Diabetes and Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is important for all of us who want to be healthy, but it is even more important for people with diabetes.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received the latest copy of Diabetes Self-Management magazine and noticed “The Benefits of Mindful Eating” on the cover.  The article described the research that has been conducted on the effects of meditation and other mindfulness practices on stress, anxiety, healthy-related quality of life, and hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood glucose control.

It reported that a few studies have now demonstrated that people with diabetes who complete an 8 week mindfulness-based program can significantly reduce emotional symptoms which often trouble people who are trying to manage a chronic disease and show improvements on biological markers of their disease.  One small study conducted in 2007 even reports that people who did not change their diets, level of physical activity, or medication, but did practice meditation for 8 weeks, had improvement in their blood glucose control.

Anecdotally, I had a friend with diabetes who took a weekly meditation class with me for years and she would check her levels right after the class.  She said that her levels were better after meditation than any other time that she would check.

Eat for Life ClassesIf you have diabetes or are just interested in being more mindful about how you eat, join me for 10 week mindfulness-based intuitive eating program designed to help you have a healthier relationship to your food and your body.  We are starting soon, so if you are interested, register TODAY!!

Here is the link to register for the online class which starts Friday, May 30, but you need to register by Friday, May 23. You take the class on your own time but you have practices and readings to do each week that relate to a particular theme. Email me if you are interested in the in-person class in Columbia, Missouri, which starts May 27 (RossyL at umsystem.edu).

Now take a deep breath and feel your body from head to toe before you proceed to the next activity of your day.  May you be mindful!

 

 

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The Pause That Refreshes!

iStock_000002538269LargeThere probably isn’t anything I find more powerful or helpful than a pause.  Stopping and taking a deep breath when you’re stressed, angry, impatient, or frustrated can keep you from (a) saying things that you wished you hadn’t said, (b) sending emails you wished you hadn’t sent, (c) doing things that you wish you hadn’t done, or (d) all of the above.

People call the pause by many different names.  Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, calls it the “sacred pause.”  Janice Marturano, in her book Finding the Space to Lead, calls it a “purposeful pause.”  The authors of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression call it a “three minute breathing space.”  I often call it a “taste of mindfulness.”

Call it what you wish, a pause from your busy lives to check in with how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and how your body feels is all that you might need to avoid any of the behavior above and to help you settle down enough to let your clarity and wisdom arise.  If nothing else, it gives you time to rethink your next move.  It helps you tap into the wisdom of your body so that you take care of it better.  Instead of reactively reaching for a cup of coffee when you’re tired, you might get up and walk, stretch, lie on the floor, take some deep breaths.

A pause can help you re-center into the present moment and really take in what is going on. At work this is particularly helpful.  Perhaps you’re in a meeting but your mind is thinking about something else and you’re not really catching what’s going on.  You miss some of the main points and then you feel pretty timid about asking what you missed. I have put a random mindfulness bell called Lotus Bud on my phone that can go off at any time.  It rings and says “take a breath and be mindful.” When it goes off in a meeting, we all pause and take a breath or two.  It’s amazing how it slows things down (in a good way) and helps people stay more focused on the task at hand.

A pause can be short or long.  Short pauses are particularly good when you feel stressed.  Longer pauses can be taken throughout your day, such as when you are walking to lunch or driving home from work.  Just walk or just drive.  Don’t do anything else.  You’ll be surprised what you might discover.  It is always from the stillness that I have my most interesting, creative ideas.  In fact, when I ask people where they get their best ideas, it is almost always in the middle of a pause.

Think about times when you could use a pause and set an intention to work them into your day.  I’ll bet you’ll amazed at how refreshing they are.

 

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My Advice to People Getting into Mindfulness

bepresentjpgI’ve recently been asked to say, in one sentence, my advice to people getting into mindfulness.  There are so many things I would like to say that parsing it down to one sentence seemed like quite a challenge.  To help me and (hopefully) you in the process, I will share the advice that I’ve been given and have given to others over the years and maybe I’ll come up with one sentence in the end.  Let’s see what happens…

“Just Do It” – This is one of the first and best pieces of advice I ever received.  No, it wasn’t advice from Nike, but from Jon Kabat-Zinn and I’m sure he’s shared it with thousands of people around the world.  This advice has served me well and has gotten my butt on the cushion to sit in meditation on innumerable mornings.  You see, my mind never tells me that this morning is a great morning to get up a half an hour early to do my mindfulness practice.  But, I “just do it” anyway.

“Make space for formal practice” – When I say “space” I mean create an actual physical space where you do formal practice (e.g. a particular chair, room, place at work), but I also mean “space” in terms of setting aside the time for practice.  It helps if you write it down on your calendar or set your alarm.  You can even start with just a few minutes a day and it will make a difference.   Try even a couple of minutes during the work day and notice how you feel.

“Relax” – There is really nothing to do.  Mindfulness is an un-doing of all the things we think we are and how things are supposed to be.  Relax into the present moment with openness and curiosity.  One meditation teacher said “stop seeking peace and happiness and peace and happiness are here.”  Take a deep breath, relax, and see if you can sense the truth of that statement.

“Don’t give up” – Mindfulness practice is simple but not easy.  You keep coming back to the present with kindness over and over again.  Eventually you begin to get better at noticing when you aren’t present, and you stay in the present more often.

“Be gentle with yourself” – One of my favorite ways of describing mindfulness is “affectionate attention.”  You are gentle and kind with yourself, with others, and with your experiences.  We are such perfectionists in this culture.  Instead “try a little tenderness” as Otis Redding would say!

“Find a community or support group to practice with” – There is a great power and energy in practicing mindfulness with others.  We support and learn from one another in community and hold each other more accountable.

“Realize that everything is practice” – What this means is that you can bring your mindfulness to anything and make it a meditation.  In fact, your entire life can be a meditation.  You pay attention to all of your senses with kindness and curiosity.  You can do that anywhere and anytime.

So, I can’t really sum all of that up in one sentence, but if I only have one this is what I’d say.  “ Taste a little bit of mindfulness every day, even if it is one mindful breath, and do it with kindness.”                                    

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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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Happy at Work?

rec-man-juggling-work-10-13-11-md[1]Do you feel like you’re juggling more balls than you can keep in the air?  Are you becoming increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, and restless?  Are you having difficulty keeping up with your work?  If so, you may be experiencing what most working people have at some time or the other.  It’s called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) and you’re not born with it.  It’s a “workplace-induced attention deficit caused by the constant, relentless input of information.”

Edward Hallowell, the psychiatrist who identified ADT identifies the symptoms as follows: “When people find that they’re not working to their full potential; when they know that they could be producing more but in fact they’re producing less; when they know they’re smarter than their output shows; when they start answering questions in ways that are more superficial, more hurried than they usually would; when their reservoir of new ideas starts to run dry; when they find themselves working ever-longer hours and sleeping less, exercising less, spending free time with friends less and in general putting in more hours but getting less production overall.”

If those symptoms sound familiar, now is a good time to take a deep breath.  In fact, breathing and being aware of your breath and your body can be the first step in overcoming ADT.  “Most people don’t realize that there is a reciprocal relationship between the breath and our emotions, and that improper breathing can create mental distress,” states Dr. Patricia Gerbarg who has studied the relationship between stress and the breath for decades.

I first read about ADT in a new book called “Real Happiness at Work” by Sharon Salzberg.  I’m not finished with it, but so far I would give it RAVE REVIEWS!! I had the good fortune to be at a meditation retreat with Sharon in January in Massachusetts at the meditation center she co-founded in the 70’s.  In fact, she is one of the first people who brought meditation practice to the West back then.  She is a fabulous teacher and offers very accessible practices for bringing sanity back into the workplace at a time when it is desperately needed.  One of the people that she interviewed for the book said “one deep, meditative breath can settle my mind before a meeting or even just checking an email.”

Get the book  and practice more easy exercises to bring happiness to your workplace.  Listen to some meditations on Sharon’s website or start here http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/real-happiness-work by listening to Sharon talk about “mindfulness and concentration.”  She is doing an online retreat through Tricycle Magazine during February.  The first week is free.

 

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Start 2014 with a 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 non-diet approach to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food and your body is backed by research at the University of Missouri.  After a 10 week control group intervention, participants became more conscious about what they eat,  ate based on physical hunger instead of emotions or stress, became more respectful of their bodies (exercising more and being less critical), engaged in binge eating less often, and became more mindful about everything in their lives.

Some of the things you will learn include:

  • BASICS of mindful eating (simple 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 deal with your emotions
  • How to savor your food and respect your body at the same time
  • …and much more!

Winter 2014 Online Class
Orientation: – starting January 24
10 Week Class:
– week of January 31 – week of April 4
Cost
: $50 for faculty/staff (and family members) of the University of Missouri ($25 to be refunded with full participation)
$180 for members of the community

Winter 2014 In Person Class (Columbia Only)
Orientation: Wednesday, January 22 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Class:
Wednesdays, January 29 – April 9 (12:00 – 1:00 p.m.)
Cost:
$50 for faculty /staff (and family members) of the University of Missouri ($25 to be refunded with full participation)
$180 for members of the community

To register or to get more information, contact Craig Deken csdk89@mail.missouri.edu.

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Meditation Matters – A mindfulness in the workplace tip

Managing your energy throughout the day will determine if you feel good, get your work done, and have enough get-up-and-go left over to have fun with your family and friends after work.  Believe it or not, your energy level is one of the only things you have control over.  Some behaviors decrease your energy (like eating too much sugar or sitting in front of a computer for too many hours without a break) and some behaviors increase your energy (like taking time for a healthy lunch and positive self-talk).  When we have energy, we will feel a lot of vitality.  “Vitality” has been defined as having significant energetic resources and feeling enthusiastic and alive.

Most people I talk to say that their workday is too busy and they have too much to do—a set up for being burned out and fatigued.  That’s why it’s more important than ever to find ways to replenish your energy on a regular basis.  Taking “micro-breaks” that give you “momentary recovery” at work help you save time and energy in the long term.

However, not all breaks are the same.  Research on breaks at work demonstrate that smoking and getting a cup of coffee is detrimental to your health and rest breaks and physical activity during breaks tend to improve your health.  In fact, more frequent breaks that include rest or simple flexibility and strength exercises are associated with fewer injuries and accidents; less fatigue, anger, and depression; and increased mood.

meditateAnd, meditation matters. According to a study in the Academy of Management Perspectives (Fritz, Lam, and Spreitzer, 2011), out of 22 other strategies, meditation was the only “micro-break” that increased a person’s vitality during the workday.   Meditation was compared to things such as “drink water, have a snack, drink a caffeinated beverage, check and send personal emails and text, shop, nap, and physical activity.

In the same study, it was discovered that the work-related activities that improve vitality are to learn something new, focus on what gives you joy in your work, set a new goal, do something that will make a colleague happy, make time to show gratitude to someone you work with, seek feedback, reflect on how you make a difference at work, and reflect on the meaning of your work.

My suggestion would be to meditate for a few minutes at some point during the day.  Afterward, spend your day learning, building positive relationships at work, and reflecting on the meaning of what you do.  Oh.. and the thing NOT to do is “vent about a problem.”  That apparently really sucks your energy.  So the next time you feel like complaining, stop, close your eyes, and do a mini-meditation.  Don’t you feel better already?

 

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