Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolution With Mindful Eating

Accomplish Your New Years Resolution With Mindful Eating

I love what Geneen Roth has to say about our relationship with food and how it reflects our relationship with ourselves.  In my over thirty years as a clinical nutritionist, I have observed, like Geneen, that we feed ourselves the same way we live our lives. The way of mindful eating is that our eating patterns and nutrition, like adaptation and survival, are critical components of our ability to live and thrive. Accomplish your New Year’s resolution, such as improving your health or losing weight, with mindful eating.

The Source Of The Challenge

In spite of the fact that the food we eat has such a significant impact on our whole being and quality of life, most of us are wildly confused about nutrition. This is especially true today because this basic necessity has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, selling us foods and nutrition related goods our parents didn’t need or know about. 

“In the old days”, food was produced more naturally with less processing, lifestyles were less complicated and decidedly less stressful.  Remember how we said we would never grow up to be like our parents? We may want to rethink that – they are the healthiest and wealthiest generation ever!  Nutrition has become a big health issue because of poor quality food, soaring stress levels and our lack of exercise.  “The balanced diet” –the tried and true standard for good nutrition has been pushed aside for every conceivable variation on what and how to eat.

Some of this new information is quite useful and lots of it appeals to our vanity or desire to avoid taking the long look at what Geneen Roth refers to as “being present to our food and our lives.” If we are present, we realize that moderation and balance (just like with stress!) is the way to go.  Our foods are chemicals and can affect our emotions as well as our bodies.

A Grainy Example

An example of this is excess grain consumption. Human beings do not produce enzymes to break down cellulose, the outer protective layer of grain.  Many animals like cows and horses can eat grain in its natural state without a problem. If we attempted that, we would injure our mouths and esophagus, so we alter the grain from its natural state to flour, in order to consume it.  We think we can eat whatever, so we get creative and bake, fry, boil, etc. this processed grain into “food.” 

Unfortunately, the majority of us do not tolerate the protein gluten found in most grains.  Gluten can damage and weaken the lining of our gut, leading to all kinds of problems, which can include eating disorders, obesity and depression. Humans are also the only mammals that continue to consume milk after weaning, and it’s breast milk from another species at that. 

When we are experiencing mindful eating, we become aware of our body’s responses to what we put into it.  That requires slowing down, which is what our nervous systems have to do for our digestion to work properly. Stress is “anti-nutritious” because during stress our ability to deal with the “emergency” at hand.  Stress also significantly increases the need for certain nutrients, which are critical for the stress response. Protein, Vitamins A, B, C, and E, unsaturated fatty acids and minerals need to be replenished.

Moving Forward Mindfully

How we can improve our nutrition and discern what is best for us? We can observe why and how we eat, what feedback our bodies give us and consider the always prudent common sense approach of balance and moderation.  We are living beings, we need to eat living food.  The good news is you can eat all the fruits, vegetables, salads, veggie soups and stews you want (barring allergies) and you can’t go wrong!

 

For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

 

Fulfill Your New Year’s Resolution With Mindful Eating

Three studies provide an interesting, proven tool to help you fulfill your health-related New Year's resolutions. Not unknown in other parts of the world is the idea of addressing the first step to food digestion. This is an important factor in reducing excess body weight. Mastication, or simply put – chewing, has a significant effect on the hormones of our gut; which in turn affects energy intake, metabolic caloric use, and overall body weight.

Mindful, Conscious Eating

The studies support the practice of mindful, conscious eating and the physiological and biochemical improvements to nutrition and wellbeing, when a moderate rather than a “grab and go” eating lifestyle is followed.

The various studies focused on the following objectives: one being to compare the differences in how chewing was different between lean and obese subjects. Another was to evaluate if eating the same meal at varying speeds of mastication would result in different postprandial (after eating) gut peptide responses. The third study’s objective focused on how staggered, compared to non-staggered, meals affected hormone and appetite dynamics, food pleasure, and the resulting energy intake.

Manipulating Eating Habits

The three studies utilized volunteer subjects and were conducted at clinical research facilities. The first study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1, 2010. The study subjects were 17 healthy adult males who were evaluated on the varying lengths of time they took to consume a meal. The first meal was consumed in 5 minutes and the second meal in 30 minutes. After each meal, the levels of gut hormones were assessed in the subjects, measuring the results for each of the meal durations. The conclusion of this study was that eating at a moderate rate, compared to a rapid rate, produces an increased anorexigenic gut peptide response, which resulted in a loss or decrease of appetite compared to the subjects who ate more quickly.

This is probably not a surprise to mindful eaters who, in many ways, eat their food as a form of meditation, chewing much slower than the majority of us do. They not only tend to enjoy their food more but also decrease their appetites and moderate their bodyweight. The second study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011. This study contained 16 lean and 14 obese young men who were the subjects of the study. There were two components to this particular study. The first component observed and investigated whether the obese subjects displayed different chewing patterns and factors than the lean subjects. The second component explored how the number of chews per each mouthful of a meal affected the subject’s energy intake. Two sittings of the same meals were consumed by each of the study subjects throughout the course of the day. The study used two specific amounts of chews per swallow. Each subject chewed one mouthful of food 15 times before swallowing, and then during the second meal of the same food, each subject chewed one mouthful of food 40 times before swallowing.

Chew More, Eat Less

The outcomes of this study were as follows: regardless of their body mass being either lean or obese, the subjects had ingested almost 12% less food (11.9%) intake after the 40 chews per mouthful meal than after the 15 chews per mouthful meal. This registered trial study concluded that using improved meal chewing interventions could prove to be a useful tool in reducing and combating obesity.

Much has been written about lower body weight and the French diet, as well as the eating habits of other countries and cultures compared to our American grad and go fast food lifestyle. These studies confirm something that has been apparent to other cultures, and even in earlier decades in the U.S.

Decreasing Hunger

The third study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011, goes on to confirm that: staggered meals, where there were pauses in between the total consumption of the entire meal, resulted in a decrease of hunger, an increase in food reward, and greater satiety than in meals that were consumed without pause and at a faster rate of speed.

Our focus today in the U.S. is on reducing obesity in both children and adults, as well as addressing the growing epidemic of type II diabetes and metabolic syndromes, with their resultant increase in adult pathologies. Each of these conditions is directly linked to the over consumption of food. These studies are an invitation to our national culture to re-assess our fast-paced lifestyle as a means to reducing the leading health issues of our day.

If simply by slowing down how quickly we put food into our bodies we can save ourselves from individual and collective suffering, it would make sense for someone to start a campaign to ensure more time for kids and adults to eat a good breakfast, take a longer lunch and enjoy a more leisurely dinner.

Rewarding Success

It is usually the simple things in life that bring the greatest rewards. Rather than worrying about the number of calories we are putting into our bodies, it might be refreshing to shift our attention to our chewing habits, which have proven in these studies to reduce food intake by 11.9%, decrease caloric uptake, improve one’s food satisfaction, and enhance greater satiety.  A lot of reward – for not a lot of effort.

Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011; vol. 141; no. 3, 482-488
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011; vol.94; no. 3, 709-716
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1,2010; vol.95; no. 1, 333-337

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