Archive | Mindfulness

5 Feelings that Fuel Fatness

January 2016

Feeling #1: Tired — It dulls your “I’m full” hormone.

When you are lacking sleep, the body naturally craves food that provides instant energy.  Research shows that after 2 nights of insufficient sleep — craving for carbs increase by 45%.  

There are two hunger hormones that regulate ‘hunger versus fullness’.  Ghrelin signals “eat” and Leptin signals “stop”.

When you haven’t had enough sleep (typically 7-8 hours for the average person) — the Ghrelin levels increase and Leptin levels decrease.  That means when you lack sleep — you eat — you don’t feel full — and you continue to eat even though you aren’t hungry.

Solution:  Pay attention to your sleep schedule.  Consider a natural remedy if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep — such as an essential oil of Lavender on your feet.  The natural qualities of Lavender promote a restful sleep. Check with your doctor first – even natural remedies aren’t right for everyone.

Feeling #2: Happily Married/Partnered — It invigorates “I deserve this” thinking.

The researcher and author, Brian Wansink, Ph.D., (Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think), surveyed 1,000 people and found that participants were most likely to turn to comfort foods when they were happy (86 percent) or when they wanted to reward themselves for something done well (74 percent).  Research supports the notion that getting married encourages a “let yourself go” mentality and enjoyment of food together.

Solution: Identify the shared habits that are harming your health and come up with ways to engage with your spouse in a more healthy way.  Consider other activities to connect that don’t involve food or take a ‘healthy cooking” class together.

Feeling #3: Lonely – It feeds the “I’m hungry” hormone.

The link between loneliness, depression and weight gain is substantial. I mentioned Ghrelin earlier — studies indicate that feelings of loneliness increases the “let’s eat” hormone.  People who are perpetually lonely eat more than those who have good, healthy social networks.

Solution: Increase your interactions with people who are meaningful to you.  Don’t have enough friends?  Make a list of 1-3 organizations/events/groups you’d like to try out in the next month — and then go.  

Feeling #4:  Deprived – It masks itself as hunger.

Our brains become wired to view “no-no”  foods as rewards, increasing cravings that are difficult to fight.  Diets are founded around an all-or-nothing experience — “I can either have this or I can’t.”  Therefore, dieting creates a feeling of, “I’m deprived” — which fuels the desire for the forbidden, locking you into a cycle of craving.

Solution:  If you’re feeling deprived in your eating, learn to eat with mindfulness.  That means that you can eat whatever you want — small portions – enjoy each bite – stop when you feel full.  Doing this will eliminate labeling certain foods as “off limits,” which will help you crave them less.

Feeling #5: Anxiety – It drives mindless eating.

A recent study in the journal, Eating and Weight Disorders, placed anxiety as “one of the most important factors associated with weight gain.”  My previous mentor from Chicago who specialized in eating issues stated that two-thirds of people who struggle with eating (either eating too much or too little), suffer from anxiety.   Her experience was that anxiety came first and was then followed by unhealthy eating.

Solution: Get some help with your anxiety, albeit self-help books, a support group, meditation/prayer, spiritual advisor or a therapist.

“The real journey is the journey within”.

~~ Thomas Merton

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Feeling Bad About Yourself? It’s your Inner Critic.

November 2015

An Inner Critic is the constant stream of inner evaluation of yourself and others.  Similar to background music in a coffee shop — the Critic becomes background chatter in your mind. It is often surprising to people when they begin to realize how much/often that Critic spews its negative dialogue.

The critical inner voice seems to monitor your behavior and thoughts, easily handing out sub-par performance ratings.  It mocks you, shames you, puts fear in your heart, tells you to not try hard or pushes you into high performance.  It drives anxiety, depression, anger and self-loathing and push you into exhaustion.

What’s your Inner Critic say?
You’re not good enough.
You’re going to fail.
You are a failure.
No one likes you.
No one loves you.
You’re a bad mom.
You’re an idiot.
Work harder.
You’re fat
Give up.
Stay small.
You’re stupid.
That was stupid.
Don’t take that risk.
You drink too much.
They think you’re a loser.
He/She doesn’t care about you.
You’ll never, ever be good enough.  Never. Ever.

People are addicted to self-criticism. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of learning to be judgmental of ourselves as a teenager, when we are so worried about how we’re going to appear to others or what might happen if we don’t perform well?

Noticing the Inner Critic
The first step in noticing the voice of your Inner Critic, recognizing when it begins to attack you.  What are your triggers?  Attending certain social events? Speaking in a meeting? Asking someone out on a date? Trying on clothes? Making a mistake? Being criticized by a friend/boss/sibling?  Not getting a promotion? Yelling at your children? Drinking too much? Not performing well at work?

Making Peace with the Critic
The key to lessening the voice of the Critic is to understand it.  Now that you begin to notice when it attacks you — let’s understandwhy attacks and shames you.

Grab a journal and spend some time with the following.

When did the Critic begin to attack you?  Think of the earliest memories or the evidence of events that have happened in the past that substantiate why it attacks you.  Ponder those memories and past evidence.

Ask that critical voice some questions:

  • What is it trying to accomplish by judging, belittling or pushing you?
  • What is it afraid would happen if it didn’t do that?
  • What is it trying to protect you from?

Notice – is there a small part of you that absorbs everything the Critic says and believes those messages? (I am hopeless.  I am not good enough. I am a failure.  I am worthless. There is something wrong with me. I’m ugly/fat.)

Is it true that you have an Inner Critic AND you have a part of you thatbelieves the Inner Critic?  Most likely — yes.

As you take a next deep breath, see if you can feel some compassion toward the vulnerable part of you that holds that fear or belief.

As an example — I see that vulnerable 13-year old inside of me who holds the false belief that mom and dad won’t love me if I do poorly in school or sports.  The Inner Critic began to push me hard at a young age to succeed and achieve — so I wouldn’t fail and lose their love.

The Critic certainly helped me to achieve things in life and to succeed — and I’m grateful for that.  The problem is that the Critic never stopped criticizing me even during success.   It pushed me relentlessly with constant criticism into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, causing my stress levels to rise.  I became an expert at self-shaming myself if I didn’t perform well.

Once I began to appreciate the efforts of the Inner Critic and I felt compassion for that 13-year old (who still believed good grades = more love) — it became the magic bullet to love myself for who I am — not for what I do.

The old adage “Love yourself” need not just be another cliché.  It can become your truth as you begin to quiet the voice of the Critic.
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Emotional Eating: 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Stop

July 2015

Why are you eating?  Paying attention to the answer is key.

It’s astonishing to hear that the weight-loss industry in the United States hauls in $40 billion annually with diet pills, diet books, meal plans and surgical procedures.   The number of people who are dieting at any given time is 100 million, with an average of 4-5 diets each year.

Yet, obesity continues to accelerate and the United States is facing a health epidemic related to excessive consumption.  Why?

1. Unawareness
Emotional eating is when you’re full and you continue to eat. Snacks and dessert are often eaten when you are not hungry and you don’t even notice. The solution? Be mindful of what and when you are eating. Ask 2 questions when you are going for food, “Am I hungry?  What emotion am I feeding?”  Listen to the response and act accordingly.

2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
You might notice that desserts and snacks help you temporarily feel better and soothe yourself. Why? Sugars and fats release opioids in your brain which are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin and many other narcotics. The calming, soothing effects you feel are real.  The solution? Find other ways to soothe with a healthy dose of something else; a good book, a walk in the park, a warm bath, meditation/prayer.

3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
Not being able to tolerate “negative” feelings makes you susceptible to emotional eating.  The solution? Pay attention to your feelings and then do something to shift that feeling.  Bored – call a friend to chat.  Lonely – go for a walk in the park and say “hi” to people that pass by.  Angry – write a note of apology to someone you’ve hurt.  Feeling unheard — write out your feelings in a journal.  Spiritually dry — pray.

4. Body Hate
It may sound illogical, but it’s true: hating your body is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity, shame and self-hatred rarely inspire people to make healthy changes.  Many people tell me they will stop hating their body after they reach a better weight.  That’s backwards — stop hating your body so you can stop your emotional eating.  You might even notice that after you eat a certain food or you eat too much — your Inner Critic begins to berate you, calling you names such as “disgusting, pig, fat, out of control, etc.”  Then, your self-esteem plummets and you reach for food to comfort yourself.

5. Physiology
Letting yourself get too hungry, worn-down or tired sets you up for emotional eating. Solution? Get plenty of sleep and eat only when your body tells you it is hungry.  You might eat when you are actually thirsty — grab a glass of water instead of instantly heading to the vending machine. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?  What am I feeling right now?”  Use an essential oil such as Lavender on the bottom of your feet at bedtime to help get a natural and restful sleep.

The Solution:  Mindfulness
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside of yourself – body, heart, mind, spirit.  Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment — being able to get that Inner Critic to relax back so you can enjoy the moment.

If you are hungry – eat, pause, enjoy, savor, slow down.  By pausing – you are able to sense when you are full.  Then, stop.  If you want to save room for dessert – stop eating your main meal when you are still hungry.  Let it settle about 5-10 minutes.  Then have a sensible portion of dessert.

In mindful eating you are not comparing yourself to anyone else. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you eat.

Living and eating with mindfulness means that you experience:

  1. The pleasure of eating well that is based on internal cues of hunger and satiety rather than on external food plans or diets
  2. Self-acceptance and respect for the diversity of healthy, beautiful bodies rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight at all costs
  3. The joy of movement, encouraging all physical activities rather than prescribing a specific exercise routine.

QUOTE: “Well, I think probably the main reason
people overeat is stress.”
~Jenny Craig

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Can You Stay Sane While They Still Drink?

April 2015

When I work family members that have loved ones who struggle with addiction – the most frequent question I hear is, “How can I make them stop drinking (or using drugs or gambling or cheating or etc.)?”

You might ask yourself,  “What’s the magical thing that I need to say to them – what threat, what ultimatum?  Should I be mean – should I be nice – do I sweep it under the rug – do I get in their face?”  Perhaps you’ve even done all those things – and none of them work in the long-run.

If you have an alcoholic in your life, you likely understand that life with a practicing addict is generally quite chaotic at times, which might also be tempered with really good times.

What can you do to get off the roller coaster?  Accept you are powerless over the addicted person and detach from them.  You cannot control people, places or things.

Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for your own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives, such as the desire to control the alcoholic.
Detachment with love plants the seeds of recovery. When you refuse to take responsibility for other people’s alcohol or drug use, you allow them to face the natural consequences of their behavior. If a child asks why daddy missed the school play, you do not have to lie. Instead, you can say, “That’s a good question. You’ll have to ask him.”

Detachment means giving up outcomes. Your job is the effort, not the outcome. Leave the outcome to God. Do your part and let go of the rest. You will begin to experience peace.

Detachment with love is not selfish.  It is freeing — and it is love.

Detachment is a choice.
Unconditional love is a choice.
Giving up control is a choice.
Being afraid is a choice.
Choosing to be peaceful is a choice.
Choosing to act, and not react, is a choice.
Trusting your loved ones to live their own lives is a choice.
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Goal Setting with Journaling: To Live Life Fully

January 2015

Sometimes you may feel stressed because you are not achieving things that are important to you or your focus seems to take you in the wrong direction. Daily stress and underlying tension can result from a lifestyle that doesn’t align with your values or goals.

Brain science has shown numerous benefits to journaling that include processing feelings and brainstorming solutions. This can not only relieve stress, but also help you attain goals by providing an opportunity to work through problems, find solutions, and keep from getting stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Use these goal setting journaling techniques to get in touch with your goals and align your priorities.

Personal & Professional Goal Setting with a Journal:

  1. Ask yourself – What do I really want – at my very core?  If you had a magic wand, what would you like to see included in your future? Ignoring the ideas of how you’ll get there, vividly imagine your ideal life, and what would be included in it. Begin to list the a couple changes and goals to go from ‘here to there.’
  2. Continue to dream and plan as you journal – and take small steps to begin a shift.  It might be as simple as taking a class that you think will get you closer to your dream job or scheduling an “informational interview” with someone who works in a profession that you’d like to move into.  Pat yourself on the back for success and work through frustration of setbacks.
  3. Make updates to your goals as they change with you. Sometimes the pursuit of one goal will lead to growth that will lead to the realization that a different direction would be better for you.
  4. Record gratitude.  It’s important to write about all the things for which you are grateful. This form of journaling can helps you develop the habit an “attitude of gratitude.”  This can decrease stress, increase awareness of how far you’ve come and help you realize progress.
  5. Acknowledge your emotions to create goals.  After moving to a different city – I realized I felt lonely.  So, I created a goal to find new friends, have more quality talk-time with old friend and put more fun into 2014.  By volunteering, taking some cooking classes and asking people to go out to coffee/lunch — my life changed dramatically in 1 year.  Now, I feel “filled up, included, connected and part of.”

As you write — and dream – and plan — and feel – then notice if there are any Inner Critics that come up.  An Inner Critic is that voice inside of you that may say things like, “You need to stay small.  You can’t do that.  You don’t deserve that.  You’re incapable of doing that. People will laugh at you if you try that.  You’re too old to make changes.  Give up.  Stop trying.  You’re defective.  What’s wrong with you?”

The Inner Critic – although its messages are harsh – those voices are actually trying to protect you in some way.  They are afraid of you trying something new or different – they are afraid you’ll get hurt or be judged or ridiculed or be unsafe in some way.
Inner Critics can block you from achieving your goals.  Inner Critics eventually lead to regret as time passes – “I wish I had tried that or done that – but now it’s too late.”

Record your Inner Critics (and journal about them!) as you hear them.   See if you can get an understanding of why they don’t want you to pursue something new/different.

A professional can help remove these blocks to set you on a path of freedom and more choices.

Journaling moves goals and the blockages from the unconscious to the conscious level.  Once conscious – you can begin to live a new life.

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Emotional Eating: Feeding Your Emotions

October 2014

Food does more than fill your stomach.  It temporarily satisfies feelings and masks them.  As you quench those feelings with comfort food when your stomach isn’t growling, that is called, “emotional eating.”  Emotional eating is not done as a reaction to feeling hunger – it’s done as a reaction to feeling an emotion.

A key to recognizing the difference between physical hunger and emotional eating is mindfulness.  Mindfulness merely means, “paying attention to the present moment.”

Here are 5 tips to recognize the difference:

  1. Physical hunger occurs gradually while emotional hunger comes on suddenly.
  2. With emotional eating, you crave a specific food (e.g. pizza, ice cream, potato chips) and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you’re open to more food options.
  3. Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave.  Physical hunger can wait.
  4. Pause before you reach for a second helping.  If you are full and you keep eating – it’s related to emotions.
  5. Emotional eating leaves behind feelings of guilt or regret.  Eating when you are physically hungry does not.

Much can be gained by recognizing the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.  Mindfulness is being aware of your body sensations and emotions to realize the type of hunger you are actually feeling.

Pause and ask yourself these questions — you’ll begin to be more mindful of what and how you are eating:

  • Am I hungry or am I craving a particular food?
  • Am I actually thirsty – not hungry?
  • Am I upset – feeling bored – wanting to celebrate – feeling guilty?  What am I feeling right now?
  • If I am feeling emotionally hungry – what am I really craving?  Do I need to connect with someone?  Do I need to do something to break my boredom that is unrelated to food?
  • [If I’m eating] Am I full yet?  Do I need a 2nd helping?  Do I need to finish everything that is on my plate?  Am I still eating because I’m still hungry – or because it is satisfying my mouth?

When you engage in mindful eating — your body will make it clear as to when you are hungry and when you are full.  By listening to your body and your emotions, your body will regulate itself to a natural, normal weight for you.

This is not about losing weight.  This is about eating and feeling your way to a physically healthy and emotionally balanced lifestyle.

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6 Natural Stress Relievers

August 2014

Too much stress is a bad thing. Whether you have trouble sleeping or find yourself becoming more irritable, stress takes a toll on our bodies. It is the leading cause of innumerable diseases, and can be single-handedly responsible for symptoms such as hair loss, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, drastic weight changes, ulcers, and more.  

For on-going stress relief —  try some of these remedies from nature:

Lavender. If you ever have trouble falling asleep at night, try spritzing some lavender essential oil into the nighttime air. Lavender helps calm anxiety and can soothe the mind and body to help you sleep more soundly. Intrigued? Aromatherapy has been shown to trigger various moods and sensations, and can be used to fight depression, fatigue, anxiety, headaches and indigestion.

My personal favorite — the oils sold by Young Living.

Sweet Potato. What do you normally reach for when you’re stressed out? Probably sweets or salty carbs. Next time, try some sweet potato instead. It will kill your cravings, satisfy your frenzied emotions, and help you digest more slowly due to their high fiber content. Plus, there will be no post-splurge guilt.  If you are really craving comfort food, try steamed and mashed sweet potatoes with a dash of coconut milk. Yum!

Chamomile. Chamomile tea has been shown to relax the body and muscles before sleep.  It has been used for centuries for its sedative qualities and as an immune booster. Even better, add some raw honey into your tea (once it has cooled to drinking temperature to retain raw honey’s beneficial enzymes) for an additional boost.

Dark Chocolate. A recent study has shown that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate lowers your body’s stress hormones and reduces anxiety. Your brain releases endorphins when you nibble chocolate, so it’s a double-whammy of happiness!  

St. John’s Wort. Useful if you’re feeling down-and-out, this herb has been shown to significantly increase mood and attitude in patients with mild depression. It has been used for centuries as a natural anti-depressant. 

Peanut Butter. If you aren’t getting enough sleep and are feeling cranky, grab a spoonful of organic, unsweetened peanut butter. Being high in vitamin B6, it helps to regulate blood sugar, which stabilizes mood swings. And, of course, peanut butter is another great comfort food, packed with natural goodness.  

Other excellent stress-reducing ideas are regular exercise, prayer, a warm bath and maintaining a personal journal.

Relieving yourself of stress will make your life healthier and more enjoyable.

As always — consult your doctor for questions/concerns related to your specific health needs.

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Rough Day at the Office?

July 2014

Work stress has sky-rocketed but WHY?

Many reports indicate that the majority of companies aren’t replacing workers when they leave a job. Therefore, workloads have increased across the board without more pay. Monster reports that the top stressors are poor relations with the boss, low pay, long commutes and poor work-life balance.

There’s a condition that the Atlantic has dubbed “hyper-employment”.  Thanks to laptops and smart phones, we have the ability to be connected 24/7 which wipes us out physically and emotionally.

WORK-STRESS TIPS:

  • Get enough sleep since lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress.
  • Turn off work when you walk through the door at home. This will allow you to practice compartmentalizing work stress and focus on recharging your own batteries through improved family relationships.
  • Acknowledge your state of mind by sharing your experience of work-related stress with your spouse or friend. And if your spouse shares that they are stressed at work, try and listen with an open heart.
  • Reduce alcohol intake since alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can increase anxiety as it wears off.  Similarly, smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant – leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

Take a small step today.

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Anxiety — Fear — Worry. Oh My!

March 2014

The distinction between “anxiety”, “fear” and “worry” is minimal and often indistinguishable. Whatever your emotional vocabulary, these feelings are uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating and not easy to avoid once they move in.

Unhappiness and discomfort in life is typically fueled by a few emotions; including anxiety, fear, and worry. They may feel like guests who showed up at your door and don’t want to leave. When tragedy or hardship hits, they might tighten their grip, setting up home in your head and heart.

These emotions can wash over you like a tidal wave or be an undercurrent of your daily life. Unrelenting doubts and fears can interfere with good quality of life while sapping your emotional energy.

Sara, a client from years ago, said to me, “I fear failure.  I worry about being rejected.  And, I certainly avoid making any mistakes.   That’s just who I am and I’ve always been with way.”.  Sara had difficulty sleeping through the night, was snapping at her husband/children and was eating more due to stress.  She sought help from me to experience more joy in daily life, worry less and sleep better

In one of the early sessions with Sara – she asked if we could use scripture verses in our work because they gave her peace, comfort and security —  and tied into her identity as a Christian.  Together, we chose this verse:
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6/ESV)

Sara began to shift into a new reality that she could live life without fear and anxiety in the forefront.   She was able to relax her anxious parts and address those fears with a calm and heart-felt interest.  Sara began to get to know these uninvited guests with patience and curiosity.  As her understanding and compassion for those emotions increased – their grip decreased – and she welcomed them with open arms.

Only when we heal the anxiety/fear and stop trying to make it go away – can we begin to live more fully in the present moment and move into the future with courage, clarity and hope.

Peace be with you.

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The Gift of Mindfulness

December 2013

Do you feel that you live in a busy world with too much to do? In the rush to accomplish lots of tasks, you may find yourself losing connection with the present moment—missing out on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.

Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning? Did you notice the different color hues in the sky as you drove into work this week?  Do you ever notice that you sometimes eat when you are not actually hungry?

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment.

Practicing mindfulness improves emotional well-being and mental health.  It contributes to satisfied relationships, helps you savor the pleasures of life as they occur and equips you for adverse events.

By focusing on the here and now, people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past and are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem.

Mindfulness improves physical health by relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, alleviating gastrointestinal problems, reducing chronic pain and improving sleep.

Mindfulness helps you to be more accepting of those around you, albeit family, friends or co-workers.  A regular practice of mindfulness deepens your connection and compassion for those you love.

The best thing about mindfulness – it costs you next to nothing and has no negative side affects.  It means merely seeking out the opportunity to weave it into your daily life.

I bid you peace.

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