Aah, the good old days. I’m talking about the really old days. Back when your great, great, great, great, great, great (well, you get the idea) grandfather spent his days hunting game for the tribe. Granddaddy never ate at his desk. Heck, who had time for a venti, half-calf, soy, no whip mocha while running from a stampede. He certainly didn’t eat in front of the television. He was too busy oohing and aahing over the invention of the wheelbarrow. By the time he made his kill, he was so exhausted and excited that he kicked off his hide, relaxed and enjoyed the feast.
Why should those of us living in the modern age care about good old granddaddy? Well, because as different as our lives have become, we share the same biology. We aren’t computers that can be updated with the latest software. For better or for worse, we are stuck with our original design.
And now some science. I’ll make it quick.
Our bodily functions (you know, like breathing and stuff) are controlled by the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic branch is responsible for the fight or flight response and can save our lives. Granddaddy was in sympathetic mode while chasing down a wild boar. The sympathetic nervous system also gave him the adrenaline to flee to safety if he ran into a pissed off bear instead. On the other hand, the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is responsible for rest and recovery. It takes care of our bodily functions like digestion…things that take a back seat when our lives are in jeopardy. Granddaddy didn’t have available food until after the kill. By the time he ate, he was relaxed and in parasympathetic mode.
Flash forward to modern day. We are racing to work with a donut in one hand, a makeup brush in the other and an iced latte between our knees. Even baby strollers now have multiple cup holders. Eating on the go or habitual stress confuses our prehistoric derived bodies, putting us in fight or flight while simultaneously having us digest. Would you expect to make a phone call after putting your phone in airplane mode? No? Well, once you put your body in sympathetic mode, your body thinks it is running away from a crazed bear. This shuts down digestion for more life threatening matters. There goes the $10 you spent on your hemp seed, bee pollen smoothie.
Constantly being in sympathetic mode turns us into 24/7 adrenaline pumping machines. Adrenaline is supposed to help us in short bursts only. Too much can lead to things like adrenal fatigue and bad digestion. I know…science talk again. Snore. Here is why you should care. Since cortisol (stress hormone) affects insulin and blood sugar levels, a constant influx of cortisol can increase how much we eat and weigh. The faulty digestion that is associated with excess cortisol can also lead to inflammation and further weight gain.
But let’s get real. We live in the modern world meaning that life is going to have lots of demands. Just keep things in perspective. When 1:00pm rolls around and you have been frantically multitasking since 6:00am on a big project, stop and reflect. Biologically, your body thinks you have spent 7 hours chasing a wild boar. Take a moment, put your feet up, breath deeply and eat. You can always start chasing the boar again at 1:30pm.