Tag Archives: mindful eating

Intent of the Day: Eat with Intention


We spend a lot of time discussing the mind-body connection, but today we want to focus on the body half. Whether we want to or not, we have to slow down to eat eventually. It is in this simple and basic act that we can help or hurt ourselves, make or break a day. To begin, when we rush through eating, we can eat without realizing how our body is affected. When we skip eating, we deprive our body of vital nutrients to make it through the day. When we binge, we flood our body with excess, making us lethargic and heavy. Prolonged habits can cause lasting damage and much of it can be traced back to eating without fully connecting to the act. Today we want to start a different habit. We will eat with intention.

You too? Here are 3 things to help you do the same: Continue reading

How I’m Moving Forward in the GMO Food Debate

Bosworth Battlefield (2)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, “The Genetically Modified Food Debate”, which introduced a series of articles by Nathanael Johnson, a Grist.org writer that’s taken on the big task of sorting through the GMO debate to provide the straight story on where the science, politics and implications to people and planet truly stand.

As someone who’s followed the topic of GMO for many years, I’ve often wished for a series of articles just like this. It’s a heroic effort and having the opportunity to go on an exploration of sorts through these articles has helped me crystallize what I believe are the biggest issues and necessary next steps in the GMO food debate. If you’d like to read Johnson’s series, you can start here and find links to subsequent posts at the bottom of each article.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things can get complicated. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and planet as it relates to genetic modification is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

My primary concern about genetically engineered food crops is not so much about the study of biotechnology in plants, but the ripple effect the application of these crops is having on current farming practices and our global food community. Here are some of the things I find most troubling:

  • GMO are often bred for resistance to herbicides and pesticides. As a result, weed-killing herbicide use on genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton increased by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008.
  • GM crops support the practice of mono-cropping (growing only one type of agricultural product in a large area of land, year after year). This approach has an economic benefit in that it simplifies farming operations and decreases labor costs. However, mono-cropping depletes nutrients from the soil and decreases crop-yields over time creating a need for increased synthetic fertilizer use. Although there may be a short-term economic gain, there’s a larger long-term cost to the health of the planet.
  • Implementation of GMO and mono-cropping practices in developing countries has impacts that go beyond just human and planet health. Traditional knowledge about how to farm the land, what indigenous plants provide nutrients of need and seed saving techniques to maintain biodiversity…all this wisdom that is passed from generation to generation may be lost and maybe more importantly, be seen as inferior to modern conventional methods.

The biggest hurdle to finding a path forward that is acceptable to groups on both sides of this issue seems to sit within science. Through Johnson’s articles, it’s clear that the methods we have to determine safety and the impact to human and planet health are flawed. The questions we’re asking through testing simply do not provide the answers many people are seeking to understand. This is an issue that’s much bigger than just GMO, but yet one that is effectively stalling the ability of the food community to find consensus about how to move forward. Until we evolve both the methods of testing and what we’re testing for, I don’t see how we’re going to come together.

So, what to make of all this? Well, as for me, I plan to keep looking [read: hoping] for an evolution in testing, particularly in the form of support from our government to investigate new approaches to better answer the valid concerns around GMO’s impact to people and planet health. In the meantime, as we continue to navigate our way to better answers, I believe the right thing to do is provide as much transparency and through that, education, as possible. We don’t have the answers, and until such a time that we do and this matter is settled, why not let people make their own decision? Let’s label GM foods, raise awareness and hopefully get to a place where we can argue towards solutions.

If you’re interested in doing some digging of your own into this issue, Johnson also did a recent article that provides a “Cliff’s Notes” version of some of the most popular books on GMO. You can read this article here.

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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.

* * *

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

5 Mindful Dining Lessons from an Italian Bistro

Pizza Salsicce close-up - Tiamo 2 AUD16.90 mediumUpon arriving in Bologna for a conference, I was determined to make every minute count: I checked into my hotel, checked my email, took a quick nap, showered and left for some sightseeing. At this point it was about 3:00pm and lo and behold, it was siesta (an Italian tradition when most businesses shut down for a few hours to ‘rest’).  As a result, I was forced to stop my touristic whirlwind and took my own siesta in one of the few open bistros, choosing to eat dinner early so that I could take advantage of my “Perfect Storm” of jet lag, hunger and nothing to do.

At RosaRose I ate local fare and watched the Fords, or shall I say bicycles and mopeds, go by. As a European, this time off is custom. As an American, however, this is foreign (pardon the pun). But yet, with no cellphone to answer… no laptop on which to type… no internet to distract… you somehow acclimate quite easily. So easily in fact, you quickly find yourself dreaming of this lifestyle as your own.

Although I clearly had other plans for my day, my new agenda was quite appealing and I was in no rush to leave my little Perfect Storm Haven. My storm became a calm: my jet lag seemed to dissipate, my hunger was satisfied and my ‘nothing to do status’ became my very own enjoyable siesta. After a couple of hours, I left recharged and ready for another several hours on the go. Maybe there really was something to this siesta after all!

In Italy, life seems less hectic… more simple. Undeniably, it becomes easy to think of adopting their lifestyle. Turns out, there were several life lessons to be learned during my time in a simple Bolognese Bistro:

  1. Take a Break: We tend to busy ourselves constantly and forget how important it is to take a break, decompress and relax. Being forced to stop and relax because there is NOTHING ELSE to do, gives you an opportunity to really understand how wonderful it is to do nothing.
  2. Eat GOOD Food: This means good in quality and in taste. If the quality is good, there is a good chance it is going to taste good too. The higher the quality of food you eat, the more likely you will eat less. My siesta meal was prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella…although a bit higher in fat than I would normally eat, as an appetizer it made me full for the rest of the day!
  3. Drink Just Enough: Often, I feel that many people over indulge in alcohol in the United States. In Europe, drinking is a social aspect of the culture. A glass of red wine with dinner is very normal. That said, you rarely will see binge drinking among locals.
  4. Slow Down: In the United States, especially in coastal cities, I feel that we run at a million miles a minute. Slowing down helps you enjoy more in life. For instance, when eating, don’t scarf…savor every morsel in a slow and purposeful fashion. You’ll feel satisfied on less food.
  5. Love the Ones Your With: During my time at RosaRose, it was apparent that people really enjoyed being together. They were smiling, laughing and chatting up a storm. Even the waitstaff were jovial. Whether it be friends, family or your partner, make time together special and fun.

Have you traveled to Italy or any other place in Europe? Did you have a similar experience? What valuable lessons did you learn from time abroad?


Originally published July 2012

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.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Craving and Real Hunger

Day 17: Jes Cravin' (9.22.10)Ever wonder how to tell the difference between a craving and real hunger? It’s an important distinction to make for yourself if you are interested in health and especially if you are trying to lose weight. Cravings will often masquerade as hunger, but are really something entirely different.

Let us look at real hunger first so we can compare. Hunger is the body’s way of letting you know it needs fuel. The body is intent on survival and so hunger for food is built into our genes. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here anymore. Just like sex is a drive that is built in, so is hunger. Without food and sex, humans would be long gone.

So, once we establish that hunger is normal, natural, inevitable, and extremely important, it becomes our friend. We need it! We also need to learn to recognize it and work with it appropriately if we want to be healthy and live at a healthy weight.

Hunger is a feeling. There are differences in how we experience it, but if you are tuned in to your body, you will notice one of several signals. Your stomach might feel empty. You might even hear gurgling or get “hunger pangs” that come from your stomach letting you know it is empty. The Wiki explains it like this:

The physical sensation of hunger is related to contractions of the stomach muscles. These contractions — sometimes called hunger pangs once they become severe — are believed to be triggered by high concentrations of the hormone Ghrelin. The hormones Peptide YY and Leptin can have an opposite effect on the appetite, causing the sensation of being full. Ghrelin can be released if blood sugar levels get low — a condition that can result from long periods without eating. Stomach contractions from hunger can be especially severe and painful in children and young adults.

I have worked with people who are so out of tune with their bodies that they don’t experience stomach hunger. Instead they will feel light-headed or even get headaches. That is their cue to eat something.

So true hunger is the body’s way of letting you know you need food. When you feel that way, you will most likely want healthy food. Nutritious food. Not cookies, candy, cake, etc…

Cravings are generally for a particular food or drink. You might have a craving for, say chocolate, and not be physically hungry at all. Cravings can be brought on by emotions, associations, hormones, physical needs and memories. For example, if you always get the steak fries when you go hang out in Malibu, then when you go to Malibu, you might just crave the steak fries. That is an association/memory craving.

Cravings will pass if you resist them. It might take awhile, but they do subside. If you don’t get those fries this time, and get interested in other things when you are in Malibu, then the craving will pass. It might come back, but resisting cravings is possible. Hunger, on the other hand, might pass momentarily but will come roaring back if your body needs fuel.

To be healthy, and at a good weight, it is important to pay attention to your level of hunger. If “0” is completely empty and starving and “10” is Thanksgiving dinner stuffed, it is good to eat when you are at a 2, 3 or even 4. Getting too hungry is a set up for a binge. It is also good to stop eating when you are at a 7 or 8. Eat until you are not hungry anymore, not until you are full. The Japanese call this Hara Hachi Bu. “Eat until you are 80 percent full.”

Self awareness, and in particular, paying attention to what and why you eat, is key to conquering any weight or food addiction issues. There are more details on how to do that in my book, Foodaholic, The Seven Stages to Permanent Weight Loss.

That’s it for now. Good luck and let me know how you’re doing.

If you would like to reach me, you can find me here.

Surviving Restaurants: A Guide to Healthy Dining Out

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 4.30.50 PMEating outside the home comes at a high price. We spend our hard-earned dollars upfront only to pay more at a later date due to hidden healthcare costs not seen on the menu!

Temptations from the food industry are addictive such as salty, sugary, high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods that negatively affect our health and take years off of our lives.  Real food is medicine – healing your body with every bite.

Ingredients that are not meant to be consumed either in moderate quantities, or at all, are lurking in generous amounts in restaurant meals. Owners of restaurants want to see you satisfied and return frequently which drives motivation to include these unnecessary and harmful ingredients. From hydrogenated oils, poor-quality fats, sweeteners, and hydrolyzed proteins to preservatives, additives, and bulking agents, there is a lot to beware of!

I travel a lot and have become a connoisseur at scoping out the good from the bad. I have spent years on the road promoting health through smart nutrition and have learned a lot. Unfortunately, my experiences have shown me mostly about what not to eat.

As a leader in functional medicine, a parent, and a concerned consumer, I want to know what it is I can eat. Sometimes you need to eat out and want choices you can feel good about! While I recommend you avoid doing so as best as you can, the following can make seemingly impossible decisions about what and where to eat easier for you.

Surviving Restaurants

Does all that fancy marketing and shiny advertising restaurants use to manipulate your emotions make you lose your willpower or wonder if you ever had any to begin with? If you feel like you lose control and get distracted from your healthy meal plan when you face a commercial, billboard or even a sign outside a restaurant you are not alone nor are you crazy!

The human brain is wired to be drawn to salty, sugary, and fatty foods – it is part of our survival. But luckily we don’t have to worry about famine, so the reality is we do not require these rich, high-calorie, and nutrient-poor meals.

In fact, those pictures of decadent cuisine are really false advertising. You’re promised luxury when in fact, eating junk food delivers you nothing but empty nutrition which leaves your body starving for real food.

While the restaurant industry wants our business, we do have the power to choose where we spend our food dollars. This is how to succeed the next time you are in a position to eat out:

  1. Choice. The more options you have, the better. Competition is a good thing when it comes to selecting a good restaurant. Look for an area that is bustling with a variety of choices for where you can eat.
  2. Quality menu. Don’t be afraid to ask to see a menu before you agree to sit down. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords such as “organic” which are used to get your attention. Remember, the ingredients are what matters – a candy bar can be organic but sugar will not reverse diabesity!  Scan the menu and look for keywords such as fresh, local, seasonal, organic, grass-fed and others referenced in the The Blood Sugar Solution.
  3. Go online before you stand in line. Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. Choose a restaurant that allows you to plan ahead of time by checking out their menu at home or at the office.
  4. Slow food. These restaurants appreciate that you deserve high-quality food and provide flavorful meals that satisfy you from the inside out. Slow food is a celebration of life presented through food.
  5. Is your restaurant sensitive? Not about your feelings, necessarily, although that would be nice! Look for eateries that tolerate and cater to food sensitivities such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and yeast.  At the very least, inquire how flexible the chef is about modifying meals.
  6. Travel the globe. Ethnic cuisine tends to have those phytochemicals that are so important for health and for curing diabesity.

How to Order at a Restaurant

  • Be obnoxious! Be clear about your needs and do not accept any food that does not nourish or support you. Do not assume you are being impolite; you are simply taking care of yourself.
  • Have an opinion. Choose the restaurant, if possible, when dining with others. 
  • Tell the server you do not want bread on the table nor the alcohol menu. But do ask for raw cut-up veggies without dip.
  • Ask for water. Drink 1-2 glasses before your meal to reduce your appetite.
  • Tell the server you will die if you have gluten or dairy. Not a lie – just a slow death.
  • Ask for simple food preparation. Order grilled fish with an entire plate of steamed vegetables drizzled with olive oil and lemon. Always ask for olive oil and lemon in lieu of dressing.
  • Skip the starches. Ask for double vegetables.
  • Avoid sauces, dressings, and dips. They are usually laden with hidden sugars, unhealthy oils, gluten, and dairy.
  • Honor responsible portion sizes. Always combine a carbohydrate with some fiber, protein, or anti-inflammatory fats. Never carb it alone!
  • Focus on protein. Choosing your protein first is really helpful to ensure your blood sugar will be balanced and you will eat the right portion size.
  • Ask for berries for dessert.

Are you afraid of overdoing it when you eat out? Nobody likes to feel uncomfortably stuffed so it is important to remember how much control you actually have (even though restaurants don’t want you to think so)!

By avoiding some of the triggers listed above you are already doing so much for yourself. One other tip I want to share with you is the philosophy of the Okinawans in Japan  – hari hachi bu“Eat until you are 8 parts (out of 10) full”. By tuning into your hunger sensation you can listen for the cue your body sends to put the fork down at the exact moment appropriate for your body.

By eating until you are no longer hungry (not stuffed), you can empower your digestion to work with your metabolism to keep your hormones in balance and your waistline in sight! Each meal is an opportunity to bring health to your life and, luckily, we get many opportunities daily to help reach our goals.

Celebrate your life with the food you eat. I wish you happy, healthy, and confident eating – Bon Appétit!


Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com

5 Stress-Reducing Foods You Should Add to Your Diet

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 9.30.37 AMEating lunch at your desk every day will stress you out, but what you’re shoveling into your mouth also plays a role. And stress is more damaging than you’d think when it comes to weight maintenance and loss, says James Duigan, Elle Macpherson’s personal trainer and author of the newly revised and updated book, The Clean & Lean Diet.

It’s a vicious cycle: Stress increases hormones in your body that cause you to store fat (especially around your belly), and the more stressed you are, the more you’ll crave stress-boosting foods, like sugary snacks, which will make you more stressed after you eat them.

The key is to focus on eating a balanced diet of clean, wholesome foods that deliver essential vitamins and minerals. (Oh, and don’t forget to sleep.) “Reducing stress is not only important for fat loss or maintaining a healthy weight, but it’s also important for a healthy, happy life,” Duigan says.

Here are five stress-reducing foods from the Clean & Lean Diet to get you started now:


This fruit’s creamy texture can help satisfy cravings when your body is in a state of stress, Duigan says. “Plus, all the good fat and potassium they contain can lower your blood pressure (and therefore stress levels).”


Studies have shown that vitamin C helps the body deal with stress, and berries deliver a healthy dose. They also provide you with fiber, which helps regulate blood-sugar levels. And blood sugar is seriously linked to stress levels.


All dark green vegetables will fight stress by feeding your body its vitamins, and spinach is also particularly rich in magnesium. “Magnesium helps return your body to a calm state and improve your sleep,” Duigan says.


Read about the rest of these amazing stress-reducing foods at Well+Good NYC!

The Mindfulness Practice That Broke My Candy Habit

83/365If you are an M&M lover, you might not want to read this. I don’t want to ruin the candies for you. But if you could take them or leave them – or if you’re considering better eating habits – this story could help you. So read on, my friend.

I’ve been learning more about MBSR through a publication entitled Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, written by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein. It’s a terrific workbook and I recommend it to anyone interested in exploring or further committing to meditation. In this workbook, a mindful eating meditation is outlined.

Now, I’ve done eating meditations before. Thich Nhat Hanh offers beautiful versions in several of his books. But for some reason, this was the one that changed the way I looked at food forever.

I was buckling into my seat on a plane heading home from vacation with my family. Wedged in my seat back pocket was a big package of M&Ms. I know they’re bad for me and filled with artificial dyes, but I’m an advocate of moderation, so I settled in for the long trip home with my shiny brown bag full of 30% more candy and my MBSR workbook. I was reading intently while popping M&Ms two at a time (one for each side of my mouth – gotta keep it even) when I turned to the page about mindful eating.

The workbook suggested that I place three raisins in my hand and analyze them as if I was from outer space, never having set eyes on a raisin before. Well, I didn’t have raisins, so I used my M&Ms. I poured a few into my palm and contemplated. Then I glanced sideways at the markers on my daughter’s tray table. Then I looked back at the M&Ms. The candy didn’t look like food. The candy looked like a little pile of tiny toys – the same colors as my daughter’s plastic markers. Why am I eating this? This isn’t food. I started to wonder.

The workbook then invited me to place the food in my mouth and allow my senses to continue their exploration. I shook them in my hand first, hearing the way they rattled against each other. Click! Click! Click! Then I tossed the load into my mouth. They struck my teeth. Clack! I let them sit on my tongue then slowly began to roll them around my mouth. The candy shells were not delicious. They tasted like chemicals. There was nothing delightfully crisp or irresistibly oozy about their texture. In fact, they were surprisingly gritty.

I started to chew. Crunch. Crackle. Texturally, the M&Ms sort of felt like eating grains of sand. When the chocolate broke open, the taste wasn’t satisfying. The flavor was actually sort of metallic. I swallowed the lot after about 30 chews and paid attention to the way they sunk into my belly. I was totally surprised. It didn’t feel good. I sucked the last bits of chocolate out of my teeth and worked my jaw a little bit, feeling the way even the muscles near my eyes participated in the chewing process. Particles separated like tiny shards of seashells and slid, with effort, down my throat.

I sat for a little while, thinking about M&Ms and wondering why I’d never before paid more attention. I’ve always been a candy lover. I mean, I wake up in the morning and crave chocolate. But these days I’ve been waking up in the morning and craving carrots. I think it’s because of my mindful eating experiment, but I can’t be sure.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you a mindful eater? If not, try it once and tell me what you think!

photo by: Amy Loves Yah

Food Wars: Paleos, Vegans, Raw Foodists, Oh My!

Assault On Cupcake Hill

At a recent dinner the debate got heated over the various diets whirling out there now. One of my friends, a devout Paleo, said “I would bet on the the Paleos in a fight. Vegans are wimps.” Is this the new Bloods versus Crips, I thought? Are these the new turf battles?? The Jets versus the Sharks? Are feuding eating philosophies the new gang wars? Should we pit the Inuits against the 5 and 2 people and the Raw Foodists and see who survives? People are getting so heated over which nutritional regimen they’ve chosen to follow. The competition is the movement of the moment, and people are taking sides.

So, which diet is best? Let’s start by looking at a few of the most popular current eating philosophies.


Otherwise known as the Caveman Diet. Paleos eat no grains, beans, soy, vegetable oil, or dairy. The main foods are meat, vegetables, and healthy fats. The idea is that our bodies have been programmed for millions of years to eat like this. It’s only in human kind’s (relatively) recent history that grains have been introduced, so our bodies don’t process them well.


This movement has been gaining a lot of ground in recent years, largely among people who are concerned about the environment. Vegans eat nothing that comes from or is produced by an animal. No meat, eggs, dairy, or honey. The main foods are beans, nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables. The idea is that our bodies don’t need animal protein to survive and that the environment is being damaged by the large numbers of cattle and poultry farms.

The Inuit

Otherwise known as the Eskimo Diet, The Inuit is similar to Paleo in that adherents believe our bodies function most efficiently on the foods our ancestors ate for millions of years. Our bodies are programmed to accept these foods and thrive on them. The Inuit Diet consists mostly of meat and fat. Unlike Paleo, there is very little vegetable consumption in this diet. There is also sparse dairy, and very few carbohydrates.

5 and 2

This diet promotes “normal” eating (meaning no restrictions) for 5 days a weeks and limited calorie intake for 2 days a week. For men it’s 600 calories and day and for women it is 500 calories a day. This diet is supposed to promote weight loss and increase longevity.

The China Study Diet

Based on a study done over 20 years with Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The study showed that high consumption of animal-based foods is associated with more chronic disease. This diet promotes a high variety of vegetable and fruit consumption, low animal protein (mostly fish), low fats and oils, and no red meat or dairy.


This food philosophy is that no food should be heated above 115F. This diet allows for fruits, vegetables, raw dairy, raw nuts, and beans. Though the diet is largely vegetarian, it allows for raw meats such as sashimi and carpaccio. Advocates argue that raw or living foods have natural enzymes, which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating kills the foods natural enzymes.

Where does that leave us?

The funny thing is that each of these diets has a large group of followers who swear by it, saying that they have never felt better. Proponents of each claim to have scientific proof that their diet is ideal, and yet many of the diets directly contradict each other. High fat, versus low fat. Meat versus no meat or low meat. Consistent food consumption versus restricted food consumption. It’s very confusing. You can understand why the debates get so heated.

Let’s remember the Paleo gang fighting the Vegan gang. At the end of the day, who is right? The answer is no one – and everyone. It all comes down to individual choices. What works for one person might not work for someone else. There is no universal ‘right’ when it comes to food.

The “best” diet is whichever works best for you. If you feel great, have good energy throughout the day, no headaches, or sore joints, and you sleep well at night without any form of medication, you have regular bowel movements and are happy with your weight then you are in great shape. If you don’t feel good or have any of these issues, then consider making some changes. Switch things up. Try these different diet theories on for size and see what creates balances in you. Maybe a little Inuit mixed with some 5 and 2 will be your answer. Maybe some China Study and Paleo will work for you. Well known food writer Mark Bittman is a vegan all day long and then lets loose and eats whatever he wants for dinner. I know vegans who eat eggs a few days a week because that is what they found works for them.

Let’s calm the wars and throw out the titles. Put down your weapons and pick up your forks. Let us all – Paleo, Vegan, Inuit, 5 and 2, Raw Foodists and China study people – sit down to feast, in peace and good health. Just perhaps not at the same restaurant.


Originally published on my blog, Tapp’s Tips.

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