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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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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Mindfulness at Work…8 to 5!

iStock_000015423426SmallEmployees who use mindfulness at the workplace have demonstrated lower stress, improved health, enhanced communication, better decision-making capabilities, and increased productivity.   Leaders who incorporate mindfulness into their work lives tend to be more effective in relating to others, motivating employees toward shared goals, building effective teams, and promoting the growth of their employees.  People, like me, see the workplace  as the next great frontier for teaching mindfulness practice to help people enhance their work lives.  There are meetings, conferences, and workshops springing up across the country where discussions transpire about the best way of building mindful organizations.

This all sounds great, right?  But, I recently had two colleagues forward me an article from Huffington Post entitled “Beyond McMindfulness” warning about the possible misuse of mindfulness within corporations and businesses.   The suggestion was that mindfulness could be used to help stressed out employees “work more efficiently and calmly within toxic environments” filled with greed and immorality.  The article does end with the hope that the mindfulness movement will not just be a “corporate fad” but a “genuine force for positive personal and social transformation.”

One of my personality characteristics is “positivity,” so I see the glass as half full most of the time.  Therefore, I believe that mindfulness has such a powerful positive impact on individuals it can’t help but change the environment for the better.  Quite different than the stereotypical images of meditators zoning out with passivity, mindfulness empowers individuals to take beneficial action in their own lives and in the environment they work and live.  Mindfulness helps people respond with greater clarity and wisdom.  It does not make someone a doormat.

But, because I know it is more realistic to see the glass as both half full and half empty, it is important to be on the lookout for the ways the mindfulness can be misused and misunderstood.  It is important to realize the risks, yet imperative to offer this life-saving skill for people who are continuously being asked to “do more with less.”  A lot of us live at least half of our lives at work and it only makes sense to make it more humane and enjoyable.  Mindfulness can help us do both.

Go to my audio/video  tab for recordings you can use to start bringing mindfulness into your workday.

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Healthy Fast Food Couldn’t Be Any Easier – Rossy’s Summer Vegetable Mix

This is the week in my mindful eating class where I suggest that people eat food that honors their taste buds, their body, and the environment.  What does that mean?   To me, it means eating food that puts a smile on my face and food that is local, organic, and seasonal as much as possible.

I went to the farmers’ market on Sunday for lots of vegetables because my body was really craving them.  I had eaten a lot of meat for a few days, and I could tell that my body was feeling heavy and operating on less energy than usual.

Monday when I came home from work I just started throwing things together.  Let’s call it the Rossy’s Summer  Vegetable Mix and  let’s call it “delicious.” photo (5)

Cut up the following:

Garlic (I use a lot, so gauge by your taste preference)
Zucchini (yellow and green for extra color)
Tomatoes
Kale

Saute the above ingredients in proportions that you prefer in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add one can of organic beans, drained and rinsed (I used pinto beans, but you can use anything you like).

After it was all heated, I added some fresh basil and pine nuts and let it cook for just a minute then topped it all  with grated parmesiano reggiano (the best I can buy because I can really tell the difference in taste).

In way less than 30 minutes you can have a delicious meal and, if you live alone like I do, you have supper for the next day as well.

The secret to the taste in this dish is the freshness of the ingredients—mostly straight from a farm nearby.  This is the time of year when you can throw almost any fresh produce together and it will taste good.  Try a combination that sounds good to you.  You can also throw it over rice or some pasta for a heartier meal.

Enjoy!

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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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Excited About Food!

To stay excited about eating, I save up my pennies and go out to eat once in a while in places that know how to make really good food.  It helps me remember to be a more creative cook, and it helps me remember how incredible food can taste from the hands of a really good chef. Friday I took a trip to Kansas City with a friend for a birthday celebration. We went to a good vegetarian restaurant on The Plaza called Eden Alley, to the Nelson Atkins Museum for the Frida Kahlo exhibit,  and then to a nice restaurant afterward.

photo (2)At Eden Alley I had gazpacho and I remembered how fresh and wonderful a gazpacho tastes in the summer.  So, I went to the farmers market this morning and picked up the ingredients I didn’t already have at home and made a gazpacho for lunch.  I didn’t look up a recipe but just used what I thought would be great and what I had handy.  I chopped up cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. I squeezed the juice of a lemon over it and cut up some basil to throw in as well.  I put a good splash of olive oil on it and some sea salt and pepper and I was done. I also put some chunks of goat cheese on top when I served it.  This would qualify as one of my “healthy fast food” recipes.  It tasted great; wasn’t expensive; didn’t take long to make; was great for my body; and had local, organic, seasonal ingredients!

At dinner I had ordered smoked duck empanadas on black beans and avocado.  The first bite was so filled with flavor I actually had to stop and warn my friend phototo really pay attention or he might miss how wonderful the food was.  Well, he didn’t miss it.  He actually had tears in his eyes over how good his lamb tasted.  He is more sensitive than most men, but it was really amazing.  For dessert, we ordered the German chocolate cake.  OMG! That’s all I can say.  The last bite was as good as the first and I savored every one.

I know that every meal can’t be a gourmet event, but perking up your taste buds once in a while can help re-inspire your delight in food.  Find a new restaurant to try, buy a new type of  food to cook, or get out some of those old favorite recipes that you love.  I was also reminded that when food is really good you don’t need a lot of it to satisfy you.  That’s good for your taste buds and your waist line.

Enjoy!

 

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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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