Category Archives: Tips

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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Eat for Life – Enroll in this successful non-diet approach to weight management!!

eatforlife_colorlogoDo you eat when you’re stressed, bored, or sad?
Do you snack without noticing that you’re eating?
Do you have trouble not eating certain foods if they’re around the house?
Do you have a hard time not overeating? (e.g. eating until you’re too full)Are you easily enticed to eat, even when you’re not hungry?
Are you tired of the endless diets that don’t work?

Well, of course, you answered “yes” to some of these questions.  And, if you’d like to be more mindful about how, what, and why you eat, consider taking the Eat for Life program.  This program is non-diet approach to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food and your body.  You can take the class on-line or, if you live in Columbia, MO, you can take it in person.  Classes start September 24.

This program is backed by research that shows you can become a more intuitive, mindful eater, treat your body with more respect, and decrease eating behaviors that lead to weight gain.

Some of the things you will learn include:

  • BASICS  of mindful eating (simple mindful guidelines for eating)
  • The  Three Food Wisdoms – no forbidden food, eating the “right” amount and knowing and respecting your patterns and triggers with food
  • How  to stop using food as the way to handle your emotions
  • How to savor your food and respect your body at the same time

Research on this program has demonstrated that after 10 weeks participants become more intuitive eaters, they have more appreciation for their bodies, they decrease problematic eating, and they increase in their ability to be mindful.  To register or to get more information, contact Craig Deken csdk89@mail.missouri.edu.

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Moments of Mindfulness

iStock_000008216335MediumOur life is only lived in moments.   And, I have discovered that some of the most important moments (if such a thing exists) are the very first moments of the day.

A long time ago, I heard to try to be mindful from the moment you awake.   After trying that a few times, I thought “Right! That’s not happening.”   For some reason it just didn’t seem possible.  In my defense, I would get up shortly after the alarm went off and head off to my meditation cushion to meditate, but the experience of those first few moments evaded me.

For a variety of reasons, in the past few weeks, I have experienced a shift.  Perhaps the most important reason was I set a stronger intention to see if I could make it happen – catch those first few illusive moments.  And, the results have been quite interesting. Continue reading

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Mindfulness Reduces Stress, Boosts Productivity

business and workDo you notice how your body feels when it’s hunched over your computer for hours on end?  Do you eat your lunch away from your office and computer screen? Do you stop and take a break when you get overwhelmed with a project?  Do you pause and take a breath before you react to an email you didn’t like?  Do you take note of your accomplishments at the end of the day? If you answered no to any of these questions, then perhaps you need to bring more midnfulness into your workday.  For tips you can use everyday,  Click here to read my article that was just published in T + D, an award-winning magazine published by ASTD, the largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field. (Photo by Istock)

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To Listen and Be Heard – Mindfulness in Communication

Communication should be easy, right?  I say something and you listen.  You say something and I listen.  However, communication in which each person feels heard and acknowledged is actually quite rare.

“Every good
conversation
starts with
good listening.”

In the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program I taught this week, we did an exercise in which one person talks and one person listens for 2-3 minutes. People commented how different this was from their normal conversation.  Many had not ever experienced listening or being listened in this way and decided it would probably really help if they did.  Good communication starts with good listening.

Reflect on your recent communications.  How did they feel?  Did you feel acknowledged, appreciated, and accepted? Do you think the other person did?  If not, then there might be a number of things going on.  Too often we are so busy thinking about how something will impact us, how it relates to our experience, and what we will say when we have a chance, that we don’t really hear the other person.

Another big barrier to communication is we are all VERY BUSY and don’t take the time to really be present for another person.  Today, like most days, I felt very rushed by everything I needed to do for work.  I ran home to meet the Culligan man so he could carry salt downstairs for my water softener.  Instead of being impatient and in my “I’m busy” mode, I decided to be simply present for this other human being who was showing up in my life.  Because I took just a few more seconds to be open, I had the most wonderful interaction.  I found out my Culligan man is a musician on the side and is working on a song for veterans that might be part of a larger project to help veterans.  He found out I was a health psychologist and I gave him tips on how to get running back into his life and perhaps eat a little better.  It didn’t take much longer than if I’d tried to rush him along (maybe a minute or two).  The gift of connection was priceless and impacted how I felt the rest of my day.

Here are some tips for improving your communication skills.

  1. Be present and listen more during the first three or four minutes of any conversation.  This will completely change your relationships with others.
  2. Paraphrase what you heard the other person say so that you’re sure you understood her.  We often only hear our version of what the person said.
  3. In difficult communications, connect with the sensations of your body (feel your feet on the floor and feel your breath) as a way of staying open to what the other person.  Difficult communications often bring up fear in us and staying with the breath and the body can help ground you.
  4. Before giving someone your advice, ask if it is wanted.  We love to help but sometimes people just want to be heard. Generally having a sounding board will help someone tap into to their own internal wisdom about what to do.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

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Habit Releasers – Mindfulness to Shake Up your World!

Feeling a little frantic lately?  Needing a little peace in your day?  Well, I have just the thing for you. There is a new book out called Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

It is written by Mark Williams, who is a wonderful mindfulness teacher and researcher that I met at a mindfulness conference a number of years ago, and Danny Penman, a writer for UK’s Daily Mail.  Mark has done a lot of work with mindfulness as it relates to depression and co-authored a couple of books on that topic. These are also worth a look if you have any struggles with depression.

His current book appears to be very close to an outline for the mindfulness-based stress reduction program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and that is taught at the University of Missouri (among thousands of other places in the world).   So, if you can’t get to a class, you could pick this book up and get a lot of the same exercises.  NOTE:  taking an in-person class will help you understand the material better and help keep you more accountable.  Actually doing  the mindfulness practices on a regular basis is the key to finding peace in a frantic world—not just reading about them.

One of the exercises in the book I really like is called a “Habit Releaser.”  Give it a try.  All you have to do is make a deliberate choice to break out of one (or more) of your usual routines.  For instance, notice which chair you normally sit in at home, at a meeting, in a coffee shop, or at work and then sit somewhere different and new.  Or perhaps you could drive a different route to work or to the grocery store.  Walk a different route than you normally do.

There is nothing wrong with having habits but they tend to put us to sleep and on automatic pilot.  Changing up the scenery, even by just sitting in a different chair, can show you something new and give you a new perspective on life.  Be aware of the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of this new way of doing things.  Comment your experience below and tell me what you discovered!  There is a whole world out there you miss most of the time.

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Cooking with Martha – A Spring Green Garden Lunch!

photo (19)I recently had the good fortune of spending a Saturday morning cooking lunch with my good friend and fabulous chef, Martha.  I’d asked her if she would cook up something with me once a month that I could share with my readers.  So this is my first “Cooking with Martha” blog and I hope there will be many more to come—both for you and for me.  I get to eat great food and hopefully you will be inspired to cook something different and tasty in the near future.

Martha, of course, doesn’t cook from one recipe but combines a number of different ones and adds her own little twist on them depending on her mood and what the local farmer’s market has in store for her each week.  The dishes we prepared were: Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion; Carrots cooked in butter; and Polenta with grated Parmesan Cheese.  What a feast!

You don’t have to make them all together, although it was quite a nice meal.  Think about how you can use polenta more, how you can throw in some sautéed carrots for an extra vegetable at any meal, or cook together a bunch of vegetables for a beautiful presentation and tasty meal of what’s fresh and in season.

Here are the recipes.

photo (21)Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion
1 pound asparagus (snap off the hard part at the bottom and and slice into lengths about 1”)
2 pounds frozen peas or shelled fresh peas (can you also use edamame or any kind of cannellini or fava beans)
3 Tb. Unsalted butter
5 spring onions, or other small fresh onions, thinly sliced
1 head green garlic, thinly sliced (this is the new garlic that you can only get in the spring, so you can use regular garlic during other times of the year)
½ c. white wine or vegetable broth
Mushrooms (as many varieties as you’d like—we used shitake, oyster, and cremini)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A few basil leaves or chives, chopped

Prepare the asparagus and peas for cooking.  Melt 2 TB. of butter  in a skillet.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are starting to soften.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté a few minutes longer. You don’t want them to get very brown or crispy. Add the wine or vegetable broth and let it cook down a little. Add the asparagus and about ¾ cup water, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the asparagus is almost tender (about 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness).  Add peas and cook until done (about 2 minutes).  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the last TB. of butter and remove from heat.  Add the basil or chives and serve over polenta or pasta.

photo (16)Carrots cooked in Butter
Cut up your carrots, sprinkle with salt to taste, and cook slowly in butter in a skillet until tender. They might get a little golden but should not brown. If they are starting to brown before they get tender, add a couple of tablespoons of water to help them steam a little. Add chives on top. VERY EASY!

photo (13)Polenta with Parmesan Cheese
If you buy a package of corn grits (polenta), here are the instructions: Use 4 cups of water to 1 cup polenta. Bring water to a boil in a deep saucepan, then pour polenta in slowly. Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Then cook over very low heat for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes with a spoon. However, I was informed by Martha that you should only stir the polenta in one direction (this is what she learned from great Italian cooks a couple of summers ago). Do not let the polenta splatter as it is very hot and can burn you. You will know the polenta is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir it. After you cook the polenta you can stir in as much grated parmesan cheese as you’d like.  Yum!!! And also VERY EASY! Note: An even easier way is to buy instant polenta and follow package directions. This will only take a few minutes to prepare.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes by commenting below!

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Mindfulness teaches us how to respond in 1/2 second or less

How many times have you done a particular behavior even though you’ve told yourself just as many times that you aren’t going to do it ever again?  Be honest. You don’t have to tell anyone.  But, you do have to live with the consequences of your behavior.  This morning it was me getting mad and throwing up my hands at the lady in the big red SUV behind me at the stoplight.  The second the light turned green she was honking at me and it really caught me off guard.

imagesCATU9PPADid you know that you have one-half of a second between the time you see something, hear something, think something, or read something before you engage in a behavior.  For instance, you have one-half of a second after you see the chocolate cake with chocolate icing in the break room at work to decide “I’m not going to have any because I’m not hungry” or just mindlessly gobble down a piece (or two).  That’s why you might be on the “see food, eat food” diet.  You’re just not present for that one-half of a second when you could choose the behavior based on your real hunger.

This means that you have to be REALLY PRESENT to catch that one-half of a second.  Just think about how many minutes and hours go by that you aren’t really present and the enormity of this proposition becomes clear.  Cheri Huber wrote, “We don’t lack self-discipline, we lack presence.”   I tell this to people in my classes who are working on not eating when they’re stressed, bored, or distracted. It’s not about self-discipline; it’s about being aware of where you are and what you are doing. Continue reading

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Changing the Culture of Food at Work

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week I wrote about three easy ways to de-stress at work which included taking time out to take a walk and breath.  Now I’ve read a study in Population Health Management published in the last year which shows that not exercising AND eating unhealthily are linked with large reductions in productivity at work (50 percent and 66 percent respectively).  If you’re one of those that isn’t walking (or otherwise exercising) and not eating healthy, you might have a lot of work piling up on you that isn’t getting done.  No wonder the average worker reports feels stressed out at work.   Being at work without feeling capable of working is called “presenteeism” and affects us all to one degree or another.

The reason eating healthier could help you be more productive is because you’re supplying the body and mind with important nutrients.  You feel more awake and alert when you eat healthy, leaving you feeling energized for all the work you need to accomplish.

So, how can you eat healthier at work?  First of all, think about the culture of food at your workplace.  People bring in all kinds of unhealthy food to share with one another (think cookies, cakes, candy, etc.).  I know that this has turned into “thing we do” at work and I talk to people who look to cookies, cakes, and candy to provide comfort and pleasure.  While that may work temporarily, this kind of eating  then leads to feeling bad about yourself and a lack of energy for the work you have to do.  This behavior ultimately culminates in difficulties meeting the demands of your job and that’s when your stress level increases.  As the stress level increases, you produce cortisol in the body which is associated with the storage of fat around your middle.  Look down at your waistline and see if that’s true for you.

Isn’t it time we started thinking about how we can change our mind-set about what to eat at work?  Here are some suggestions for eating healthier at work.

  1. Start a fruit bowl in your office (to replace the old candy bowl)
  2. Bring in healthy snacks so you won’t be tempted by the cookies, cakes, and candy.
  3. Healthy snacks to bring to work include whole grain crackers, peanut or almond butter, dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, fresh vegetables, hummus, and yogurt cups.
  4. Suggest healthier food at meetings (forget the donuts and bring on the fresh fruit)
  5. Have healthy potlucks with your co-workers to get people thinking about how to cook healthy.
  6. Don’t bring in the food you want to get rid of at home (so you don’t eat it).  Throw it away!
  7. Post this blog in an area where everyone can read it.

Tell me some things that you do at work to make the food culture healthier and if you are a University of Missouri employee you’ll be entered into a drawing for a Healthy for Life lunch bag!!  Last week’s winner was Nancy Johnson, who won a new yoga mat.

If you’d like to know more about how to eat healthier all the time, think about enrolling in my next Eat for Life class starting at the end of May.  Contact me at RossyL@umsystem.edu for more information.

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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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