Monthly Archives: November 2013

Being Present, Living In The Now

Living in the now is very difficult when we are constantly distracted by email, text messages, phone calls, meetings and deadlines.  But truly, we can only impact this moment and decide how we will spend it.  What happened in the past, no matter how horrible it was, how ashamed or hurt you may feel, is gone.  There is nothing you can do to change it.  You could try to vindicate yourself, inflict pain back or be angry but that only brings the discomfort from the past into the present, this very moment you can control.  Similarly, you can worry about the future but all the planning and fretting in the world isn’t going to have an impact on that because the future has not happened yet.  We can take steps now to make things happen as we would like, but after that, life will unfold and not always as exactly planned.

Sounds absolutely profound, huh?  But really, how much time are your thoughts on the past, perhaps justifying your actions today, or on the future, preparing for an event or time that has not happened yet.  How much time are you spending on living now?  Now is the only moment you can impact. How about experiencing an activity while really being present, in this moment. Experience this event as if for the first time. Restrain from being judgmental.

Being Present While You Eat An Apple

appleTake the act of eating an apple. Do you eat it quickly, starting the second bite before you finished the first?  How about really experiencing the act of eating an apple?  Be fully present while you take each bite.  Make this an event and try to take 10 minutes to eat it.  Chew each bite 12 times.  Notice the redness, firmness and shine of the apple.  Hear the crunch as you bite into it.  Does it spray you as you bite it?  Does the bite break away from the apple as soon as your teeth break into the skin or do your teeth have to come together to tear the flesh away?  Are you feeling the coolness of the flesh in your mouth?  Do you notice how the taste of the apple changes with each chew?  Notice the whiteness of the flesh of the apple.  Is it really white or does it have some yellow to it?  Is your mind wondering on other thoughts?  Come back to eating your apple and notice if you ate your apple any differently when your mind wondered off.  It’s ok to have your mind wonder off, but bring your thoughts back to eating the apple.

Are you feeling the sweetness or tartness in your mouth?  Are you feeling the coolness of the flesh as it goes down your throat?  Notice how the shape of the apple changes after each bite.  As you come to the end of eating the apple, notice the apple core.  Notice its shape.  When you are done, notice how your mouth feels.  Notice how your stomach feels.  Did your hunger level change?  Are you satisfied?  What are your thoughts around this activity?  Did your mind wonder most of the time or were you able to stay  focused on the apple?  Are you able to come back to your day more relaxed and with greater clarity?

Stop The Spinning In Your Life – Being Present

Our lives can be like a gyroscope, spinning around, shape blurred, moving aimlessly around the floor.  But take a finger to stop the spinning and the shape becomes apparent and the movement stops.  We all need to stop the spinning in our lives in order to gain clarity.  Just the act of eating can be an experience in the now that stops the spinning so that we can gain clarity.  Now go take an apple to lunch and make eating it an activity, engaging with the “now-ness” of eating it.  You might gain some insight and answers to a difficult situation just by not thinking about it and living now while also keeping the doctors away!

Transcending Trans Fats

The FDA has moved forward with stating that trans fats are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.  Many food manufacturers and restaurants have been using them less and less but now the curtain is coming down on them.  Based on expert panels including the Institute for Medicine (IOM) the FDA finds that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat. The FDA has not set an official date for banning them but is in the process of meeting with food manufacturers to negotiate a time line.

Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid.  Trans fats are used to enhance flavor, texture and extend the shelf life of food.  They are the worst kind of fat because unlike saturated fat that just raises the bad fat in our blood, trans fat also lowers the good heart protective fat in our blood.  Food labels have been allowed to claim a food item had zero trans fat on the label and actually contain up to 0.5 mg of the partially hydrogenated oil.  By eliminating trans fats from foods, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from the FDA states many thousands of lives can be saved.  It is estimated that trans fats have been linked to over 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths.

In 2007, New York City and Philadelphia had passed laws forbidding the use of trans fats in restaurants.  Health care providers have been struggling to get trans fats out of the American diet for decades because of its link to heart disease.  A high LDL and low HDL increases the risk for heart disease.  By reducing the use of this artificially created fat, the prevalence and severity of heart disease can be reduced – as long as consumers become wise to substitutions for this fat that enhances flavor and texture.

Doughnuts get their light texture due to trans fats.  Coffee creamers have that smooth appearance due to trans fats.  Many peanut butters get their smooth “spread-ability” due to trans fats.  So it makes you wonder what food manufacturers will come up with to replace these food enhancing qualities.  How will this impact us as consumers?

What Will Replace Trans Fats?

Be a savvy consumer.  Although saturated fats do not lower the good cholesterol (HDL) in our blood they are still linked to coronary heart disease.  Saturated fats come from animals and certain plants.  They are found in:

  • High fat cheeses
  • Certain cuts of meat – the more marbling in the meat, the higher the saturated fat.  The cheaper cuts tend to have less embedded saturated fat.
  • Whole fat milk and cream
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Palm and coconut oils.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend consuming less than 10% of your total daily calories from saturated fat.  That means in a 2000 calorie daily diet, no more than 200 calories or 22 grams should come from saturated fat.  To give you an idea of what that looks like, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese has 6 grams of saturated fat.  A Dunkin Donuts Apple Crumb donut has 9 grams and a Big Mac has 10 grams of saturated fat.  So you can see how it quickly adds up in a day.

Although it’s a big step to have the FDA push to reduce trans fats in the American diet, being aware of all the fats that cause heart disease is what puts control in the individual consumers hands.

That Gut Feeling: Microbes Help Our Mind And Body

No one likes the idea of bugs crawling around in their body, but what if they were microscopic and helped you to feel happy and stay lean?

How Microbes Help Our Mind

These aren’t really bugs, they are microbes that are present in foods we eat and can enhance our emotional wellbeing.  In an interview on CBC radio, science columnist Torah Kachur talked to researchers from University of Alberta who are studying microbes in the gut and how they affect behavior by travelling along nerve pathways in our gut to the brain.  There are good microbes or bacteria like lactobacillus found in yogurt, that produce a protein called GABA which works on the nervous system decreasing anxiety and decreasing symptoms of depression.   There are also bad bacteria, like Clostridium, that also live in our gut and can proliferate when exposed to a high fat, high sugar and high processed diet.   The bad bacteria produces toxins that can be bad for our brain as well as for our health.

How Microbes Help Our Body

It also turns out that these same gut bacteria that promotes brain health can also help to promote leanness.  In a study done at Washington University School of Medicine scientists lead by Dr. Jeffrey Gordon transplanted intestinal bacteria from lean and obese individuals into the intestines of germ free mice and watched what happened to the mice over time.  The mice who received gut bacteria from an obese individual gained more weight and experienced metabolic changes despite eating the same amount and kind of food as the other mice that received food from the lean individuals.  To explore further, the fat and lean mice were put together to see what happens to their weight knowing that mice eat each others feces, thus introduce each other’s bacteria to their gut.   Over time the fat mice lost weight and improved their metabolic status reinforcing the benefit of consuming healthy gut bacteria.  Interestingly, the thin mice did not gain weight despite introducing the fat mice feces into their gut flora.  The presence of their healthy microbes prevented weight gain.

What Is A Gut To Do?

There are about 5 kinds of probiotics in here!

Make it Greek and fat free for extra protein and fewer calories

We all start out with a sterile gut at birth, but over time hundreds of different types of bacteria enter our gut from our environment through the food we eat and from our hands.  Lean people harbor different gut microbes than obese people.  A diet high in fat, sugar and processed foods inhibits the bacteria that promotes leanness.  Eating a diet high in probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup and kimchee supports a healthier gut that will promote leanness.

Meal Suggestions For Eating More Probiotics

Have 8 oz of fat free Greek yogurt for breakfast or lunch with 1 tbsp. walnuts and a piece of fruit or a salad.  Here is a link for replacing some recipe ingredients with Greek yogurt.  For dinner top your chicken sausage with a heap of sauerkraut with a bit of delicious Raye’s mustard!  Instead of tea, sip on this Miso Soup recipe.  Kimchee is fermented cabbage and can be used as a topper on other foods.  It takes about 3 days to make and can last for up to a month in your refrigerator.  You can try this easy  Kimchee recipe

Don’t let your gut get you down.  Eating these foods high in probiotics can not only fill you up but help you become leaner and a happier person for it!