There are few things that bring as much joy and happiness to a person’s life than a great vacation. A vacation from work or even just regular, everyday life is the ultimate “reset” button, a temporary escape from the day-in, day-out stress of being an adult.
According to multiple studies at projecttimeoff.com, in 2015, American workers took an average of 16 days off, nearly a week less than reports from 1999.
As Americans, we make less time for ourselves and take less time to vacation than almost any other industrialized country. We live in a work-obsessed, rat-race kind of culture and each year it gets worse. And each year, Americans become more and more obese. The American weight epidemic and the American vacation problem may not seem related but, they are.
I often hear friends, family or other vacationers say something along the lines of; “I am on vacation! I can eat or drink anything I want.” Then, they go about their vacation and indulge themselves with rich foods, alcohol, treats they do not usually eat at home, they try different cuisines and overall have a great time being “naughty” about their food choices. At the end of the vacation they go home and step on to the scale only to find themselves pleasantly surprised; they have not gained weight! They might have even lost a few pounds.
This is something that happens pretty often and it is all because when we vacation, we tend to relax. Being in a relaxed physical state allows our bodies the opportunity to heal and shut out the stresses we tend to carry around 24/7.
Stress and digestion
Being in a constantly stressed state keeps our bodies in a non stop fight-or-flight mode. Physiologically, this means our bodies are continually releasing cortisol, a hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands and released during times of acute stress or when the body’s blood sugar is low. One of cortisol’s main chemical reactions is to signal the body to store fat. It also suppresses the immune system and decreases proper bone formation.
By allowing ourselves the time to relax, physically and mentally, we are essentially allowing our adrenal glands to rest and turn down the output of cortisol. By not having cortisol running through our system, our body begins to metabolize and assimilate the nutrients in our food more effectively. This makes the whole digestion process easier and you may find yourself feeling more energized and less likely to exhibit digestion related problems like heartburn or bowl movement issues.
Relax when you eat
The wonderful thing about relaxation is that you do not have to go on vacation to find it. There are many techniques you can use to trick your body into the optimum metabolic state which, in turn, will help you shed those unwanted pounds.
- Take the time to sit down when you are eating. All too often we tend to eat on the fly; in our cars, walking around the house, facilitating a meeting or overseeing a project. We are constantly moving and that does not make for a welcoming digestive environment.
- Eat slowly. This goes hand in hand with sitting down when eating. Take your time, chew each bite completely. Savor the taste of what you are eating.
- Practice your breathing. Taking deep breaths in between bites allows more oxygen to mix in with your food and makes nutrient assimilation easier.
- Put yourself into a relaxed state of mind. Go to your “happy place.”
- Remove the distractions. Put your phone away, shut off the computer, no work talk at the table. This will help you stay in your positive mind frame and allows you to focus on the meal in front of you.
It would be wonderful if we could live in a continuous state of vacation, but that is not an option for must of us. By utilizing the resources we have available to us and actively practicing relaxation and mindfulness techniques, we can help our bodies get to a better state of being and allow our natural weight to normalize.
The Slow Down Diet by Marc David