Category Archives: Educational Tips

Mind the Body at Work

There are so many ways you can bring mindfulness into your workday.  One of Computer Manthem is to be mindful about your body and feed it, move it, stretch it, and breathe in ways that support your energy, your productivity, and your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. 

At a recent two day workshop the facilitators made sure our energy was high so we could stay focused and attentive to the information being shared.  Besides the interactive techniques the facilitators used, they set guidelines at the very beginning that gave us permission to stand or pace instead of sit.  We have been so conditioned to sit that we often feel like we need permission to stand.   

You can stand instead of sit at meetings, while you’re talking on the phone, while you’re talking to your office mate, and even when you’re typing.  You can get a standing work station or be creative and stack a bunch of books on a table and put your laptop on it.  Of course, if you want to get really fancy you can buy a walking workstation.  Granted, this option is a little more pricey, but well worth the money in terms of your health and well-being. 

Research is demonstrating that “sitting is the new smoking” and that sitting 6 hours or more a day has serious health consequences.  So stand instead of sit whenever you get the chance and take breaks throughout the day to walk for 5- 10 minutes or stretch and breathe.  These small changes can bring new energy to your work and lift your mood.

What you feed your body also makes a tremendous difference in your energy level throughout the day.  In my Eat for Life class this week we talked about the difference between “power” foods and “junk” foods.  Power foods are foods that help you feel energized and keep your blood sugar leveled out.  Junk foods are what the name implies.  (It just occurred to me… why would anyone want to eat something called “junk?”).  Anyway, junk foods drain your energy because you have a quick burst and then you’re down for the count.  At the same workshop I talked about earlier, people commented how everyone became brain dead after eating the large cookies set out mid-afternoon.  A snack like nuts, veggies and hummus, cheese with wholegrain crackers or an apple would be a better idea.  Or you could choose to take a quick walk around the block and you might find that urge you had for a cookie disappears.   Since this type of food is not always readily available at the workplace, bring in your own.  Start a “food bowl” instead of a candy bowl.

For more tips for being mindful about your body at work, read the 22 ideas to lift your post-lunch spirits and energy in the workplace!  It only takes a moment to incorporate some of these interesting ideas and change the way you feel. 

 

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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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A Healthy Diet is the Greatest Gift You Can Give Yourself

 Respecting your body is one of the concepts I often talk about in my classes. What does respecting your body mean to you?  To me it means giving it healthy food.  I recently had the pleasure of reading an article by Jillian McKee, a Complementary Medicine Advocate, about the importance of a healthy diet and how it not only relates to people with cancer but for those of us not carrying a cancer diagnosis (yet).  According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 45% risk and women a 38% risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy diet does not make you bullet proof when it comes to cancer but it can help.   
Here’s what Jillian has to say:

Good nutrition is important to the body because it helps it to grow, protects and repairs tissue, and it helps to keep a person’s body healthy. When a person is diagnosed with cancer their previous healthy eating habits will make it easier for them to fight their cancer. This includes dealing with their cancer treatment without as many negative side effects, having more energy to fight the cancer, and giving them more energy to fight their cancer diagnosis. People with a healthy diet in their daily lifestyle are more likely to have a healthier immune system, which means their chance of surviving cancer is greater than the chances of those who do not eat well.

Continue reading

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What’s in a name?

I love to go to the farmer’s market for a number of reasons.  I obviously like buying healthy, tasty food but I also often run into friends and get a little Vitamin D.  Strolling down the aisle on Saturday, I noticed the different names and labels people use to advertise themselves and their products.  I admit being a little confused about whether someone was selling organic or not and a little skeptical (I may be prone to this by nature).  Just because someone is selling a product at the Farmer’s Market does not necessary mean it’s organic, for instance, although I think I fool myself into thinking that sometimes.  Not that I eat everything organic, but I try to be conscious and knowledgeable about the food I put into my body and how it affects me and my environment. And when I shop the Farmer’s Market I am making an effort to do the right thing for both.  

What I discovered is this–to really know what’s in your food, even at the farmer’s market, you have to ask a lot of questions.  Not all the produce is organic and local doesn’t always mean better for you.  To help consumers better navigate local markets, Melinda Hemmelgarn, has prepared a short list of common areas of confusion, a few personal examples, and strategies to help you purchase exactly what you think you want to buy.  Read here to find out more about what the names “local, sustainable, natural, and free range” mean  http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/2012/06/18/greenwash-at-the-green-market/.  By the way, Melinda is a local Columbia, MO, food guru, registered dietitian, “investigative” nutritionist, and award-winning journalist, with 30 years’ experience in clinical, academic and public health nutrition.  I trust her!

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Engage your body! Be fit and feel good.

As a health psychologist working with people who are trying to change their relationship with food and their bodies, I don’t put a focus on weight.  That is problematic for a wide variety of reasons and it usually doesn’t help.  Instead, I ask people to pay attention to how their bodies feel as they do certain activities and eat various kinds of food.  Paying close attention to the effects of these things on the body then begins to shape our behavior naturally.  If it feels healthy, we do more of that.  If it feels unhealthy, we do less.  Makes sense.  Yes?

In particular, getting in touch with the body’s need to move and stretch and breath encourages us to engage it more often.  It feels good.   And we can be fit and feel good, even at a weight that you might think is too high for you.  And when we exercise we boost our metabolism and are more likely to maintain our weight.  Read more about research in this are conducted by Dr. Thomas at the University of Missouri–very enlightening and worth a read.  http://mizzoumag.missouri.edu/2012-Summer/features/survival-of-the-unfit/index.php

The down low is that, once again, we are hearing good evidence about why we need to get more physically active.  We were designed to be more active than we are today.  We, as a culture, have sat down and we forgot to get up.  Continue reading

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A Mindful Nation: a message from Washington I can believe in.

A few years ago Jon Kabat-Zinn and others within the mindfulness community were given time to spend with some members of Congress.  The message seemed to take with Representative Tim Ryan and he now has a book out, A Mindful Nation, describing his belief in the power of “meditative mindfulness” to effect change in people’s lives on all levels.   If it works, he says, “why wouldn’t we have it as part of our health care program?”  Good question.  There is a huge body of scientific research that demonstrates the positive effects of mindfulness in people experiencing a wide variety of mental and physical health problems.    If we really want health care reform and to lower health care costs, we need to start personally taking care of our health.   But wouldn’t it be nice to walk out of your doctor’s office with a prescription of “mindfulness  practice” and actually be supported financially to take a program that works without drugs.   Read more about Rep. Ryan in the recent Washington Post article.  

Please note:  This message is not intended to suggest that you should not follow your doctor’s orders if you need to be on prescription drugs.  It is suggesting that sometimes there is a better way.

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Sustainable Eating: Better for your Health, your Environment, and your World

I’ve mentioned the benefits of local eating in previous posts, such as by gardening and by frequenting the Farmer’s Market. Now I want to explain how seasonal eating relates to this idea, and why we should consider the sustainable alternative to the industrial food industry.

Eating sustainably includes eating locally because it’s a great way to support individual communities.  It connects communities to the source of their food, provides local farmers with financial support, and eliminates the need to truck in food from all over the country, or even from all over the world! This is where seasonal eating comes into play. Continue reading

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What kind of chocolate will be in your Easter basket?

I know it is really hard to be a conscious consumer all of the time, but I think it’s important not to put our heads in the sand.  My mother sells fair trade chocolate (and other goodies) at her store called the Global Market at the Community United Methodist Church.  She sent me this link to an article that explores the unfortunate circumstances that exist with regard to the conditions people (often young children) work under in the cocoa fields.  For more info, read the entire article here. http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/04/04/slavery-free-chocolate/

The take home message from me is to at least think about how the products you consume are produced and, when possible, support those that are produced locally or engage in fair trade practices.  These products will not be relying on the slave labor of people around the world.  Interviewed in the article Kristen Hard, the owner of Cacao Atlanta who deals directly with growers from Brazil and Venezuela, says it best.  “Whatever you’re purchasing is funding something; it’s a choice that you’re making every day,” she says. “Buying fair trade can benefit the environment and the social status of the farmers. Or, you can do the opposite and promote child labor.” And, try applying this philosophy to other things that you buy as well.

With regard to chocolate, look for the label “Fair Trade” or “Rainforest Alliance.”  This will guarantee you aren’t buying chocolate produced by the unfair treatment of others.

When you savor your chocolate today, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’re helping to make the world a better place?

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Food Sense Conference – March 16 – 18, Columbia, MO

 Mark your calendars for this coming weekend, March 16-18! The MU Life Sciences department is putting on its annual conference on health and eating. They have gathered experts in nutrition, psychology, taste science, cultural studies, marketing analysis, journalism and chefs to speak about how we can make healthy choices about what we eat for our life. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to register here (link: http://lssp.missouri.edu/foodsense/register) and come hear from and discuss these issues with local chefs and nationally-renowned experts. 

Here are some of the highlights of the conference that you won’t want to miss! 

From Mindless Eating to Mindlessly Eating Better- Brian Wansink

Friday 7 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. Jesse Auditorium in Jesse Hall

Wansink is the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and has authored best-selling books on mindless eating and nutrition. In his keynote talk Friday night, Wansink will synthesize his 20 years of research findings for us, arguing that the key to banishing mindlessly overeating is not mindful eating, but setting up food in your surroundings so that you mindlessly eat less.  Continue reading

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