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Eating and Stress

In a remarkable series of books describing his training by the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda describes the characteristics of the warrior, the person of power. Far from being a creature of habit at the mercy of societal convenience, the warrior is attuned to both intuition and the body's natural rhythms. Consequently, the warrior will sleep when tired, rise when rested, and eat when hungry. Certainly not dramatic prescriptions, but difficult for most of us to follow nonetheless.

In contrast, we generally eat from 12 to 1 because that's when lunch hour on the job is scheduled, or eat dinner at 6:30 because that's when the News at Six is over - paying little attention to whether we are hungry or not at those times. The whole scene is strongly reminiscent of Pavlov's dogs, who were conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell.

The demands of a job, a school schedule, or child-rearing frequently necessitate altering our mealtimes accordingly. In order to get our kids to their soccer practice on time or get ourselves to work on time, we may eat too quickly. Have you ever seen a pie-eating contest? Definitely not an aesthetic experience! While most of us will probably never qualify for the national teams, the speed with which we empty our plates or finish off our lunches might indicate that we are in training for some degree of fast-eating competition.

Never eat more than you can lift. —Miss Piggy

When you eat rapidly so as not to miss your plane, your history class, or your favorite TV program, you put yourself under time pressure, which creates stress throughout your body. The body, in its natural wisdom, will generate a variety of hormonal secretions, as well as increase both heart rate and respiration, to attempt to cope with the situation. Eating in this condition will result in any number of sorry effects, including indigestion and acid reflux. The remedy for this, offered by high-pressure advertising, is to consume a candy or liquid preparation that reduces excess stomach acid." Thus relieved, you can continue the practice that got you into trouble in the first place. The American way really does support "a pill for every ill."

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