Category Archives: Research

With No Added Sugar On Top Please

sugar-258113_960_720The new Federal Drug Administration food labeling rules are a big win for the consumer.  According to their May 20, 2016, announcement, the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods will “reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease.”  In essence, you will be able to make better informed decisions about what you eat in order to be and stay healthy.

The highlight of the new rules is that big business, especially The Sugar Association, lost their fight to keep the “added sugar” content off of the label.  Instead, all labels will now specify what percentage of the total sugar content has been added by the manufacturer. A lot of food has naturally occurring sugar, so this new label will help the consumer see how much extra they would be getting.  We can thank the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization, Michelle Obama, and others for their recommendation to decrease the intake of added sugar.  This recommendation is based on lots of research that indicates added sugars raise the risks for obesity and other chronic conditions.

Mindful eating helps you to be aware of those extra sugars by attending to your taste buds.  Train yourself to pay careful attention when you eat and you will be more aware of extra sugar and other chemicals. Over time you will notice that your taste buds are great detectives. For me, I will take the food with no added sugar on top. Thanks!

Other highlights of the new rules include updating the serving sizes so that they more accurately reflect how people eat, putting servings in larger, bolder type, listing the calories in larger type, updating the daily values that you need based on newer scientific evidence, eliminating the calories from fat but leaving in the type of fat that is in the product, adding nutrients such as Vitamin D and potassium to the label along with calcium and iron but letting Vitamins A and C be included on a voluntary basis.

Things move slow on these types of changes, but I am elated that we are moving in a direction that helps instead of tricks people. Large manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018, so it will still be a while before you see these labels come into effect.  Click on this link to see get more information on the FDA website.  And see the labels below for a comparison of the old (on the left) and the new (on the right).


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Eating for the Right Reasons

Young woman enjoying ice creamHow many of you eat even when you’re not physically hungry? My guess is that would be all of you. And, from time to time this is not a problem. Once in a while it is nice to have a special treat just because something tastes good. I particularly savor my first trip to the ice cream parlor in the spring when the weather starts getting warm. However, if you commonly eat to reward and entertain yourself and to ease emotional distress there is a chance you lose control over eating and think about food a lot.

The Eat for Life class that I teach at the University of Missouri is a mindfulness-based intuitive eating program that helps people discover why they eat when they’re not hungry and how to be more in control of what, when, and how they eat. In addition, the program shows how to turn exercise into fun and eating into a healthy joy. The research I conducted indicates that after the program people are more mindful, they eat based on physical instead of emotional cues, they appreciate their bodies more, and they binge less often.

My research indicates that mindfulness training was the key to success in all of the other improvements that people experienced. To support that finding, recent research by Mason and colleagues published in the journal Appetite demonstrated that adding mindfulness training to a diet and exercise intervention called Supporting Health by Integrating Nutrition and Exercise (SHINE)significantly improved weight loss.  This randomized controlled trial adds to the support of mindfulness training as an important part of any weight management or weight loss program.

Summer classes for the Eat for Life program are now registering.  This is great opportunity to learn to eat and live in a way that supports your physical and emotional well-being. There is an in person class in Columbia, Missouri, and an online class that you can take from anywhere in the world.  I hope you can join me.

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Meditation is Different and Healthier than Relaxation

iStock_000004778955_Resize2I regularly teach meditation to people who have never meditated before and one of the common misconceptions is that meditation is the same as “relaxation.” While meditation may have a side benefit of helping you feel relaxed and peaceful, it is not the primary intention of meditation. The primary intention of meditation is  to teach you how to be navigate your life (all of the ups and downs) without over reacting and getting stressed out. In other words, it teaches you how to alleviate your suffering.

And you don’t just have to take my word for it. In a recent study in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, mindfulness meditation was shown to be more effective than either “eyes-closed relaxation” or silence in increasing awareness, reducing depression, anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate in a diverse sample of people. These health outcomes are extremely important for anyone experiencing the demands of school, work, major stress-related illnesses, and difficult living environments.

This study is particularly interesting because it was comprised of African American university students and urban residents. The use of diverse populations in research is extremely important in our ability to correctly understand the impact of interventions. Surprisingly enough, many researchers in the past have ignored gender, racial, and cultural differences with sometimes devastating consequences.

If you would like to try meditation, it can be helpful to join a group and have an experienced teacher lead you through the practice. Use the internet to search for programs near you by using the words “mindfulness meditation groups.” As an alternative, feel free to use the recordings on this website. I have meditation and yoga sessions that can be help you sail through the holiday season and on into the New Year.


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Go Ahead and Smile!

A handsome young black man against a yellow background

With the current Fitbit craze, you’re probably aware of the health benefits of getting in 10,000 steps a day. But are you aware of all of the health benefits of smiling?

I’d like to invite you to do a little experiment. Put a smile on your face right now and leave it there for 30 seconds. Notice how it makes you feel.  According to the facial feedback hypothesis, facial muscles not only express emotions, but they also have the ability to modulate how you feel. In other words, if you put a smile on your face you can change from feeling angry or anxious to feeling happier or initiate a happy feeling “out of the blue.” When you smile, you are literally sending messages to your brain that you’re happy and eventually you agree. Continue reading

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Three Days to Less Stress – Meditation Can Help

alarm clocksEverybody is looking for a quick fix to be less stressed.  We try shopping, drinking, distracting ourselves with TV, and even complaining to try to feel better.  However, these strategies are only temporary and often have negative side effects (e.g., financial difficulties, being hung over, being overweight, and feeling more negative).  Let’s face it, there are usually no quick, easy fixes to life’s challenges.

However, now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have given us some hope.  David Creswell and his research team did a study where they had one group of participants complete a brief mindfulness meditation training program – 25 minutes of meditation for three consecutive days.  The meditation instructed them to monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences.   The comparison group participants were given instructions to enhance their problem-solving skills.  After their training, all participants were compared on stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators in white coats.   The participants who had the meditation training reported less perceived stress than the comparison group, indicating greater psychological resilience—a known indicator of greater physical and psychological well-being and health.

If you would like to try the test for yourself, here is a 30 minute sitting meditation. Use it for three days in a row and notice how you feel.  Pay attention after day three how you react to things that usually create stress for you. If you’d like, share your experience by commenting below.  If you notice it working, you might like to try some other meditations as well. Pretty soon you might be doing something everyday. You will find meditations of varying lengths on the Audio/Video Tab on this website.

Good luck!

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