Tag Archives: Dieting

My Life With Binge Eating – And the Path to Recovery

338/365 - 9/11/2011To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.

But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.

The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.

I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.

My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I  was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.

I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.

What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.

Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.

In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.

It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.

It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.

But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.

We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.

5 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging and Lose Weight Once and For All

Waldgeist Restaurant in Hofheim. Just make sure to take your Lipitor before bed.By Orion Talmay

The adage goes that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most. So, it would logically follow that hanging out with people who eat fatty junk food will sabotage you and your diet.

Few of us consider that one of the things preventing us from committing to our weight and fitness goals is our environment – and that includes the people around us. This is especially true in America, where fast and “super sized” are glorified. We are surrounded by a junk food friendly environment – whether it’s the muffins offered to you in your company break room or the Italian “family style” dinner with friends. Everywhere you turn, advertisers are trying to hypnotize you into buying. We are bombarded with commercials for food which show joyful anorectic models enjoying chocolates and cheeseburgers. We were taught by our mothers to dutifully finish what’s on our plates. This world full of temptation, misconceptions, and immediate gratification just might affect our ability to get back into our jeans size from high school, don’t you think?

We are drowning in a flood of false information, thanks to all this pervasive and persuasive advertising. These advertisements train our brains to link unhealthy food with pleasure. As you pass a billboard showing a hot celebrity drinking Coca Cola, subconsciously you make a connection between what he or she represents to you – namely health, happiness, athleticism, vitality and success – and drinking Coke. In reality this sugary, toxic and chemically addictive drink is the epitome of unhealthiness, addiction, and obesity. In many cases, junk food is marketed to us as “healthy,” “natural” or even “organic,” but the opposite is more true. Even TV shows about weight loss such as The Biggest Loser glorify rapid, dramatic weight loss that unfolds before our eyes in an hour. And of course it doesn’t tell the whole story; we are spared the gory details, the high risk of injury, and the non-sustainability and unhealthy methods they use on the contestants. The TV magic and the glaring omissions give legitimacy to extreme rapid weight loss and create unrealistic expectations for the audience.

As I alluded to earlier, your peer group can also alter your decision-making. In general, people like people who are like them. For example, heavy drinkers prefer to hang out with heavy drinkers, and overeaters prefer feasting with fellow gluttons. The unspoken (or sometimes spoken) pressure is on, to fit in and be liked. Most social gatherings center around food and alcohol, so if you are dieting, you will need premeditated strategy and willpower if you don’t want to sabotage your diet.

Friends and family tend to appease each other when they fall off the wagon. When you look for consolation, they will tell you “It’s okay, it’s not that bad to take a day off; come on and live a little!” People become very forgiving because they want you to like them. They don’t hold you to a higher standard, in part because that’s not what you want to hear.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants you to be successful. Sometimes it can even be someone close to you like a spouse, family member, or friend who will try to talk you out of your goal. They might be afraid that if you feel better about yourself, you will neglect them or leave them. They might be afraid of “new competition” they will have when you accomplish your weight goals. Or, they may feel in competition with your “gym time” or even with your trainer. Bottom line is that most of the time they do it not because they don’t love you but precisely because they do. For instance, spouses may worry a “new you” may be less attracted to them. Sometimes, simply reassuring them of your love and friendship, keeping open communication and involving them in your health journey can solve these issues.

So, if you agree that the environment that surrounds you can sabotage your progress, what do you do? Well, since living on a mountaintop in Tibet is (probably) not an option, the best way to deal with misinformation or saboteurs is to plan for your success. When your mindset is stronger, achieving your outcome will be your priority. Nothing and no one will deter you. When you are prepared for success, you will win.

How do you prepare for success?

1. Surround yourself with supportive people. If your loved ones aren’t supportive of your health and fitness goals, convince them to change and be a part of your team or find some supportive peers to cheer you on. Succeed regardless.

2. Make sure you have accurate information about fitness and nutrition. Consult with a personal trainer and/or nutritionist. Nothing beats having a coach who can guide you to win the game the right way.

3. Plan your food shopping, plan your meals and plan your exercise time.  Don’t let anyone or anything distract you or steal your time.

4. Watch less TV. The number of commercials for garbage processed food is mind-boggling. These companies are paying a lot of money to sell to you and have mastered the art of influence. They (mis)use popular words like “healthy” and “natural,” but one glance at the label reveals how supposedly healthy, low fat, and natural it really is. Put your TV watching on a diet too, and it will facilitate your dieting and help you avoid unnecessary temptations.

5. Remember that you are a rock star. You can do it regardless of what anyone tells you, including your own inner critic. I believe in you. You put your mind to it and you will succeed.

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picOrion Talmay is a fitness expert and life coach who helps her clients transform their bodies and their lives. Her fitness skills include yoga, weight training, kick boxing, Aikido, MMA (mixed martial arts) and Krav Maga. Orion completed the Tough Mudder, a 12-mile extreme obstacle course with an ice pool, electric wires, buttered monkey bars, and more. She’s not all hard-core though; she is also a woman of the arts — loves to dance and sing, went to acting school, and speaks three languages. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Personal Training and is AAFA, AAPT, KBA, and Zumba certified. She is currently working on an online coaching program for weight loss and self development, designed to empower people across all aspects of their lives: physical, mental, social and spiritual. Orion is also working on her first book, about transformational change. Originally from Israel, she currently lives in sunny Santa Monica, California.

10 Ways To Ditch Your Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fats

medusa

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell, are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.

So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:

  1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat. Want more cooking tips like this? Check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  2. Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods. See for yourself just how healthy and tasty desserts can be by trying my Dark Chocolate Silk Pudding from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  4. Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  6. Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  7. For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  8. Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  9. Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Wondering how you might decrease the number of pills you take? Learn more about functional medicine.
  10. Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. Try the recipe for Hearty Lentil Soup from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. If you are deficient, you might also need to take a zinc supplement. Work with one of my nutrition coaches to ensure your nutrition status is up to par.

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For more ways to use your kitchen to take back your health, check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Get tips and tricks for making healthy and tasty meals. Learn what foods you should eat to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and lose weight. Try more than 175 tasty recipes that appeal to a variety of budgets, taste preferences, health goals, and lifestyles.

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Are You Ready to Stop Eating Real Food…Forever?

Lord, no, this is not about starving yourself.

This is the latest start-up by a 20-something genius, engineer Rob Rhinehart who has apparently invented a product that will free the world from the shackles of real food. It’s a vitamin and nutrient-rich drink, derived from plants but entirely lacking in taste or color, which Rhinehart is calling “Soylent” (somewhat ironically/controversially after the 1970s sci-fi film “Soylent Green.”) The founder claims to be subsisting, himself, almost entirely on the vitamin juice at this point – and with good results.

If this is all sounding a bit wacky, then you’re not alone. Many have raised doubts and concerns over such tampering with the human diet. We are, after all, made to eat real food, and such a reduction might sound dangerously similar to an eating disorder. But when asked about the “real food” concern by Vice magazine, Rhinehart responded:

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy, and just because something is artificial doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or dangerous. Look around you. Nothing we buy is natural. Everything useful is designed and manufactured, and food should be no different. People are afraid of sweeteners when it’s real sugar that’s killing us. They’re afraid of preservatives when food waste is rampant. McDonald’s is trying to engineer lower-calorie food that is more filling to fight obesity, but people are demanding natural-sounding ingredients. It’s frustrating to watch. The idea of “real food” is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don’t like vegetables.

Still not convinced? Well we may need to get used to the idea of food replacements, says Rhinehart, who sees the growing global food crisis as one of the main imperatives for Soylent. And their company has actually seen considerable success in the short time they’ve been around. Their crowd-funding campaign has raised over one million dollars (much more than their initial goal of $100,000)! And apparently there are already people out there ordering Soylent packages online and enjoying the food-free life.

So, what do you think? Would you ever give up food in exchange for a tasteless juice of pure vitamins? Tell us your thoughts!

 

Thumbnail credit: Julio Miles / Soylent

Weight Loss Tip: Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast

GirlEatingDinnerFor many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment. Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population. Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese. Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like “The Zone” or “Atkins”.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner. Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over. Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner. So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that. Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true. With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group. How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”. Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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7 Steps to Becoming an Intuitive Eater

Pink Summer Cherry LoveAs obsessed as we are with food and diets, you’d think we’d be thin and healthy by now. So why are we Americans still universally less-than-fit,  soft around the middle, and constantly worrying about weight?

The fact is, diet tips, rules and tricks won’t work if we’re ignoring the mental and emotional side of eating. Why do we still overeat—or eat the wrong things? Most of the time, when we’re craving cookies, we’re really hungry for love, sex, friendship, peace, a sense of purpose and meaning. And when you’re gripped by that kind of hunger, all the tips and tricks in the world won’t save you.

Next time you’re ready to embark on the next fix-me-fast diet, try something different: instead of focusing on the food, tune in to address the emotions that make you stray. Here’s how to start:

1. Feel your hunger. After a lifetime of denying our hunger, it’s hard to tell when we really need food. But we’re all born with the capability to eat when were hungry and stop when we’re full. As children, we eat in response to our bodies’ hunger signals. As adults, we eat in response to the clock, the latest magazine article, or our uncomfortable feelings.

Get back in touch with your body’s signals by carrying a small notepad and charting your hunger before you eat, rating it on a scale of 1 (starving) to 10 (uncomfortably full). If you do this day after day, feeling your body’s cues will soon come naturally. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you start eating in response to your body—a rumbling in your belly, a slight lessening in your ability to concentrate—instead of your thoughts or emotions.

2. Stop counting. That means calories, fat, carbs, grams, portions—whatever number you use that keeps you out of your body and in your head. When you count, measure, weigh or calculate your food, you’re eating according to your intellect rather than your body’s cues. For a life-long food counter, the prospect of free-for-all noshing can be scary. Start small: eat one meal a day without counting anything. After several days, eat two meals without counting. Continue at your own pace until you’ve stopped counting your food—and start eating in response to your body, not the numbers in your head.

3. Examine your cravings. When you’re feeling the urge to eat, what are you really hungry for? If you’re craving chips, does your jaw want to chew and crunch, to relieve stress and tension? Does the noise the chips make drown out the racket in your head? When you’re aching for ice cream, maybe the soft, creamy texture makes you feel nurtured, or fills up some empty spaces. Once you have a better idea of what you’re really craving, you’re better equipped to make a conscious choice. Maybe you massage your jaw, minimize sources of stress, visit a friend who makes you feel nurtured. Or maybe you have a scoop of ice cream—but you do it as a conscious decision.

4. Practice mindful eating. There you are, in front of the fridge at 9 p.m., noshing on leftover Chinese right out of the container, with no recollection of how you got there. It’s called “eating amnesia,” where the unconscious, hand-to-mouth action of feeding yourself becomes so automatic that, before you know it, you’ve wolfed down a whole box of cookies. Become fully aware of the act of eating. Always put your food—including snacks–on a plate. Then sit down at the table, remove distractions like television, and observe your plate. Notice the colors, textures, shapes and smell for 30 seconds to a full minute before you take the first bite.  As you eat, notice the chewing action of your jaw, the taste of the food, how it feels moving down your throat and into your stomach. It’s such a pleasant practice, it will soon become second nature.

5. Be in your body. Many of us walk around all day in a state of half-awareness, not really present in the room, on the earth, in our bodies. And when we’re not in our bodies, we can’t tell if we’re hungry or when we’re full.  How often are you aware of your body? Tune in right now, as you read this, and check in, starting your toes and moving up through your body. Pause at your stomach, and notice how it feels. Is it empty, or satisfied? Does it feel rigid and tense? Numb or dull? Or is it soft and relaxed?  Once you become intimate of your stomach’s sensations, you can begin to identify true hunger.

6. Pause. When you experience a craving for food, just stop and observe it. Don’t try to make it go away, but don’t indulge it either. Sit with the discomfort of the craving. It may become intensely distressing, even painful; that’s okay. Stay with it, and notice what comes up. You’ll often find a vast ocean of emotions like fear, anxiety, even grief, under the craving for food. It’s a powerful exercise—but quite illuminating, and sometimes life-changing.

7. Be happy now. Maybe you’ve been postponing your happiness until you lose ten pounds, give up sugar or eat more greens. But the happier you are now, the more likely you’ll be to stick to your eating goals. The “do-have-be” mindset tells us that success breeds joy when, in fact, it may be the other way around. Once you’re able to accept yourself exactly as you are, you’re more likely to achieve your dietary goals, and less likely to eat from stress, depression or anxiety. And anyway, there’s no point in postponing joy. Be happy now; the rest will come.

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Lisa Turner is a widely published food writer and intuitive eating coach. She combines her degrees in health and nutrition with 25 years of training in yoga, meditation and mindfulness to help her clients explore emotional issues behind their eating habits. Lisa is also a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and Nutrition in Boulder, Colorado, and hard at work on her next book. Visit her websites at www.TheHealthyGourmet.net and InspiredEating.com.
Originally published July 2010

Why Ayurveda Could Change Your Life

Jumping

Imagine you’re outside, by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself: “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time; life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking: “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong, and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking: “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself: “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts: “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks: “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight, or stress, or feeling bad about ourselves it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance, and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest, body, mind, and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles, and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value, and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “Science of Life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We over exert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt, and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions, to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more – and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the west Feng Shui was a foreign concept – but now it’s a part of our every day vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet – now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now. Lots more info in my new book, The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

Rebecca Pacheco: My Best Diet Advice

IMG_3825-580x773Are you vegan?
Have you heard of this juice cleanse?
Are you gluten free?
Have you heard of that juice cleanse?
What do you do for cardio?
How often do you run?
Do you do Pilates?
What do you think of Crossfit?
Do you lift weights?
Do you wear a heart rate monitor, Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone, etc.?
Which yoga poses will strengthen my core?
And lift my butt?
Do you think I should do a juice cleanse?

I get a lot of questions about my personal and professional approach to fitness, including those above and many more. Each time I’m asked by a reader, yoga student, Om Athlete, curious media type, or casual acquaintance at, say, a dinner party, I’m delighted to – forgive me – weigh in. I enjoy the fact that people trust me; it means I’m doing work I’m meant to do, helping people become more healthy and mindful, and I’m happy to share knowledge acquired over the years. I’ve studied a lot, experienced a lot, and been exposed to a lot, through a lifetime of playing sports, 18 years of practicing yoga, 13 years of teaching it, and the privilege of working with some of the fittest and fastest athletes in the world about what it means to look, feel, and perform your best.

But my favorite piece of advice is the same for everyone, and it has nothing to do with explicitly choosing a diet or type of exercise. It’s about choosing a mindset or, possibly, a heart set. Because the truth is not about what you do, but rather, why you do it.

I believe the intention behind anything colors everything, which is why my diet advice is not a diet. My most killer workout secret is not some grand secret. I’m not hiding stealth spa procedures or supplements in my bicycle basket. I’m not fired up by fitness fads or new technology that tracks my every calorie taken in or burned off. (I respect that many people like and benefit from health trends and technology; I just don’t think they’re essential to my point or your wellness).

Personally, I do a lot of yoga. I run a lot. I eat a lot. What I eat has read like Michael Pollan’s advice long before he wrote In Defense of Food and other books widely regarded as manifestos for eating mindfully: eat real food, not too much. Mostly plants. But, sometimes, chocolate covered salted caramels. (I added that last part). Professionally, I’m like a sherpa for surpassing mind/body limitations, and my approach to yoga might cause your kid to turn to you and say, “Wow, Mom, you’re STRONG! You’re stronger than Daddy,” as the child of one of my clients did at the beach over the weekend when she tossed him high in the air so that he landed in the ocean with delight like it was no big deal.

In the past, I’ve been too thin and too heavy. I ended up too thin by accident, at a time when I felt very heavy—as in emotionally. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It just happened as a result of the stress of what was happening in my life. I couldn’t have cared less about scales or pant sizes. Ironically, I was too heavy while trying too hard to be thin. Roughly around college, as the current often pulls women that age. It was my personal heyday of low fat frozen yogurt, Diet Coke, and other fake foods about which I didn’t know better and were the diet de rigueur of the time. Now, I know better, and I stay away from that stuff. It’s not a diet. It’s chemical junk that messes with your hormones and doesn’t add any nutritional value anywhere. I don’t eat other non-food stuff like Play-Doh or glue. That’s not a diet. It’s common sense.

And, ultimately, that’s the secret weapon I want people to rediscover. Good sense. Stop cleansing. Start sensing. Ask yourself this one essential question:

What do you want to embody?

Seriously. Think about it. Because the answer will be telling, and the actions needed to achieve your desired state will be clear. If you know how you want to feel, you’ll intuitively know what to do to get there. You don’t want to embody artificial colors, flavors, or feelings. You don’t want to embody scarcity and deprivation.

If you want to embody strength or confidence, you can’t choose diets, fitness inspirations, or yoga teachers that encourage diminishing or depletion. It’s that simple. If you want to feel joyful and light, you can’t choose workouts that are drudgery or self-talk that is demoralizing. Maybe you’ll lose weight on a certain diet, cleanse, or workout regime, but will you feel light? Will it last? Or, will it dissipate—like anyone’s capacity to stay on a diet or regime, and you’ll have to search for the next fitness fix during the next dinner party conversation. If you want to embody speed or endurance, your workouts must prioritize the same. If you want to feel energetic and endorphin-drunk, then you’ve got to get up and move like your life depends on it (because it does). If you want to embody beauty, you’ll have to do things that genuinely make you feel beautiful. They are not usually available in stores. They frequently include smiling or laughing. Remember: mindset. Heart set.

The way we move our bodies and how we nourish them are beautiful opportunities every day. Meanwhile, getting too caught up in how we label ourselves according to what we eat (i.e. vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc.) and forgetting that the best wellness resource we have is our own mind only leads to more of the same. Change how you think. Start with what you want to embody, and let that word, feeling, or mantra dictate the health choices you make.

Embody grace. Eat energy for breakfast. Run with heart-pumping, leg burning, soul exhilarating speed. Balance with confidence. Breathe with love. Put on your clothes with joy. Take them off with acceptance. Embody yourself fully. It’s a beautiful thing.

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

Weight Loss: Fact and Fiction – What Works and What Doesn’t

Body Image. The subjective concept of one's physical appearance based on self-observation and the reactions of others.

Does sex really count as exercise? Should you set conservative weight loss goals of 5-10 pounds instead of 50? Does adding a little bit of exercise regularly over a long period of time really add up to significant weight loss?

A recent analysis of weight loss research by The New England Journal of Medicine, entitled Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity, attempts to answer these questions.

Some findings are surprising, some are not, and some common notions about weight loss are yet to be proven or dis-proven. I have my own opinions based on treating tens of thousands of patients over many decades.

We are all different. What works for some may not work for all, which is why I practice personalized lifestyle medicine, or functional medicine, that  allows me to discover the root causes of imbalances in the body that lead to weight gain and disease  – matching the treatment to the person.

The good news for me is that I was not surprised by the myths that are commonly held by doctors, nutritionists, and most people. And I know that some of the presumptions will turn out to be true – we just don’t have enough data to “prove” it.

Remember, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Just because something has not been studied accurately does not make it untrue.

So what are the top myths and facts about obesity and weight loss?

Myth #1: If you make small changes in your lifestyle over the long term you will lose weight.

Most of us have learned that if we just cut our calories by 100 calories a day, or increase our exercise a little bit over the long haul, we will lose weight. It’s all about the calories in or the calories out.

Sorry Mr. Newton, your laws of thermodynamics don’t apply in living systems. Biology and metabolism are more complex. If we just go with the math and burn an extra 100 calories a day by walking one mile or consume 100 calories less in 35 days, you would lose one pound (3500 calories = 1 pound).

And over five years you would lose 50 pounds. Yet, in studies they find you would lose only 10 pounds in five years. This occurs because of changes in your metabolism and calorie needs as you lose weight.

Bottom line: Big changes are needed to create big weight loss.

Myth #2: Don’t set big weight loss goals because you will become frustrated and set yourself up for failure.

The fact is that if you set your sights on big weight loss, you have a better chance of losing a significant amount of weight than if you keep your goals “realistic”. If you want to lose 50 pounds, then set that as your goal.

Studies have shown that if you don’t expect to lose a lot of weight, then you won’t! Common sense, it seems, but conventional wisdom is to keep people’s expectations low because weight loss is hard and people will get frustrated if they fail to achieve their goals. The truth is that you will only lose big if you think big.

Bottom line: Set your weight loss goals high. Don’t be realistic. If you set 10 pounds as your goal you might succeed, but if you need to lose 50 pounds you will fail. If you want or need to lose 50 or 100 pounds then name it. Own it. And you will lose it!

Myth #3: Don’t lose weight too fast or you will rebound and gain it all back.    

We have been taught that if you go for the quick fix, if you go for the rapid weight loss strategy, in the long run you won’t lose as much as if you go for the slow gradual approach.

Nonsense!

Studies show that if you drop weight quickly you end up with more weight loss in the end.  Mark Twain said, “The problem with common sense is that it is not too common.”

When I give my patients a big jump-start with weight loss, which is how I have designed my practice and my programs like The Blood Sugar Solution, they do better and lose more weight over the long run. They learn how to own their bodies and feel empowered.  The studies back this up.

Bottom line: Kick-start significant weight loss with dramatic shifts in your diet. Try things like cutting out all sugar, flour, and processed food. You can follow the program I have created in The Blood Sugar Solution.

Myth #4: You have to be ready to succeed and go through the “stages of behavior change”.

The science tells us that those who attempt weight loss without feeling ready still succeed. You can act into the feeling instead of waiting for the feeling to act.  

Bottom line: Even if you don’t feel inspired, excited, or motivated to start taking care of yourself, just start anyway. You are just as likely to succeed as someone highly motivated.

Myth #5: Sex is good exercise.

Somewhere we all got the idea that sex was good exercise. A bout of sexual activity burns 100-300 calories for each participant. That reminds me of a young teenage patient I saw when I was a resident. I asked her if she was sexually active. She said, “No, I just lie there.”

But even if you don’t just lie there, a vigorous love-making episode usually lasts about six minutes and burns about 21 calories. If you just sat and watched TV you would burn 14 calories. So find some other way to exercise or study tantric sex and make love for an hour.

Bottom line: You can’t “love” your way to weight loss. Get out of bed and start moving.

The article also had a few presumptions, which may or may not be true and still don’t have enough evidence to firmly put them in the fact category. However, a few of them I do think are crucial for weight loss.

The Value of Breakfast

In the large weight registry of people who lost 70 pounds or more and kept it off for 4 or more years, the only things they had in common were breakfast and regular exercise. It is one of the most powerful strategies. But it can’t be a muffin and a latte. The secret is a protein breakfast, which speeds metabolism and controls appetite.

Eating Fruits and Vegetables

If you eat more fruits and vegetables you will be eating less junk and creating health through hundreds of other mechanisms. In fact the only thing all nutrition experts agree on is that we should eat more fruits and vegetables.

Built Environment and Obesity

While it hasn’t been proven that more parks and sidewalks lead to a skinnier population, we do know that your immediate environment plays a big role in your health. Dan Buettner did an experiment in Albert Lea, MN where he implemented changes in the environment that led to significant weight loss and health.

Kids lost 10 percent of their body weight after eating in classrooms and hallways was outlawed. And the town’s population lost a total of 12,000 pounds by everyone agreeing to eat their meals using 10 inch plates and having grocers put healthy foods at the check-out counters. Your environment does matter.

The good news from this article is we can lose weight, but we have to set big goals, think big, act big, and we will get big results!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

5 Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips That Will Leave Your Body Feeling Brand New

Strawberry #2

As herbalist Kathy Abascal pointed out in a recent article with Spirituality & Health magazine, most weight-loss diets out there tend to focus on one thing (be it gluten, dairy, glycemic rating, etc) and are therefore ineffective. Weight does not exist in a vacuum, which is why isolating certain aspects of the diet for the purpose of losing weight simply doesn’t work. Achieving overall health through lifestyle changes is the only way to see the kind of results you want. And, according to Abascal, there is one extremely effective way of doing that.

It’s called the TQI Diet, which stands for “To Quiet Inflammation.” From her expertise in biochemistry and herbalism, Abascal discovered that inflammation was one of the most common symptoms associated with poor health and extra weight. Having struggled with her own weight issues and eager to make a change, she developed an anti-inflammatory diet plan that is responsible for remarkable results among its followers.

Here are 5 of the 10 tips Abascal shares with Spirituality & Health on how to reduce inflammation and start losing weight:

  1. Eliminate inflammatory foods, like those high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as alcohol.
  2. Eat healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and seeds.
  3. Eat breakfast soon after rising.
  4. Eat consistent meals without grazing throughout the day.
  5. Eliminate bedtime snacking.

For the rest of Abascal’s tips, as well as her description of how she developed the diet and why it’s so effective, check out the interview in the July/August issue of Spirituality & Health magazine.

Have you struggled with inflammation in the past? What have you done to reduce it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

* * *

SH_JulyAug_CVR_lrgSpirituality & Health is a magazine for people who want to explore the spiritual journey and wake up to our capacity for self-healing, vitality, and resiliency. Read the entire conversation with Christine Northrup in the July-August edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! Get your first issue FREE here.

Would you like to win a FREE year-long subscription to Spirituality & Health magazine?

This month, Intent is giving away 5 year-long subscriptions to Spirituality & Health magazine. To enter, simply comment below with your favorite empowering quote. Be sure to include your name and email so we can contact you if you win.

 

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