It sounds boring but building some small pre-meal habits into your day can yield big results for your thyroid health journey. How does getting more nutrients from your food sound? Less bloating, reflux or digestive discomfort? Reduced gut inflammation? What about releasing excess weight and maintaining it?
Now I’ve got your attention!
We tend to eat reactively to boredom, cravings or comfort. Allowing emotional cues to dictate what and when we eat. We allow our busy schedules to interrupt the life giving habits of sitting down to a proper balanced meal. It seems like everything else has a higher spot on our priority list.
I find it so sad that we have lost our sense of ritual when it comes to eating.
Eating without thought usually means you eat faster and chew less, the result is lowered digestive enzymes and stomach acid to break down food. Eating this way you are more likely to suffer with digestive symptoms as your body struggles to break down food which can linger causing excess fermentation (bloating). Nutrient absorption will be negatively impacted and if you’ve gone to the trouble of preparing a healthy meal you want to get the most out of it right?!
When large particles of undigested foods are able to reach further down in the large intestine this can lead to gastrointestinal inflammation and food intolerances too. It’s theorised that this is how food intolerances start, by exposing your lower GIT to poorly digested protein molecules. It’s also a contributing factor to intestinal permeability AKA leaky gut too.
Unfortunately, those with hypothyroidism tend to have less digestive power due to a deficiency of thyroid hormones reaching receptor cells in the stomach and gut lining. So conscious eating is even more crucial for us Hashi’s folks. If important thyroid cofactor nutrients become deficient due to poor digestion and absorption then you’ll find yourself stuck in a negative cycle where your thyroid isn’t getting what it needs for hormone synthesis and conversion. Iron and zinc in particular require an acidic environment for absorption and are commonly deficient. And they aren’t the only ones; Vitamin D, B12, iodine, magnesium levels (and more!) can all be impacted.
So how can we put conscious eating into practice?
The first step is planning
You have to bite the bullet and make sure you have three times per day that you have planned to eat. Drinking a smoothie in the car on the school drop off doesn’t count, neither does shoveling in a salad while checking your emails at your desk. You need to sit and focus on your meal.
You need three 20 minute blocks of time per day. If you can’t find the time for eating then something has got to give because fuelling your body is one of those foundational essentials that really can’t be compromised on… tough love sorry. Feeling sensational and releasing excess weight with hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s disease isn’t something you can fudge or wing, it requires commitment and sitting down to eat three times per day is a great place to start.
So when we eat, we eat. No devices, TV or distractions. A good conversation or some background music is the only thing that should accompany your meals.
Rituals are powerful. In essence, they are habits we consistently perform that attach meaning to an action. Saying grace and other food gratitude rituals signify that we are sitting to eat, to refuel, slow down for a few minutes and we are grateful for that opportunity.
Various studies have been done on pre-meal rituals and the results are in, performing a ritual grounds you in the moment, it makes you conscious of what you are doing and it can be a helpful health tool. This is in stark contrast to downing 4 slices of cold leftover pizza while standing at the kitchen bench scrolling on your phone.
The rituals that have been prescribed in these trials have been as abstract as walking around the dinner table clockwise three times before reversing it and walking around it anticlockwise three times to do things like saying grace and practicing gratitude for your food. Another study made participants tap their cutlery on their food before eating. Results vary from eating less to making healthier choices and even improvements to food intolerance symptoms like bloating and reflux.
Whatever your ritual, make sure it becomes a habit that grounds you in the moment so that when you perform it your whole attention becomes focused on your meal, your appetite, how it tastes, the textures & flavours and your sense of satiety as you get through your meal.
Savour you meal
Start by sitting and looking at your meal, smell it and think about how good it is going to taste. You’ll notice you start to salivate. You are internally switching on your digestive systems and your body is preparing for a meal. Just the thought of food can do this. Go on, think about your favourite meal now and notice the sensation in your mouth. The sensory experience of looking at and smelling your food also triggers these processes.
Next, you need to sloooooow down. Chew, chew and then chew some more. You’re giving your stomach and digestion a massive helping hand. A large meal like dinner should take you 15-20 minutes to complete.
You can help yourself by placing your knife & fork down in between mouthfuls or counting chews until this becomes automatic and you don’t need to think about it anymore.
While you are eating, tune into your body, and notice when you start feeling full. That’s when you need to stop eating. Overeating is a major cause of digestive distress and discomfort. Many of us eat more than we need to and it makes maintaining a healthy weight difficult when we aren’t listening to our body’s subtle (and often not so subtle) signals.
This isn’t something that most people can master overnight, like most good things, it takes practice.
I have a whole module on this topic in all three of my programs, including The Thrive Method – it’s that important! If you are investing a lot of time and money into amazing food, it would be putting the cart before the horse if we didn’t address the unconscious way that most people approach meal times.
If increased nutrient absorption, less digestive discomfort and more ease in maintaining a healthy weight with Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism appeals to you, what can you change to make mealtimes work for your health and weight loss journey?