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Weight Loss

Slow Down

I often find myself mindlessly inhaling my food.  Breakfasts are often spent over reading a newspaper and lunches are often consumed while scanning other interesting blogs.  Two whole meals where my mind is often not focused on my food, but rather competing with some other activity that lay before me.  This frequently leads me to shoving down food faster than I can think about it, leaving me feeling unsatisfied after finishing an entire meal.

I know I am not the only one who needs a little reminder to slow down and take the time to savor my food.  In fact, numerous studies have been conducted in order to show some of the negative consequences of gobbling down food in short periods of time.   Recently, researchers reported in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that eating too quickly can lead to overconsumption.  Previous studies have shown this to be true, but this study may have uncovered a possible reason as to why rapid eating leads to overconsumption.  After conducting several tests on a volunteer group, researchers found that eating too fast may block the release of gut hormones that help make you feel full.  The missing feeling of being full can lead one to reach for more food after already consuming a sufficient meal.

Another study reported in the British Medical Journal, found that those who eat quickly and until they are full are most likely to be obese.  The study was conducted on 4140 Japanese men and women, and even after changing the fiber intake, those who ate quicker had higher levels of body mass index.

Whether it’s a hormonal difference or even just a mental disparity, for most people, eating quicker leads to excessive eating habits.  This approach to eating may not just cause you to gain weight (oh no), but it will also shorten the length of meal times.  While most people would agree that they would like to chow down on scrumptious foods for longer periods of time, many forget that this can be done without adding an additional load of calories to your plate by simply slowing down and allowing your taste buds to fully savor what is being eaten.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a rich, chocolaty piece of cake for an extra 5 minutes?

The next time you sit down for a meal, before you even lift your fork or spoon up to your mouth, take a moment to breathe in the aromas of your food.  Take a few seconds to close your eyes, consciously bring yourself to the present moment, and prepare yourself to fully dedicate the next 30-60 minutes entirely to eating, enjoying, and appreciating the food on your plate.  Once you begin eating, make a conscious effort to chew each bite at least 20 times.  The macrobiotic diet, a style of wholesome eating that originated in Japan, actually recommends chewing 50-100 times per bite!

By slowing down your eating habits, you can more easily bring yourself to the present moment and increase your mindfulness and over all well-being.  You can also increase the time you spend each day on one of life’s greatest pleasures: food!

Side Note- In response to my fasting experience: I actually feel a lot better today than yesterday.  Is this because of the fasting?  Who knows, but I certainly don’t feel any worse.  I broke my fast with a light breakfast of an apple and some thinned oatmeal.  While my glands are still tender, I’ve felt much better throughout the whole day today.

Chain Restaurants Required to Post Calories

Included in the health reform just recently passed by the House was a provision requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus.  I have been desiring this for years!

Compliments of cdn.newsone.com

I don’t typically eat at chain restaurants because I love the homier, more authentic feel of individual wine and dineries.  However, when I do occasionally hit a chain, I try to opt for what assume is one of the healthier options on the menu.  I’m pretty sure that these health conscious attempts are often a waste of time and usually taste.  I’ve read numerous articles about the hidden calories in the so called healthier options provided by chains, such as the calorie-loaded salads that deceive numerous people who think they are consuming a lighter meal. These misleaders are the reason why calorie posts are essential.  They are also important for the many people who simply don’t know a considerable amount about how to make healthy choices and are oblivious to the amount of calories that eating-out causes them to actually consume.  Almost everyone knows that nachos wouldn’t be the best choice for lunch or dinner in terms of health, but would people still choose to order nachos at, let’s say Chili’s, if they knew they contained over 1000 calories and 78% of one’s daily fat?  Or how about Applebee’s oriental chicken salad, which along with a few leave of lettuce, contains over 700 calories and 25 grams of fat?  Maybe they would choose the medium-sized McDonald’s fries instead of the large, if they knew they contained over an extra 100 calories.

However, what’s surprising to me is that research shows that the calorie postings are unlikely to have that much affect on consumers choices.  This boggles my mind because if I saw a 1000 calorie tag next to an entree, there would be no way I’d choose that option.    Enacted in March of 2008, New York City passed a law requiring chain restaurants to post calories on menu boards.  Studies monitoring how these postings have affected the number of calories people take in have been relatively bleak.  One study showed that consumers actually consumed more calories than before the law was put into place.   Another study found that while 56% of customers were aware of the NYC restaurant chain calorie postings, only 25% actually used the information to make a decision on what to order.

These studies prove that there aren’t enough health conscious people for the calorie posting provisions to actually work in fighting America’s obesity rates.  Instead, America overall seems to be filled with a bunch of people who don’t really care what they’re putting into their bodies, in particular those who eat at chain restaurants.   This shows that in order to prevent obesity from becoming the #1 cause of preventable death (which it’s quickly working its way up the list), we need to start educating people about how to make healthy choices and why it is important to do so.  Health and nutrition education should start at a young age, and programs should be implemented as early as grade school.  According to Time magazine, 30% of children in the U.S. are obese.  This is an alarming number of kids that calls for the need to educate children about how to take care of their bodies in order to prevent obesity from lasting into subsubmenadulthood.

While the calorie posting revision is just a tiny part of the 2000 page health reform that is soon to be voted on by the senate, it’s certainly an important component.  However, in order for the law to have much beneficial affect on the fight against obesity, Americans first need to be educated.  For now, the provision would simply help individuals like me who are exceptionally conscious of trying to maintain a healthy diet, the same people who are for the most part the least likely to eat at fast food and other chain restaurants.

Go Natural- Skip the Splenda

IMG_4587I’ve always been a little hesitant of artificial sweeteners.  Anything that has the title of “artificial” before it makes me weary.  And since I don’t particularly enjoy the after taste that fake sweeteners often leave, I usually stick to the real deal:  Sugar, honey, maybe an occasional dose of agave nectar.  I’m usually the one persuading my friends to go natural and informing them that fake sugar could cause cancer.  While this hasn’t yet been proven in humans, it has been shown in animals.  I’ve recently found out there are other reasons not to consume the imitation sugar:  The calorieless sweeteners won’t necessarily register as calorie-free in your body, and isn’t that the main point in using them?

If you are drinking diet sodas and using fake sweeteners to help you lose weight, you may want to rethink your weight loss approach.  Not only do fake sweeteners come from artificially-processed, unchartered territory, but studies have shown that they may actually cause you to absorb as many calories as real sugar actually contains.  Research conducted by the University of Liverpool in England shows that your body processes calorie-free sweeteners the same way it does regular sugar.

Receptors in the intestines are built to find glucose to absorb once they detect sweetness.  The receptors are unable to tell the difference between regular and artificial sweeteners, thus making both triggers for the absorption of glucose.  Once the receptors are triggered by artificial sweeteners, the bodyIMG_4589 may take calories from somewhere else, contributing to causing one to actually gain weight.

Other studies have shown that artificial sweeteners don’t activate the brain in the same way that sugar does, which can cause the brain to continue to crave sweets.  This could cause one to reach for an unhealthy, sweet treat later on.

If you need a little sugar in your in your day, use it moderately and use the real deal.  A teaspoon of sugar has a mere 15 calories, without all the cancer/disease-risk speculation.  Honey, which has great taste and has been said to have medicinal properties, contains just 22 calories per teaspoon. And as always, eating a piece of fruit to knock out your sweet cravings can rarely do any harm.

We cannot yet be fully aware of how any artificially processed foods will effect our bodies.  It’s best to stick with what nature has provided us.