Thanksgiving is an American holiday that began with good intentions but has degraded into a face-stuffing gluttonous celebration. I am drawn to Native American wisdom and culture, and that’s why I think it’s important for us to honor their wisdom on a holiday like this that has questionable origins. Anyway, I want to share some natural strategies to boost appetite for those of you who plan to eat!
The first strategy to enhance your appetite is to meditate. This is very good for people who are chronically stressed. Meditation involves sitting down in a lotus posture (cross-legged is fine, or just sitting on a chair too) with your back straight, unsupported. It is believed that this posture aligns chakras and enhances the flow of prana or life force energy.
From my own experience, when I sit upright, look straight, close my eyes, and begin meditation, my head starts to clear and I feel a focused calm envelop me. It is a different type of sitting than the type I’m doing right now while writing this post.
If you haven’t tried meditating before, just try it now. You can accomplish a lot in just five minutes. The deep breathing and calm awareness stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” branch of the central nervous system, enhancing blood flow to the GI tract. When we’re stressed, the blood flow reverses, and consequently our appetites become suppressed.
We live in a culture that values appetite suppression over appetite stimulation. Products designed to suppress appetite are far more common than those designed to stimulate appetite. Food is nourishing, and this is a great holiday to thank whoever you want to thank for good food and how it sustains us.
If was starving and not as privileged as I am today, I wouldn’t be able to write this to you. By eating good food, I have the mental clarity to write. When I’m stressed, I don’t perform as well, and I end up suppressing my appetite through the release of stress hormones.
Stimulating your appetite through meditation can also help you assimilate more of what you eat, as your digestion will be better than if you’re stressed and distracted. This means more nourishment. It’s a great time to start meditating today if you haven’t yet. It’s absolutely free, and it’s invaluable in my opinion.
A variety of bitter, astringent, pungent, and sour plants can stimulate appetite. In herbalism, they are referred to as bitters. Below is a list of my favorites:
- Artichoke leaf: the first time I tried this, I noticed more salivation. I felt it. And that qualitative experience informed me that this bitter herb could help enhance my digestion. This herb isn’t easy to find, but if you can find a plant somewhere, give it a try. Any bitter herb works honestly.
- Schisandra berries: I’ve been a fan of schisandra berries, a “superfruit” from China, for several years. The best way to take it is to put a few in your cheek and slowly suck the juices over the course of 20 minutes or so. Schisandra is known as the five-flavor berry. It has sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, and pungent notes, which helps it’s appetite stimulating properties.
- Gentian root: This is another herb that is popularly used by herbalists to aid digestion. It tastes absolutely horrible, but I use a tincture every now and then and take a few drops before larger meals. It’s not necessary, but it’s fun to try and observe it’s effects.
About this tincture…it has a very strong taste. If you are interested in purchasing it using my Amazon link above, I would recommend taking it before and after meals. But do not use tinctures like this to make up for bad food-combining or eating very heavy meals. It won’t fix the underlying problem but it may or may not provide some symptomatic relief. I honestly rarely use this tincture but today, I certainly am. I only take a few drops at a time because the taste is so strong, but it is recommended to take one dropperful.
Another important reason to add bitters to your diet is because the standard American diet is saturated with sweet, fatty, and salty tastes. Having bitter will simply help promote balance.
And going by experience again, as that’s what I prefer over the scientific explanations, when I am lacking in bitter tastes in my diet, I do feel that I’m off balance. If I eat sweets at the beginning of the meal, I also feel that it isn’t always the most balanced. Occasionally I do start my meals with sweets if it was after a heavy workout and I am craving sugar, but for the most part, starting the meal off with some bitters, such as those in a salad, can enhance digestion.
But if you’re going to use a salad, make sure to actually have bitter leaves in there! Hybridized romaine lettuce isn’t bitter enough and it’s bred to be sweeter.
What about exercise?
Of course exercise can stimulate your appetite. I used to fast and do sprints before eating large meals on previous thanksgivings. But I have foregone that practice because it didn’t come from the healthiest place. I have a healthier relationship with food now, so I’m not going to purposely exercise so I can better stuff my face with food.
I’ll exercise if I feel like it, and actually, I feel like doing some light sprints, but that’s about it as my quads are quite sore from my squats and leg press the other day.
Next, exercise depletes your body of nutrition and energy. I wanted to share strategies that stimulate the digestive processes in your body without increasing your energy expenditure. Eating after working out is a great feeling, but you shouldn’t have to feel like you need to exercise a lot before you eat to enjoy your food.
Optimize your digestion by eating the right foods for your body, which you can figure out to an extent with your intuition, as my free guide explains, by reducing stress and eating mindfully, and adding bitters to your diet. The simple things go a long way. Happy thanksgiving!