Category Archives: Research

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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How do you make sense of “nutrition” information?

iStock_000007141038XSmallI am amazed by all of the conflicting “nutrition” information and recommendations I read and hear about from others.  The reasons for this are varied.

First, research is conflicting.  Depending on which expert you believe, you will hear widely diverse recommendations on how to eat.  Should you eat a Mediterranean diet or the low-fat (or no fat) diet?  This question will probably be debated for as long as I’m alive.

Second, the food corporations capitalize on what they think you believe.  For instance, the preponderance of products labeled “low fat” started because there was research indicating some benefits from having a low fat diet.  Continue reading

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Use Mindfulness To Counter Cravings

If you don’t know what “bliss point,” “sensory-specific satiety,” “mouth feel,” “perfect break point,” and “vanishing caloric density”  are then you should probably read the new book entitled “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” or at least read an excerpt in the intriguing article by the author, Michael Moss, in this week’s New York Times.


These are all terms widely used in the food industry to describe how food is scientifically constructed  to bring the “greatest eating pleasure” (in other words, the strongest craving).   Mr. Moss’s interviews with food industry insiders tell a story that appalls as much as the food addicts.  Yes, the food industry spends billions of dollars developing food that addicts you, designing psychologically-appealing products, and creating advertising that catches your attention—all in the ongoing campaign to keep you coming back for more.  That “coming back for more” has resulted in the alarming rates of obesity and the associated health problems such as diabetes and hypertension.  Basically, if you are eating processed food you should take note and beware.  This is not “real food” but a “food like substance” (as Michael Pollan would say,) and it is designed to set up cravings in your body. The limbic brain loves sugar, fat, and salt and the food industry knows it.  It isn’t your fault you crave their carefully constructed food.  It’s just the way we are designed. 

In my estimation there are two solutions to this problem.  Continue reading

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Eat for Life – Mindful Eating Course starting in January

The holidays are beginning to wind down and now is the time you might start to wonder in a slightly agitated voice “how could I have eaten so much over the holidays?” or “why can’t fit into these pants anymore (did they shrink)?”   If that resonates with you or if you’re just looking to get the new year off to a good start with eating better and treating your body better,  Eat for Life might be just what you’re looking for. 

 Eat for Life is a 10 week class I developed which teaches you the skills of mindful and intuitive eating. The class is available in person (in Columbia, MO) and online (so you can take it anywhere in the world).  The online course is done from the luxury of your own home and you follow along with each week’s assignments on your own time schedule.  There is never a time you have to be “online” for a group discussion.   Plus, you’ll get little inspirational emails from me twice a week to keep you on task! 

This non-diet approach to eating uses a non-judgmental and compassionate approach to re-learning how to use your internal physical cues to guide what, when, how, and why you eat.  In other words, this is NOT an approach that shames you into losing weight fast like some reality TV shows you might have watched.  While that might work for some, it is not the recommended technique for long lasting change. 

 By the way, I’ve done some research on this program and the results indicate the class participants do learn to listen to their bodies messages about how to eat, they have a better appreciation for their bodies (which usually lends itself to treating it better), they engage in less binge eating, and they are more mindful (which is key in helping you change).    

 Here are the dates, times, and cost for the online class.  Let me know if you need any additional information or want to enroll.   If you are interested in the in-person class (in Columbia, MO) or are a faculty, staff, or retiree of the University of Missouri, please contact me for your cost information.   You get the class cheaper because it’s part of your benefit package.

 DATES FOR THE WINTER 2013 ONLINE CLASS:

Orientation – week of January 18                                                                                        10 Week Class – week of January 25 – week of April 5 (except spring break)Cost: $180 for members of the community (anywhere around the world)

Registration form must be received by January 14.   My email is RossyL@umsystem.edu

 

 

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Meditation Can Change Your Emotional Patterns and Your Brain

Three years ago I found myself traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to be a part of the brain research being conducted by Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist who heads up the Center for Investigating Healthy. I had been identified as a “long term meditator” and asked to participate in some of the extensive research projects being conducted there to better understand what happens to the brain when you meditate.  Over the next year and a half I was examined on three separate occasions in a sleep lab and in a Functional MRI machine using neuroimaging techniques that show which brain areas are involved in a task, a process, or an emotion.  I was asked to respond to a wide variety of pictures and scenarios while being “stressed” by conditions such as heat applied to my arm and giving a speech or undergoing an interview with very stern looking people.

I just listened to a fascinating interview  where Richard Davidson talks about some of his findings in his new book co-authored by Sharon Begley called “The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live-and How You Can Change Them.” The book outlines six categories of Emotional Style:
1. Resilience: How slowly or quickly you recover from adversity.
2. Outlook: How long you are able to sustain positive emotion.
3. Social Intuition: How adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you.
4. Self-Awareness: How well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions.
5. Sensitivity to Context: How good you are at regulating your emotional responses to take into account the context you find yourself in.
6. Attention: How sharp and clear your focus is.


If you’re interested in emotion, how different emotions map onto the brain, and how you can change your emotions by changing the way your brain functions,  then this would be an interesting read (comes out December 24).  While the “what do you do once you know this information” part of the book might be a bit slim, we do know from Dr. Davidson’s and other research that meditation can change our brain structures.  Due to neuroplasticity of the brain, we can change.  We just need to work at it. 

The payoff for meditating?  More resilience, better outlook, more social intuitive, greater self- awareness, better regulation of your emotional responses, and better attention.  Those all sound pretty good to me.

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