As someone whose life is always in a state of disarray and should be stressed out all the time, this topic really resonates with me. After years of working with Lisa Byrne, MPH as a colleague and enjoying her written content and free resources, I finally found the time to listen to one of her free webinars about cleansing.
I’m telling you, even her voice is calming. I got a lot of great tips, and I’m honored to host Lisa here today on the topic of stress and food:
The following is an edited excerpt from Lisa Grace Byrne’s newly released book, Replenish: Experience Radiant Calm and True Vitality in Your Everyday Life.
For all the years and tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent getting educated in the finer details of human nutrition, one simple concept has revolutionized my life: Food can either increase calm or increase stress in your body. Researchers in the world of nutritional biochemistry define these two different states in terms of inflammation.
When our bodies are calm and nourished there is very little evidence of systematic inflammation at the cellular level. If a specific area needs healing, you’ll find inflammation there as the body’s proper response. But overall, a healthy body is not an inflamed body. So when we feed our stress response, we increase inflammation and illness and perpetuate a stressed body and mind. And when we feed our calm response, we decrease inflammation and support calm, clarity, and vitality from the inside out.
Every moment, your biochemistry is functioning under either a stress response or a calm response. Remember, they are like a toggle switch— when one is on, the other is off. And depending on which of these responses are triggered, everything can change. You digest food differently under a calm system versus a stressed system.
Same goes with the capacity for you to do literally hundreds of other functions. You think, remember, focus, solve problems, uptake nutrients, regulate your heart-rate, ovulate, smell, hear, feel, taste … every possible way you experience life is done differently when you are in a stress state versus a calm state. Fundamentally, chronic stress adds a layer of noise, chaos, and dysfunction to every system of your body.
Applying this very simple concept to how I fed myself transformed the way I related to food and nourished my body. I began asking how I could use food to help my body and mind experience more steadiness and hormonal calm.
Seen in this way, food began to be stripped of all the dieting, emotional, restrictive, punitive layers it has been weighed down with in our culture. In not so sophisticated terms, I began asking myself, “What foods will deeply calm and nourish me right now?” And that has been my guiding question ever since.
Why does this work so well? Stress has to be fed, just like calm needs to be fed. When we’re stressed, we crave certain kinds of foods. When we are calm we crave other kinds of food. I began to reorganize all the reams of nutrition information I had gained over the years and see foods as either stress-feeding or calm-feeding.
The reason I believe this is so effective is it takes us out of the obsessive need to over calculate and get snagged in perfectionism around food. We are raised in a culture that is nuts around food. We were taught from very young ages to overanalyze our food in all sorts of ways—by calorie, protein grams, percent fat, and vitamin units. We’ve cheated ourselves from the true beauty and function of foods, and reduced eating to a controlled, restrictive ordeal.
Food can be used either as a weapon (to increase the stress in your body), or as a powerful tool (to increase the calm), it’s simply in the way you hold it.
How often are you wielding a life-giving tool toward yourself?
Lisa Grace Byrne, MPH is a mother to three and founder of WellGroundedLife.com, an exceptional online community where she equips busy moms to live vibrant lives. She is also a speaker, coach and teacher with a degree from Cal Poly State University in Biochemistry with an emphasis in Nutrition and Metabolism. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University.
Lisa’s debut book is now available! Order your copy of Replenish: Experience Radiant Calm and True Vitality in Your Everyday Life. Get your copy & details here.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Lisa’s courses, and although I won’t receive any commission on sales of Replenish, I might get a kickback if you sign up for one of her courses.