Chip said “Eating is a parasympathetic event,” as if everyone would understand what that meant.

Cleverly, I replied, “Huh?”

I have a lust for new words, so I forced him to define what a nutritionist thinks the definition of “sympathetic” is, and then unpack “parasympathetic” for me.

A nutritionist (maybe anyone in a health related field; I don’t know) thinks that “sympathetic” is the “fight or flight” response. That’s it. He could care less about someone going “Awww” when you stub your toe; that has to be some OTHER word.

And “parasympathetic” is the opposite of fight or flight; Chip puts it as “you’re just chilled out,” with his graceful hands floating out to either side to indicate a calm, zen-like balance.

Okay – so what do you mean that eating is a parasympathetic event? I can eat while fleeing; I do it in rush hour traffic all the time. Maybe I could eat while fighting; I guess it would depend on how tasty the food was…

“Anything you eat in a sympathetic state – while stressed – is going to be less beneficial to you, no matter how healthy it is.”

This is the way Chip thinks; it’s not enough for me to eat pumpkin seeds and wheat germ – he wants my body in a state to accept those nutrients gladly. So picky.

“Carbohydrates begin to digest in your mouth. Protein gets going in your stomach. Fats are pretty much digested in the GI tract. But if you’re stressed, what happens? You don’t produce as much saliva – the carbs don’t digest from the beginning. Your stomach doesn’t produce the acids it needs to handle the protein. And your intestines get inflamed. That’s constipation – or diarrhea. No, eating needs to be PARASYMPATHETIC if you want to get the value from your food.”

It may be impossible; if you’re on the run and the only hope for survival is a Pop Tart behind the wheel, then you have to do what you have to do. But there are nutritional, physical reasons to chill out while you eat – and reasons why your most stress-filled days are so hard to overcome. You’re not getting the fuel your body needs, and that just makes stress worse.

That’s interesting, don’t you think?

Sympathetic Parasol

I had a friendly chat with a lawyer last night on the subject of copyright infringement. He says I really ought to get signed releases from Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger before posting their photos. That feels somewhat unlikely… instead, here’s a hand-drawn rendering not of parasympathy but of a sympathetic parasol. You’re welcome.




2 thoughts on “Parasympathetic

  1. That is completely fascinating! Stress also makes me want to eat and snack more, so it sounds like a double whammy! I think I love Chip too!


    1. Me, too – I love a carb-ish snack (or three or ten) when I’m stressed. Fast energy to endure this mess, please! O what a tangled web we weave when we attempt to live our lives as best we can!


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