Why Mindful Eating is Your Secret Weapon Against Cravings

Why Mindful Eating is Your Secret Weapon Against Cravings

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Hands up if you’ve tried pretty much everything to kiss goodbye to cravings and had no luck whatsoever?

With mindful eating, you don’t need to spend heaps of time and energy on crushing your cravings completely.

Telling yourself that you absolutely can’t have a particular food can work against you in the long term.

Think of it this way: if I tell you not to think about a pink elephant, guess what immediately pops up in your mind? No matter how hard you try, it’s super hard to shift the mental image of the pink elephant!

Your cravings can be a little bit like this too. Denying yourself completely often means that they don’t magically go away, even if you take tons of action to distract yourself. It’s pretty common for them to actually get stronger … a lot like the thought of the pink elephant.

It can also encourage a “now or never” way of thinking if you do give in to the craving. Often, this means that you’ll eat far more than you intended. After all, you’re not supposed to be eating it again seeing as it’s off-limits, right? In reality, it will most likely happen again and you’ll carry on feeling bad about it.

There’s another problem with craving ultra-processed food: according to research, it affects hunger hormones and makes it harder for your body to recognise when you’re genuinely full. Unsurprisingly, this means eating a lot more calories than you would otherwise … usually involving other unhealthy foods.

Another finding from the study involved the speed at which food was being eaten. The group eating the ultra-processed food tended to eat more quickly, leading researchers to question whether this was a big factor in the brain being able to recognise signals that they were full.

How mindful eating turns the tables on cravings

Mindful eating can really come into its own in several different areas. In a nutshell, it puts you back in control of your food choices, which can often feel impossible when you’re constantly trying to beat your cravings into submission.

A few reasons why mindful eating can work so well:

You’re not giving in to your cravings and letting them take control but you are allowing yourself a little bit of what you fancy and taking the opportunity to relish it. Your mind knows that there will be other chances to satisfy the craving so the “now or never” mentality isn’t a big issue. The end result? It’s a whole heap easier to bring your cravings in check.

The trick is to be super-mindful with how you eat. When you take that first bite of something you’ve been craving, resist the urge to dive straight into the next one. Put your fork, knife or spoon down in between bites or keep putting your food down if you’re eating with your hands. The more you can chew each bite before swallowing, the better.

Take the time to really notice the taste and texture as you chew. This bit might surprise you, especially if you’re used to eating quickly on autopilot. If you’re eating junk foods, being more mindful with your eating might flag up how salty, sugary or just plain processed the taste truly is. And chances are, it’s going to be a whole lot less appealing once you get clued into this.

Even if this doesn’t happen, taking more time to savour your food helps you to enjoy it more and sometimes, you’ll realise that your cravings weren’t quite as strong as you thought and feel satisfied after just a few bites.

It can also lift the lid on why you’re getting cravings in the first place. Sometimes, you’ll know exactly what’s behind it but it won’t always be this obvious. Being more mindful with your eating can get to the bottom of what is triggering your cravings and the emotions that may be a factor.

It’s not always easy to get to grips with mindful eating, especially if you’re used to eating quick and not tuning in to your body’s hunger signals. Over time, it gets a lot easier to overcome unhealthy relationships with food, including cravings, overeating and emotional eating.

According to the results of a 2014 study, a mindful approach to eating can help to build a healthier relationship with body image and curb “disordered eating” such as binge eating. And from a cravings perspective, many of the women who took part in the study also reported that they spent less time yearning for high fat and sugary treats.

If you’re struggling with cravings, mindful eating could be the lifestyle change that helps you to get back in control of your eating habits and spend more time enjoying what you eat.

Best wishes,

Christy x

Are you self-sabotaging?

Are you self-sabotaging?

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I used to have an all or nothing attitude when it came to my diet and the food that I ate, I either ate really well or really bad with nothing in between. So, when I was good, I thought I was being good – in fact it was the opposite of that. I restricted calories, skipped meals and exercised to excess. Guess what, it didn’t last long. I would feel low in energy, moody, lethargic, weak, couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything and generally felt miserable. The way I was eating was unsustainable long term and deep down I knew it. I would literally crash and burn and end up going on a massive binge, eating everything I had previously restricted myself from eating. I craved sugar and refined carbohydrates for energy. The initial rush of energy would feel good for a day or two until the guilt set in! The negative feelings I had about myself became worse I would feel like a failure and the horrible cycle of the yo-yo diet would start all over again.

Why would anyone want to put themselves through all that? Life is hard enough as it is juggling family, work and social commitments so why add self-torture (which is what this mentality is) to the list. I lived my life with the attitude that if I was being good then having a treat would undo all my hard work. My attitude was to hell with it, let’s just eat the entire cake, pizza, sweets, chocolate and anything else I could get my hands on. I would believe I had failed and ruined everything I had achieved so far, so why not! That attempt at one treat would turn into a month-long binge! I was self-sabotaging by falling into the mindset that I was only allowed to be good or bad never finding that healthy balance. This led me to a poor relationship food. Something I now see often in so many of my clients.

The biggest turning point for me was when I finally accepted that what I was eating and why I was eating the way I was, was down to so many factors. Stress, emotional eating and mindless eating all impact greatly on my day to day food choices. Not to mention hormones and lack of sleep to add to it! This is why it was important that I worked through those emotions, built new healthy non-restrictive habits that made me feel healthy and positively in control of my nutrition.

Creating the perfect plan for me meant that I had to no longer see myself following any kind of diet. SPOILER:  Diets DO NOT work long term! I now eat the foods my body needs for overall health and wellbeing. I no longer view a treat as a disaster, finding a healthy balance and knowing that consistency is what brings positive change, not perfection. For me now my diet is healthy 80% of the time. Generally, I eat well Monday to Friday and will enjoy a treat at the weekend. It’s not the entire weekend, maybe a pizza on a Saturday night with a bottle of wine. We can do a lot of damage over a weekend which can really impact your goals so you must be realistic. However, if on a random Tuesday afternoon, I fancied a treat or a glass of wine with my evening meal then I enjoy it, own it and move on. It is all about a healthy balance, with no damage done.

I now have the freedom to enjoy all foods from all food groups without the guilt. My mind is at ease and food is no longer all I think about anymore. I no longer feel anxious or nervous around food. I have the confidence now to make the best choices for me. Choosing food that makes me feel good! Food is meant to nourish our bodies, fuel us with the calories we need to function as human beings. It is not meant to be used as a way to punish ourselves through starvation or bingeing both of which have serious long-term side effects.

I recommend to all my clients to practice mindful eating as part of their journey to help overcome all the negative diet habits that develop over time some of which can be seriously deep routed. This is what really helped me find the healthy balance so I know it works.

So, what is Mindful Eating?

  • a peaceful eating relationship with food according to your body’s needs
  • eating to support your body’s natural healthy state
  • balance, choice, wisdom, and acceptance
  • eating consciously in a way to make our bodies feel well
  • being aware of our surroundings, mind, body, and spirit
  • being “in the moment”

Mindful eating is NOT about:

  • dieting
  • measuring or weighing food
  • restricting or avoiding foods
  • counting fat grams or calories
  • worrying about body size or the number on the scale’

Be aware of what your habits and mindless eating triggers are.  We all have them. Maybe it’s a stash of sweets in your desk drawer or eating while at your computer or on the phone. Maybe it’s when you come home from work and grab a bag of crisps or when you sit down to relax and watch a show on T.V. It could also be a trigger when you’re bored.  Think about what the triggers are for you, acknowledge it and make a plan to work on it.

For most of us, triggers come down to the habits that we have formed over the years. Many habits have us on autopilot without being consciously aware of the decisions we’re making. This is a great time to take a step back and evaluate which habits you’d like to change that will be more in alignment with your goals.

Mindful eating is an awareness that can take some time to acquire. It certainly does not come automatically for most of us.  Our environment is definitely working against us here, and so is the hectic pace so many of us are keeping.  Maybe this is a good time to evaluate some things that are causing a lot of stress and find ways to reduce it.  Stress affects us on every level – emotional, mental and physical. By taking steps to eat more mindfully, we can at least know that a few times each day we get to slow down and do something good for ourselves, our health and our bodies.

Do you suffer from self-sabotage? Are you stuck in the YO-YO diet revolving door?

As always if you need help and support to get away from the diet mentality then let me know. You can book a nutrition package with one to one personal support or simply book a free consultation call to discuss your situation and find out what tools I have in place to help you make that positive shift.

Best wishes,

Christy x

How to Master the Mind-Body Connection to Improve Health and Overall Well-Being

How to Master the Mind-Body Connection to Improve Health and Overall Well-Being

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Have you ever felt a “pit” in your stomach, or a change in your appetite when you’re stressed? Have you felt your heart and mind race when you’re afraid? Have you felt calm and tranquil when you’re blissfully enjoying life’s moments?

These are examples of the mind-body connection.

Science has begun to recognise the connection between the mind and the body, and how our thoughts and feelings can directly affect our physical health. These connections have been suspected (even observed) by many patients and healers throughout the centuries.

The “mind” we’re referring to includes the mental states of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

The mind and heart are thought to form the “psycho-emotional” roots of health and disease.

Here’s the great part; The more we understand the connection between the mind and body, the more we can use it to our advantage to improve our health and our lives. Exciting stuff!

Thoughts and Emotions

It’s been said that negative emotions like anger, fear, guilt, and sadness can contribute to imbalances in our body, and eventually manifest as disease. Sometimes when we feel these emotions, our bodies react with digestive issues, aches and pains, and in other physical ways as well. Have you experienced this before?  I know it’s happened to me plenty of times.

This powerful link between our minds and bodies is the fascinating observation that improving one’s mood and outlook can reduce inflammation and even improve cancer survival! Pretty fascinating, right?

The “law of attraction” is a similar concept. It’s about using the power of the mind to transform our thoughts into reality. Have you ever focused your attention on something negative that you’re sure will happen… and it eventually does? Or the opposite; you’re hoping and working toward an amazing goal, focusing your mental energy on it, and you finally reach it? These are referred to as the power of the law of attraction.

Thoughts and emotions carry vibrations throughout our bodies. These vibrations can affect our cells. This is because our cells, hormones, and neurotransmitters are all made from atoms and molecules that are in a constant state of motion. This motion within our mind has a frequency that can influence other frequencies in our bodies.

The Physiology of the Mind-Body Connection

There is a growing amount of research on the effect of stress on our physical bodies. But, how is this feasible? What physical channels are there that can possibly link the mind and the body?

Direct links between the mind and body include the nerves and biochemical compounds (i.e. hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). Both of these travel between the brain and the body sending messages in all directions.

Different mental states influence our physical health for the better or worse. For example, feeling overly worried can trigger stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline/epinephrine. It can also activate the “fight or flight” part of our nervous systems (called the “sympathetic” nervous system). When these are activated, they can physically suppress our immune systems, and make us more susceptible to infections. They can affect our heartbeat and breathing. Over the long run, they are thought to worsen heart and other health issues.

In fact, scientists have mapped out different areas in our brains and bodies that are activated when people experience different emotions.

One study showed that people who repress emotions are more likely to have an imbalance in the stress hormone cortisol than people who express their emotions. It’s thought that long-term psychological stress can even increase our risk of cancer and heart disease.

Emotions can indirectly affect our physical bodies as well. Oftentimes, how we feel affects the way we behave – whether we turn to or away from healthy foods, exercise, and sleep. Over the long-run, these habits and behaviours can take a toll on our physical health. These work in the other direction as well, whereby after we eat, exercise, and/or sleep, we feel different emotions than we did beforehand.

Think about what you do when you’re feeling stressed or sad.  Do you turn to (and devour) sweets and maybe skip your workout, for example? It’s also possible that you lose your appetite during times of stress. Do you find it easier to stay on track with your food choices and exercise routine when you’re happy and content?  These are examples of the mind-body connection too.

Mind-Body Practices for Optimum Health

There are many practices we can take on to help foster calmer minds, inner peace, and lead to a higher level of physical health and wellness.

These include:

  • Mindfulness meditation,
  • Yoga,
  • Tai chi,
  • Acupuncture,
  • Massage therapy.

Mind-Body Practices – Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation helps to focus the attention on the present moment. It’s an ancient practice that can help calm the mind and relax the body.

Meditation is also used to reduce fatigue, lower feelings of stress, help improve mood and sleep, and help cope with pain and illness. It can help to focus attention and increase self-awareness.

Modern neuroscience has associated the meditative state with changes in the electrical function of the brain.

Meditation is considered a safe practice for healthy people. If you have physical limitations, then there may be some movement-based practices that should be avoided.

To begin non-movement based meditating, there are many free videos, audios, and apps available that can guide you through meditation. Three great apps (available on iOs and Android) include Head Space, Calm, and The Mindfulness app.  My personal fave is Head Space, but check out different ones to see what you like best.

“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realising that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.”

~ Pema Chodron

Mind-Body Practices – Yoga

Yoga combines the use of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It is sometimes used to help reduce pain and improve moods.

Yoga is considered safe in healthy people when practised appropriately. Some people should avoid certain poses, so working with an experienced instructor who can suggest safe modifications is recommended.  If you’re brand new to yoga, it can feel a bit intimidating, so one option is to start with a yoga DVD (Amazon.com has a good selection) or check out streaming online yoga classes.  Just search “streaming yoga classes” and you’ll find a bunch. My favourite is Yoga With Adriene.

“Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted — in body, mind, and heart — and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow — or we begin to flow more into our lives.”

~ Cybele Tomlinson

Mind-Body Practices – Tai Chi

Tai chi is a centuries-old mind-body practice that involves specific gentle movements with mental focus and breathing.

Research shows that practising tai chi improves balance and stability, and can reduce the risk of falls. It can also help with pain, fatigue, and moods. You can look for tai chi classes in your area, purchase DVD’s or check out streaming videos.

“Tai chi does not mean oriental wisdom or something exotic. It is the wisdom of your own senses, your own mind and body together as one process.”

~ Chungliang Al Huang

Mind-Body Practices – Acupuncture

Acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine. It’s a technique that uses thin needles strategically inserted into the skin at specific points on the body.

It is used to help with many types of pain.

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when a well-trained experienced practitioner uses sterile needles.

“Broadly speaking, acupuncture has three primary effects:

  • It relieves pain.
  • It reduces inflammation.
  • It restores homeostasis.” ~ Chris Kresser

Mind-Body Practice – Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a very popular mind-body practice. Massage therapists work on muscle and other soft tissues to help you to relax and feel better.

There is some evidence that it can help with certain types of pain, as well as reduce fatigue and stress, promote relaxation, and improve moods.

Massage therapy seems to be a safe practice when performed by a trained practitioner.

Conclusion

The way you think and feel can help to feed health or disease. Your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions can affect your body directly (through nerves and hormones) and indirectly (by influencing habits and behaviours).

Some of the common health concerns that many people use mind-body practices are fatigue, stress, pain, and moods.

There are many different mind-body practices including, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

What can you start implementing today?

I love helping my clients figure out ways to reduce stress and help them recognise the mind-body connection and how it may affect their overall health and happiness.

It’s always best to speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of health practice. When choosing a practitioner to guide you through a mind-body practice, ensure they are qualified and experienced and can make any modifications necessary to support your current state of health.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Christy