Sproutman®’s Guide to Gastronomical Survival

1. Keep Smiling and Talking Instead of Chewing. (But no talking while you’re chewing!) People are more important than pastries! The more talking and smiling you do, the less you’ll consume. Good cheer is also good for digestion, while anger and depression will chill your furnace. Try laughing at your Uncle’s jokes even if you don’t want to. You’ll be able to eat more and digest better.

2. Small Mouthfuls, Small Portions. The average stomach is a 12 by 6 inch sack. But because it’s elastic, it expands when you overload it—that’s when you feel full! Of course, at that point you are already overfull and your tummy is stretched out. Overtime, your stomach will shrink again if you fast or manage to reduce your portions. Be careful of big sized plates. Too much room accommodates too much food. Try using a smaller salad plate for your main dish.

3. Drink and Be Merry. True. But take most of your liquids on the front end of the meal so as not to dilute your stomach enzymes. Sip small amounts of liquids during the meal enough to lubricate stomach contents. Avoid ice cold drinks. Ice numbs the stomach and reduces the flow of digestive enzymes. While you’re at it, skip the sodas. Mainstream sodas are full of sugars, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors. They’re liquid junk food.

4. Slow Down. Chew More. Eating slowly relaxes your stomach which in turn increases the secretion of digestive juices. Chewing until the food in your mouth is nearly liquid (chyme) improves digestion and reduces your stomach’s workload.

5. Go Light on the Carbs. You know….breads, cakes, cookies, pies, pasta, pizza, chips, crackers, etc. These foods fill you up fast but don’t provide much nutrition. Take special care with sweets as they overtax your body’s ability to regulate insulin and can stimulate the production of unfriendly bacteria.

6. Break the Overeating Cycle. Here’s where the addictive nature of eating plays its devilish hand. Once you’re in the groove, it’s hard to stop. That’s when you need to take a break. Just get up from the table. Visit the bathroom even if you don’t need to. When you’re there, rinse out your mouth, suck on a mint, brush your teeth, or just use some mouthwash. The cleansing of the palate shuts down the sensory neurons on the tongue (tastebuds) and stops the transmission of electrical impulses to the brain. Basically, you’re disconnecting the tongue-brain-stomach neural pathway. At that point, discipline is easy. Even if you just stand up and stretch or get some fresh air, that might be enough to break the overeating cycle. If that doesn’t work, start doing the dishes!

7. Pre-Dinner Stomach Prep. A little fresh air and a few deep breaths before you start eating adds more oxygen to light your furnace. Add some stretches and you’ll be amazed how a little blood circulation and oxygen enhance digestion. While you’re at it, bring a few digestive enzymes with you and take them with your drinks before the (solid food) meal. Water and enzymes help cleanse and prep your stomach for the big tsunami. It’s like cleaning your house in preparation for your guests.

8. Choose. You Can’t Eat Everything. The big smorgasbord of foods, appetizers, desserts, breads, dips, sauces, etc. is a huge temptation. Even the most strict amongst us could start to feel like a kid in a candy store. But if you are mentally prepared for this “Disneyland effect,” you can control it. Remember, your stomach is not a cement mixer. You can’t eat everything. Preview the array of foods before you and decide what to touch and what to leave alone. Think of it like money and be frugal. You only have so many digestive credits to spend before you start running a deficit. Don’t bankrupt your digestive system!

9. Stimulate and Support Your Digestion. Good digestion is fundamental to good health and a good practice is to add some supplemental enzymes or bitter herbs at the end of your meal. This is not an excuse to overeat, but it will help. Like snow tires—they won’t turn your car into a snow plow, but they will keep you going straight down the road. Two popular vegetarian enzymes are bromelain (derived from pineapples) and papain (from papaya). And bitter herbs such as cinnamon, ginger, anise, fennel, goldenseal, dandelion, and gentian root. have been used in Europe for generations. While not enzymes themselves, they stimulate the secretion of our own enzymes. Chewing on a cinnamon stick stimulates enzyme flow, is enjoyable, and tastes good too!

10. Exercise to Eat More. Athletes prepare for a marathon. They don’t just show up and start running. If you don’t want your big feast to turn into a big funk, you need to get in shape too. In other words….if you have the urge to splurge, then you need to be buff for the bash! Active people can handle more food without the same penalty. Aerobic exercise increases oxygen levels in the blood and lungs which in turn enhances enzyme production and lymphatic waste removal. Running, biking, dancing, trampoline and treadmill are all ideal to help you get in shape for the big meal. Exercising to a sweat on a regular basis increases metabolism which means you’ll digest your food faster. So, get in shape for the big meal if you want to eat more of it. But don’t pig out! Being decadent is not a fruitful path to happiness. Derive pleasure from people not food.

Okay. Let’s say your forgot to bring this newsletter to the party and everything went wrong. Well, the new year is a great time to start a cleanse. Let’s face it. Not everything we stick in our stomachs is worth keeping. As a society, we are guilty of taking better care of our cars than we do of ourselves. If you clean your car and clean your house, then it’s about time to clean your inner house? If you own your own house, you know about septic tanks. Even they need a clean-out every couple of years. But people? We just get by, right. Wrong! We need to clean out, too! Yet fasting is a foreign concept even though it goes way back in history. Socrates, Buddha, and Jesus all fasted and all the major religions practice some fasting, too. But it is completely foreign to our modern society. Since we eat multiple times per day, sometimes with very brief gaps in between, the concept of NOT eating can seem unmanageable. But it’s quite natural. After the first 2-3 days, the nagging call of your digestive secretions stops and your “hunger” disappears. Now you’re on “nature’s operating table.” Cleansing is the opposite of eating. Yin needs yang. Juice fasting is manageable even for folks who need to work and cleanse at the same time.