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On Second Thought… August 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, facing fear, Healthy Eating, Mindful Eating.
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You know how I said I was going to do a three-week elimination diet to see if I was having problems with eggs, dairy or gluten? And then I said last night I was eating when I wasn’t hungry to deal with stress reared its ugly head?

I think the two could be related. During the three-week period I was planning on eliminating certain foods I have a bunch of social events scheduled, and that was freaking me out. Plans include dinner with a great friend (she and I usually have appetizers, a drink, dinner, and sometimes dessert; we see each other about once every other month), a lunch out with volunteers for the non-profit for which I work part-time, a picnic with even more volunteers from the same agency, lunch out with my mom, helping to cater an event with a woman who makes the most fabulous desserts of all time, and perhaps other as-yet-unforseen events.

I realize that making changes for the better isn’t always easy, and that learning to stand up for yourself and what you want to put into your body is very important. For instance, if you decided to limit alcohol or sugar consumption but always give in when a friend or family member insists you have more, that’s no bueno. However, since doing this elimination diet wasn’t essential for me at this time, and because I am afraid it might be causing adverse emotional and therefore eating reactions, I’m holding off on it.

This is the lesson I’ve learned over the years: You must listen when something feels off. I was starting to feel anxious about the whole process of the elimination diet. The events I had coming up, the fact that I’ve been so happy and steady with healthy eating already, the fact that this reminded me of restrictive diets from my past, and the amount of time I was spending worrying about how I was going to handle this all were pushing me over the edge.  I can see why I was feeling anxious!

So, no three-week detox for me. I’m going to continue with my standard way of eating, which is veggie and fruit heavy, involves whole grains, some dairy (mostly organic and not every day), some local eggs, beans, dark chocolate, desserts once or twice a week, a glass of wine occasionally, and plenty of listening to my body for signs of hunger and satiety. Phew! That feels so much better.

Just wanted to get that off my chest!

What about you? Any recent diet changes? Are you feeling stressed or anxious about any of them?

How To Eat Slowly (And Why You Should!) August 4, 2010

Posted by Jen in Mindful Eating.
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He’s got the right idea!

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 I probably should have take my own advice, because I just finished my lunch faster than I intended to! However, every meal is an opportunity to eat mindfully and learn from our experiences.

One of my own struggles has been with mindful eating. Same with my clients. In fact, I think people who eat mindfully all the time probably have no problem with overeating and are probably pretty happy – I think mindful eating bleeds into other areas of life, too. Like being mindful about the negative thoughts running through your head, or mindful of how you treat your loved ones.

One of the key elements to mindful eating is eating slowly. You’re probably not being very mindful if you cram down your lunch barely chewing it, huh? So how can you begin to slow down? These are my tips and tricks:

  • Set a timer.  Yes, I’m serious. When I first started trying to eat slowly, I set the timer on my watch for ten minutes. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like that much time, but for someone who normally crammed down breakfast in five minutes or less, this was a good starting place. I would press “start” and then monitor the level of the food in my bowl with my watch. Most of the time since I was already setting my intention to eat slower, it was easy for me to stretch the bowl of oatmeal out for that much time.
  • Chew until your food is liquid. That sounds kinda gross, doesn’t it? Chewing is your body’s first line of digestion, and chewing your food thoroughly will both help you slow down and help out the rest of your body when it is its turn to digest! I found that chewing things until they were liquid was hard for me, it seemed to take so long! But it sure does slow you down, so give it a try.
  • Put that fork down! Do you ever hold up your fork or spoon and shovel in a second bite before you’ve finished the first? No beuno, people, no bueno! Take a bite. Put the fork down. Chew it until it’s liquid. Swallow. Pick the fork back up and take another bite. Put the fork down. Repeat. Same goes for the plate/bowl if you’re eating on the couch at night. Put the bowl down! Do NOT hold in your hands while you are eating it. Putting it (and your spoon) down will create a psychological distance between you and the food, giving you time to think about your next bite. Or at least that sounds good, and sure helps me out.
  • Do not do anything besides eat. Eating is a pleasure, or it should be. Do not watch TV, read a book, surf the ‘net, fight with your loved ones, or distract yourself thinking about your next meal/work/world peace. Just eat. This step in and of itself will get you to slow down – what else is there to do besides eat and enjoy your meal?
  • If you intend to eat slowly but are not, figure out what’s behind it. Why did I eat my lunch quickly today? Because I was reading blogs and not paying attention. (Luckily, my hunger signals are pretty strong, so I stopped eating when I felt hungry and put the rest of my lunch away. However, I didn’t get to enjoy it nearly as much as I would have!) Why wasn’t I paying attention? Same old excuse from me: I didn’t feel like it. Why not? Probably because today I feel sort of bored and unsettled, and I didn’t want to take the time to slow down to pay attention. However, I’ve noted the problem, and when I get hungry again I intend to savor every bite, slowly.

And, quickly, why you should eat slowly:

  1. Promotes weight loss, as you’re more likely to realize when you’re full
  2. Better for your digestion.
  3. Makes food much more enjoyable!
  4. You’re not as likely to choke on it 🙂
  5. By paying attention, you’re opening yourself up to listening to your body. This is extremely important to your overall health!

Do you eat slowly? What are your tips?

Craving Control July 30, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation.
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A few days ago I picked up the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, MD. This book, as the title suggests, is about ways to use, train, and change your brain to affect your body in a positive way. There are tips for craving control, balancing hormones, foods that help the brain, and more. The author, Daniel G. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert.

So far I’ve read through the chapter called “The Craving Solution” and “The Weight Solution”. I especially liked the former chapter. Amen’s suggestions include some things that I love to do and some things that I hadn’t thought much about. I thought I’d share some of this tips for craving control below.

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. I feel like crap if I don’t get about 7.5 or 8 hours each night. The best way to achieve this is to pick a bed time 8 hours before you’re alarm is going to go off and get in bed at that time, no excuses. Also, stick to the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends. For instance, I’m not working today, but last night I was still in bed by 10:15 and woke up slightly before six. I feel great! No need to sleep in.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating frequent smaller meals. Do you wait until you’re starving and then cram down whatever you can find to eat? The book refers to a 2007 article by Matthew Gailliot and Roy Baumeister that shows self-control failures are more likely to occur when blood sugar is low. Drinking alcohol, skipping meals, and consuming sugary snacks or beverages cause dips in blood sugar and can impact how good you are at sticking to self-controlling behaviors. I didn’t know this before, and it’s great information!
  • Exercise to boost blood flow to the brain. You already knew exercise was great for your waistline, your butt, your heart, and your lungs. It’s also great for brain health and your overall well-being. Stop making excuses and start exercising! Even if you just start walking briskly a few times a week, you’re on the right track!
  • Practice mediation. Over and over I have tried to consistently practice meditation, and it’s getting easier for me. This book has convinced me to make it an absolute priority every day, period. If you’ve never meditated at all, just try sitting in a quiet spot for ten minutes a day and focus on your breath. At first it might feel very uncomfortable, but keep it up and eventually it will become much easier.
  • Create focused, written goals. When I read this recommendation I started singing from the rooftops. I love written goals. Dr. Amen states that the brain needs clear direction and that when you are focused on what you want, it makes it much easier to match your behavior to make it happen. Your mind is powerful and it makes happen what it sees. He suggests writing down goals for relationships, work, money, and health, and posting them somewhere you can see them every day. I have done this and plan on reading them each morning when I get up and each evening before bed.
  • Be careful with too much technology. Apparently we’re completely frying our brain’s pleasure center by being on the Internet, watching TV, and playing way too many video games. He suggests watching less than one hour of TV per day and keeping computer time (outside of work) to a minimum. This one is a toughie, but imagine how much other stuff you could do with your free time if you weren’t sucked into the reading the latest about Lindsay Lohan and the war.
  • Write down five things you are grateful for everyday. This is one of the many suggestions he has for calming the brains emotional centers. This helps you feel good and focus on the positive in your life. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative, you actually change your brain.

This is just a teensy bit of great information contained in just one chapter of the book. My favorite thing about the book is that it states plainly that the brain (and that includes will power and habits) can be changed. The more often you say “no” to overeating and “yes” to healthy habits, the stronger the brain will become. It will be easier and easier to keep up good habits!

Your Ideal Day July 15, 2010

Posted by Jen in Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation, Sprituality.
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What does your ideal life look like? Okay, maybe that’s too big a place to start. What does your ideal day look like? How does it smell, taste, sound, and especially, feel?

Where do you wake up? Is it light or dark? Is it next to someone or alone? How does your body feel? Are you relaxed, excited, energized? What do you spend your day doing? Remember, this is your dream, no one elses. Below is a simple exercise to get you to get your creative “Ideal Day” juices flowing, but before that, I’d like to address something else.

Like, what the heck does your ideal day have to do with trying to lose weight, improve your body image, get in touch with yourself, and more? EVERYTHING, people, everything.

Why do you think you are so hard on yourself in the first place? Why do you think you eat when you’re not hungry. Let me tell you, it’s not because you’re living your dream life.

If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, you’re trying to avoid something else. If you are willing to go there, really go there, and explore what you want your life to truly be about, you’ll be one step closer to getting in touch with the real you, and getting your hand out of the Cool Ranch Doritos.

So, up for the challenge of imagining your “Ideal Day”?

  1. Go somewhere peaceful where you can relax, unwind, and be alone for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Bring pen and paper with you so you can record the details of your ideal day.
  2. Spend some time in your body. Take deep breaths. Wiggle your toes. Do some neck rolls. Close your eyes.
  3. Feel around for any tight or stressed-out areas in your body. If there is tension in your tummy, breathe deeply and see if you can’t let it go for now. Try to get to a place of presence and peace.
  4. Ask yourself, “On the perfect day, where do I wake up?” Fill in every single teeny tiny minute detail that you can. The color of the walls, the smell of the room or of breakfast, everything. Make sure to write down how you feel, and bonus points if you genuinely start to feel this way while you do the exercise!
  5. Ask yourself, “What am I looking forward to today? How will my day unfold?” Make certain to capture the feeling of what this ideal day will bring, and again, be as detailed as you can be.
  6. Walk yourself through the entire day, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed. Be detailed if you can!
  7. Notice where you felt the most excitement and the most reservation. This exercise could potentially bring up scary feelings and thoughts such as, “But I’d have to quit my job to be a ballerina!”, or “Oh no, I’d have to kick my 37-year old son out of the house to do the renovations I’m dreaming of!”, etc. Acknowledge the thoughts as they come up, but press on with the exercise.
  8. When you’re done, read over your ideal day. Fill your entire body with the deliciousness of how it would feel to be living this life.
  9. Keep the piece of paper. Read it every single day. Dream about your ideal day every single day. Let the good feelings wash over your body every single day. When you feel like beating yourself up over your weight or eating another doughnut, re-read your ideal day.
  10. Contact a life coach to get you started on your journey to actually living your ideal day! 🙂  Oh, did I say that out loud?

What’s your ideal day?

Women, Food and God. What Are You Waiting For? July 13, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Mindful Eating, Sprituality, Weight Loss.
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Did you see Oprah yesterday afternoon? She had Geneen Roth on as a follow-up to her May show, in which Roth also appeared, discussing her best-selling book Women, Food and God.

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If you missed it, you can read about the show here. I’m just gonna say it: I think Geneen Roth is brilliant. I think her ideas and methods are the way out of the cycle of hell known as yo-yo dieting. It’s her methods that I use in my own life and that I encourage my clients to use as well.

If you haven’t read her most recent book, and struggle with food and dieting and body image, I’d go pick it up right now. Some people hate this book, as is true with anything anyone has written, ever. Some people don’t get what she’s talking about when she mentions “God”. Some people think she’s just plain wrong. I think some of those people are just plain scared.

It’s scary to give up dieting. It’s scary to trust your body to know what it needs and when it’s hungry and full. It’s scary to feel your feelings, especially when you usually numb them out with food. But you know what? It’s worth it.

It’s worth it to uncover your fears and dreams and hopes. It’s worth it to listen to and respect your body. It’s worth it because you deserve it. If you do what she says and get in touch with yourself and listen to what I call your “essential self” instead of what I call your “social self’ (she calls it “The Voice”), you’ll lose weight. But that’s not the reason to do this. The reason to get in touch with you, with God, with your spirit, with your center, is because you’ll be fulfilled in ways you never thought possible.

What are you waiting for? How many more diets do you want to start and fail? How many more nights do you want to spend with your hand in the cookie jar? How much longer can you avoid feeling your feelings and living your dreams? We’re all meant to do something wonderful. And that includes you. Stop stuffing down your wonderful self with food.

How To Stay on Track on Vacation July 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Mindful Eating, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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I just got back from a weekend camping trip. I’ve certainly gone on trips in the past where my days were spent consuming too many potato chips, cookies, beers, and other junk food, and I usually ended up feeling sick and bloated later. This trip was different, though. I kept in mind my own gentle guidelines for good living, and came off the weekend feeling great. Here are some of the things I did, and how you can do them for yourself:

  1. Pack Healthy Snacks! I made sure we stopped at a fruit stand on the way to the beach, picking up peaches and tomatoes and corn. I packed oatmeal in case we had breakfast at the campsite, and brought whole grain bread and crackers, peanut butter, and plenty of water. I did pack some cookies, but they were made with whole grains and weren’t too unhealthy. Being prepared in any situation is key. How can you eat healthy if you don’t have healthy choices?
  2. Stick To Your Schedule. Sure, it might be harder to stick to a workout or eating schedule on vacation, but make your best effort to do so. I walked at the beach each day, and kept a pretty regular eating schedule. Sometimes I ate later than normal, but I continued listening to my hunger cues and feeding my body what it wanted when it told me I needed to eat!
  3. Keep Your Goals In Mind. I wanted to eat delicious food if we went out to eat, but I also wanted to stay relatively healthy. There are far, far too many opportunities to overeat in modern-day America, so it’s best to really try to eat healthy most of the time (plus your one treat or sweet per day!) I stuck with salads with dressing on the side, fruit instead of hash browns, plain baked potatoes, and limited the number of slices of pizza I had to two. I got plenty to eat and never felt deprived. I also had a soft serve ice cream. However, it was huge, and I chose to knock some of the ice cream off and didn’t finish the whole cone – if I’m going to have a treat, I’m still going to listen to my body’s signals – and my body said it didn’t want the entire thing. I also limited myself to one drink per night – no need to let alcohol ruin my healthy choices.
  4. Pat Yourself on the Back. You’re making a choice to live a healthier lifestyle. Good job! Now congratulate yourself for the changes you’ve made, big and small. This isn’t easy, but eventually it will become second nature.

What do you do to stay on track?