Monthly Archives: April 2014

What About Those Areas We Can Control?

We hear about the power of letting go of the things we can’t control.  sailBut what about the things that are difficult and are still within our power to control or influence?  How do we decide how much effort to put into something we feel passionate about, yet may be overwhelming to change?  Most of us in our lifetime have had to come to terms with difficult people, family issues or some other area of pain, unfairness or disappointment.  We vacillate in these situations between feelings of anger when our passion is strong, to resolution when our rational mind takes over, only to have a gathering or event spark the cycle again.

We Need Both Passion and Reason

Kahlil Gibran, an early nineteenth century philosopher wrote in The Prophet about reason and passion saying:

“Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite….

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.  If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.  For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.  Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing; and let it direct your passion with reason…”

First we need to embrace the fact that we have such strong emotions and that these feelings are what move us forward in personal growth.  Passion can bring light to dark areas.  Reason can bring calm to a storm.  We need both, but we also need to be wise about the power of both and the impact of strong emotions on ourselves and on others.

Emotions Drive Behavior

Often times my clients are awed by how much their emotions drive their actions, particularly when it comes to snacking and non-hungry eating.  If someone is angry over being mistreated their mind is on that feeling.  This often times leads to food cravings of chips, ice cream or candy.   A little pleasure before you know it becomes a whole bag and then a whole bag becomes part of the nightly routine.   This becomes a habit and the feeling never gets resolved.  Instead of coming up with a plan to resolve the feeling, it gets either buried or sparks uncontrolled anger which never gets resolved.

Gain Control With Both Passion And Reason

When trying to influence a person or a situation, consider these suggestions:

  1. Know that what happened in the past, as painful or frustrating as it may be, can not be changed.  You can only impact the actions of the present.
  2. If an individual caused you unjustified pain, first try to look at it from their perspective.  Consider what happened to them in their lifetime to make them act that way.
  3. Talk to the individual or group when you are calm using “I” statements.  “When this happens, it makes me feel…”   “You” statements don’t usually accomplish what you want in the end and tend to make people feel attacked.  We can’t always have guaranteed results, but in the end you will know that you gave it your best shot.
  4. Life is not always fair so sometimes we have to learn to accept a situation.  If you have tried addressing it in a calm, rational matter and it has not yielded the end result you were hoping for, then at least you know you tried.
  5. That is when you know the next step is to accept the things that at that point you are unable to change.  We cannot change a person if they do not want to change.  If you have made an earnest attempt in a sound, rational approach then be at peace and let it go.

We hear about the importance of “letting go” of the things beyond our control.  But from my experience, the more difficult task is to know how much to try before getting to the point of letting go.  This is a personal discovery that depends on the situation and how much it is impacting one’s health and well-being.  It takes energy to confront painful, unfair or disappointing situations or people, but using our passion and reason in a rational way can help us grow and help our ship sail to beautiful sights!

 

 

 

Uncomfortable With Discomfort?

In the last post I talked about the benefits of intermittent fasting.  adaptThis style of eating has demonstrated success in achieving lasting weight loss and improved blood sugars, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.  It involves reducing caloric intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men for two days a week by eating a small breakfast and dinner.  I have been practicing this lifestyle for 6 months and enjoy this way of eating for more than just the physical benefits.  I have found the sense of control I get from disciplining my mind to get through the brief waves of hunger a challenge for my mind over my body.  The ephemeral waves of discomfort make me the master of my thoughts.

Discomfort

The Merriam-Webster definition of the noun discomfort is simply “an uncomfortable or painful feeling in the body” or “a feeling of being somewhat worried or unhappy”.  Discomfort can mean both physical or mental unease.  How often do we try to run away from things that make us uncomfortable and search for an escape from worry or unease?  My initial automatic response to the wave of hunger is to grab something to eat.  But then my mind takes over and it responds analytically telling myself that this will pass in a few minutes and to go drink some tea or water, which immediately calms the pang.  Sometimes I’ll go for a walk which also arrests the stomach emptiness.

Physical and Mental Unease Can Be Controlled

Sometimes I have a hard time falling back asleep at night.  My mind will fixate on different things depending on the stresses of the day.  I might plan the next day if it’s really busy, or worry about a family member or situation.  I might lay awake for over an hour until my mind takes control of my thoughts and makes the decision to STOP thinking!  During those times I get back to sleep saying the loving kindness meditation that puts my mind at ease:

My I be filled with loving kindness,
May I be well,
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.

Discomfort Is Opportunity In Disguise

If we can change our assessment of discomfort and look at it as a positive force that drives change then there is less fear and angst around the feeling.  My intermittent fasting may cause brief moments of physical unease but it is an opportunity for me strengthen my mind and to bring self-discipline into my daily life.  It gives me confidence that in this small aspect of my life I am the master.  I am in charge.  Each successful passing of hunger waves or putting myself back to sleep makes me stronger, more at ease with what life throws my way and more able to let go of the things I can’t control.

Intermittent Fasting, Continuous Health Improvement

Do you ever truly experience hunger and notice the stages of its development?  Have you noticed that it comes in waves and after a while passes for hours.  When experienced regularly it heightens awareness of the satiation and hunger cycle.  Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have both been researched as useful strategies for weight loss.  However, with calorie restriction often times once the weight has come off people resume old eating habits and regain the weight.  Intermittent fasting is a strategy that can be done for lifetime.   So once someone has decided to use this strategy and goes through a month of eating differently for two days a week and all the self talk that takes place during that time frame, it gets easier and becomes just part of the weekly routine and doesn’t have to mean good bye to favorite foods.

Intermittent Fasting –  the Fast Diet

Dr Michael Mosley, author of the Fast Diet, discusses in his book the benefits of eating 500 calories a day for women, 600 calories a day for men two days a week.   He looked at many studies on the health benefits of intermittent fasting and decided to make this lifestyle change when he was diagnosed with prediabetes and high cholesterol.  He started intermittent fasting and shed 19 pounds as well as greatly reduced his insulin resistance and cholesterol levels.  He first considered restricting his calories but knew it would be really difficult to avoid the foods he really loved.  He then looked at a lot of research on intermittent fasting and its impact on health as well as weight loss.  In an interview with Huffington Post he states, “I went into this quite skeptical because I’ve looked at diets over the years and I’ve always assumed they are rubbish.  But the people who study in this area are really top scientists – world class scientists who are hugely reputable in their areas.  And they all were coming at it from their areas of expertise:  cancer, dementia, diabetes – they were approaching it from different angles but coming to the same conclusion.”

The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

In an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it summarizes research supporting the benefits of alternate day fasting as well as calorie restriction.  Both strategies improve insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidative stress, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as extend life, slow down the degeneration of neurons that leads to dementia, reduced incidence of cancer and prolonged reproductive function.  Both are effective but one is more sustainable than the other.  If you want to include some of your favorite foods in your diet then intermittent fasting is the way to go.  It does not mean that you can eat to your hearts content on non-fasting days, but you can still enjoy that occasional burger, dessert, or fried chicken without feeling guilty.  The other five non-fasting days should still be full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and lean meats but you can enjoy a dinner out and still see the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent Fasting – My Perspective

I have been following the intermittent fasting lifestyle for the past 5 months and love the fact that I did not gain weight over this long hard Maine winter.  On my fasting days, I’ll eat a small bowl of steel cut oatmeal topped with 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt for breakfast.  For dinner I’ll have a bowl of chicken and bean soup loaded with vegetables or a 3-4 oz serving of steak, pork, chicken or fish and a huge salad, light on the dressing(mainly vinegar with a little of olive oil).  I want to maintain my weight and not gain the usual middle-age waist weight.  What I did not expect is how it really enhanced my appreciation for what goes in my mouth.  I have changed my relationship with food and have become keenly aware of how my body reacts when it is fueled versus when it is just fed.  I like the sense of control and discipline I get from the days I fast.  I have more energy and I’m better about drinking water.  If you have struggled with excess weight or if you would like to get your blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol under better control, why not try intermittent fasting?

Are You Always Hungry? – Consider Glycemic Index

You just ate a couple of hours ago and you’re hungry again.   You had a huge plate of Ramen noodles and now you are starved, ready for a nap and don’t feel quite right.  These are common feelings that can occur after eating foods with a high glycemic index.  Glycemic Index (GI) is a system that ranks food made up of carbohydrates on a 100 point scale based on the impact the food has on blood sugar.  The higher the number, the more rapidly the blood sugar spike after consuming it.  These rapid rises in blood sugars occur after eating carbohydrates that are easily digestible.  In general these are the carbohydrates that have some processing and have been stripped of their fiber like mashed potatoes, white pasta, white rice, puffed rice cakes, pretzels and pulp-less OJ.

High Glycemic Index Foods Cause and Insulin Spike

There are many factors that determine the glycemic index but basically, the more quickly a food is digested and absorbed the more rapid the blood sugar rise.  If the serving of carbohydrate is excessive and not eaten with foods that may slow down digestion the rise can be quick.   The pancreas senses the sudden rise in blood sugar and releases large amounts of insulin to keep the blood sugars in a healthy range.  Insulin helps some of the sugar or glucose be used for cell function but any excess is sent into fat storage and circulates in the form of triglycerides in the blood stream.  The surge in insulin can also make blood sugars drop very quickly which can affect the nervous system.   This may cause shakiness, fatigue, a headache and even anxiousness.  It also can make us feel hungry as a way to signal to our body that we need food to get those blood sugars back up to a better range.

Choose Low to Medium GI Foods For Fullness and Weight Loss

If you focus on foods that are lower in GI then you will avoid the insulin spike that leads to fat storage and hunger.  The easiest way to remember this is to think of what I call “the sludge factor”. Whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables are the foods that make up the sludge factor.  These foods are high in fiber.  Have you ever seen what happens to a glass of water when you let Metamucil sit in it for too long?  It gets thicker and goes down much more slowly.  When you eat foods that are high in fiber, the fiber absorbs the moisture in the digestive track and becomes thicker.  Now include some fat, hopefully healthy fat from fatty fish like sardines and salmon, flax seed, olive oil or avocados, and you further prolong digestion which will extend the fullness feeling. Protein also adds to the the fullness factor, slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates.  IMG_0514 Include some healthy protein found in fish, meats, Greek yogurt, eggs, low fat cheese and even some grains and beans and you have extended the fullness factor even further!   That’s why a meal of salmon, a serving of sweet potato or my Three Bean salad and a non-starchy vegetable like broccoli or asparagus will keep you full for four to five hours.  It’s also why a breakfast of some scrambled eggs and whole grain toast will keep you fuller longer than a bowl of most cold cereals because they have little to no fiber, fat or protein and deliver way too many high glycemic carbs.

Low Glycemic Index Foods (0-55)

  • 100% stone ground wheat
  • steel cut or old fashioned oats
  • most fruits and non-starchy vegetables
  • sweet potatoes, peas, legumes, lentils
  • whole grain pasta, converted rice, bulgar, barley

Medium Glycemic Index Foods (56-69)

  • whole, rye or pita bread
  • brown, basmati, and wild rice and couscous
  • quick cook oats

High Glycemic Index Foods (70+)

  • melons, pineapple
  • white bread, rice cereals, instant oatmeal
  • short grain rice
  • macaroni and cheese from mix
  • saltines, rice cakes, popcorn

Other Factors That Affect Glycemic Index

If there is anything to spotlight how much food is chemistry and therefore healthy medicine when thoughtfully chosen, it is the information in this paragraph.  Below are some of the other considerations that impact  glycemic index:

  • ripeness and storage time – a riper banana has a higher glycemic index than a greener one.
  • cooking time – al dente pasta has lower GI than pasta cooked longer.
  • variety – converted long grain rice has lower GI than brown rice which has lower GI than white rice.
  • processing – mashed potatoes has higher GI than a whole potato.
  • cooking method – most steamed veggies have a lower GI than roasted.
  • temperature – a cold potato – like in a potato salad has a lower GI than a hot potato.
  • food combinations – the presence of fat lowers the GI of the food.
  • surface area – a puffed grain like in a rice cake has a higher GI than a grain of rice.

Glycemic Index versus Glycemic Load

To further complicate things, Glycemic Load(GL) is another calculation that takes into consideration how the serving size of carbohydrates affects blood sugars.  For example, watermelon has a high GI but a typical serving is a lower GL so it will not cause as much of a spike unless you are eating half a watermelon.  Conversely, a huge serving(GL) of steel cut oatmeal(low GI) can have a bigger impact on raising blood sugar than a very small serving of instant oatmeal.  So the food portion and the type of carbohydrate both impact blood sugar.  Those large boxes of Skittles or Gummy Bears at the movie theater may have no fat but they are going to spike your blood sugar, which will spike the insulin response and only lead to weight gain over time if eating other high GI and GL foods excessively over time.  Furthermore, it will leave you feeling hungry, tired and perhaps even a little shaky and irritable.  Is the short term pleasure worth the long term impact?

GI simplified

Does all this seem too complex?  Again, just visualize the Plate Method that moderates portion sizes while getting all the components of fullness factors along with nutrition.  Half your plate should be made up of non-starchy veggies, one quarter of your plate made up of lean protein and the other quarter made up of a starch or carbohydrate.  Make that starch a whole grain, a bean salad, brown or converted rice, or a potato and you can get the picture.  Choose the right carbs(GI) and the right amount(GL) and make cooking at home fun.   Realize that you are worth it and your body will pay it forward.  And if you really want that sweet, then at least eat it with a meal when there’s also fiber and protein to create the sludge factor.  And then go brush your teeth, lock the kitchen doors and turn out the lights!

Click here to learn more and look up the GI and GL of many foods.