Category Archives: Resources

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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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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Search Inside Yourself – A Great Idea and a Great New Book

Wouldn’t you know a Google engineer would write one of the clearest, most straightforward, easy-to-compute books on mindfulness that I’ve read in a long time.  Actually it’s a book on mindfulness and emotional intelligence based on the seven week course being taught at Google called “Search Inside Yourself.”  Mindfulness is like having a search engine for your body, feelings, and thoughts, as well as for the ability to understand and relate to other people.   

Mindfulness, once again, is proposed as the key for harnessing your ability to respond to your life instead of react to it.  In this book , the response you make to your life is one predicated on an increase of your emotional intelligence.  Daniel Goleman, who pioneered work on emotional intelligence, broke it down into five domains:  self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.   Not hard to see how competencies in these areas would be useful.

Chade-Meng Tan (more informally known as Meng) who wrote Search Inside Yourself and developed the course by the same name had the good fortune of working with and learning from Daniel Goleman (who wrote the book on Emotional Intelligence),  Philippe Goldin (a Stanford University scientist), Norman Fischer (Zen Buddhist priest and poet ), Mirabai Bush (co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society), Marc Lesser (CEO and Zen Teacher), and Yvonne Ginsberg (meditation teacher and professional coach ).  That’s a pretty impressive line-up.  And, I have to say, the results are FANTASTIC.

Buy the book and go to the Search Inside Yourself website and listen to Meng and his colleagues as they introduce the seven weeks on video. 

I’d give you a money back guarantee (but I didn’t write the book).  Darn!

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Meditation Can Change Your Emotional Patterns and Your Brain

Three years ago I found myself traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to be a part of the brain research being conducted by Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist who heads up the Center for Investigating Healthy. I had been identified as a “long term meditator” and asked to participate in some of the extensive research projects being conducted there to better understand what happens to the brain when you meditate.  Over the next year and a half I was examined on three separate occasions in a sleep lab and in a Functional MRI machine using neuroimaging techniques that show which brain areas are involved in a task, a process, or an emotion.  I was asked to respond to a wide variety of pictures and scenarios while being “stressed” by conditions such as heat applied to my arm and giving a speech or undergoing an interview with very stern looking people.

I just listened to a fascinating interview  where Richard Davidson talks about some of his findings in his new book co-authored by Sharon Begley called “The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live-and How You Can Change Them.” The book outlines six categories of Emotional Style:
1. Resilience: How slowly or quickly you recover from adversity.
2. Outlook: How long you are able to sustain positive emotion.
3. Social Intuition: How adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you.
4. Self-Awareness: How well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions.
5. Sensitivity to Context: How good you are at regulating your emotional responses to take into account the context you find yourself in.
6. Attention: How sharp and clear your focus is.

If you’re interested in emotion, how different emotions map onto the brain, and how you can change your emotions by changing the way your brain functions,  then this would be an interesting read (comes out December 24).  While the “what do you do once you know this information” part of the book might be a bit slim, we do know from Dr. Davidson’s and other research that meditation can change our brain structures.  Due to neuroplasticity of the brain, we can change.  We just need to work at it. 

The payoff for meditating?  More resilience, better outlook, more social intuitive, greater self- awareness, better regulation of your emotional responses, and better attention.  Those all sound pretty good to me.

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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.

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