The modern world is one of immediate gratification. Someone can go to a fast food restaurant and have a full meal in five minutes or less. Many people expect the same thing from diets. We’re always looking for diets that promise fast results with little work. We want the pill that will cause us to lose a hundred pounds. With so much information out there, where do we begin?
We got some tips from Jessica, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) Practitioner at Optimize To Thrive, a Holistic Health and Coaching company.
1. Start eating a Whole Foods diet
I can’t stress this enough! Eating a whole foods diet allows us to eliminate the following nasties:
- Food Dye
- Chemical Preservatives
- Ingredients that are banned in other countries like: Olestra, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Butylated Hydroxytoluene.
Eating a Whole foods diet also assists in weight loss and management. If we focus on eating veggies, nuts, seeds, fresh cuts of meat and seafood along with fruit and water, it’s very hard to overeat. These foods taste good and can be combined in a variety of ways to intensify their flavor, but they never become “hyper-palitable” like snack foods, breads, and heavily processed grains and meats do. When the food companies start combining flavors and removing fats to add sugars they change the make-up of the product and therefore it’s no longer a “whole food.”
2. Proper Chewing and Mindfulness
The digestive process actually begins outside of your mouth, it starts with the sense of smell and sight. When we see and smell food our mouths start to water and saliva contains a very important enzyme, amylase, that starts the chemical breakdown of starch. Once we begin to chew the physical aspect of digestion begins and we masticate our food making it possible to swallow without choking. Have you ever heard of “inhaling” your food? Better yet are you guilty of doing just that? When we eat too fast we don’t allow for the proper time that’s required for the chewing process (30+ bites before you swallow). This will not only impact the size of the food you are swallowing, making more work further down the line, but it also impacts the release of the amylase which I spoke of earlier. Let me tell you why this matters and why you should chew each bite 30+ times. Once our stomach receives the signal from the vagus nerve and begins to physically expand from the addition of food the process begins where it becomes more acidic (acid is produced to break down food). This is another step in digestion and allows for the food, more specifically the proteins, to be properly broken down before they move further along in the digestive process. If the timing is rushed during chewing and swallowing then the production of acid will also be impaired. As you can imagine, the process will begin to back up and become delayed just like the busy freeways we travel on. This can set the scene for indigestion and improper digestion.
When we have indigestion and improper digestion, the food we eat becomes less of a fuel and more of a hinderance to our health.
Further along in the digestive process the proteins are liberated into amino acids and carbohydrates and fats are further broken down into their building blocks of simple sugars and fatty acids respectively.
When this process is rushed we are making our digestive system work overtime and likely not benefiting from all the nutrients in our food because our bodies are unable to absorb them properly.
Mindfulness is all about being aware. When we slow down our eating we naturally become more mindful of the flavors of our food. We tend to enjoy it more and surprisingly extract more nutrients from it. This can help with our bodies response to satiety as well as nourishment.
Please, slow down, sit and enjoy your meals. Do your best not to eat in a stressful state, remove electronics from the table and don’t eat on the run. Your digestive system will thank you!
3. Supplementing with Digestive Enzymes and Limiting Fluid Intake During a Meal
Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in our bodies. The 3 main ones are as follows:
- Amylase – Sugar/Starch
- Pepsin – Protein
- Lipase – Fat
Enzymes are produced in the stomach and also from the liver and pancreas in addition to the small intestine as things progress thru the digestive tract.
There could be several reasons for low production of enzymes and that can take some investigation. Also, as we age the overall production tends to lessen. A great way to combat this and make sure we are getting the most out of nutrition is to supplement with some additional enzymes. I tend to recommend supplementation after I consult with a client to better asses concerns they are having. However, in general, supplementation is safe and can be done without consulting with a practitioner. If your looking to improve digestion this would be a great place to start. I will recommend, however, that you do not supplement with HCL unless you have ruled out H. Pylori and stomach ulcers.
When we eat a meal or snack it’s best to limit fluid intake. When we drink with our meals we are diluting the stomach acid that we need to break down our foods. This can start to impact the entire digestive process in a similar way to when you don’t chew your food adequately. Keeping fluid intake with the meal to a minimum is another key part to healthy digestion and a healthier you!
4. Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Fermented foods have been part of our natural diet for hundreds if not thousands of years. As foods of convenience slowly took over America, many people stopped making at home ferments. More recently they have seen a resurgence because of all the interest in the Gut Microbiome and the continuing research that is showing the importance of beneficial bacteria for maintaining health. That being said I encourage everyone to start with sauerkraut (raw and organic if possible), just a tablespoon full every day with a meal. Then increase it from there to include a few spoonfuls at every meal. Currently we are seeing a real resurgence in fermented foods and drinks like Kombucha, and Jun, among other trendy drinks in the specialty food markets. I think these can be good options on occasion, but would always suggest a ferment that doesn’t need sugar to grow the yeast or bacteria. Yogurt is another good source for fermented food as long as its grass fed and pastured organic dairy. Also, be sure to avoid the added flavors and fruit mixes as they are laden with sugar and work against health. I personally make my own yogurt and have done so for many years. It’s very inexpensive and easy to do. I also ferment my own sauerkraut, it too is easy and the best way to control the ingredients that go into making the product. After all, if you are going to be buying it the cost may add up quick for good quality so best to learn to make these staples yourself. Fermenting veggies also has the added benefit of making the nutrients in the veggies more bioavailable. In other words, your body can absorb and use all the nutrients much better than if you were to eat the food raw.
Probiotics can also play an important part in digestive health.
Bacteria in the GI system are responsible for not only immune health, but also for digestion.
Certain beneficial bacteria aid in proper digestion and break down of food. They also make sure that the fatty acids are liberated and turned into energy. Probiotics can be a little powerhouse and there are multiple strains so its a good idea to vary which ones you take including a good soil based product like Prescript Assist and a spore based one like MegaSpore. There are also yeast based sources which have their benefits as well.
5. Meal Timing and Fasting
Meal frequency and spacing is the last digestive tip I will focus on. Throughout the years there have been many different recommendations from eating every 2 hours to eating at intervals that don’t allow you to ever get hungry and now fasting seems to be all the rage. Not to get too caught up in the weeds, meals every 2-3 hours was never a recommendation based on science. It was more theory and then food companies jumped on board and turned it into a marketing ploy. Eating “snacks” or small meals every few hours sold more “snack” foods and it also taught people that they could constantly eat and never feel hunger again because they ate based on what time it was, not how hungry they felt.
The digestive system never gets a break when we eat or graze throughout the day.
The only time it has “off” is during sleeping hours and unfortunately that’s just not enough time for it to fully rest. The liver, pancreas and entire GI system is working nonstop with food and then the liver also puts in OT because its working on filtering and metabolizing everything that we eat, drink and breathe including prescription pills and supplements. In addition to that it also handles anything that we absorb through our skin to a degree as well so its definitely in need of a vacation when we are snacking or eating every 2-3 hours.
If we were to look back in history we would see that it wasn’t all that long ago that snacking became popular. Before that it was 3 square meals a day. People still enjoyed their cakes or chips and pretzels, but it was part of the main meal or not as frequently consumed as it is today. Not mini meals in-between the main meals. It would be common to fast from dinner until breakfast the next day. Now most people are taking in the bulk of their calories during late night mindless snacking thats happening because of stress or boredom.
The key takeaway is to focus on eating main meals and to include any indulgences or special treats as part of a meal. Let the digestive system rest and repair between meals and overnight.
I hope you found this quite to be helpful and thought provoking. Please visit my site and blogs and feel free to start a dialogue with any questions you may have.
The Mind/Body Connection
Your conscious and sub conscious minds are in constant communication. Try an experiment: move your finger. Easy, right? You might say, “That was a conscious effort.”
But what happens on the subconscious level? What about the blood that flowed to the muscles in your finger, allowing it to move? Did you consciously cause your heart to beat, thus sending the blood to the finger? No. It was a joint effort between your conscious and subconscious minds.
As you can see, your conscious mind can have a tremendous impact on your body. Another experiment: think of a time when you were embarrassed. Maybe you feel heat in your cheeks. If you look in a mirror, you might see your face turning red. Your heart rate might increase. These physiological effects are the result of you using your conscious mind to create physical effects.
Your thoughts can influence your body; likewise, your body can influence your thoughts. For example, when you feel tightness in your stomach, you might start thinking about food. When you feel dryness in your mouth, you might look for water. Those are two common examples of your body influencing your mind.
Your thoughts can influence your body; likewise, your body can influence your thoughts.
The whole body is interconnected – physiological components, conscious mind, and subconscious mind. Once you’re willing to accept that your goal can be achieved, you’re motivated to do so, and you’re expecting success.
Then you can give shape and form to your goal. Once you’ve harnessed the power of your conscious mind, both your subconscious mind, and your body, will accommodate. The key to mastery of the conscious mind is mindfulness: master mindfulness, master yourself.
Mindfulness: The Conscious Mind
Mindfulness meditation is a state in which you become consciously aware of your surroundings. You choose which stimuli are important, and which to exclude. Doing so helps to reprogram your subconscious mind.
Furthermore, mindfulness allows you to become aware not only of your surroundings, but your subconscious mind and physiological state as well. Suppose you’ve attempted dieting in the past. You probably experienced repeated failures because there is a certain unhealthy food you find irresistible. Attempting to consciously avoid that food is an exercise in futility because somewhere down the line, your subconscious mind learned that it filled a need. Now the need is gone and instead of filling a need, the food undermines your diet. Beditations provide insight into why that food became so irresistible in the first place. Once you are aware of why it has such power over you, it loses its power. You have effectively reprogrammed your subconscious mind and will likely enjoy better results while dieting.
This is the mindful dieting: you’re creating a goal, communicating to your subconscious mind that you wish to make this goal a reality, and then following through on your attention, eliminating barriers that may be inhibiting you from reaching your goal.
The main teachings of the Buddha are summarized and centered in the Four Noble Truths:
- The cause of suffering
- The end of suffering
- The eightfold path to end suffering
It is no secret that the world is full of confusion, hatred, madness, and suffering. This suffering arises because people are trying to manipulate or change the external world to suit their viewpoint and satisfy their desires; they are caught up in greed, hatred, and delusion.
One Buddhist approach advises a person to first change one’s inner world, to change and purify one’s mind; then the external world will gradually come along and be more peaceful. When people purify their own mind and learn to live peacefully and harmoniously within their surroundings, then they will be able to live at peace with the whole world. This is just a brief and basic overview of the Buddha’s teachings.
Mindfulness and meditation play the most important roles in bringing about this inner mental transformation. The inner transformation brings about the outer transformation.
In Buddhist teachings taking care of the body is not often addressed. But the truth is that the mind operates through the body. The mind is not separate form the body and the body is not separate from the mind. They are intimately connected, especially for the day-to-day activity of ordinary persons. If the body is sick and weak, if it has tired blood and/or poor energy, this will affect our life.
Because of poor shallow breathing and stiffness and inflexibility in the body, our psychic energy, the nervous system energy, is not able to flow freely throughout the body. Thus, the body and mind remain lethargic and dull, or will be easily excitable and restless. Our perceptions and thinking ability won’t be very orderly and clear. Practice emphasizes and enhances having a healthy nervous system and body, having good posture and blood circulation. The posture is important in meditation to keep the spine straight.
Most people have difficulty in meditation because they are not able to keep their back straight. This is because we sit in chairs most of the time; when we travel in the car, sit at the computer, watch television or sit at the dining table, people are usually slouching or hunched over. So the trunk muscles are not very strong and it is difficult to keep the back straight. It becomes a constant battle to your back and head erect in order to have a clear and relatively painless meditation. Despite keeping the back straight, however, there will still be a certain amount of physical discomfort and pain involved in meditation.
Learning how to skillfully deal with physical pain and mental pain is a large part of meditation.
There is a saying: “Pain is a fact of life, suffering is optional.” When people are born into this world pain is “a given;” they’re going to experience pain. But the struggles against pain and the mental anguish that arises is optional. When you have pain and then add mental suffering onto it, then you get “double trouble.” There is also a mathematic formula you can remember: “suffering = pain × resistance.” The Buddha’s teaching and meditation practice is not about removing pain. However, it is about the lessening and eventual eradication of the causes of suffering.
The simplest, most basic definition of mindfulness is “to remember.” To remember what? In the Dhamma teaching, mindfulness is very specific. It means remembering the present moment, remembering what the body is doing right now and remembering what the mind is doing right now. Normally, our body is doing one thing and the mind is doing another. We might be eating or driving a car but we are often lost in thought and/or distractions. The first stage of mindfulness then is to bring the mind back to the body, remembering what the body is doing. The beginning of mindfulness practice is mindfulness of the body. The body is always in the present moment, it is always here and now. Now you’re sitting. That’s what the body is doing right now. But, as you will see in meditation, after five minutes of sitting your mind may have gone traveling around the world several times already. So, when your body is sitting you should be mindful that it is sitting; when breathing in and out, you should be mindful of breathing in, breathing out. At any time of the day the body is sitting, walking, standing, or lying down, and, of course, breathing. To remember that this body is sitting/breathing, or standing/breathing, walking/breathing or that it is lying-down/breathing, this is the basic grounding in mindfulness practice. This is our bodily life process that is going on 24/7. You have heard the expression 24/7, but we have to add one number, 24/7/365. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
We use our centered attention on the body to act as a home base or anchor in order to restrain the wild mind, to tame the “monkey mind.” The mind of the untrained person is constantly thinking about this and that, getting lost in worries or anxieties, is in the past or future, is running here and there all over the inner world or all over the external universe. This is what produces stress, tension, anxiety, and suffering. The mind is usually lost in the past and future; all problems arise from dwelling in the past or the future. When the mind is resting fully in the present moment no problems can exist. This is an essential but hidden truth. So the basic practice is remembering what the body and mind are doing right now. You remember by directly feeling your body: you feel the weight or heaviness of the buttocks pressing into the seat; you feel the way your feet are tucked under your body; you feel the straightness of the back or the head balanced between the shoulders; you feel the hands touching together. You are aware of “sitting” and aware of “breathing in—breathing out.”
Breathing awareness forms a special focus of concentrated mindfulness. In the beginning we want to develop what is called “deep slow breathing.” The breath and the mind are related. The quicker and shorter your breaths are, the more agitated your mind is. However, the slower and deeper the breaths are, the more calm and peaceful the mind is. That is because the body needs oxygen to live. Every cell in this body needs oxygen to do its work, but because we often breathe in a very shallow way, the cells do not get enough of this essential life force. We have to breathe faster and the heart and lungs have to work harder. This causes wear and tear in the body and agitation in the nervous system. When you breathe deeply, you get enough oxygen in one breath. When you hold the breath in for two or three seconds, even more oxygen will absorb into the blood and enter into circulation. So the heart does not need to beat faster. The body and mind become more peaceful and we can get into meditation more easily.
You are on a journey as a human being. A journey paved by experiences that help you grow. When every experience, good or bad, becomes a learning opportunity then life starts to look richer and full of exciting possibilities. This is a great foundation for realistic optimism.
No-one is defined by one episode of success or one failed project. Perfection is a burden and an impossibility.
Imagine releasing yourself from the pursuit of the perfect. You are now free to learn from life rather than being weighed down by your expectations. Nothing makes you truly afraid, because even during your worst times you will be able to learn valuable lessons.
Sometimes you cannot take the most direct route to a goal or outcome. You need to accept that life is full of detours. Taking time to recalculate your route and forge a new path is time well spent. Frustration is normal and sometimes failure is inevitable, but optimism gives you the power you need to keep pressing forward. You can overcome roadblocks and achieve your dreams.
Imagine yourself living, working and socializing in a more optimistic frame of mind. Imagine how your posture, language and facial expression will change to reflect your new mindset. When you feel as though you cannot see the best in a situation, ask yourself what you would do if you felt more optimistic. Draw on your strengths and move into a more positive mindset.
An astonishing transformation will occur. Once you commit to living an optimistic life, your behaviors and entire outlook will change. At first you may not feel like praising yourself and seeking out new opportunities, but over time you will learn how to bolster your new sense of self. See yourself moving in the world with such confidence and self-belief that failure cannot knock you back and the opinions of others hold no fear for you.