Category Archives: Conscious Eating & Living

Does stress make you overeat at work?

stress_eaterJack is sitting at his desk intently focused on his work. He is getting a little stressed because she has a deadline to meet and he has a lot of other work that is beginning to pile up.  Automatically, his left hand reaches down to the desk drawer that is filled with food in case he gets hungry.   Is Jack really hungry? Or, is he stressed?  Continue reading

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Just BE – 7 Tips for a Mindfulness-based Approach to Life

IDo you multitask your way through life? Do you find yourself constantly making a to-do list or planning? Do you feel restless if you aren’t doing something? Do you think you don’t have time to meditate or engage in other self-care? Do you eat to keep yourself busy or from being bored?  If so, then you may have become a “human doing” rather than a “human being.”

The art of “being human” has been lost in the midst of our need for entertainment, distraction, and constant motion.  In fact, I just asked the people in one of my classes if anyone felt their lives were too busy and every person raised their hand.  And, although everyone thinks they are too busy, if you ask them to sit and meditate or do yoga there is often a resistance to it. So, we have quite the conundrum.  I can’t “be” because I’m too busy.

Here are seven tips to help you become human again.  Try them on a regular basis and notice how you feel.  You can start with just one and work your way up. Each attempt to come back to sanity will be a healing moment for your mind and body. Continue reading

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“Fed Up” Shows How Sugar Is Killing Our Kids!

child-drink-sodaAnd it’s killing you if you consume a lot of processed food or sugary drinks.

I just saw the film “Fed Up” last night which was produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth) and I was very moved by it. It’s not like I didn’t already know that processed food and drink were a major reason for the obesity epidemic, but I had not been exposed to the dramatic rise in obesity in children and the impact that it is having on them.

Try watching a teenage go in for lap band surgery because he weighs 400 pounds. Wrap your head around the fact that 93 million Americans are affected by obesity. One soda a day increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60%. One 20-ounce bottle of soda contains the equivalent of approximately 17 teaspoons of sugar. And don’t think that switching to diet soda is going to save you. Artificial sweeteners trigger the same parts of your brain that sugar does and lead to sugar addiction and compulsions to eat and drink more.

The old paradigm of “energy in/energy out” that says all calories are the same appears to be wrong. The calories in an almond are not the same as the calories in a can of soda. An almond can actually help lower glucose levels in the body and the soda obviously increases them substantially. In other words, a calorie is NOT a calorie. Different food and drink products affect the body differently and set off different processes that either enhance our health and help us lose weight or diminish our health and lead to gain weight.

The emphasis of the film “Fed Up” is that sugar that is the biggest culprit contributing to the obesity epidemic. The use of sugar in almost all of our food products came about through a number of governmental decisions about how to subsidize the agriculture industry many years ago and any efforts to change this practice has met with powerful food lobby resistance. Even the Michele Obama campaign against childhood obesity got hijacked by the food industry giants and turned the focus to physical activity instead of the food that children consume.

To learn more about the movie and the campaign to save our health go to http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home or take the Fed Up Challenge and see what it feels like to go sugar free.

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March into Spring at your Local Farmers Market

Herb BasketI’m getting excited because our Columbia Farmers Market is getting ready to move OUTSIDE for the spring! They hold the market indoors for the winter but spring starts Thursday and it’s time to move into the great outdoors.

No matter where you live, visit your local market this week and join in the fun of eating local and eating healthy.  Get to know your local farmers and how they raise their food.  Ask them questions.  This is a great opportunity to support your local community, support your health, see your friends or make some new ones, listen to music, and get some fresh air.  You are what you eat. Eating fair, clean, and healthy food will get you ready to enjoy the summer ahead.

The Columbia Farmers Market will be at the ARC (1701 W Ash St.) on Saturday, March 22nd from 8am to noon (March 22nd until October 25th). Get ready for spring, warm weather and the outdoor farmers market! In March they’ll have fresh vegetables, pork, lamb, beef, organic produce, chicken, goat cheese, canned goods, baked goods, eggs, fresh pasta, plants, seedling and tons more!!!Featured Entertainment:  River Ghost Revue Creek will welcome you on opening day!

 

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Food Label Makeover — Fat is In, Sugar is Out, and Calories Take Center Stage

new_labelAlthough not approved yet, the Federal Drug and Food Administration is working on changing our food labels for the first time in 20 years.  It will be a long process (2 years or more) before we would see all of the changes, but I think we are moving in the right direction.  Two proposals suggest the calorie count for one serving be much more boldly listed on the label.  Unfortunately, they are still going to make you do the math.  Most packaged items have more than one serving size so you will have to multiply the calorie count times the servings to know how many calories you are getting in a package.  And, knowing the amount of calories in a package or product helps the consumer (you and me) make mindful and conscious choices about our health.

Not too long ago I walked into a salad and sandwich shop that lists the calories on their menu.  I usually don’t pay that much attention to them and just order what I want.  But, that day I wasn’t really sure what I wanted so I asked the cashiers what they thought was their best sandwich.  Their eyes lit up as they told me it was the super-duper, extra cheese, all-the-works turkey sandwich.  Hmmm… Continue reading

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The right way to eat–easy, delicious, fast, and good for you!

cauliflowerThe best recipes for me are ones that are easy and quick to make, good for you, and delicious—my idea of “healthy fast food.”  So, when I find a new recipe that fits all of those categories, I have to share it with you. I first had this dish when I visited my niece, Sarah, in Oregon last August.  It was absolutely delicious but I forgot all about it once I got home.  Fortunately, Sarah gave me a cookbook  over the holidays (Gwyneth Paltrow’s, It’s All Good) and the recipe was in there.  I’ve changed it only slightly. I’ll give you my version. By the way, despite some of the negative press that Gwyneth got about this cookbook, the recipes are often quite simple, very appealing, it reads easily, and has lots of gorgeous pictures of food—my idea of a good cook book.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chick Peas

14 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
Green olives (pitted) – approximately 3/4 cup (depending on how much you like them)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
1 Tb.  Dijon mustard
1 Tb. seeded mustard
1 Tb. white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the chickpeas, cauliflower, and green olives together in a large roasting pan with 3 Tb. of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are beginning to turn brown and the cauliflower is soft.  (about 30 minutes)

Dressing: Meanwhile whisk together the mustards, vinegar, and ¼ cup olive oil with a big pinch of salt and a few healthy grinds of black pepper.  After the chickpeas and cauliflower are done roasting, take them out of the oven and toss them with the dressing and the parsley.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served the dish with some heirloom tomatoes and this made a nice meal.  Don’t forget, you can roast almost any vegetable in a little olive oil and salt and it comes out delicious! Be adventurous and make your own version of this basic recipe.

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When all else fails, check in with the wisdom of your own body.

imagesCAXK8S3UThe problem: Conflicting and confusing diet and nutrition information.

The New York Times had an article on Sunday entitled “Why Nutrition Is So Confusing” that I want to share with you.  It resonates with me a lot, because I teach a class on mindful eating filled with people who come in confused about what they should or shouldn’t eat because of all of the different and conflicting messages we hear and read.  I am sure they are not alone.

Even when you follow the research carefully, as I try to do, you will be left shaking your head in wonder.  There are studies showing success on many diets –low carbohydrate/high protein, moderate-carb, high protein, moderate-fat, Mediterranean, etc.  Then there are the lists of diets that “experts” have determined are the best.  According to U.S. News rankings, even the Slim-Fast Diet made the list at #6 this year.  Granted, there has been research demonstrating it’s efficacy in the short term. The problem is that we also know that most diets aren’t realistic over the long haul.  You go off the diet and then you gain the weight back. Are you really going to drink Slim Fast all of your life?  Even if you did, chances are you will also eat a lot of other things that will not result in long term weight management.

The solution:  Mindfulness of the Body

In lieu of waiting for the definitive answer on what to eat and why, there is a fount of wisdom inside your body just waiting for you to listen.  It may take some time for you to really hear what the body has to say if you have ignored it for a long time.  However, before too long you will be able to discern the food it does and doesn’t like for you to put into it.  When you eat food that it likes, you will have more energy and feel healthier.  When you eat the “right” amount, you will not feel weighed down.

When I started mindfulness meditation practice, I was shocked at the messages my body was giving me that I had managed to miss for most of my life.  The first thing I noticed was the chemical taste of Diet Coke.  I had been a dedicated Diet Coke drinker for years and, all of a sudden, I REALLY tasted it.  The taste was so unappealing I immediately stopped drinking the stuff.  Do you really think your body wants colour (caramel E150d), sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), caffeine, phosphoric acid, citric acid and phenylalanine (the ingredients besides water in Diet Coke).  Granted, I still drink coffee and get my cup a day caffeine fix, but without the extra chemical additives.

Fifteen years after that discovery, I’m still checking in with my body at every meal to see what it wants and how much.  Just today at noon, at lunch with a friend, I looked down and saw that both of us had left food on our plates.  Just because there was food doesn’t mean that we needed to keep eating.  We were both full.  We threw the rest away.  My body feels good this afternoon because it’s not loaded down with food I didn’t want or need.

Body awareness is a key component in the road to weight management. Any program or diet that doesn’t include this as a foundation is likely to be doomed. Start your body awareness practice right now by simply scanning your body from head to toe (with particular attention to the belly).  Spend even a minute in this way and you can begin to notice and release tension.  Done before you eat, you are more likely to discern what and how much you need.  Practice with all of the BASICS of mindful eating and find out what you’ve been missing about what you eat and drink.

 

 

 

 

 

To re-train your taste buds and your mind to listen to your body, start by using the BASICS of mindful eating.  Here is a reasonable road to weight management.  If you followed these guidelines alone, you would solve most of your problems with food.

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Making Healthy Food “Hip”: The Broccoli Revolution

iStock_000015487644MediumIn case you missed the article  in the New York Times on Sunday, the question that was raised was “what if broccoli was marketed like other highly processed food we get tricked into buying?”  Michael Moss, the author of “Sugar, Fat, and Salt: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” asked some of the master marketing minds from big food corporations “How would you get people to want to buy and eat broccoli? What would your campaign look like? What would the message be? What would you do that all the well-intentioned government-funded campaigns have failed to do for generations?”

I have to admit that I often buy broccoli because I know it’s healthy.  I also have to admit that I sometimes just throw it away because it’s gone bad before I eat it. Why? Well, as I discovered from reading this article, I have become pretty limited in how I think about broccoli and don’t often think about putting it in the meals that I cook.  For instance, did you know you can grill broccoli?  As one the marketing slogans said, “Have a side of steak with your broccoli.” Just by reading this article and thinking more about how “awesome” broccoli can be, I have bought broccoli once, ate it, and really liked it, and I have found a new recipe with broccoli that I’m going to try later in the week (it’s a stir fry with broccoli and shrimp).  My mind seems to be fascinated with the idea of making broccoli exciting.

We are very conditioned by the messages in our heads and in our environment.  How many messages do you see for fresh fruits and vegetables?  If you did, how much more would you think about them, buy them, and eat them?  Mindfulness can help us break out of the ruts of conditioning and discover new worlds of food.  I challenge you to pick a vegetable that you think you only eat because it’s healthy.  Think about a cool marketing campaign for it, find some new recipes and try them out, approach the vegetable with a beginner’s mind that will allow you to see it in all its glory.  So much of what we do starts with how we think about it.  Change your thoughts and you change your reality.  Repeat after me.. “Broccoli is awesome.”

We are also very conditioned by our taste buds.  If you eat a lot of highly processed food or food with sugar, fat, and salt, then your taste buds have become less sensitive and less able to enjoy the delightful subtleties of fresh fruits and vegetables.  (See my blog “Mindfully Training Your Taste Buds”).  Mindful eating can turn this around for you.  You can re-condition your taste buds to discover the joys of broccoli and many other vegetables.

Watch this video to see the behind scenes story about the broccoli makeover.

Become part of the movement to make healthy food hip!

 

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Sitting is the New Smoking (Take Two)

Busy partnersIf you haven’t heard already, sitting is the new smoking.  More and more research is being conducted that demonstrates just how devastating sitting is on the body.  So, although I’ve written about this before, I think it merits a second glance. Recently, the results from combining 18 studies and 800,000 participants reveals that people who spent the most time in chairs had a 147 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular event, a soaring diabetes risk, and a 49 percent greater chance to die earlier of any number of conditions.  And, even more, if you sit too long every day, regular exercise at night once you get off work doesn’t reverse the damage.

James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., is the man that you will hardly ever see sitting.  He coined the term NEAT which stand for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which represents the energy we expend doing ordinary normal activities during the day.  Dr. Levine has studied how we can reverse the damage from sitting by standing and other physical movement during the day.  For instance, in an article he was interviewed for in a recent Vogue magazine he says, “Standing should be your default mode—when you’re on the phone, texting, even watching TV.”

The obvious answer to the problem is to stand up more and take regular breaks throughout the day to walk and stretch.  What I have discovered as I’ve tried to encourage people to do this is we just aren’t used to standing up.  We sit everywhere–at our desks, at meetings, in waiting rooms, at the movies, at church, at our child’s soccer games, etc.   When I suggest to people that they stand up during my presentations (and I tell them why,) many people still sit and my guess is that a lot of the reason has to do with the way we’ve been trained.  We live in a culture that promotes sitting, it’s culturally safe, and it’s a hard-wired habit.  It feels weird to stand up and people don’t like doing something new and different, even it will save their health.

We need to change the culture and it starts with you.  Encourage co-workers to stand up during presentations, in classes, and in meetings.  Stand up when you’re on the phone.  Stand up when you’re visiting with a co-worker.  Or better yet, have “walk and talk meetings” with your colleagues.

There are many sit/stand desks available and walking work stations are slowly beginning to show up at the workplace.  These ergonomic solutions come in a variety of sizes and costs.  However, if you really want to stand up and work, there are options available. If you have a sit/stand desk, wear comfortable shoes and stand on a rubber pad for more comfort.  When you use a walking workstation, don’t walk faster than 2 miles per hour.  And, try not to get distracted while you’re walking and working. I did once and fell off the back end.

If you have other solutions to the “sitting” problem, add a comment below and let me know about it so I can share it with others.

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Mindfully Training Your Taste Buds

kids-tasting-foodIt is amazing to me how trainable our taste buds must be.  I say this because many people at the beginning of my mindful eating class say they prefer to eat fast food, junk food, and processed food instead of fresh fruits and vegetables.  They prefer the taste of food laden with chemicals and pesticides and artificial colors instead of real food. I find this incredible—being the fresh fruit and vegetable lover that I am.  But, after getting over my shock at these exclamations, I decided to spend some time (and this blog piece) trying to address the problem of helping people change how they eat for the better yet encouraging them to “eat what they want” –a primary principle in my class. Continue reading

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