Category Archives: Managing Stress

The Truth About Losing Weight

Our bodies want to stay the same.  You can trick them into losing weight for a short time, but they will make adjustments to help that weight come back on.  Oh boy, now that’s motivation to take the diet plunge…!

A May, 2016 New York Times interview with metabolism expert, Dr Kevin Hall from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a division of the NIH, examines the weight regain of the Biggest Losers over a six-year period.  Dr Hall has found that with weight loss, not only does resting metabolism decline, but it slows down for years after weight loss making it even more difficult to keep the weight off.  After following the contestants all but one regained their lost weight, but what surprised the researchers the most was how much their body’s metabolism had slowed down, even years after they had regained the weight.  One contestant in particular, Danny Cahill, had one of the worst declines in metabolism.  Just in order to maintain his weight of 295, he had to consume 800 calories fewer than other men of his stature.

Stress And Losing Weight

A NIH review of different obesity models discussed the psycho-biological impact of stress on eating habits in terms of the “wanting” and “liking” versus hunger and fullness.  Stated simply, you can like a food but not want to eat it, and you like be full and still want something you like.  If we lived 1000 years ago, we would have pretty slim pickings to choose from.  But given the wide variety of crunchy, creamy, chocolaty and sweet choices we have today we are constantly negotiating needs and wants, fullness and hunger.  Later in the article it discusses the different brain pathways between liking and wanting a food and how they are altered in times of stress.   Research indicated:  “Post-prandial (after eating) food choice and food intake in the absence of hunger are exaggerated under stress, especially in overweight individuals with visceral adiposity (excess weight around the waist).”  In other words, stressed induced post-prandial eating was linked to not only more “wanting”, but to reduced – “liking”.  Hence, the after dinner kitchen raid during times of stress.  And for those with extra inches around the waist, the message is even louder.

Losing Weight:  A Complex Solution

Obesity is clearly not just a matter of eating too much.  There are physiological barriers to weight loss:  the body’s relentless physiological hold on body weight, perhaps thinking it is preparing for famine.  Add stress to the picture and no wonder fruits and vegetables just don’t make the cut.  We know through the National Weight Control Registry that people can lose and keep weight it off, but it is clear that to do so, it has to stay front and center of one’s life.  It means constant coping with hunger, nutritional vigilance, getting regular exercise and management of stress.  Next few blogs will show you how to make it easier.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Breaking The Weight Barrier: Set Point

Set PointHave you lost weight in the past only to regain all of it and perhaps a bit more?  You are not alone, most dieters regain their weight.  Our body has a genetically determined set point for weight it wants to maintain.  The Set Point for weight is an internal physiological system.  It involves hormones that work on the brain to regulate hunger and satiation.

The Physiological Feedback Loop

Leptin is a protein made by fat cells that signals the brain that the body is full.  Along with insulin, another hormone released when we eat, our body has a physiological mechanism for maintaining weight homeostasis or set point.  According to, we have a body fat thermostat that influences our appetite.  When weight goes up, more insulin and leptin are released, reducing appetite.  When weight goes down, insulin and leptin levels decrease, increasing appetite.  A gradual weight gain over time can raise the set point making it difficult to lose weight, especially when one feels constantly hungry.

In a WebMD interview with Robert Lustig, MD, a member of the Endocrine Society’s Obesity Task Force, he states that “Leptin is the way your fat cells tell your brain that your energy thermostat is set right”.   He goes on to say that with obesity, despite the high levels of leptin, the brain does not get the message to slow down eating.  He talks about the brain thinking it is in a “starvation mode” because it is not getting the leptin message:

 “The leptin is being made by the fat cells, the fat cells are trying to tell the brain, ‘Hey, I don’t need to eat so much,’ but the brain can’t get the signal. You feel hungrier and the reward doesn’t get extinguished. It only gets fostered, and so you eat more and you keep going and it becomes a vicious cycle. If your brain can’t see the leptin signal, you’re going to get obese.”

Lustig calls this “leptin resistance” and believes that it is caused by insulin resistance:  impaired ability for the body to recognize insulin.  He believes the best way to address insulin resistance is to not let insulin levels get high in the first place, by reducing sugar intake.

Resetting The Set Point

Dr George Blackburn, Associate Director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School, discusses in his book, Breaking Through The Set Point:  How To Finally Lose The Weight You Want And Keep It Off, how to lower one’s set point.  Based on Set Point theory developed by Bennett and Gurin, Blackburn recommends a combination of physical activity and dietary changes.  He believes that people should lose weight gradually and maintain it for at least six months in order to reset their set point.  He has observed that rapid weight loss results in rapid weight gain.  He also observes that after someone has lost 10% of their weight, the body starts to conserve calories.  He has found that if someone can maintain the weight loss for six months, the set point will be reset and more weight can be lost if desired.

Looking At What Works

The National Weight Control Registry, a registry that tracks individuals who have lost 30 pounds or more and have kept it off for a year, lists common behavior patterns.  94% of these individuals increased their physical activity with 90% of them exercising for an hour on average a day.  98% have changed their eating habits eating a lower calorie, lower fat diet and 78% eat breakfast daily.  You can read more individual success stories here.

Making Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

Although dieting can get someone into that bikini quickly, I believe finding a broader purpose for losing weight is going to give more lasting motivation and sustainable results.  Excess weight tends to creep on over many years, so it should come off gradually – no more than a half pound or pound a week.  I believe the focus should be on getting healthy, not losing weight which connotes something negative about the process.  Personally, I believe in finding a daily exercise plan that can work throughout the seasons whether it’s walking outside, having personal equipment or videos, or going to the gym.  I believe in eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and no refined grains or processed food.  I believe it requires looking at habits and finding good substitutes for unhealthy habits.  I believe it’s making small permanent changes at a pace that seems natural and interesting.  I believe it starts with an attitude of curiosity and adventure, that ends with better health and satisfaction.

Barbara writes a biweekly blog to help inform and empower people to live healthy lives.  Please “share” her articles and “like” her facebook page to help spread the word

Logistics Of Losing Weight

Bar Harbor Penobscot Trail

A good health coach will help you find the “cairns” to lasting weight loss

Everyone has a different pattern and flow of filling their stomachs.  There are many aspects that go into the act of eating, and understanding these individualized aspects are essential for unraveling the dynamics of losing weight.  I call it the “logistics of losing weight”.

By definition logistics is the management of flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers and corporations.  I take the liberty of substituting certain words of this term to get to my logistics of losing weight.

My definition of “logistics of losing weight” is the management of flow of things between an individual’s original weight to future goal weight in order to meet requirements of their physical and emotional well-being.  The more the client understands the flow of things, like eating patterns and variables impacting food choices, the more success the client will have at losing weight and keeping it off.

Factors In the Logistics of Losing Weight

There are many factors that impact the “logistics of losing weight” but they can be lumped into two categories:  the nutritive and emotional value of eating.  Losing weight is not just about eating less.  It’s a tug-of-war between fueling the body and satisfying the mouth in order to successfully keep the weight off.  And through it all, it means wanting it badly enough to forego immediate temptation in order to have long-term payback.

Nutritive Value of Eating

Nutritive value is the umbrella term for knowing how to plan, shop and prepare a healthy meal.  It means understanding the relationship between carbs, protein and fat and why they are each important.  It means knowing how to make substitutions that will still please your mouth, yet not compromise the end goal of weight loss.  It’s about finding the right foods that will keep you full.  It’s about knowing why eating whole, real food with simple ingredients is better than eating calorie free foods with lots of chemicals.  It’s about the journey in learning all these things over time, not overnight.

Emotional Value of Eating

Emotions play a big role in food choices.  Eating is a way people connect with one another and it often comes with expectations.  Addressing the emotional components of eating is essential for lasting weight loss.  This means being open to new recipes, putting time into planning and preparing meals and finding coping strategies to deal with temptation.   It also means exploring feelings of hunger and understanding what is real hunger, and what is mouth hunger and what is behind each type of hunger at different times.  It’s about continuously observing actions and patterns in order to gain “will-power” so you will get through temptation.  It also means becoming self-aware without judgement because this process is a journey and no one gets it right immediately.

A Good Health Coach

There is nothing like a good health coach to help you lose weight.  An impartial, supportive and knowledgeable coach will get you to your goal.  A good health coach will address both the nutritional and emotional components of eating by navigating you through your logistics of losing weight and keeping it off.

Barbara does personal health coaching in person or through Skype and can be reached at  Like her Facebook page at


Life Lessons From Nature

I always find autumn to be a time of reflection.  I am tempted to go outside whenever possible knowing that soon the extreme cold will limit my exploration.  My eyes seem to gain acuity realizing they will be starved for months to come.

Over the past month on my hikes, quirky things have jumped out at me, which seem to be nature talking to me – little life lessons from nature.  I think they are worth sharing because these images spotlight and mimic some common struggles we humans experience.  You might get a different message from these pictures, but just contemplating them leads to a sense of peace and calmness.  And sometimes calmness is a nice place to be.  Calmness gives us energy for other areas in our lives.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Know When To Let Go

dandelion rootSometimes we hold on to opinions so deeply we lose sight of what the opinion was founded on.  The attachment to that opinion becomes the cause of the fight.  And like nature, where moisture, soil, sun and nutrients can change, conditions in our own lives change and warrants us always to try to observe with new eyes for more better understanding.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Make The Best Of Your Gifts

tomato plant on the curbWe are all dealt our cards in life, our genetics that determine our personality, our health and our looks.  It’s so easy to compare and judge someone else’s cards in life and forget to make the best of what gifts we have.

Accept your hand of cards, play them to the best of your ability and bear fruit!

Life Lessons From Nature:  Get Out Of The Rut

Get Out Of The RutIt’s so easy to fall into a routine and become stuck in our thinking.  I remember how hectic it was trying to balance raising three children along with work, managing the household chores and finding personal time.  My form of adaptation was to always get up early and keep to the routine.  I found over time that keeping to the routine was my own personal kind of rut.  Over time I learned to be more creative with my use of time and break out of some of the conventional thinking I was raised with.  I broke up household chores into small increments done daily between waiting for something to boil, preheat or bake.  I was more mindful about the notion of cleanliness and with what frequency.  I learned to look ahead and anticipate needs of my kids, work and home in order to avoid feelings of last-minute stress and keep a steady pace.  Getting out of the rut affords the opportunity to be creative with how one thinks and acts on life.  It’s energizing and empowering.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Believe In Yourself

believe in yourselfThere are times in life when it feels you may be going against the current.  The people in your life may disagree with your life choices but you need to follow your gut and be true to yourself.

Standing alone can be scary and cause uncertainty but those feelings come and go with conviction.  If you are following your heart and you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Adapt To Life’s Challenges


If your current environment is keeping you from thriving, then decide to either change it or change your perspective on it.

Blaming the environment instead of making changes will stunt your growth and keep you from finding lasting happiness.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Everyday Is An Opportunity

Sunrise from Cadillac Mt, Acadia

We all make mistakes and have regrets, but tomorrow is a new day.  Wake up each day with renewed fervor.   Make amends whenever possible, but otherwise, let go of the past because it is stealing your present.  And today is the beginning of the rest of your life.  All things are possible for you.

Budget chicken dinners

Life Is Good With These Budget Chicken Dinner Recipes!

We should really be more like chickens, at least make some of their sounds.  Did you know there are over 24 different sounds that a chicken makes?  The Flip Flop Ranch describes all of them but there are some that are heard more often – at least from what I notice living next door to a brood of them.  The more common sounds are the soft irregular chirp when all is physically well, the gentle warbling sound when “life is good”, the hard to miss panic peep when in danger and the obnoxious cackle when the hen proudly tells the world she has laid an egg.  The website describes other sounds but it’s the gentle warbling sound, the “life is good” sound, that I know you will feel when you make my budget chicken dinner recipes from my last post.  You will warble when you realize how delicious these meals are and how healthy, easy and cheap they are to make.

1.  Expand The Cooking Window 

Using a crock-pot to prepare parts of meals while you are at work or being productive outside the kitchen is what cooking with an easy stride is all about.  The last three meals in the previous post call for cooking the 12 chicken breasts in the crock-pot.  Not only does this free up your time to do other things, but it also makes a really moist chicken.  You could even make your chicken stock from the roasting chicken in the crock-pot overnight.  Can you imagine waking up with that soothing aroma?  If that doesn’t make you chirp, then you better go back to bed.

2.  Make The Soft Warbling Sound Rather Than the Panic Peep

Clustering your recipes so that you can make double and even triple amounts of different components for multiple recipes will help you to avoid the panic peep.  No one likes the panic peep.  It not only makes you anxious and cranky but it makes the rest of your brood very uneasy.  You can also freeze the extra grain, chicken and even beans as another time-saving tip to keep you making soft warbling sounds.

The Real Cost Of The Budget Chicken Dinners

Here’s my shopping list for the following meals that feed a family of four for at least five days:

  1. Roasted Lime Chicken With Barley and Roasted Vegetables
  2. Sublime Chicken Barley Soup
  3. Barbecue Chicken With Orange Zest Cole Slaw
  4. Chicken Burrito Wrap
  5. Tikki Masala

Shopping List with prices:

  • 1 large capon – $14.13 for a 7#
  • 12 boneless chicken breasts – these were on sale, buy 4 breasts (1.6# each) and get one free – 8.73 for 2 packages, but you will need 3 so buy 4 and you will have leftovers!  Total – $17.46
  • 30 oz bag of barley – $2.99
  • 2 heads of cauliflower – $2.98
  • 4 heads of broccoli – $2.48
  • 1 head of green cabbage $2.40
  • 1 bag of carrots – $.99
  • 1 bag of onions – $2.85
  • 1 avocado – $1.50
  • 1 lime – $.33
  • 1 bag frozen chopped spinach- $1.50
  • 1 bag frozen fiesta veggie mix – $1.50
  • 1 apple – $.65
  • BBQ sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s was $1.88
  • 1 can frozen orange concentrate – 12 oz can – freeze the extra for the future – $1.99
  • 1 bottle of vinegar $1.69 (you should have some from the pork/bean week)
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes – $1.00 – use half for each recipe
  • 1 14 oz can of black beans – $1.50
  • 4 large whole grain wraps – Lavash whole wheat was $2.28 for 4 wraps
  • 1 loaf whole grain bread (to have with soup) – $2.98
  • 1 jar salsa – $2.99, but you should have some left from the pork/beans week of recipe week
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt – 4.99 for the 4 cup container or use leftover from the pork/bean recipe week
  • 1 small bottle of olive oil – $4.99, but you would have plenty leftover from the pork/bean week
  • Tumeric – $3.69
  • Garam Masala spice – $6.99.  This is a blend of 7 warm spices, you can also make your own with this recipe

Total:  $83.35

These five meals for a family of four amount to $4.16 per person.  That is including the extra chicken purchased on sale as well as the yogurt, salsa, olive oil and vinegar you would have leftover for the pork/beans meal plan.  Subtract these last four ingredients and that would reduce the total by $14.66 for a grand total of $68.72.  That’s $3.43 for each delicious, healthy meal that will keep you full, avoid the hungry causing insulin spike, nourish your body and give you energy.  You’re not going to get that kind of payback at any restaurant or take-out.  Furthermore, meal preparation is a stress-reducing experience; it allows all your senses to engage while your thoughts focus on the tasks in the present.  Cooking is a wonderful way to get your mind off work and worries.

Budget Chicken Dinner Recipes That Will Make You Warble!

Who says that eating healthy is expensive and takes a lot of time?  Initially it may take some planning but using these steps will teach you the process and tips to save time.  It will get you thinking outside the box, keep you from feeling “cooped up” and penned down to the same old, boring meals or heart-clogging fast food choices.  Now that is really something to warble about!  Life is good.


Time, The Test For Cravings

I have to admit, I love a good deal.  There are few things as rewarding to me as buying an item  way below cost, especially if the item is something I really need.  And the weeks right after the holidays are one of the best times to get great deals.

Recently, I was on one of my favorite websites, Sierra Trading Post, prompted by an email promotion for free shipping and extra 30% off on clearance items.  My impulse was to check out the online clearance items immediately but after spending 10 minutes on the website it occurred to me that I was not shopping with a particular purpose.  I was shopping for the pursuit of “the deal”.  The pants I saw looked wonderful and had great reviews and the price was ridiculously cheap, but I realized I was being sucked into the shopping vortex of aimless buying without a real need, just to take advantage of “the deal”.

I stopped myself, closed the window and said to myself, if I feel the same way about the pants tomorrow then I would consider purchasing them, but only after letting 24 hours pass.   The next day, I realized that I really did not want the pants and my strong impulse to buy them had passed.  I also realized that this impulse to shop online was triggered by a tempting email promotion.  Had I not received the email, I would not have wasted 15 minutes of my day.  This lead me to go through my emails and “unsubscribe” to several of my favorite clothing vendors.  Get rid of the trigger, decrease the impulse.

Food Cravings

The shopping impulse is very similar to food cravings.  The holidays are finally over which means gone are the many temptations of cookies, sweet breads, chocolate and other mouth satisfying seasonal treats.  I can look back and recall the times I found myself in the kitchen reaching for the box of homemade toffee and wanting just a little piece.  I also noticed that these cravings passed more easily on some days.  It became a little game for me to witness my desires for all the holiday goodies and to create some personal rules to abide by. First of all I had to understand what made my resistance to temptation stronger on some days more than others.  This is what I observed:

  • On days I did not eat 3 balanced meals, I had more cravings in the afternoon and evening
  • I noticed that days when I had more on my mind and was more distracted, I had more cravings.
  • I found that when I brought the whole container of tempting foods out to the room while I watched TV, I ate much more of it than I had intended and really regretted my choice.
  • I noticed that keeping tempting foods out of eye sight made a big difference in the frequency of my cravings.
  • I noticed that I had more cravings when I was bored, feeling anxious or felt justified to enjoy a treat because “this only happens once a year”.
  • Lastly I noticed that over time my cravings diminished in the course of an evening and that other things, like drinking hot tea, helped assuage my desires.

Next, I addressed each of the observations.  I did not skip lunch – I had at least a protein and carb like low fat cottage cheese and fruit or a piece of whole grain toast.  I made lists of the things I had to do to give me more focus and sense of control.  I tried to make plans just for the next day and not jump too far ahead in my thoughts.

I put the chex mix out of sight and quit taking the whole container out by the TV.  I changed my self talk to “you are going to regret the extra pounds you will put on if you continue to eat this way” and strongly considered the feelings of regret for the 2-15 minutes of splurging.  And finally, I did not immediately react to my craving – I gave myself at least 15 minutes before acting on my temptations while also getting back in the habit of fixing a hot cup of tea around 7:30 in the evening.  I find having something warm to drink is satisfying and diminishes my desires for something sweet or crunchie.


Lord Byron, an early 1800 British poet said:

“Time! the corrector when our judgments err”

Although, lord Byron most likely was talking about discernment of the heart, this saying can  apply to coping with cravings as well.  Giving in to impulses is usually due to poor judgment and lack of planning.  Having a plan to control temptations and having a rule to delay immediate satisfaction will not only improve your sense of self-control, but will leave you with more time to do things you really want to do!

New Year’s Goal: Get The Right Ratio

Forest Gump may believe life is like a box of chocolates, but I believe life should be like a bowl of Chex Mix – with the perfect ratio of ingredients.  I believe a happy life consists of the right balance of work, relationships, responsibilities, fun and taking care of one’s self.  An imbalance among these areas is like Chex Mix without the right ratio of ingredients.

Chex mix

Chex mix

Every holiday my family always has at least one discussion about what it takes to make the perfect Chex Mix.  We know it takes the right balance of Rice Chex, to Wheat Chex, to peanuts and pretzels.  It also takes the right amount of “hot kick” in the seasoning.  The right amount of butter(and only butter) and just the right amount of cooking time.  If one area is off-balance then I get  “the message”.  Life should be like Chex Mix – striving for the right ratio.  When too much of your life is consumed by one area (or your life consumes too much of one area), then the other areas get diminished and out of balance.  This imbalance impacts work quality, relationships, attitude, and our health due to chronic stress.

Chronic Stress Is Like Soggy Chex Mix Without The Crunch

I have learned to mix the warm, seasoned butter with the Rice Chex, peanuts and pretzels first, before stirring in the Wheat Chex.  If I put the Wheat Chex in with everything else from the start, the Wheat Chex act like little sponges and become soggy.  And if those sheets of Chex Mix are not baked for at least 20 minutes at 325 and tossed around half way, then the mix won’t crisp up.

Chronic stress leaves our thoughts half-baked, hearts soggy and life without crispness.  Short episodes of stress gives us a boost of energy from the release of hormones that prepare our bodies for action.  However, prolonged periods of stress with long-term exposure to these hormones, can not only cause headaches, indigestion, poor sleep, depression and anxiety but increased inflammation that speeds up aging.   Furthermore, chronic stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even a weakened immune system.

It’s Your Life – Get the Right Ratio!

It’s so easy to put off taking care of ourselves.  I hear people say frequently how unhappy they are in their job.  It always makes me wonder if they have considered all possibilities like a change in jobs, moving, or reassessing needs and wants.  It makes me wonder whether or not they have created their own financial prisons thinking they must have a certain lifestyle, house, camp, travel or multiple things that only bring temporary happiness.

I hear my clients say often that they will start exercising when  “the kids go to school” or “when I have more time” or “when I go south in the winter” instead of just finding ten minutes to go for a fast walk that week.  Or sometimes a client will talk about their loneliness instead of doing something about it by joining clubs or meet-up’s or getting active in the community.

Sometimes people take on too many responsibilities through work, family or volunteering and don’t ask for help or know when to say “no”.  And sometimes people don’t have enough responsibilities and have too much fun so that they lose out on that feeling of personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

I believe getting the right life ratio starts with knowing why it is important and then re-prioritizing.  The “life Chex Mix ratio” doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually everyone can find that balance of work, responsibilities, fun, relationships and taking care of one’s self if they really want it.  My Chex mix was not perfect the first time, but I can certainly boast that today, after 30 years of making it, it is mighty fine with just the right amount of cereal, nuts and pretzels, “spicy kick”, butter and baking that is not soggy, nor without delicious buttery crunch!

Hungry? What Kind Are You?

The tough part of trying to lose some pounds is that you still have to eat.  At least with quitting smoking, excessive drinking, drug abuse, or gambling, you don’t need to do them even a little bit to stay alive.  Furthermore, so much of our culture includes celebrating holidays and special occasions with excessive tasty foods that can make you feel like a party-pooper if you don’t indulge in them along with everyone else.  Moderating food choices can feel a bit like paddling up stream while everyone else is floating with the current.  Being aware of your hunger type will put you in charge of your health destination instead of letting life direct your course.

Hungry Types

Real Hunger

We have all experienced that stomach growling hunger that gnaws at the belly and clears the head of any other thoughts other than the need to GET FOOD NOW.  This kind of hunger happens after going more than 4-5 hours without eating, when ghrelin levels, our hungry hormone, are high and blood sugars are low.  If blood sugars are low enough then people may experience shakiness as the nervous system is stimulated to get the body to release its stores of sugar for the brain.  People may feel irritable as a result of the low blood sugar which makes them want to fix the problem as fast as possible.  If that candy bowl or the leftover donuts from the morning meeting are visible you can bet that those foods will be scarfed.

Solution:  Keep healthy foods like packaged almonds, a nut granola bar, an orange or some whole grain crackers that are not too tempting (like WASA or Rykrisps) near by and eat if it’s been about 4-5 hours since you last ate, before you experience this kind of hunger.  These foods are high in fiber and will take the edge off your hunger until you can eat a real meal.

Two Hours After A Meal Hunger

This hunger is a physiological hunger caused from eating too many simple carbs like donuts, candy, sweet cereal, white rice or pasta in a meal that results in an initial rise in blood sugar making you feel good, followed by a sharp plummet in blood sugar, leaving you with food cravings.

Solution:   What keeps you fuller longer, avoids the sugar spike and prevents weight gain is when you eat meals that have fiber, some healthy fat and lean protein.  Meals should include foods made with lots of whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein sources like chicken, plain Greek fat-free yogurt (put your own fruit in), lean cuts of meat and fish.   Click here for a Sample Menu.

Afternoon Hunger

This hunger happens around 3-4 pm when the end of the day is in sight, dinner is still a ways off and there’s a hint of dread at having to finish up a few more things.  This is not physiological hunger, this is get-me-through-the-day hunger.

Solution:  If possible, do the things you dislike the first half of the day when you have more energy and are refreshed.   Make sure you are staying hydrated.  Thirst is often times disguised as hunger.   If your urine is not light yellow, then you are not drinking enough water.  Take a few to talk to a coworker or friend.  What you really need is a break, not a mouth deposit.

Visual Hunger

This is probably the easiest hunger to control.  This happens when you are not even hungry but you have the visual cue that stimulates desire and leads to mindless eating, losing track of all the calories consumed because it happens out side of meal time.  And people don’t realize how much they eat when these treats readily available.  Those little Dove chocolates come at a calorie and health cost with 5 pieces containing 205 calories and 7 gms of saturated fat, that’s almost a third of your daily allowance of saturated fat for a 2000 calorie diet.

Solution:  Clear all visual cues.  Plain and simple.  Keep them off the counter and get rid of candy dishes.  Get coworkers to agree on healthier desk top foods like nuts, fresh fruit, or even air-popped popcorn.

Stress Hunger

This hunger happens when you feel you have too much to do and you are not feeling in control.  Your pulse rate may be elevated, stress hormones are circulating and you want this feeling to go away.  The quick fix is to enjoy the sweet tasty morsel of candy, or the crunch of a chip or cracker, or the soft melting sensation of a warm cookie or cool ice cream.  Ummm, now doesn’t that feel better?  Yeah, for as long as you are eating it.  But then when your splurge is over, not only is the stress still there but you are now feeling guilty on top of it!

Solution:  First, identify all the components that are making you feel stressed.  Then, separate the areas you need to address immediately and shelve the areas that can wait.  Separate the emotion from the action.  You may feel stressed but tell yourself that you are doing the best you can and doing your best is all you can do.  Literally, put them out of your mind and focus just on the present.  Then address the physiological symptoms of stress.  Stress causes the release of cortisol which raises blood pressure and increases heart rate.  Both these symptoms can make someone feel anxious.  Take a few minutes and do some slow deep breaths.  Deep breathing increases oxygen to the brain and has a calming effect.  When you are calmer, you feel more in control, you get more done.

TV Hunger

This is probably the most common of hungers and can develop within an hour of eating!  All those visual cues of food commercials just make the kitchen call out loudly!  And even if there are no visual cues, you know if you have ice cream, cookies, chips, candy or crackers around.  That is one thing our minds just never seem to forget!

Solution:  This is where you do some environmental control.  You make your home environmently safe.  You keep tempting foods out of the house.  You find substitutes like low fat popcorn, fruit or even herbal teas to get you through.  You keep your hands busy with a puzzle, knitting or some other handy work.  I have one client who takes his Synthroid after dinner which means he can not eat for two hours afterwards.  This prevents him from splurging.  You could even try turning off the TV during commercials, change stations or even just go to bed early and read.

Are You Floating or Paddling with Purpose to Your Health Destination?

What do you want for your health?  Do you have a plan to get where you want or are you just floating along not taking charge of your destination?  If you are trying to lose weight, then you need to know your types of hunger and have a plan in place for all of them if you want to reach your health destination.  Otherwise, you are just floating and you’ll never be prepared for the rocks and waves up ahead.

Pain and Pleasure Drive Our Actions

hawthorn branch

The Hawthorn tree has lovely flowers but also has thorns – even nature combines pain and pleasure

During my last week’s yoga class my instructor brought up the Buddhist concepts of aversion and attraction, or pain and pleasure.   Yin yoga lends itself naturally to these buddhist principles as certain held postures push us to our limits of pain and are then released in waves of sensational pleasure.  These concepts can be applied to other aspects of our lives.

Buddhism views human nature as being mostly driven by these two impulses – aversion and attraction.  These two areas represent pain and pleasure and it is our human nature to run away from pain and towards pleasure.  In Buddhism there is no “good” or “bad”, just that some things give us greater pleasure and other things give us greater pain.  Furthermore, our emotions distort reality, so our assessment of pain and pleasure is filtered through our emotions.  For example, I might decide based on a few conversations that I do not like someone because of a series of events that skew my reality.  If I had a conversation with a gentleman, and he had a similar morning to mine – too rushed and feeling overwhelmed with the day responsibilities, I might decide that I don’t like that person because of my  negative emotions.  Similarly, I might go to a buffet starved and feeling deprived because I have been on a diet, see all the desserts and look past the vegetables as my urges for the tasty morsels dominate my thoughts.  It’s not that I don’t like vegetables, but I LOVE desserts and I haven’t had one in a long time.

Liberating Ourselves From Pain and Pleasure

Buddhism believes that when we can liberate ourselves from attraction and aversion we can become more spontaneous and authentic.  We will no longer be controlled by our habitual perception of things.  A person who is ruled by pleasure or desire is not free to express his own creative nature.  Desires interfere with our happiness.  The goal is to decrease our selfishness of our desires, stop those things that may harm ourselves or others, in order to find true happiness.  In other words, giving in to our desires causes suffering which keeps us from finding authentic happiness.

Letting Go of Pain and Pleasure

The desire to let go of our impulses is the first step.  By shedding light on what drives our behavior we become aware and enlightened.  While holding a yoga pose I notice that my body starts to shake, some of my muscles begin to ache and my brain tells me to let go.  I also am aware of how my shoulders tend to tense and my face grimaces when I’m uncomfortable, so I try to soften them.  Even though I still have pain during the pose I begin to shift my thoughts on what does not have any pain.

So how can I can I extend my yoga experience into other aspects of my life?  When I notice my negative filter while talking to someone, I tell myself to let go of these thoughts and to just focus on the words spoken and seek clarity where there may be confusion.  When I have a craving, I notice it briefly and then I try to think about something else.  I notice that cravings pass after a few seconds.  I put another thought in my head.   Furthermore, I try to keep my home environment safe – meaning I keep things that cause suffering like potato chips, cookies, and candy, out of the house.  I realize that they may cause short-term pleasure but it is far more outweighed by the negative thoughts of undermining all the good work I have done.  My actions are far from perfect, but I like to gain insight by what drives my behavior so that I can be a more authentic, happy person.  I know that is where lasting happiness lies.



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!