Kirstin’s Korner: Rest and Digest

It’s Monday morning. The alarm goes off and your head fills with thoughts of the day’s obligations. You check your phone, take a shower, pack your bag… time to hit the road, but you haven’t eaten anything. You grab a granola bar as you rush to the car, scarf it down while you drive, and call it breakfast.  

Sound like a typical morning? You’re not alone. With the crazy pace of life, sitting down for a meal can seem like a huge waste of time. Who has enough hours in the day to prepare food and pause to enjoy it? Our to-do lists never end, and there are always fires to put out. It seems far more efficient to knock something off the list while eating. You could catch up on emails, drive somewhere, or watch a show. You could skip meals altogether and hustle through the day until you’re ravenous. Seems like the ultimate time saver! Or maybe just the opposite is true. What if slowing down and enjoying food enhances our potential for excellence? 

Jesus slowed down for meals with those He loved. He ensured the 5,000 were fed, celebrated a wedding feast at Cana, and shared breakfast with His disciples when He appeared to them after His resurrection. On each of these occasions, there was much work to be done, but Jesus was not too hurried to pause and eat.  

If the Son of God Himself slowed down to eat during His time on earth, God must have designed our bodies to function this way. A quick look at physiology confirms that He did! Our autonomic nervous system, which regulates our bodies’ essential functions without conscious effort, has two branches – “sympathetic” and “parasympathetic.” The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” mode, active when we’re under stress. Digestion is a low priority in this state. If you’re running away from a bear, you need to direct blood flow to your muscles, not your gut! Unfortunately, our bodies adjust to all stressors the same way, whether we are running from a bear or hustling through a busy day.  

The parasympathetic nervous system is our “rest and digest” mode, active when we are relaxed. In a parasympathetic state, our bodies prioritize digestion, allowing us to fully break down and absorb the nutrients in food. How cool is that? God designed us to eat in a relaxed state! When we are fully present at meals, our bodies make the most of the food we take in. We finish our meals fully satisfied, not simply full.  

In challenging seasons of life, slowing down for three leisurely meals a day might seem out of the question. That’s okay! I hope you’ll accept this simple challenge though: pick one meal or snack each day to eat free from distractions.  

Pause for a moment to notice your hunger level. Thank God for providing this food and the ability to enjoy it. Chew slowly. Put your fork or spoon down between bites, and appreciate flavors, aromas and textures. Let your body and mind slow down for a few precious moments, receive nourishment, then take the next steps of your day with fresh focus. Perhaps this shift in our approach to eating – one of our most basic human needs – is the first step towards slowing down our pace of life. A step towards a calm, unhurried pace that reflects trust in God as we incorporate rhythms of rest. 

Kirstin Sandreuter is an Area Rep in Cumberland Co, Maine. Kirstin participated in cross-country and track in her years at Cornell University and while in high school. She graduated from Cornell with a degree in Nutritional Sciences and Dietics. Have a question for Kirstin? Email her at:

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