Mindful vs Mindless Eating

Nip Food Cravings – Again!

Losing weight is a mind game and you have to know the rules of the game in order to win the game.

Part of a winning strategy is to have a lot of plays to use until the “game” you’re playing becomes second nature. And trust me, the weight loss mind game does start to get better and change over time, with patience and self-reminders throughout each day.

In my last post I shared Mindset Techniques that can help you with your food cravings. Here are four more techniques for you to try.

If you’re still tempted to eat something you shouldn’t after you’ve done all five mindset techniques, then try as many of the Behavioral Techniques below as you need:

1.  Distance yourself from the food your crave. When you experience a craving because you see or smell food, you might be able to move that food to an inconvenient place (where you can’t see it) or to get rid of it (give it away, throw it away, or put it down the disposal).

If you can’t remove the food from your immediate presence, you might be able to remove yourself from the scene. Leave the room, go to another part of the room, go to the restroom, or go outside.

2.  Drink a no- or low-calorie beverage. Thirst can mask as hunger and trigger you to eat. Consider drinking club soda, water with lemon, diluted juice (if your plan allows it), or another low-calorie drink.

3. Relax. You can teach your body how to relax in a variety of ways. Your library or bookstore has tapes and books on relaxation techniques.

One simple relaxation technique involves focusing on your breathing: Breathe in and out of your nose, slowly counting to four as you inhale and again to four as you exhale. Use very shallow breaths; don’t let your chest rise and fall. Set a timer and keep up this technique for a full three minutes. At the end of the three minutes, you should feel calmer and more in control of your cravings.

4.  Distract yourself. Do you remember a time when a natural distraction interrupted your craving and you later were glad you hadn’t eaten? Maybe a friend called, the dog insisted on taking you for a walk, or your boss came to discuss something with you? By the time you finished what you had to do, your craving had weakened or passed. You focused your attention on something else.

Once you stop giving in to cravings and they become much weaker and less frequent, dieting will easier.

(Mindset and Behavioral techniques provided by The Beck Diet Solution)

Did You Know….

Over the past 40 years, American women have increased their daily calorie intake by an average of 199 calories, while men have added 179.

During that same time period, the obesity rate has more than doubled.

Fat Tuesday

Ahh yes, the gluttony before the discipline. Not sure it makes sense but since I am of the mind that you should never deprive yourself of a specific food group (or make something off limits) – for then the body and brain crave it more – you could be entering in to a very dangerous, dreaded EATING ZONE this week.

Fat Tuesday is tomorrow. Mardi Gras means fat Tuesday, the culmination of the season between Christmas and Lent. Fat Tuesday falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

During the 40 day Lent period, many Christians forego the eating of meat, either completely or on Fridays. They also traditionally give up a favored food, drink, or habit.

Fat Tuesday is a last chance party excuse before a six-week period of abstinence.

For those of you from a Polish Catholic background, you also know about those deep-fried doughy powdered sugar delights (called paczek or paczki).

Just a little history lesson with the paczki (that I thought was interesting ’cause I didn’t know this), traditionally the reason for making paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during Lent.

Does any one want to tell me the calories of one paczki – with lard, sugar, eggs and fruit it can’t be good!

Admittedly I didn’t grow up celebrating and observing this particular time of year but I have known many people through the years that said they’re giving up this or that “for Lent” (usually always a food or drink item if I recall).

So what are you partaking in this week, and what are you “giving up” this week?

As with any Holiday, celebration, or social gathering for those of you changing your mindset about eating, food, and dieting, I know this can be a tough week for you.  Know what your limits are on Tuesday, so on Wednesday you won’t feel defeated.

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, growth, penitence, and conversion.  So in this time of reflection may you

Give up complaining and focus on gratitude
Give up harsh judgments and think kindly thoughts
Give up discouragement and be full of hope
and
Give up gloom and enjoy the beauty that is around you

What Does Thin Feel Like?

Nothing taste as good as thin feels.

I really liked that sentence – if you got a chance to see the four minute video I posted yesterday, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

It’s so important to have a clear vision (in color please!) and not a fuzzy vision of what you want for yourself. Did that make sense to you as you watch it – it did for me!

The way we think about things truly does affect how we feel, so the question is….what do you want to look like, and feel like?  What do you see yourself doing when you’re thinner that you can’t do now?

The clearer your vision, the better you are able to work on your weight loss goals.

Knowing the “why” of losing weight will help to motivate you and push you to your end goal.  Never ever give up on YOU.

Diminishing Cravings with Aromatherapy?

Do you think you can use manipulation of smell to really lose weight?  It’s a question worth exploring – or is it just another gimmick?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there may be some science that backs up the findings of how aromas help with certain cravings.

Dr. Susan Lark wrote an article on the science of smell and weight loss and she contends that:

“specific aromas can deprogram overweight people whose normal response to the smell of rich unhealthy foods like chocolate, doughnuts, and pizza was to become hungry and overeat.

Scientists tested the benefits of food odors to suppress appetite rather than stimulate appetite, and found that there seemed to be certain smells that caused overweight individuals to reduce their cravings, and therefore eat less.

In scientific research, people preferred sweet smells, and strongly sweet scents such as chocolate often triggered feelings of hunger and led to overeating or binge eating, while “neutral” sweet smells actually curbed appetite.

To test this theory, researchers asked 3,193 overweight people (mostly women) aged 18-64 to inhale a variety of “neutral” sweet smells, including banana, green apple, vanilla, and peppermint, three times in each nostril whenever they were hungry.

After 6 months, the participants in this study lost an average of five pounds a month, or 30 pounds in total” (Source: J Neurol, Orthop. Med. Surg., 1995; 16:28-31)

Interesting results – right?

While there are published studies on smell and weight loss, there definitely needs to be more research done in this area, but the idea behind curbing cravings with aroma is an interesting theory.

After all, it makes sense (no pun intended) that once the scent is inhaled, it impacts mood and emotion because our sense of smell is directly related to the part of the brain that controls our emotions.

Smell actually has more impact on the subconscious and emotions than the other senses, and there is little doubt that scent has important roles in human behavior.

If you’ve ever been in the Mall at Christmas time and smell the cinnamon roasting nuts, or, park at a local restaurant and as you’re getting out of the car the smell of grilling meat surrounds you, then you know the power of smell?

I swear you can actually start salivating at the mere smell of some foods!

Our reactions to an aroma largely depend on our experience with it, and what our brain remembers – and what we anticipate the outcome of that smell will be (like a bite of those freshly baked cookies, or the taste of that stuffed Thanksgiving turkey).

The science behind why aromatherapy works meshes your sense of smell with your satiety level. When you inhale through your nose, odor molecules enter your nasal cavity, and eventually reach the olfactory bulb (smell center) located at the top of your nasal cavity (inside your nose).

A separate mechanism within your brain controls satiety, or your “fullness” level.

A portion of the hypothalamus which is called the “satiety center” helps you know whether or not your are full. But how does smell (rather than eating) effect our perception of being “full”?

Airborne odor molecules are filtered through the olfactory bulb, which is connected to the satiety center in your hypothalamus (in your brain).

This satiety center interprets these odor molecules to inform your brain that you have eaten enough and that you are full…and this response is completely separate from responses which are actually driven by eating foods (and which surprisingly take longer).

Additionally, the odor molecule receptors are located in the limbic region of our brain, which is the center of our emotions, and this may help to explain why so many scents can trigger our emotions and memories.

The limbic lobe in turn directly activates the hypothalamus, which houses and controls our satiety center. In other words our nose dictates our hunger level more quickly and more efficiently than our stomach.

I would be interested in hearing from those of you who have tried this, or are willing to try it as part of your weight loss plan.

But please remember this, that weight loss comes down to eating less (consuming less calories) and moving your body (exercise) but if you can find other things that helps YOU on your weight loss journey – let me know how it works for you!

Food Triggers

The other day I walked into my bank (my bank!) and my senses were assaulted with the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Could this be, I thought!

Sure enough, on a beautiful silver plated platter, lined with white doilies, sat a dozen or more cookies – chocolate chip and it looked like some fudgy, peanut butter chip type of cookie. Are you kidding me, I need to make a financial transaction and now I have to decide if I want a “just-out-of -the-oven” cookie (or two).

This was too much to handle I tell you – it’s not right, it’s not fair, and they were there for my pleasure – courtesy of the bank of course. Apparently my bank need’s customers so bad that they are now luring them in fresh baked cookies.

Next thing ya know, they’ll have some Girl Scouts set up at a table on the sidewalk as you approach the door selling their cookies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Girl Scout cookies – I’m just saying, one less temptation would be nice.

But it got me thinking about temptations, and how it’s all around us. And we have to make very conscious food choices all day long – even at a bank!

So recognizing that food “triggers” are all around us helps us to navigate throughout our day and lowers the probability that we’ll turn to mush when a trigger happens to you.  Let me give you an example of some triggers:

1. Seeing or Smelling Food
My bank experience is a great example of how I could have been caught off-guard. I wasn’t expecting to have a delightful dessert presented to me at my banking institution and when I walked in the smell of the cookies first hit me. Then the sight of them.

I could have thought, I’ll just have one – after all, what would it hurt. And it wouldn’t have hurt anything except the bottom line, it just wouldn’t have been a fiscally sound investment.  Okay, I’m trying to speak bank-ease but you get my point.

It affects my bottom line all right (my rear-end), and I wouldn’t be investing in a healthy future for myself.  But the point is, is that the cookies were there and I could have sabotaged my weight loss efforts that I’ve been working so hard on, and just told myself that one was okay, or I’ll work it off later, but having a cookie just wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t worth it to me.

Making a conscious decision to walk away without a cookie was more rewarding then having one and regretting it within minutes.

2. Biological Factors
Believe it or not, hunger pains, our hormones, or even thirst can trigger our thoughts to eat.

Have you ever been sitting next to someone and their stomach growls, and they quickly grab their mid-section, maybe even rub it, as they’re usually apologizing for the sound their stomach made or they quickly give you a run-down about why it could be possibly rumbling right then and there.

Well I say, don’t apologize – EMBRACE THAT RUMBLING STOMACH! Not literally, but know that hunger pains are not a bad thing and you don’t have to “feed the beast” as soon as you hear rumbling going on.

Now I realize that some of you may get headaches or have other physical aliments that are greatly affected if you don’t eat, and female monthly cycles can swing wildly in one direction or another causing us to think we need to “settle things” with food, but recognize that sometimes you don’t have to give in to that biological trigger.

Also, sometimes being thirsty can mimic hunger and your body may just be depleted of liquid so make sure that you are feeding your body plenty of liquids throughout the day.

I was one of those people who thought I always drank a lot of water, until I documented it for 5 days and realized I actually didn’t.  I now purposely move through my day counting off how many water bottles I went through – it’s just easier for me that way. What would work for you?

3. Emotional Eating
This can go along with the hormonal trigger too but you can also be triggered to eat because you’re sad, mad, bored, happy, tense, stressed, joyful, wishful, anxious, tired, or any other emotion that you can fill-in-the-blank-with (depending on what‘s going on in your life at that moment).

The emotion itself can be so draining that when you add on top of that the over-eating that takes place because of it, you really have to do all you can to protect your mind from going to a very sabotaging thoughts and make it “okay” for you to eat.

Eating food will never make an emotion go away or you feel different long-term. It never will.

Food is like a drug, it soothes for a moment, it takes you mentally and emotional away for a time, but you always have to come down off that high and deal with the after-math of over-eating.

The most important thing you can do is recognize when you’re using food to soothe or help a powerful emotion, and look for other ways to do that instead.

You can use positive self-talk and remind yourself, “I’m just feeling bored, I’m not hungry, and I can busy myself with ________ instead.”

4. Social Expectations
I recently went to a social gathering and because I wasn’t feeling good, my focus was just on visiting with my friends and not filling my plate.  Eating wasn’t even on my radar and I was perfectly content without munching on something.

Now any other time (when I’m feeling well) I can easily get caught up with nibbling and eating because A. food is around, and B. other people are doing it.  There have been times I know I’m not even hungry and I found myself hanging around the food and eating. Don’t you just hate that!

I have gotten much better with this and one of the things that helps me a lot is to eat a little something before I go to the gathering so I’m not overindulging.

Another thing I do frequently throughout the evening is just recognizing when I’m getting caught up in that anxious feeling to look like I should be doing something with my hands or mouth (like everyone else is). So sipping slowly on a drink (non-alcoholic of course) throughout the evening is helpful.

I have found people to be respectful about food choices you make (for dietary or health reasons) but if you do happen to have a food-pusher in your life, recognize that this journey is about you and not making someone else happy about whether or not YOU are going to indulge in a food choice that YOU DON’T WANT.

Recognizing what your food triggers are helps you to minimize your exposure to them and be successful about the choices your make.

As for me, I’ll be using the drive-up window at the bank from now on.

How Negative Self-Talk Can Sabotage Weight Loss Efforts

Not always, but sometimes our self-esteem takes a hit when we’re overweight.

It is often difficult to feel good about yourself when you are feeling physically or emotionally weak or tired.

What you tell yourself (repeatedly) you tend to believe – it’s called our “self talk.”

And does it stand to reason that if you’ve talked negatively about yourself for years that you would not know how to even think or talk positively about yourself in an encouraging way.

Here are a couple of ways to talk back to yourself and help raise your self-esteem to empower YOU when you’re feeling stuck.

First STOP! Take a minute to regroup.  Break the negative thoughts that flood your brain.

Aloud, or silently, come up with a phrase or word that you can say that will “snap you to attention” and help you to refocus. So you might want to use the word – STOP or REFOCUS or any other phrase that will s-l-o-w you down before you follow through with an undesirable behavior (such as overeating), or undesirable thoughts (negative thinking).

This word or phrase can help you to be more in control of your feelings and body and can help the anxiousness you may be feeling at the moment. Then redirect that negative energy somewhere else.

Walk briskly away from the moment
(if you’re standing at the fridge, eyeing a specific food, realizing you’re not hungry, but having an internal fight with yourself whether or not to take one bite or not -it is within “moments” that the most damage can be done, so STOP, and walk away from the situation as quickly as you can).

Make a phone call (you’re feeling restless, not particularly hungry, and you’re wandering around the kitchen, not really consciously aware that you’re rummaging through cupboards, recognize you need to do something, anything else but to be in the kitchen, so divert your attention and make a phone call to someone for a few minutes).

Take 5 slow, deep breaths (you’re just feeling anxious, uptight and sometimes you just don’t know why, but you’re feeling some food will calm you, it seems to soothe you, and it’s at those moments where you literally have to close your eyes and slowly, consciously, take some deep breaths – be very deliberate about the action so when you’re on your last breath, you can walk away from the temptation with confidence because you’re refocused).

Next, Question and Counter your negative self-talk.

By that I mean to challenge yourself with appropriate questioning and then counter your negative thoughts with positive statements (facts).

Ask yourself:
What’s the proof of this?
Is that always true?
Where is the evidence?

Let me give you some examples:

You:  I’ve tried changing my lifestyle a zillion times and nothing works.
Question:  Is that always true?
Counter: Actually, I have changed a couple things and they’re working really well for me. I just need to keep tackling little things which add up to big things.

You:  I always fail at making a long-term plans for myself.
Question: Is there any evidence to support that I always fail?
Counter:  The actual  evidence is that I have started working out twice a week last year and have stayed with that faithfully. And, I did complete those classes in the last year. I do follow-through on a lot of long-term plans.

Finally, it’s always good to have a “Big Picture Plan” for yourself but you have to chip away at it in small pieces.

Start with how you think about those small pieces.

Thinking About Eating – Again

I’m not going to lie. This time of year has me yearning to make sourdough bread (in my bread machine), and baking cookies. It doesn’t matter what kind – any type will do.

There’s something about cold weather that makes you want to fire up the oven and get the cookbooks out – actually, I don’t even know what those are but I do have some easy go-to recipes (or store boxes) that I can make pretty good cookies or bread from.

But one of my biggest problems is, if I make it, they will come. The “they” is me by the way. I’ll keep coming, and coming, and coming, back and forth to the container in which the delightful baked good is being kept.

I actually have a family member (ie: husband) that will have “a piece” and be satisfied. Ugg, I think, as I roll my eyes, how can he possibly do that.

But it is partly because of that, I have learned I can not make goodies and have them sitting around.

Or if I do, I cut recipes in half. I have just found if it’s around, and I visually see it, I tend to eat it. If I make a whole batch of something, that lasts way too long.

Also, I’ll freeze homemade goodies – that works great for me too as I can grab something (as a treat) in a little baggie and not over-indulge.

But there has also been times where I just had to throw the baked goodie away, as in, literally throw it in the trash.

It is in those moments where I can feel I would be out of control with my eating, and instinctually know I will eat the whole thing if I don’t do something drastic. And there’s something drastic (or symbolic) about scraping out the pan and watching it go in the trash.

But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. No truer words have ever been spoken than…a moment on the lips is forever on the hips!!

Another thing that I find helpful is to drink something hot this time of year.

One of my favorite indulgences is sugar-free hot lemonade. Now before you turn your nose up at the very thought, you need to give it a try. Sipping anything hot will have a tendency to slow you down because it takes a while to drink.

And very often hot liquid just makes you feel fuller – with fewer calories, depending on what you’re drinking of course.

So there you have it. The oven is NOT fired up tonight, it’s still cold outside, and I’m sitting here sipping hot lemonade.

Mindful Eating

Stay at home mom? Busy working professional? Student? It doesn’t matter who you are, you will benefit from the information in this short video. If you have 5 minutes to spare today, I think you will find this video quite helpful. Especially for those of you who are learning how to be “mindful eaters!”

Changing Your Health Behaviors

Food for thought (no pun intended):

I just read something from RUHBC (Research Unit in Health & Behavioral Change), that I think you might find interesting. The evidence from people who have changed their health behavior suggests that there are certain minimum conditions required for that change to take place:

1. The change must be self-initiated: Some people react adversely or wish to contain any attempt to look at their ‘food use’ (by a doctor, therapist, diet coach, etc). To some people, their behavior may not seem unhealthy at all but may constitute as a clear source of well being, its benefits far outweighing its risks. There is a clear message here – people will only change if they want to or feel they need to.

People are more likely to welcome change if it’s something they initiate, not something they’re told they have to, or should, do.

2. The behavior must become salient (noticeable, outstanding): Most health-related behaviors including smoking, alcohol use, eating and exercise are habitual, and built into the flow of everyday life such that the individual does not give them much thought.

For change to occur, that behavior or habit must be called into question by some other activity or event so that the behavior becomes salient (noticeable, outstanding, prominent).

3. The salience of the behavior must appear over a period of time: The habitual behavior needs to become difficult to maintain. The new behavior must, in turn, become part of everyday life. For example, one reason why people on diets often resume their previous eating patterns is because they are made constantly aware of the diet and it is never allowed to become a habit.

Similarly, exercise is often not maintained because it requires effort, hence the advice to reluctant couch potatoes to build physical activity into their daily life by walking to work or running upstairs rather than going out to exercise at a pool or gym. The new behavior must be made as easy as possible.

4. The behavior is not part of the individual’s coping strategies: People have various sources of comfort and solace and will resist change to these behaviors.

For example, some people may use food as a way to escape and not realize they’re using food as a coping strategy. It would be helpful then for the person who wants to initiate change to learn how to identify alternative coping strategies.

5. The individual’s life should not be challenging or uncertain: There is a limit to a person’s capacity to adapt and change. Having to make changes in their health behavior may be too much to expect for people whose lives are already challenging.

6. Social support is important: The presence and interest of other people provides reinforcement, accountability and keeps the behavior salient. Changing one’s behavior can be stressful and individuals need support.

The ability to communicate with others who are struggling with change in their life is critical to success.  Please join our network of support here at Thinking Thin Lifestyle and tell us how YOU are making changes (big and small) with your health behaviors!