Great article about being healthy at any size….

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

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

“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.

Continue  healthy, well-balanced eating during the holidays to keep your energy levels high and your immune system strong.   Put an emphasis on lots of foods with color and probiotics for an extra boost!

Head Hunger and the Holidays

November 23, 2009

For many people, the holidays can be stressful, sad, lonely, joyful or all of the above!  Food is closely connected with our social and emotional world, especially during times like holidays and other celebratory times.  While emotional eating may be normal at certain times, when you are using food as your main coping mechanism, it could lead to overeating as well as other physical and emotional problems.

Dr. Michelle May suggests some helpful tips to preventing emotional eating:

Practice Self-Care: Give yourself the gift of adequate sleep, healthy meals, regular physical activity, and unscheduled time to decompress.

Do what you love: What are your favorite holiday activities? Who do you want to spend time with? Which events are the most meaningful to you? Which ones could you do without this year?

Eat What You Love: Deprivation and guilt are powerful emotional triggers that can lead to overeating so choose foods that nourish your body and your soul.

Love What You Eat: Eating can be a satisfying emotional experience. Savor each bite mindfully, staying conscious of how your body feels as you eat. 

Recognize Head Hunger: Whenever you feel like eating, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Look for physical signs that you need fuel.

If you’re not hungry, FEAST instead!

Focus: What is going on inside of you? Focus on your physical state, your thoughts, and your feelings. Identify any possible triggers for eating such as fatigue, boredom, overwhelm, or nostalgia.

Explore: Complete this statement: I feel _______ because _______. Peel away the layers by asking “why?” and “what else?” Sometimes “I want a cookie” means “I want comfort,” or “I want rest,” “I want to escape from this conversation,” or “I want to experience the joy I remember from my childhood.”  

Accept: Criticizing yourself for your thoughts, feelings, and actions will keep you stuck in old patterns. Accept that your emotions, no matter how difficult or trivial they may seem, tell you something about your needs.

Strategize: What could you do to meet your underlying need? (If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got!)

Take Action: The step you take will depend on your specific need; just make sure it small, realistic, and takes you in the general direction of meeting your true needs. 

 (From Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle.)

As a chocolate lover, I am pleased to learn about yet one more reason to continue eating dark chocolate.  For several years, dark chocolate has been studied for it’s antioxidant effects, which have shown it’s ability to reduce risks for heart disease.  Now, a study, published in the American Chemical Society Journal, found that highly stressed individuals, who ate 1.4 ounces of chocolate (equal to approximately 3 blocks of Hershey’s Dark chocolate) per day for 2 weeks, had reductions in stress hormones.