Are you in fight or flight?
Recently I got an SOS call from someone whom I adore who is quite ill. She has CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and is recovering from pneumonia. The pneumonia is not a great sign. When someone in my friend’s situation gets pneumonia it’s an indication that the CLL is rearing its ugly head. She has dropped a tremendous amount of weight and she’s starting chemotherapy at the end of the month. The SOS call was understandably...panicked.
So I got on the phone with this woman whom I adore and her husband and asked what they’ve been doing. It transpired that they’ve been preparing cold fruit smoothies for her. What kind of fat are you including? I inquired. Oooh -- they hadn’t thought about that. They’d just been giving her something light because she wasn’t hungry. So we explored a nourishing healing plan for her, what I call a “culinary hug.”
I talked to her about the importance of protein, warm liquids, bone broth, really good fats and why; what kind of soups are healing and why; some of the heartier comfort foods; how to keep her blood sugar stable; and about the whole concept that when you’re sick there’s so much going on that your appetite center has shut off. You have to re-introduce foods in kind of a sneaky way, like having a mini teacup of a savory soup that’s got some ginger in it, to give your appetite a gentle wake up call. Oh! That was good! I maybe want a little bit more.
I explained that when we're in that deep rooted fear, our body goes into what's called fight or flight mode -- it's like we're being chased by a saber tooth tiger.
All of our energy goes towards running away from the big tiger -- so the thought of stopping to eat is not at the top of our agenda. I mean, who can eat when you're being chased by a big saber tooth tiger, right?
After our call, my friend emailed me.
I can't thank you enough for all this information. But mainly, for your kindness and love. I was overwhelmed today on so many levels. I think your call allowed me to feel how scared I am and also that I will be ok. You are a master!
I've been snacking all day, and actually had dinner...my first in days. I'll keep you posted and will write if I have any questions.
I will always be grateful for this.
I love you and your big generous heart.
What happened once my friend acknowledged her fear was that she was able to stop running from the tiger. That enabled her body to relax, allowing her appetite center to turn back on while freeing up energy to enjoy and digest her food. I gave her permission to become a major snacker, grazer and full time eater. It's much more fun to run towards the yum!
We all know that saber tooth tiger.
Being in fight or flight is endemic to our society. It’s the root of all sorts of digestive issues, and is the number one thing that gets in our way of having a healthy connection with food. It’s the thing that will prevent us from eating, or maybe the thing that causes us to overeat, because our cortisol levels are up SO high and we’re so stressed that eating seems the only way we can sooth ourselves. But we can’t digest well, because the energy isn’t going to digesting -- it’s going to finding equilibrium.
When fight or flight mode is stuck on -- when your enteric nervous system can’t go from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic -- what can you do? I come at it from behind the stove, in the way your mother or grandmother would come in with a big bowl of soup and tell you everything’s going to be ok.
When I opened up the conversation with my friend and her husband, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, Ahhhh--- I see a beautiful cashmere soup in your future!
Instead of a tall, cold glass of smoothie, try a small bowl of warm and cozy and velvety soup, like Sweet Potato Coconut Soup, one of my signature soups I call my “cashmere soup” line. These are famous for guiding people who have been ill or out of balance back to the table.
Now as we’re coming out of the lazy days of summer into the busy fall, with work cranking up, kids going off to school, schedules getting crazy, remember that it’s ok to stop! You are NOT being chased by a saber tooth tiger!
How can you shift gears? Take really deep breaths -- the very best digestive enzymes! Come to the table and breathe before you eat, making a healthy connection with your food, coming into the present moment, and allowing for that beautiful fresh food to deeply nourish you.