How to prepare your body for food

And optimal digestion

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How do you prepare your body for food? It really comes down to the preparation you do to the body physically before you have a meal. The optimal way to digest is in what we call a parasympathetic dominant state.

The body has its central nervous system, and one of the branches is the autonomic nervous system and there are two branches to that, sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic is what we typically think of fight, flight, freeze. Parasympathetic is typically rest and digest and it’s healthy for us to move between those two zones. But when it comes to eating food, and therefore getting the most nutrition that we can out of our food, it’s really important to be parasympathetic dominant. It’s all about preparing the body for food. Smelling the food, thinking about the provenance, looking forward to it.

One of the ways that you can really prepare the body is through breathing, and something I’ve just started doing recently is a really simple concept for breathing. It’s very simple, we do it automatically, but many of us breathe very shallowly and not consciously. The concept I want to introduce is box breathing. You can do this to help with stress and to enhance feelings of calm. When you’ve been blindsided by something you can just breathe to try and change your physiology and feel better about things. It’s also great to prepare the body for food.

Very simply, it’s the shape of a box, you inhale for four seconds, hold the inhalation for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds, hold the exhalation for four seconds. Hence the expression, box breathing. You are breathing round a box. That is it, it really is simple but what it will do is alter your physiology, slow down your heart rate and bring down your blood pressure. It allows the blood to come to the gut and the stomach where it’s going to do the digesting and pulling out all the nutrients from your food. Think about how to prepare the body for food, think about being relaxed, being calm and you can use the box breathing to really enhance that.

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Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit or email [email protected] to register your interest in our services and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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