Tag Archives: healthy eating

Don’t let nutrition information paralyze you!

“Paralzyed by information.”  This is a term a client used today.  I thought it was a brilliant way of describing what so many people are feeling in these times of information overload.  The definition of paralysis is “a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord.”

What my client meant was similar.  She felt a loss or impairment of voluntary movement, but in this case it was behavioral movement toward health improvements.  As long as we are looking at definitions, lets consider the slangy abbreviation “TMI.”  When a person has too much information, it tends to muddy up the head space, leading to an inability to move forward with any kind of certainty or hope for improvement.

Information is great.  I love research.  I love technology.  Still, without a reliable system for weeding through it all to come up with what is truly valuable for an individual, it is just plain HARD to make sense of it.  Vastly different philosophies about how to eat all present information that seems factual.  Long lists of references make them all seem legit.

I try to be very honest about what I believe to be accurate and what seems less conclusive.  The unfortunate truth is that there is simply no style of eating with completely conclusive evidence that it is THE WAY for everyone.  Personally, I don’t think there ever will be one best way for everyone.

The positive side of that is . . .

You get to decide for yourself!  For those of you who hate any uncertainty, this is disappointing.  You would really like to have a black and white, 100% proven method to (at least try to) follow.  Eating is just not like that.

That is good news for those of you who want complete freedom of choice.  Ultimately this is the best way for all of us – choice.  We are much more likely to do something we feel we have chosen.

So what do we do with all of that information?  How do we choose what is best for us?

Sort through it, test it if it seems like a good idea.  See what happens FOR YOU.  It’s not a double-blind placebo study, but it is really the gold standard for your best health.  Studies are valuable, very valuable, but nutrition studies are only pieces of information to consider along with what you notice about your own body’s reaction to different eating styles.

A carefully considered, mindful assessment of information is the best cure for information paralysis.  Trusting personal observations and instincts will always lead to more certainty and forward movement toward better health – without all the worry!

This Year’s Holiday Food Pleasures and Disappointments

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Which treat was the holiday disappointment: the dark chocolate truffle or the caramel corn?

It’s two days after Christmas, the kids are gone, the house is quiet, and I am looking back at the eating pleasures and disappointments of this year’s eating experience.  This is my food version of Siskel and Ebert’s classic “thumbs up/thumbs down” movie reviews.  Keep in mind that these are MY pleasures and MY disappointments.  Yours are likely to be different, just as we will all prefer certain movies over others, but being more mindful means getting more of what you want from YOUR eating experience most of the time, during the holidays and all year long.

Disappointments (Thumbs DOWN)

Marbled Pound Cake (made by me with a special family recipe from my Grandma)

Why?  I ate a small piece while busy getting dessert for everyone else.  I was focused on serving, but hey, I always have a piece on Christmas Eve, so I ate it with my mind elsewhere . . . couldn’t even tell you what it tasted like!

Virginia Ham

Why?  I tasted a small piece at Christmas dinner.  It looked juicy and yummy, but I could feel my body dehydrating with each bite . . . too salty!

Caramel Corn

Why?   It came as part of a gift box, and to me this was just a waste of space that could have been better filled with nuts, chocolate, or fruit.  I don’t like caramel corn much, so I had no problem leaving it in the bag.  (It would have been more disappointing if I had eaten it.)

 

Holiday Eating Pleasures (Thumbs UP)

NOT eating the caramel corn

Why?  I don’t really like it, so why bother?  It saved room for . . .

 ONE Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle 

Why?  Mmmmm.  Perfect size for a treat.  Small, decadent, expensive (makes it even more special), all with the health benefits of dark chocolate.

Marbled Pound Cake

Why?  This was the same cake mentioned above as a disappointment, but the experience was completely different this time.  I ate it the day after Christmas in a quiet house . . . tasted and enjoyed every bite.

Tossed Green Salad (with pomegranate seeds, avocado, roasted beets, goat cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette)

Why?  Why not??  What’s not to like about that?  I kept going back for more.

Leftover Chicken Enchiladas (small amount of enchilada mixed with a huge helping of steamed broccoli)

Why?  This was the day after Christmas, and it was the perfect blend of clean food with the flavor of delicious homemade enchiladas.  It filled me up and tasted delicious.  It put me in a “back to normal” eating frame of mind.

Harry and David Pear

Why?  This was simply the best pear I have ever eaten.  We get a gift box with 6 of these from my financial planner every year (along with the caramel corn!), and they truly are a treat to be savored.  I would choose one over almost any other treat.  And it’s healthy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Why?  I just love them.  Roasted with a little olive oil and seasoning, they get crispy on the edges and taste delicious.  Nutritionally, they are super foods, and I feel healthy eating them.

Homemade Apple Pie with Hagen Daz Vanilla Ice Cream

Why?  This capped off a delicious Christmas dinner, and I had only a sliver (the perfect amount to savor).  The crust was crunchy, the filling was perfectly sweet and gooey.  Rich vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement.  I think I make a good apple pie, but this one made by a dinner guest was better than anything I have ever made.  I ate it slowly and enjoyed every bite!

My Holiday Eating Insights

1.  I am doing a good job of choosing what I really want.  My list of disappointments is much shorter than my list of holiday food pleasures.

2.  I will never make perfect choices all the time.  Sometimes it is is impossible to know without tasting, and sometimes I don’t make completely mindful choices.  I’m human!

3.  The eating experience depends on more than just what is being eaten.  Enjoyment is greater when I am relaxed and focused on what I am eating.

4.  “Healthy foods” can be tasty, and “pleasure foods” that are truly enjoyed can help make overall eating more healthy.  (There is nothing like deprivation to fuel a binge!)

5.  The holidays are to be enjoyed, and food is only a  piece of that experience.

Happy Holidays!  I hope most of your food choices feel kind.

 

 

 

Cultivate “awe” for a more health-friendly attitude! (And Happy Birthday, Brent!)

Airport Arrival - More Fun Than the Departure

Brent, with wife Marina and sister Becky

Today at around 9am EST, my first-born turned 30. He lives in Seattle, but this momentous day will be spent near New York City, close to his birthplace, while on tour with Allen Stone; my son plays bass.

We toss around the word “awesome” these days like we used to use the word “wonderful.” Break the words apart, and clearly the number of times either is used far outnumbers the actual moments in our lives that are truly full of awe or wonder. A sunset can inspire genuine awe and wonder; these words lose their impact after being repeatedly used to describe things like a trip to the mall or a hot fudge sundae.

During my pre-bedtime reading ritual last night, I picked up a Sierra magazine that just arrived. The title of the cover article is “The Science of Awe.” As I flipped open the pages, I thought, ‘there may be something in here to incorporate into my app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating).’ In fact, there is plenty to consider in terms of more mindful eating, but as I read the writer’s descriptions of awe-inspiring moments, personal memories took over my thoughts . . . and I felt open, hopeful, and positive – all from simply remembering my “awe-filled” moments.

One moment in nature popped up: a trip to Ecuador, where I walked barefoot out onto the most expansive beach I have ever seen, at night when it was all lit by nothing more than the stars. Other times in the outdoors made the hairs on my skin stand up (a sign, the author asserts, of being awed) even as a mere memory. At the top of my awe list, however, are the births of my two children.

Thirty years ago today, shortly after giving birth to my son Brent, I was in a very small, dark hospital bathroom with a single small window when I felt a sensation of complete happiness, that everything in the universe was “right” and everything was connected. Clearly, this was not the result of my surroundings, a bathroom that was far from the most beautiful bathroom I have ever occupied! I felt unlimited gratitude and a completely open heart toward everything and everyone. While I do not consider myself a very “churchy” religious person, there was no denying this experience; it was clearly much bigger than me, like the beach in Ecuador I would walk on many years later.

The Sierra article uses research to explain what happens to a person at times like this. We behave differently. We treat people better, we are more generous, we are simply nicer to “hang with.” While the article did not specifically mention health or how we treat ourselves, I’m going out on a limb to say that I believe awe is worth cultivating because of the health benefits it offers.

We know that being more mindful is better for our eating and psychological well-being. Since awe, which cannot be felt in the absence of mindfulness, seems to inspire the kind of good feelings that are connected with better self-care, it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that being in nature, nurturing relationships, and creating other truly “awesome” moments will cause us to treat ourselves more kindly.

That’s what being healthy is all about: being kind to ourselves. I’m feeling grateful today, just thinking about what happened in my life 30 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brent. You are truly a gift that keeps giving!

Turning Hindsight Into Foresight

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“If only I hadn’t climbed up on that @#$%^&* chair!”

We’ve all heard the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.”  But what does that kind of expert vision accomplish if it just manifests as regret.  Absolutely NO good!  In order to be valuable, hindsight has to give us a little foresight.  In other words, it must be combined with learning to have any benefit in the future.

My husband Peter and I had this discussion recently after a very regrettable incident, and yes, if he could have predicted it, he would have done things differently.  But one thing is for darn sure . . . he will never, EVER again stand on a chair without being very mindful.  Actually he may never again stand on a chair at all!

Here’s what happened.  Peter woke me up one morning last week with the urgent news that there was a bat in our house – a bat now trapped under a bowl on our bookcase after he cornered it – and I needed to get up to help him get the bat out of the house.

So there I was, cookie sheet in hand, while he slid the bowl ever so carefully off the shelf onto it.  Everything was going perfectly . . . until Peter lost his balance and fell off the chair.  The bat was captured successfully, but Peter landed badly and his knee was not looking “right.”  Actually it was looking very, very wrong, with a huge bulge protruding away from his leg.

This long story ended with a trip to the Emergency Room and surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon a day later.  He will now be on crutches for 6 weeks.  What a set-up for a case of the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”!  But it doesn’t help his current situation to realize that he was focusing too much on the bat and too little on his balance.

Experience is a great teacher though.  This recent setback has started me thinking that learning from the “slips” of eating habits – the equivalent of falling off the chair (or the wagon!) – presents a similar opportunity.  Unfortunately it is all too common for people to get stuck in the regret of their disappointments, looking back with hindsight (that crystal clear perspective) to see that “I shouldn’t have eaten so many cookies,” instead of understanding what caused it to happen and looking for solutions . . . changing the hindsight to foresight.

We can predict that destructive eating patterns will happen again if all we do is display perfect hindsight.  That’s easy!  In order to turn it into something productive, we need to give up on the regret and “if only’s” so we can actually learn something useful.

If having an abundance of cookies in the house causes a cookie binge, there is a difference between saying, “I shouldn’t have eaten all of those!  I have no willpower,” and observing that “having all those temptations in the house is not very supportive of my goals.  I will practice self-compassion by not buying them.”  (awareness + insight = learning)

The first method is judgmental and negative.  It does not get beyond the regret and shame of “messing up.”  The second is supportive and useful.   This may sound like picky semantics, but it makes a big difference!  Are you learning or just finding fault with yourself?

Confession: I joined the Godiva Chocolates Reward Club.

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Yes, it is true, and I will not apologize for it.  They were passing out samples when I was with a friend who was buying Valentine’s Day gifts for her daughters.

I enjoyed every bit of the small strawberry champagne truffle offered to me.  Creamy, just the right amount of sweetness, mmmm!  I ended up leaving with a boxed flight of truffles for my husband.  (Shhh, don’t tell!)

Pleasure eating is a part of a life well-lived.  In a society that has loosened judgments on almost everything else, why do I still hear so many guilty comments from people when they enjoy food?

It is true that when the main purpose of eating steers too far away from satisfying our physical need for nourishment, there are often dire health consequences, but there is still room in anyone’s eating plan for a little daily pleasure.   In fact, too little of it will surely derail any weight loss plan before you can say “strawberry champagne truffle”!

Try Counting Grams of Added Sugar

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I just heard the first Christmas song on the radio yesterday!  Yes, the holidays are upon us once again.  This is the season for egg nog, cookies, candy, . . . all in excess.  That makes it a good time to take a closer look at sugar.

Most of us consume too much added sugar.  If you think you don’t, you might want to do a quick assessment.

There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon.  While it is easy to look at packages and see the grams of sugar, it is more difficult to visualize what that amount looks like.  For most of us, that number in grams means very little. ” Is that a lot?” we wonder.

And then the next question arises.  After you have tallied up the number of teaspoons of added sugar in your diet, what does that mean for health?

There are different recommendations about upper limits for health.  Obviously, the less the better.  We do not need added sugar for any biological function to work optimally.  In fact, added sugars from processed foods appear to increase the risk of heart disease by contributing to increased triglycerides and causing unhealthy cholesterol particles to form.

One recommendation I have read suggests that women should aim to keep added sugars under 7 teaspoons a day (28g), and men should be under 10 teaspoons (40g).  Sound easy?  Start looking at packages and watching the sugar you add to food (and beverages!) yourself.  You may be surprised.

If you are already meeting the recommended amount, look at this as a way to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  There can never be too many opportunities for that!