Mindfulness Month! Take a Media Fast.

There is no better time than December to practice mindfulness. So all month our theme will be the mindfulness methods that can help make this the most wonderful time of the year.

Intermittant Fasting NotepadFasting refers to the act of voluntarily refusing to partake something. Most often the item withheld is the quality or quantity of food consumed.

Research shows that fasting can be very beneficial for your physical health.

But the same can be true for your mental wellness as well.  We are bombarded by a steady stream of news and advertisements and claims as media of all forms competes for your eyes, click-throughs, and comments.

This kind of chronic stimulation can be a major source of stress, and one that has a very simple remedy: go on a media fastSwitch Off The Media and determine the quality and quantity of media stimulation you wish to be exposed to.

Media Quality: make the media stimulation you choose positive and uplifting, rather than negative and depressing.

Media Quantity: limit your exposure to media and replace it with time with your family, playing games, being in nature.

When you go on your temporary media fast, you may find that you are so much more at peace in your day and don’t want to change your new routine!

Mindfulness Month! Giving A Greater Gift.

There is no better time than December to practice mindfulness. So all month our theme will be the mindfulness methods that can help make this the most wonderful time of the year.

Great Experiences Five Star RatingGiving and receiving gifts can be a beautiful part of celebrations. However, finding the right gift can often cause more stress than it relieves.  As a solution, consider giving experiences as presents in stead.

Think about it. Will someone really remember that tie or pair of socks or standard ordinary present you typically give? The answer is no. They’ll appreciate it when you give it, but in a month or so all those gifts will blur together.

But, if you give an experience, this will be something they’ll always remember. If they have an outing, excursion, or even some kind of simple event, they will gain so much more.

Here are some ideas to create experiences for loved ones.

  • If you cook, prepare a full dinner as your gift. Your guests will relax as you host an a wonderful dining experience.
  • Plan a day of activities such as a trip to a museum, botanical garden, or show followed by a dinner out!
  • Provide a gift card to give a new hobby they may enjoy, such as pottery, a language, an instrument, or water colors.
  • Create the opportunity for a physical activity such as

dance, Pilates, water aerobics, or a climbing

wall.

Plan On Seconds: Why It’s The Solution, Not The Problem

People eating with small platesOverconsumption begins at the plate. This is because the amount you feel hungry for over-estimates the body’s actual need.

A common motherly phrase is that “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”. And like most bits of motherly wisdom, this is true! And the sciency way to say this is that “Your psychology overestimates your physiology” (how much you feel you need is greater than your body’s caloric requirements).

So how do we fix this little problem and still eat enough at the family meal so that mama doesn’t think that we are A) starving to death, or B) hate her food, lol??

A very simple strategy to counter this over-estimate is to plan on seconds. Although this sounds wrong, its actually a great strategy to control the over-consumption that starts at the plate.

Here’s how it goes:

  • When you plate your food, put an amount on that you feel like is about just a bit less than you are hungry for.
  • By serving an amount that is just a bit less than your overly inflated expectations, you end up with the right amount for your body’s needs!
  • Make sure to take your time and enjoy the meal for at least 20 minutes.
  • Then check in with your body. Are you still hungry? Do you need more? What you will find is that Planning on Seconds with this method actually prevents you from over-consumption!

 

 

Pace Controls Portions

Man and Woman at home eating in a hurryHere’s an appetizer of common sense before we get into the meat of this article. If you have weight to be lost, you are most likely consuming more than your body requires for energy. But here’s the problem. The amount you eat is the amount you are hungry for. Therefore the amount you are hungry for is greater than your calorie burn rate.

Right? That’s easy math. And the solution to this little equation is to be able to eat all you want, but have that amount be equal to the amount your body needs.

Bear in mind that the amount of food your body asks for is only partly determined by how many calories you have burned during your day. It is also driven by how fast you eat your meal. The faster you eat your food, the more you will be hungry for.

The reason for this has to do with what’s going on in your brain. Certain hormones are generated in your body as you eat, and signal to your brain that you are full. The problem is that they take about 15 minutes to be perceived by your brain.

Because of this delay, when you eat very quickly, you can actually be full but (because of the signal delay up to your brain) you won’t perceive the signal yet. In other words, you overrun the signal when you gobble your turkey, and this creates overconsumption.

Bottom line? Pace controls portions.

A delicious way to control eating pace is to — and this is totally crazy — taste your food. You may read that and think, of course I’m tasting my food, it’s in my mouth isn’t it? But remember that your taste buds are only at your tongue. So when you take gigantic bites most of it never gets tasted, only swallowed.

Also, when you inhale your meal in 2 minutes as if speed-eating were an Olympic sport, the food doesn’t spend enough time on your tongue to be tasted anyway. This advice sounds so simple, but it turns out that this can actually help you control overconsumption.

Man Tasting SauceReally tasting your food is an aspect of eating mindfully which, when you practice this practice, causes a number of things happen. A focus on flavor leads you to choose higher quality foods, which naturally have the lower sugars and higher fiber content that create satiety in your body.

But this approach also causes you to slow down your eating pace while you enjoy your food. A slower pace allows your brain to sense that you are full before overeating. Finally, mindful eating engages a neural reflex called sensory specific satiety. This means that when you taste something completely, your brain temporarily turns down the cravings for that flavor.

Slow down your eating pace, taste your food, and see how this changes how much your body is hungry for.

How To Train Your Brain For Portion Control

CG Brain Lifting WeightsPeople will say, “I eat a lot because I am just that hungry.” However, it is closer to the truth to say that you are that hungry BECAUSE you eat a lot.

In other words, we train our brains to expect a certain volume of food. This happens physiologically and psychologically with the amount of food that you feel like is an appropriate amount for you.

Basically, if you eat large amounts, your body will start to assume that that higher volume is normal.

The good news is that the opposite is just as true. If you eat small bites, taste your food, and take your time with it, the amount of food you consume at a meal will decrease. If you are consistent with this practice, over time your body will start to assume that that lower threshold is normal.

This puts your body and brain in training!

This adaptation happens psychologically (how much you feel like you should eat), chemically (how much your brain senses you should eat before registering that you are full), and physically with the size of your stomach.  This is very good news because it means you can sculpt how much food your body craves.

Eat all you want. Just want less.

Benefits of Portion Control

Mom Daughter and Son Confused by Dairy ChoicesOverweight, obesity, and the chronic disease conditions they bring are serious health concerns around the world. In the past we have often blamed certain molecules for the problem, such as fats, or carbohydrates, or sugars.

So solve this problem, we were coached that X% of the food you put in your mouth should be carbs, Y% should fats, and Z% should be made up of proteins. And it seems like every year someone had a new diet with a different ratio they wanted you to calculate for your meal.

This is so confusing!

Who can do that in the course of a crazy busy life? Who WOULD do it? Many people gave it a go, but zero people can live like that for long. And certainly no healthy culture around the planet micromanages molecules like this.

Portion Distortion Comparison

So maybe the real culprit is far easier simpler to understand.

Over the past 30 years overall calorie consumption has increased. One reason for this that, since the 1960s, portion sizes and even the size dinner plates themselves have increased each decade. With increasing volumes, obviously those higher volumes came with higher calories.

Maybe the real culprit is simply overconsumption? Maybe eating too much can lead to the excess calories that turn into excess weight?

This month will focus on reversing the overconsumption trend for your long term health. Here are some of the principles we’ll cover.

  • When you eat in control, the amount of food your body consumes becomes self-limiting. So instead of gobbling your food, take your time with it.
  • Food choice matters too. Higher quality foods leads to lower quantity consumption.
  • Real foods naturally have no additive sugars and more fiber in them. This combination leads to greater satisfaction at the meal and therefore controlled consumption.
  • By contrast, processed food products have less nutrients, natural fats, and fiber, which leaves you hungry for more. So you get less nutrition and more calories in the process!
  • By controlling the quality of the food you eat, and the amount you consume of it, in the end you will be able to eat all you want, but just want less.

It’s The Sugar Sweetie: What Is The Healthiest Sugar?

This month we focus on sugar consumption: which to eat, which to avoid, and how to change your own cravings for the better!

Packets of Artificial SweetenersYou might think that the healthiest sugar is the one with zero calories, such as the array of artificial sweeteners.

But there is a great deal of conflicting information available on artificial sweeteners, and whether they are safe for human consumption. Some groups claim that they are, while others claim that they are not. Meanwhile, both of them claim to be supported by scientific research.

We cannot solve this debate here, but while we’re waiting on science to suss it all out for us, perhaps we can rely on some common sense in the mean time.

  • Artificial sweeteners can be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Eating anything this sweet can essentially train your tastes to expect higher levels of sweetness. Obviously this can increase your cravings (and therefore your consumption) of highly sugared foods.
  • Also, artificial sweeteners offer zero nutrition for you. By contrast, there are sugars that are actually healthy for you!

 

So What Are The Healthiest Sugars?

light and dark brown sugar

Glucose itself offers energy, and that’s fine. But if you add more energy than you’re burning it will be converted to storage — fat. This will be true no matter which sugar you choose, and none of them provide any added nutrition. What does that mean?

In white sugar, you only get sugar. That’s all. But unlike white sugar, darker versions have minerals in them, most notably calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, selenium, iron, and magnesium which are so healthy for you (see below).

All of these minerals in brown sugars comes from molasses. And the darker the sugar, the more molasses is present. Therefore, the more minerals are present.

How much of these do you get with, say, two tablespoons of molasses? Remember, the RDI (listed below) is the amount recommended to consume in an entire DAY, which you will get with just two tablespoons.

  • For Your HeartMolasses dripping from a spoon
    • Vitamin B6: 14% of the RDI.
  • For Your Bones
    • Calcium: 8% of the RDI.
  • For Your Blood PressureMagnesium: 24% of the RDI.
    • Potassium: 16% of the RDI.
  • For Your Energy Levels
    • Iron: 10% of the RDI.
  • For Your Brain:
    • Selenium: 10% of the RDI.

 

What About The Calories?

By the way, those two tablespoons of molasses have the same number of calories as an apple. Zero people worry about the caloric impact of eating an apple, because it carries so much nutrition along with it (unlike artificial and white sugars). So if you want to choose a sweetener that is actually good for you, remember the rule: darker is better.

 

 

It’s The Sugar, Sweetie: But Is It Good For Me Or Not?

Bowl of Sugar Cubes

This month we focus on sugar consumption: which to eat, which to avoid, and how to change your own cravings for the better!

Is Sugar Even That Good For You?

That all depends on how much you eat. Sugar is used as fuel for all the cells in your body, especially your brain. In fact, nothing consumes more sugar (in the form of glucose) than your brain. It may only be about 2% of your body weight, but it consumes ~20% of all your glucose. 

So yes, sugar is critical to your health.

But those in the US consume more sugar than any other culture on the planet. If you live in the US then on average you consume about ¼ of a pound of sugar every single day. That’s about 10x greater than the recommended amount. At these levels, research demonstrates that it can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

So no, sugar is terrible for you.

 

It’s Not About The Sugar. It’s About Us.

Over-consumption is the problem. Eat too much sugar, and you will encourage chronic health problems, overweight, and obesity.  Eat that very same sugar in control, and it’s just fine for you. So the message is that we should stop making sugar bad for us.

How? Don’t over-consume it.

 

Enough Is Enough, But How Much Is That? 

Sugar on counter and many highly sugared foodsThere is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. But a good rule of thumb is to start by removing the additive sugars from the food products you consume. If you read the ingredients and see high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, maltose, dextrose, or other form of syrup then choose something else.

Just a note. Carbohydrates found in normal real food breaks down into simple sugars. So even though you eliminate the sugars that others are putting into your processed food products, the amount naturally found in real food will be more than sufficient for your body’s energy needs.