you some good insight and some good information, simply because that's their expertise and that's what they're interested in and fanatic about, but what I will suggest is that the ultimate source of nutritional wisdom is you, the eater. There's something in the body that scientists call the enteric nervous system; this was described arguably well over a hundred years ago. The enteric nervous system is the separate yet interconnected nervous system that enervates your gut, your digestive tract, meaning your food pipe, your stomach, your small and large intestines, liver, pancreas, gall bladder. There are as many nerve cells - as many neurons - in the gut nervous system, in the enteric nervous system, as there are in your spinal cord. In other words, what we're saying is that your digestive system is a highly thinking, feeling, sensing, experiencing part of the body; and there is a huge amount of wisdom and intelligence and information circulating within the gut. You have probably heard - there's various estimations - scientists will say, Oh, you only use 2% of your brain, or 10% of the brain or 20% of the brain; whatever it is everybody says something different. Bottom line is, I would make the same assertion for the gut brain; just as we only use a small percentage of the head brain, we're only using a small percentage of the gut brain. Are we tuning into it? Are we listening to it? It's a tremendous source of feedback that takes a little training. Just as it takes you training to go to school - learn how to do math, learn how to read - you got to train the brain. The gut brain as well responds to training, to questioning, to listening, to trial-and-error. So that's why I'm saying at the end of the day, the greatest nutritional expert on the planet when it comes to your body, is you.
JS: That's Marc David - author of The Slow Down Diet - and our featured guest on today's episode of Deconstructing Dinner. If you miss any of today's broadcast, it is archived on-line at deconstructingdinner.ca and posted under the March 4th, 2010 episode. Culturally, when we speak of nutrition or dieting, the biological process that becomes the focus of the discussion is… metabolism - the chemical reactions taking place in the body that break-down our food. Now this, as Marc suggests, is only one side of the story, and that while the vast majority of nutrition information would have us believe that metabolism is just an isolated process within the body, Marc explains that metabolism also takes place outside of the body.
MD: Here's a piece about metabolism: if you actually walked into a room of doctors and scientists and asked everybody what metabolism was, you would get a different answer. It's one of those terms that everybody thinks they know about, but they're really hearing or saying something different when it comes to that term. If you just look up in any classic freshman biology or physiology college textbook, the basic definition of metabolism is simply, the sum-total of all the chemical reactions in your body. Plain and simple; the sum-total of all the chemical reactions in your body - that's what we call metabolism. You can get more specific: we can say there's a metabolism that happens in the liver; there's the metabolism of specific substances like cholesterol; there's calorie-burning metabolism - that's what most people hear when they hear metabolism: how well I burn calories. So, back to the classic definition: sum-total of all the chemical reactions in the body... Guess what? Over the last forty years, all the mind-body science research that has come out has without a doubt placed us in a whole new realm where it's now understood and proven that the mind affects the body. Other systems, other cultures - the Chinese, in India - they've known this thousands of years, but we just caught up to that. So if the mind and the emotions are affecting the body, our new and updated definition of metabolism would simply be the sum-total of all the chemical reactions in the body plus the thoughts, the feelings, the beliefs; everything that impacts you, will impact your metabolism. So, metabolism happening outside the body means you just don't live as an isolated creature all by yourself on planet Earth; you're surrounded by your friends, your loved ones, your community, you're in a certain home, you live and breathe a certain atmosphere, you're in a certain culture, you're in certain relationships - some are loving, some are work-related, some are supportive - do they work for you? So everything around us - it's what you see, the beauty, nature, colour... are you looking around seeing ugliness - all of that impacts the senses from the outside; it affects us, it affects metabolism.
JS: Marc David's explanation of how our bodies metabolize food is certainly a new way of thinking - in light of most nutritional "experts" suggesting that our physical bodies are isolated from everything else. In the Slow-Down Diet - this idea is thrown out the window and replaced with a more holistic view of nutrition by recognizing that our bodies are influenced by our emotions and our surroundings. In this book Marc introduces what he calls the Eight Universal Metabolizers consisting of Relaxation, Quality, Awareness, Rhythm, Pleasure, Thought, Story and the Sacred. These Eight Universal Metabolizers became the basis for my conversation with Marc, and we first deconstructed Relaxation. As Marc explains, when we're not relaxed, and instead stressed while we eat, our body's digestion turns off.
MD: To me it ought to be headline news that the major nutritional influence on the body actually these days is not what you're eating, it's about, plain and simple, the polarity of stress and relaxation. The stress response means the classic Fight or Flight response; it's a mechanism that we evolved millions of years ago such that when the lion is chasing you, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, blood is shunted away from your midsection, away from your gut, away from your digestion where a lot of blood likes to hang out, and blood is rushed to your arms and legs for quick fighting or fleeing, blood rushes to your head for quick thinking in a survival situation, and when that lion is chasing you, your digestive system completely shuts down in a full-blown stress response. The reason being is you don't need to be digesting your ice cream cone when the lion is chasing you; you've got several minutes to survive. So all of metabolic energy is re-routed into fight or flight responses. This is important because for you and I and every human walking around, what happens is that stress is actually considered by science any real threat or any imagined threat, and the body's response to that threat. So meaning, there could be a lion chasing you, and you're going to go into a stress response. If you think a lion is chasing you, you can go into a stress response; if you think, "Oh my God, I'm not going to make enough money this week.", you're going to go into a stress response; if you think, "Oh my God, I'm screwed." - this is going to happen, that's going to happen - we create some degree of stress physiology. It's a graded response; it's not all-or-nothing. So there are different degrees of stress, as each person knows: sometimes we're highly anxious from stress, other times just a little bit. Now, from the standpoint of how we are genetically designed, as it turns out, the nervous system is separated into two essential parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is greatly activated, the stress response is automatically turned on, and digestion is automatically turned off. So in other words, the same switch in your brain that turns on stress, turns off digestion. Conversely, when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, we create what's called the relaxation response, and when the relaxation response is fully activated; digestion, assimilation and day-in, day-out calorie burning is fully activated. So in other words, the same switch in your brain that turns on full-blown relaxation, turns on full-blown healthy digestion, assimilation and day-in, day-out calorie burning. It's stunning, and it sounds counter-intuitive, because a lot of people think, "Oh, I'm all stressed out, I'm all hyper, I must be a lean, mean calorie burning machine." And that's probably true for about five or ten percent of the population, but for the rest of us, when we're in that degree of stress, we're in some degree of digestive shutdown, which will lead to excretion of nutrients, meaning you'll literally be eating food, and you'll be pissing away the vitamins and the minerals. When we are in some degree of stress response, enzymatic output in the gut decreases, blood flow decreases, you kill off gut bacteria, you create symptoms - there's bloating, there's indigestion, there's heartburn; all of these are simple features of turning off digestion to some degree. So the bottom line is, again, you could eat the healthiest food in the known universe; if you're not eating it under the optimum state of digestion and assimilation, which happens to be relaxation, you aren't getting the full nutritional value from that meal.
JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner. We're listening to Marc David - author of The Slow Down Diet - describing the way in which our body's ability to digest food is restricted when we eat under stress. No doubt that as our North American culture has become one of speed and filled with seemingly endless distractions, our meals and the act of eating have often suffered too - getting sucked into this daily whirlwind of chaos. While so-called nutritional wisdom would have us believe that ingesting vitamin A or carbohydrates or sugars will always be taken up by the body regardless of our emotional state, Marc suggests otherwise, and presents a seemingly common-sense explanation that points to this belief as being entirely untrue. And this new approach to eating arrives alongside what has also become an increasingly popular response to high-speed living and stress… such as meditation, yoga and the many practices that so many people are more and more using to slow ourselves down. Of course with meditative practices comes focus #1…. breathing, and this too, Marc suggests has been missing from the way we in North America eat. He explains that our body's hunger for oxygen can also be mistaken for a hunger for food - yet another explanation as to why fast-paced and stressful living can put on the pounds.
MD: Well, here's the thing: both oxygen and water are very essential to the body. When we are low in water, when you are low in oxygen - the same thing that I am about to say for oxygen holds for water but way more dramatically for oxygen - the body can go at least four weeks without food, the body can go for four days without water; you have less than four minutes without oxygen to survive, and then you have brain death. So oxygen's important. What happens is, you think you always have oxygen available to you, and generally you do, but indoor air has less percent oxygen than outdoor air. Certain indoor spaces have significantly less percent of oxygen, simply because there's no circulation with the outdoor air, or let's say you have a building in the city where the windows don't open. Or let's say you're just a shallow breather, which a lot of people are, or you don't exercise much which will also lead to shallow breathing. So the bottom line is, when the body says "Huh I wish I had a little more oxygen. I'm not getting enough. This air is too stuffy", what will happen is the body will go into a mild stress response: A mild stress response means mild elevation of insulin, cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure. You might feel a little antsy and, after your insulin and cortisol shoots up for a little bit what is going to happen is there is a little bit of a blood sugar drop. You start to feel a little weak, ever so slightly. And when you feel a little weak and you start to feel a little low energy or low mood most people think 'hungry' or most people think 'need sugar' or 'need caffeine' or 'need food'. So, the brain isn't smart enough to tell us, "Hey, you need to go outside and take bunch of deep breaths or go for a walk." The brain is just smart enough to tell us "I'm missing something." and will mistake the need for lack of oxygen for a need for food.
JS: Marc David's book, The Slow Down Diet, goes through a lot of the theory behind slowing down our eating patterns such as what he's describing here. But the book also provides some easy-to-do exercises to help us practice some of these ideas. As far as ensuring that we breathe in enough oxygen while we eat, Marc introduces an exercise that he calls, Check In and Breathe.
MD: So it's a beautiful mind-body technique and it's really simple: When you sit down to any meal or when you are ready to eat ask yourself, "Am I about to eat under stress? Answer honestly am I anxious? Am I rushed? Am I in fear? Am I in anger? Am I in judgement? Am I eating under push, fear, anxiety or stress? If the answer is 'Yes' very simple, five to ten long, slow, deep breaths will have a powerful effect on the body. Again, you can change your digestive and calorie-burning strength in less than a minute.
JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner, a syndicated weekly radio show and podcast, produced in Nelson, British Columbia, at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY. I'm Jon Steinman. This is a listener supported show that relies on financial contributions from all of you to help keep us on the air and, while we'd love to not have to request support on each broadcasts, we are now more than ever, in need of your financial contributions to help sustain what we do here. We provide this show free of charge to radio stations and through our podcasts, with the hope that those of you who value this content that is otherwise not found in the mainstream media will choose to support a new kind of media such as what we are offering here at Deconstructing Dinner. One-time donations or monthly subscriptions can be sent through our web site at deconstructingdinner.ca and, if you're not online, you can also call 250-352-9600 to learn how to send a cheque or money order.
JS: On today's episode we've been interacting with author, Marc David, of Bolder, Colorado. Marc's most recent book, The Slow Down Diet, published by Healing Arts Press, is the feature of today's show. Marc is also the author of Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well Being. He earned his MA at Sonoma State University specializing in The Psychology of Eating. He has trained at the Harvard Mind-Body Medical Institute and the State University of New York's Upstate Medical School. Marc is now the founder and director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and he also serves on the editorial staff of the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, peer-reviewed journal for complementary and alternative medicine. So often here on the show we spend time in deconstructing the food system and exploring new models for how we can produce, distribute and access food but, periodically, we get to the heart of our food connection, like we doing today, the act of eating itself. With these ideas presented by Marc David as part of his Slow Down Diet, becoming more aware of how we eat might even be the most important shift we can make to change our food system from one of disconnection, such as the one serving North America today, to one of connection which increasingly has become of interest. Now perhaps part of what has encouraged this culture of disconnection has been the very narrow way in which nutritionists believe our food is broken down. Like with much like the way everything around us is broken down into its scientific building blocks so to has our views on digestion: Our bodies take in building blocks, our bodies break them down and voila we function, end of story.
Well this approach ignores the first phase of digestion, the cephalic phase, and Marc believes not nearly enough attention has been paid to preparing ourselves for the cephalic phase of digestion which begins in the mind.
MD: So awareness once again is tied into the cephalic phase digestive response. By the way, the cephalic phase digestive response, the head phase of digestion, where the sum total of all the research that is done in this area, what you will find is that digestive physiologists agree that approximately 40 to 60% of your total digestive and assimilative power at any meal comes from this head space of digestion; taste, pleasure, aroma, satisfaction, the visuals (i.e. your awareness of the meal). Have you ever looked at a food and your mouth starts to water? That's the visuals literally starting to create saliva and salivary enzymes in your mouth. Have you ever even thought about your favourite food and your stomach starts to churn? So that's the mind, that's vision, looking at a food and, all of a sudden, peristalsis begins in the stomach, the muscular activity that helps churn the food and breaks it down, can literally start.
So we need awareness. Humans are designed differently from other creatures. You might have heard dieticians or nutrition experts say it takes approximately twenty minutes for the body to realize it's full, it's true. And all that's saying is that the body, the human body, likes time when it comes to a meal, wants to figure things out because this whole process of eating is not so simple. The body has to figure out so much (i.e. awareness). Now, the more aware you are and present to the nuances of a meal the more feed back the body and the brain can give you. Let's say I'm eating my meal and I'm not paying attention, I'm watching TV and I'm on my computer or doing e-mails and I'm multi-tasking you don't know how much you're eating really. Your attention is being drawn elsewhere. Multitasking is considered very sexy in our culture. When it comes to eating and metabolizing the meal, digesting, assimilating and calorie-burning it, multi-tasking doesn't work so well. So, literally the brain will signal a stress response when too much is happening during the eating process. So literally anything that pulls your awareness intensely away from the food experience, the brain doesn't like to multi-task so much. There is some fascinating research on what happens when people are consuming a food and there's distractions in their mind. We can literally measure mineral absorption decreasing in the small intestine and that will stay that way sometimes for hours simply because the brain was intensely distracted and was taking in too many different stimuli at once, which is how many people in civilized nations tend to eat.
JS: Beyond the cephalic stage of digestion is another important level of brain activity but not in our heads, in our bellies. As introduced earlier in the show what is referred to in The Slow Down Diet as The Brain in Our Bellies and Marc explains this process by using a common saying, 'gut feeling' a saying that we use often here in North America but never quite break it down to understand where it comes from. Marc uses a global perspective across cultures to stress the importance of our 'gut feelings'.
MD: Gut Feelings bring us back to the brain in the belly, the enteric nervous system. Given that there are over one hundred million neurons in the enteric nervous system, as many as there are in the spinal cord, it means there is a huge amount of intelligence that's residing in the gut. So this is why we are able to say, "You know, I had a gut feeling about that guy." You do not say, "I had an elbow feeling or a kidney feeling or a liver feeling." Because we just don't have such powerful feelings wired into the nervous system of the elbow. Consequently there are cultures around the globe when Americans, let's say, or Canadians want to say, "I know something. I know this," we'll point to our head as the center of knowing. So if I as an American say, "I know this" I'll point to my head and say, "I know." When someone from Japan says, "I know" they point to their mid-section. They point to what the Japanese call the Hara or the Dantian, which is the center point of the body located a little bit below the belly button. That's where they consider the center of intelligence. This is a culture that will literally think from it's gut. They highly value gut feelings. There are other places or religions that highly value the heart centre . The heart also has its own very interesting separate, yet interconnected nervous system and specialized nervous tissue. There are people who will tell you, "Yeah, I think from here" and they point to their heart. Once again are we accessing the gut instincts, the gut feelings, the gut thoughts when it comes to "What should I eat today? What should I eat at this meal? What is my body calling for? You know, sometimes you could refer to your head brain and say, "Yeah, you know I ate this yesterday so maybe I'll eat it today." But what would it be like to just take a deep breath and breathe into the body and call upon the gut and call upon the gut wisdom and access that part of your built-in innate genetically designed intelligence. Again it's a process, it's a learning experience, it's trial and error, its development. But it's very powerful and for many people it's very liberating to develop that kind of relationship with their body because every body is unique, quite literally. There are, to my mind, as many different legitimate nutritional systems as there are people on the planet. We could agree there are certain foods that are more toxic and more poisonous and there are certain foods that are really great for you. But the bottom line is there could be a food that is so great and so wonderful and yet certain people can't eat a strawberry, or certain people can't eat a peanut, or can't eat gluten, or can't drink milk, or can't eat soy or corn, or whatever it is, every body is so unique. And I don't think we realize how unique we actually are, because we are so inundated with information about what you should and shouldn't eat. What does the body really say? That's a whole different conversation.
JS: Marc David. We have been gradually working our way through the eight universal metabolizers that author Marc David introduces in his book, The Slow Down Diet, and one of those metabolisers that we haven't spoken of yet is rhythm. What Marc is referring to is the rhythm with which we eat every day which he describes in the book as a key determinant of our body's ability to metabolize food.
MD: There is a very little known field of nutrition called Biocircadian Nutrition, it's mostly relegated to the field of research. Biocircadian Nutrition essentially refers to the fact that the way the human body is designed to digest and assimilate and calorie burn there's a rhythm to it, a natural rhythm, that will apply for most human bodies across the globe. So in other words when you measure, let's say calorie burning metabolism, when you measure the strength of digestion you will find that for most human beings the body is designed to most strongly digest and calorie-burn at approximately high noon, mid-day between about twelve to one-thirtyish, when the sun is highest in the sky. In fact little-known piece of scientific research which I find so compelling, your metabolism is actually at its strongest the moment the sun is highest in the sky. So we're creatures that are attuned to the sun and to some interesting rhythms. So the bottom line is this, you are designed to eat technically your biggest meal at the lunch meal. You have somewhat of a decent digestive power in the morning. Your digestive power is a little stronger compared to the morning at dinner time; five- six- seven o'clock. Digestive metabolism and calorie-burning metabolism starts to decrease right at around eight- nine- o'clock. Now you can alter these things depending on sleeping rhythm, depending on your exercise rhythm. But the bottom line is, at three-four-five in the morning that's your least calorie-burning hours. So this is why eons ago, or centuries ago I should say, the Japanese Sumo Wrestlers how did they gain all that weight? They didn't have Ben and Jerry's Ice-Cream. They didn't have cake. The way they gained all that weight just simply eating rice, seaweed and fish was, yes they would eat more food, but they would eat it at night. They would literally wake themselves up at night and have a big meal taking advantage of the fact that metabolism is slowest at that point. So, how this becomes practical, is that there are so many people out there who are looking to lose weight. And so many people who are looking to lose weight what they do is they are going to try to starve themselves and try to not have breakfast and try to not have lunch and usually about two- or three-o'clock, four at the latest, those people are starving and they are ravenous and they may have a big snack and they may have a huge dinner and then they have a big after-dinner snack and essentially they are a sumo diet. They are loading up all their calories in the latter third of the day not in the first half of the day which is when your body is naturally designed to break things down. So, in the United States and Canada most people their biggest meal tends to be dinner. Lunch is often just quick and small because they got through work. You go to different European countries - you go to Italy, you go to France - where people aren't complaining about their weight like we complain here in North America, they're eating their biggest meal at mid-day. So those cultures recognize, they are more tuned into the natural rhythms of the body.
JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner. If you've missed any of today's episode it is archived online a deconstructingdinner.ca and posted under the March 4th 2010 broadcast. More information on today's topic is also found there including information on how to subscribe to our weekly podcast. As we enter into the last quarter of today's show we arrive at another of the eight universal metabolizers outlined as part of The Slow Down Diet, pleasure. It's a component of our meals that might seem like a given. But, when observing the way in which our food system has sought to mimic real food with artificial ingredients and processes, our North American culture for one, perhaps lost touch with how much pleasure we can actually find from food. As Marc David explains, pleasure is a key part of our body's ability to metabolize food and our tendency to crave dessert at the end of a meal is a sign of our digestive systems need for pleasure.
MD: When it comes to pleasure all you have to do is go back to probably one of the first principles that you might have learned when you were ten- eleven- twelve- thirteen-years old in school which is that all organisms on the planet; whether it's an amoeba, whether it's a lizard, a dog or a human, we are all designed at the most primitive level of the nervous system to seek pleasure and avoid pain. That's how we're built. People think pleasure is bad and we have all these lines to sell food like, "Oh, it sinfully good." So we have equated pleasure with bad and the truth is the body needs it, it's designed for it in a powerful way. We have four kinds of taste buds on the tongue; sweet, salty, sour and bitter. We have more sweet taste buds than any other kind. One of the reasons they are there, very simply, is to give you pleasure. It feels good. Pleasure is irreducible, it just is. And what happens is pleasure has a powerful metabolic effect within the body. It is part of metabolism. It functions within all different aspects of how we move in the world, how we digest and how we assimilate, how we create energy, how we create mood. So, on the one hand pleasure will catalyze a relaxation response. I will say that again: Pleasure catalyzes a relaxation response. Meaning, you have a hard day at work, you come home and your wife says, "Okay, honey let me give you a shoulder rub. She gives you a shoulder rub, you're all stressed out and all of a sudden "Oh, thank you. I feel so good." (i.e. you got some pleasure and literally catalyzed a nervous system change in your body which then affected you powerfully, relaxed you.) Now remember the optimum state of digestion and assimilation is relaxation. So anything that moves us into relaxation response, by definition, increases metabolic efficiency and increases your ability to break down food, extract the nutrients, excrete it and calorie burn the rest. So, when you're getting pleasure from your meal you're literally signalling the body to relax. If you were eating food, if I give you a meal, and it had all your least favourite foods, and it had the kind of foods that would make you run away, you would be sitting there trying to eat a meal you would be all stressed out and it would be a horrible experience for you, you wouldn't digest the meal, your stomach would be upset, you wouldn't be happy. If I gave you a meal that worked for you. "Yes, that feels good!" Your digestion is going to be humming which is why there are foods that might not be the kind of foods you want to eat every day - the cake, the cookies, the ice-cream - might not be the kind of food that you make the staple food in your diet. But can we really eliminate them? Can we really call them bad because some of those foods, which we traditionally eat in small quantities (i.e. the dessert) it's enough to stimulate pleasure, to stimulate happiness, to stimulate relaxation response, and dessert traditionally comes at the end of a meal, in other words you're using an intense hit of pleasure to catalyze digestion even more. So there's a wisdom to it that's been built in over hundreds of years of culture. So what I'm saying is, pleasure is actually essential to the nutritive process. Anyone that ever tries to eliminate that from the diet is generally, in some version, of misery.
JS: Marc David. As we near the end of the show we can focus on a section of Marc's book that we here at Deconstructing Dinner found to be one of the most interesting ideas that ties together much of what has been shared on the show today. We have been discussing the many psychological states that contribute to our body's digestion such as our level of relaxation and stress, our heightened or decreased awareness of our meal, whether our food carries a lot of pleasure or very little, and the rhythm with which we eat throughout the day as just some of the examples. And how we bring some of these to the table when we eat depends on who is at the table. While we might view ourselves as one distinct personality, most of us to varying degrees maintain multiple personalities, depending on our moods, who we're around, what role we're playing at that moment and all of this as described in The Slow Down Diet can play a role in our body's ability to digest food. To explain this unique perspective here again is Marc David.
MD: According to most psychological systems, you are you and I am me and and there's one guy inside you called you and there's one guy inside me called me. What's fascinating is that behind the line in psychological research there's a lot of interest in what we traditionally call multiple personality disorders because as it turns out those who have clinical multiple personalities actually might be the more accurate and workable model for who we as humans actually are. In other words, you're not a person you're crowd of people, a crowd of people meaning who's inside me? Well there's me. I'm a brother. I'm a father. I'm a husband. I'm a friend. I can be a jerk. I can be a teacher. I can be a saint sometimes. I can be a rebellious teenager. So there's all these people who populate our inner world and depending on who you're with and what your role is at the moment, if you go home to your parent's house you're in a different role, if you go to work and you're managing people you're in a different role. Well, when you look at people with multiple personalities science discovered, quite a long time ago, that when you actually start to look at physiologic measures of multiple personality patients every personality has a different physiology. So somebody with ten different personalities when you measure heart rate, blood pressure, galvanic skin response, hormone levels within those different personalities they change from personality to personality and dramatically so. In some of the most famous incidences there are recorded experiences where a multiple personality patient would be an insulin-dependent diabetic but only in one personality. Switch to another personality, she's fine. Another patient will be highly allergic to citrus fruits such that, eat a citrus fruit, get hives on your back but in one personality. And literally switch to another personality and before the researcher's eyes the hives start to disappear. So what's useful to me here, is that if I take that model and extend it to the average normal health human being walking the street who are you when you eat, what personality is coming to the table? For so many people they're in the dieting personality, they're in the personality called 'I'm No Good', 'I'm Too Fat', 'I'm Not Thin Enough' 'I'm Unlovable' and that's the personality, the Unlovable Victim. Well guess what? When you're in that you're in that personality you're in fear, you're in anxiety and you are in stress. Which means you're in stress response. Which means you're creating stress chemistry. Which means you're decreasing your body's ability to digest, assimilate and calorie burn a meal so, strangely enough, that personality creates the very physiology that will tell the body to hang on to weight and what that person is trying to do is to get it off. So, sometimes the person who is eating is the rebellious teenager in us. "I can just eat anything I want, I'm going to die anyway." Which is true but who are you inviting to the head of the table? So with so many clients and students over the years I'll say to, let's say women, "What would it be like to invoke the Queen in you, the woman in you, the wise woman in you at the head of the table as opposed to the scared little girl who just wants to be skinny?" Or for men, "What would it be like to invoke the King in you, to eat with dignity, to eat with presence not just be eating as the teenager?" Because we will often go into a very distinct persona within ourselves when we eat and not even know it. So it's a different level of awareness to tune in and say, "Who's present? Who's eating?" And we have the ability, literally, to choose who we want to put front and center at the head of the table, which will create a different physiology.
JS: Author Marc David of Bolder, Colorado. Marc is the author of The Slow Down Diet and he is the founder and director of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. You can learn more about Marc by visiting his web site at marcdavid.com and links to more information on today's topic and links to similar topics that we've aired over the past four plus years are found on the Deconstructing Dinner web site at deconstructingdinner.ca. Today's show is found under the March 4th 2010 broadcast. And to close out the show one last clip from my conversation with Marc, one that expands upon our ability to sense food. Just as Deconstructing Dinner has sought to encourage and foster a greater culture of connection with our food, Marc suggests our connection to our food can go well beyond the abilities of our five senses. Using Albert Einstein's e=mc2 as an example, Marc explains how we might, very well, be capable of experience more intangible energy from the food we eat.
MD: It's funny because even if someone knows nothing about science or little about science, somehow Einstein has become quite famous and his equation e=mc2 has become famous. All e=mc2 means is that energy and matter are interchangeable, they are the same thing. So the hard stuff - your floor, your walls, your body, matter - is interchangeable with energy, that can all be turned to energy. It could all disappear. You could burn it. Where does it go? It's converted to unseen energy. When you eat food at some point the hamburger that you put in your body, yeah there's pieces of it that get excreted out from your body, and there's pieces of it that you're going to take that hamburger and use it as, let's say, some building blocks for some muscle tissue or some of the fat will go into the building blocks of your cell walls. But there's x-amount of that that hamburger goes into energy, it goes into calorie burning, and it literally becomes non-matter, it becomes electricity, if you will. It just disappears into light. So really, all this is pointing to is that we tend to look at the value of a food as in the chemical content alone, the vitamin and mineral content alone, and we're saying, "Well, if we can measure the value of the food, by the chemistry of it, the nutrients, then that determines the value." To me this is no different than saying the value of a great work of art comes from analyzing the pigments of the paint. No, there's a subtle quality to the food, there's places in the energy realm that we just can't measure. And just because we can't see it and just because we can't measure it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. There was a time when we didn't know how to measure or see oxygen, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. There was a time when we couldn't see parasites and bacteria, that doesn't mean they didn't exist. There's a quality to food that is subtle. Matter is imbued with energy, matter has memory, your body has memory, DNA is memory. It's literally physical, chemical memory built into your system. It remembers your mother, remembers your father, it puts those two together, it creates you. So we know matter has memory. Food has memory, it's matter. Food will record everything that's gone into it. So not only in the DNA but who grew it who cooked it, how was it grown, how was it cooked? Was the food created with high intentions? Was it created with low intentions? To me everything that we put into a creation whether you're making a work of art, whether you're building a table, whether you're raising a child, everything that we put into that is registered in that entity in that substance in that creature as memory. So what I'm say is what you put into the food is what we get out of the food. So if we are putting unconsciousness into the food, it we're putting greed into the food, if we're putting anger into the food, if we're putting, "I just want to create the cheapest piece of food and sell it for the most amount of money," that's what we're getting.
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JS: And that was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded at Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant John Ryan. The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh. This radio program is provided free of charge to campus/community radio stations across the country, and relies on the financial support from you the listener. Support for the program can be donated through our web site at deconstructingdinner.ca or by dialing 250-352-9600.