Great article about being healthy at any size….

Over the past several years, I’ve realized the importance of paying attention to physical  and emotional hunger and trying to understand the difference between the two.

Physical hunger, which includes physical signs of hunger such as hunger pangs, emptiness, irritability, and low energy, is your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat.  It often occurs several hours after a meal and goes away when you get full. On the other hand, emotional hunger involves eating to cope with an emotional state such as stress, sadness, boredom, or happiness, and usually has no relation to your body’s physical hunger or fullness levels, and often leads to feelings of guilt and shame.

But, recently through The Center for Mindful Eating, I’ve learned about a different type of hunger- Sensory hunger. Sensory hunger is a hunger that we might experience when food is in our presence. It involves hunger that we may feel simply by seeing food (eye hunger), smelling food (nose hunger), tasting and feeling the food in your mouth (mouth hunger), and hearing food (sound hunger). 

I think this is so interesting! When I was young and I would overfill my plate with food, my mom would always say, “You’ll never eat all of that. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”  Now, I know that I was probably experiencing “eye hunger”.  I often see this with my clients as well.  They will complain that they can’t stop eating even though they are full and they are not using food to cope with emotions.  They often say, “It just tastes so good, I can’t stop.”  They are experiencing “taste hunger”. 

 I’m sure we have all experienced sensory hunger at one time or another, possibly every single day! So, the next time you feel hunger, take a moment to think about what type of hunger YOU are feeling.

Here’s an interesting study which demonstrates that compulsive eating is related to changes in brain chemistries, which is similiar to other substance addictions.

At around 10 o’clock this morning I started noticing my typical signs of hunger- growling stomach, headache, difficulty concentrating, so I ate a few nuts.  About a half an hour later, my hunger came back.  I knew that eating more nuts would not satisfy me….what I really wanted was to eat my lunch! My initial thought was, “I already ate breakfast and it’s only 10:30 in the morning, I can’t eat my lunch.  I can’t eat lunch earlier than 11:30.“   Suddenly I realized that this was a completely unreasonable rule.  Who says you can’t eat your lunch at l0:30 in the morning?  I am sure that this thought came from our society and years of  being in environments (school, work), which have taught me to eat lunch at noon.  But in my current life, I can choose when and what I want to eat.   So, today, for the first time in my life, I ate my nicely packed lunch which included a salad, yogurt, and fruit at 10:30 in the morning and I was completely satisfied. 🙂 

The reason that I’m sharing this with you is that I think it’s important for everyone to listen to the voices in your head (or in your stomach :)); try to recognize any “food rules” that are dictating your eating; and to start to challenge them. Obviously my body was telling me that I needed food, if I had ignored it and ate “when it was time”, I probably would have had a completely different experience- extreme hunger, eating fast, probably overeating, then feeling sick, and possibly guilt.  But, instead, I chose to listen to my body, honor my hunger, and ignore external cues for eating (time).  The end result was feeling fueled properly, pleasure, and contentment.

After a month of practicing being a mindful eater, my client came to my office yesterday with an interesting analogy about his eating behavior.  He said, “It’s like when I’m driving a car and I see the stop sign, but, I don’t stop and I keep on driving.”   Basically, he was trying to tell me that while observing his eating behavior, he has been able to recognize his harmful behaviors, but he can’t seem to stop himself from doing them.

I’m sure that everyone has experienced this in one way or another: You recognize your own bad habit, but, you can’t seem to make yourself change it.

One of my own worst habits is excessive gum chewing.  I think I chew at least 5 pieces per day.  Now, even though it’s sugarless, my intuition tells me it can’t be healthy to chew so much gum.  I have thought about changing for several years.  Why haven’t I made the change? It serves a purpose for me (the benefits of chewing gum outweigh the risks).  For me chewing gum, keeps my mouth feeling clean and fresh, it prevents me from snacking unnecessarily, and may even prevent tooth decay.   The only real negative that I am aware of is that it doesn’t look pretty to see a person chewing gum.  However, if it suddenly became known that chewing gum was harmful for my health, I would make more of an effort to find a substitute for the gum immediately.

My point is, a change in behavior (no matter how big or small) can only happen if:

  1. You’re aware of the behavior
  2. You want to change the behavior/ It’s important for you to change (the benefits changing outweigh the risks of continuing the habit)
  3. You know how to make the change
  4. You feel confident that you can make the change.

For my client, he’s done the first step of being aware of his behavior, but, he’s stuck because he doesn’t think it’s important enough to change his bad behavior, he doesn’t know how to do it, and/or he doesn’t think he can do it.

These are some things that I encourage you to think about for any bad habit you’re trying to change!

Sounds simple…but, it’s definitely not easy….:)

Functional Foods For Health

February 23, 2010

This year, the Arizona State University’s Building Healthy Lifestyleconference will take place on February 25th and 26th.  The theme of the conference is “Functional Foods and Optimal Health: How Functional Foods Can Improve One’s Health” .   It should be a very interesting conference and I am looking forward to being a speaker on one of the hottest topics – Probiotics. 

It’s hard to believe that over 2,500 years ago, Hippocrates advocated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  And now, today, many people are following his advice!  In recent years, consumers are interested in foods that  can enhance health and prevent disease.

For decades, we have been familiar with the health benefits of eating foods due to their nutritional benefits, such as drinking milk for calcium, which can help with strong bones. 

However, now, we are learning that certain foods have functions beyond basic nutrition. These foods are known as “functional foods”.  The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board defines functional foods as “any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.”

Research has shown that foods that have “functional” components come from a variety of food sources- fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and fish.  And that these foods may delay or prevent the onset of  many chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, immune dysfunction, cataracts, and macular degeneration. 

 Below is a list of some examples of functional foods:

Functional Food Key Component Potential Health Benefit
Oats and oats-containing foods Soluble Fiber Reduce cholesterol
Certain types of fish (e.g. salmon, tuna) Omega-3 fatty acid Reduce risk for heart disease
Black and green tea Catechins Reduce risk for cancer
Fruits and vegetables Many different phytochemicals Reduce risk for cancer and heart disease
Yogurt and fermented dairy products Probiotics Improve gastrointestinal health and improve immune system

At the beginning of every year, millions of people make plans for self-improvement.  Some people choose one or two simple changes such as exercising more or eating healthier.  Others try to transform their entire selves by taking on multiple changes all at once.  Keep in mind that even “simple” changes do not necessarily mean “easy” changes.  Therefore, I always encourage baby-steps instead of giant leaps when considering self-improvement.

Some people believe that it takes 3 weeks or 21 days to change a habit.  In my opinion, this time frames varies from person to person depending on how long you’ve lived with the habit, how often you do this habit, and how meaningful it is for you to change this habit.

Habits that have been formed over a lifetime can be the most difficult to change.  Also, the more frequently that you perform this habit, the harder it will be to change.

Some key things to keep in mind when considering self-change:

1.  Choose only 1 or 2 things at a time to change. You will likely feel less frustrated if you try working on only a few things at a time.

2.  Consider how meaningful it is to YOU (not someone else).  Don’t try to make a change that isn’t important to you…it’ll never stick!

3.  Keep it realistic.  If you strive too high, you will probably feel let down and frustrated (not a good place to be when you’re working on change).

4.  Consider solutions to possible challenges that may come up.  There is bound to be some barrier that will come up as you try to make your change. But, if you can imagine how you would handle the situation, it’ll make dealing with it a lot easier.

5.  Be gentle with yourself.  Try not to stress if you make a mistake. Instead, try to look at mistakes as opportunities to learn how to prevent yourself from going back to your old behavior in the future.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year and new decade!

“One Big Happy Family”

December 23, 2009

On any one given day, millions of Americans are trying to lose weight or change their habits to live healthier lives.  As anyone who has tried this would know…it’s not easy, especially while maintaining a job, keeping up with household duties, and not to mention spending time with family and friends.

Well, starting next Tuesday night (9pm EST), December 29th, TLC will be introducing the Coles family, a morbidly obese family of four from North Carolina on a new show called, “One Big Happy Family”.

The show depicts the Coles, (who together weigh over 1400 pounds) and follows their everyday struggles with losing weight.  Without the help of a professional trainer or dietitian, the Coles unite as a family to work toward making changes on their own in an attempt to save their lives.

In the US, approximately 65% of adults are either overweight or obese.   Excess weight can lead to several physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.  Being overweight may also impact one’s mental well-being due to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.  The Coles are at risk for all of these conditions, even the teenage children.  The show portrays the journey of this family’s physical and emotional struggle towards better health, with no one else to count on but each other.

One Big Happy Family” is a reality show that actually represents the real challenges of many people in this country.  In my opinion, it’s definitely one to watch!

Holiday Eating Tip #3

December 21, 2009

Research shows that dining with a group of people may lead to overeating since it’s natural to lose track of what and how much you’re eating.  Holiday gatherings may increase this tendency even further since there are even more distractions.  This year, practice staying mindful of your eating and your environment in order to reduce overeating.

This year, pay attention to self-talk such as “I’ll skip breakfast and lunch today and make up for it later at the holiday dinner/party”.  This type of thinking usually leads to less healthy food choices and overeating later.  Instead, have healthy, well-balanced meals leading up to a party such as whole grain cereal, low fat milk ,and fruit for breakfast; and a turkey sandwich with lots of veggies for lunch.