Before eating, slow down.

Let’s set the scene!

Imagine if you were sitting down to eat a meal and you hear a loud bang! Someone hit your car, alarms were blaring and car parts were scattered everywhere. Now imagine you sit down to eat after having a stressful day at work. Emails are flooding in, your phone won’t stop ringing and you can’t stop thinking of everything that you need to take care of at home.

Both situations are stressful. However, your body does not categorize the two stressors and handle them differently. In scenario one, you would likely put your meal away and choose not to eat because you need to address what is going on outside.  However, in scenario two you are more likely to try to quickly eat your meal in between everything you have going on.  You simply don’t have time to take a break.  Eating when you are stressed or when you are feeling amped up may be problematic not only with fat loss or composition changes but it can also impact health markers and overall well-being.

What does the science say?

The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two components, the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is more well known as the “rest and digest state” because stress hormones decrease, heart rate is slow and blood flow increases to the digestive tract.  On the contrary, the sympathetic nervous system is commonly known as flight or fight, and when the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases an individual can experience an increase in blood pressure along with decreased blood flow to the digestive system, a decrease in mucosal secretion, and inhibited motility. [2] [3]. Thus, if we regularly eat meals in a sympathetic state it can negatively impact digestion and over the long -term, it can impact the health of the gut [2]. 

Stress is not always negative and acute stress may promote adaptive responses [4].  However chronic, unmanaged stress above a certain threshold may suppress the parasympathetic system which can then lead to maladaptation of the peripheral nervous system (PNS).  If you find that you are often stressed and you are eating while stressed, you may benefit from intentionally working to get into more of a “rest and digest” state before eating. That might seem tough but it just takes some conscious effort and practice.

What can you do to slow down for meals?

We can’t ask life to slow down or try to have a time out

  • Take 5 to 6 deep breaths through your nose before eating.
  • When you are eating, chew your food completely & put your utensils down in between each bite.
  • Put away your tech devices while eating AKA no phone, computer, and TV. 
  • Block out time to eat just like you would an appointment.
  • Try to eat at a dining table or a space separate from your work.


Life is going to continue to happen and we can’t ask for things to slow down. So the goal is to adjust our approach and find systems that you can actually apply & don’t become just “one more thing” on your to-do. 


  1. Lechin, F., & van, d. D. (2009). Central nervous system plus autonomic nervous system disorders responsible for gastrointestinal and pancreatobiliary diseases. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 54(3), 458-70. doi:
  1. Stanfield, C. L. (2017).Principles of human physiology.Harlow,Essex, England:Pearson Education Limited.
  1. Browning, K. N., & Travagli, R. A. (2014). Central nervous system control of gastrointestinal motility and secretion and modulation of gastrointestinal functions. Comprehensive Physiology, 4(4), 1339–1368. doi:10.1002/cphy.c130055
  1. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annual review of clinical psychology, 1, 607–628 doi:10.1146/annurev. linpsy.1.102803.144141

Why Lack of Sleep is Negatively Impacting Your Progress

Each day many of us juggle work, training, and the demands of day to day life.  It may feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done so in an attempt to add more hours to the day, it is not uncommon to take time away from the hours spent sleeping. The popular phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may initially be motivating but it really misses the mark when we are looking at our long-term goals and health.   Sleep might be one of the most powerful and underutilized tools we can use to train harder in the gym, change our physique or simply feel better each day.


How can prolonged sleep deprivation impact you? 

Weight Loss

Research has shown that lack of sleep over a period of time can impact hunger levels while also potentially increasing circulating levels of ghrelin while reducing concentrations of leptin.  Ghrelin signals to your brain that you are hungry and leptin signals to your brain that you are full, so if ghrelin levels are up and leptin levels are down, it becomes far more difficult to stay within your caloric goals.  With the possible change in leptin and ghrelin levels and when we are operating in a state of poor or insufficient sleep, it becomes increasingly difficult to make choices surrounding food choices that are in support of our long-term health and goals and as a result, we may have a very difficult time adhering to our diet.


Energy expenditure outside of the gym also plays a role in weight loss however when you are operating in a chronic sleep deficit your energy expenditure can decrease.  Less movement outside of the gym can decrease your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which is the energy you expend for everything that is out of the gym and not sleeping related.  Less NEAT which in turn can negatively impact weight loss.


Insufficient sleep may also make it more difficult to maintain lean body mass and promote retention of body fat so if you are training hard and you are spot on with your nutrition, yet you are consistently getting poor quality sleep or not enough sleep, you may see that your progress is slow or stagnant.



If you have one night of not so great sleep, it’s unlikely that it will have an impact on your training session, however, if you are training with prolonged sleep deprivation, it is possible that you will see a decline in your performance especially with more skill-related movements.

When we are looking at performance, we cannot discount the impact that our mood has on the quality and enjoyment of our workouts. Research has shown that mood can be greatly impacted by lack of sleep which can result in lackluster training sessions and mustering the motivation to even step foot in the gym can be a challenge.


How can you improve sleep?

Create a routine

Work to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.  This isn’t going to be a perfect practice and there may be times where life happens and you can’t stick to your “norm” but creating a routine that allows you to unwind and slow down around the same time each night can be really powerful.  Consider journaling, breathwork, stretching, or reading as practices to add to your routine. 

Change your environment

To help with the quality of your sleep and your ability to stay asleep, work on keeping your room cool and dark. So if you live in a city or an area with a lot of light, look to invest in blackout curtains and a fan to keep the light and external noise out.

Mind your tech usage

Watching TV or using tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices can disrupt your ability to get to sleep or you may find yourself staying up later because you lose track of time. Trust me, I know that it’s NOT easy to put away your phone or turn off the TV because those devices can help you unwind. However, turning off screens about 30 minutes before bed can make such a big difference in your quality of sleep and your ability to get to sleep. 


Understand how sleep impacts you and what works for you allows you to adjust your routine to fit your needs and your lifestyle.  It may seem a bit trivial, but making time to learn “why” sleep is important for you can open up the doors for you to work on making changes in your day to day life. 


Kawada, T. (2017, July 1). Sleep Duration and Impaired Glycemic Control. American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 130, p. e311.

Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011, July). Sleep and obesity. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, Vol. 14, pp. 402–412.

Hand Portion Size Guide

There can be a lot of confusion around what a severing size “actually” looks like. Right?

I don’t know about you but the actual serving size of chips always seems to be too small. 


There are many different ways that you can portion out your food to include using a food scale, measuring cups or visual references. While food scales and measuring cups may be more accurate, it’s unlikely that we are going to bring those tools with us when we are eating out or on vacation.  So it’s helpful to know how to guage portion sizes using your hand as a reference! 


Understanding serving sizes and positioning your food is a skill that help you in move forward towards your goals. What do I mean by this?   Learning about portion sizes can help you to:

  • Become more aware of how much you are eating in your meals
  • Lose body fat
  • Gain weight 
  • Improve performance in the gym
  • Keep energy levels more even during the day


Check out below how you can use your hands to determine the portion sizes of what you are eating!

Hand Portion Size


Want to learn more about how to adjust portions to meet your goals?

Apply for 1-1 coaching!