Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Belly Fat

Nowadays, any of us not living in a cave are aware of the current buzz surrounding “belly fat.” There are numerous fad diets and weight loss gimmicks that offer overnight solutions to this dilemma, but the reality is it isn’t quite that simple. I’ve become more interested in this problem lately and it has inspired me to dig a little deeper. I know what I’m about to say isn’t a pleasant topic for most of us and we tend to approach it with a bit of trepidation. Okay, so here’s the deal, no one wants to talk about the relationship between belly fat and having regular bowel movements. It is something we tend to shy away from talking about, yet it is vitally important. If bowel movements don’t occur on a daily basis, where does it go? It's stored in the colon, which becomes more and more impacted over time, causing the belly to bulge. The excess fecal matter is stored in the body and as it adds to the body weight. The more impacted the colon becomes, the more weight you carry. Maintaining regular bowel movements promotes better health and keeps you looking your best. Bowel regularity will help to give you that flat stomach that doesn't bulge out.

Okay, so now you’re thinking, great what now? Well, first don’t rush out and spend your hard earned cash on some gimmicky product that promises overnight success. Getting your insides in shape is a process; there is no silver bullet! This is worth repeating, there is no quick fix or overnight solution (sorry). The first step is overhauling your food choices, eating more fiber, drinking plenty of water, and getting more physical activity on a daily basis.

Let’s start with fiber. Fiber has three different properties that matter to human health. The property most nutritionists talk about is solubility, the ability to disperse in water. Soluble and insoluble fibers are the labels most commonly used to describe fiber. However, two other properties of fiber are turning out to be important: fermentability (how easily the fiber ferments in the colon), and viscosity (the ability to gel with water) of the fiber, which may be more important than solubility. Insoluble fiber is what we usually think of when we think “fiber” or “roughage”. Wheat bran and most vegetables are examples of sources of insoluble fiber. It is tough, and doesn’t easily break down. Insoluble fiber tends to increase the “speed of transit” through our digestive systems, and increases regularity of bowel movements. A lot of soluble fiber is viscous, allowing it to absorb and retain water, forming a gel. This type of soluble fiber actually slows digestion down. Because of this, it has a tendency to stabilize blood glucose, and permit better absorption of nutrients. It tends to reduce blood cholesterol. It also increases satiety, so people aren’t inclined to eat as much. Sources of soluble fiber include flax, beans, peas, oatmeal, berries, apples, and some nuts and seeds. Some fiber will ferment in the colon, producing compounds that help support colon health, and possibly have other benefits. Most soluble fiber is highly fermentable. Pectins (found in apples and berries) and the fiber in oats are examples of fiber with a large fermentable component. Turns out that old saying is true “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”!

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water! When it comes to fiber and water, you can’t have one without the other. If you are planning to make the move and add more fiber to your daily diet, it’s imperative to increase your water consumption to at least eight glasses a day (about 64 ounces). If sufficient water is not available, fiber will not easily move through the system. It is important to remember that without water fiber often turns to cement, so drink up! Like fiber, water helps the metabolism work more efficiently. The combination of water and fiber will also make you feel more full, which helps your overall health.

Last (but not least) don’t forget exercise; exercise helps speed things up. Exercise is essential for regular bowel movements; one of the key risk factors for constipation is inactivity or a lack of exercise. Exercise helps constipation by decreasing the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, thus limiting the amount of water absorbed from the stool into your body. Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. In addition, aerobic exercise accelerates your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles. Intestinal muscles that contract efficiently help move stools out quickly. My rules about exercise are to not have too many rules. In other words, find something that works for you and stick with it. If you hate going to the gym, then cut it out! Find something you enjoy; walking, gardening, dancing in your living room, volleyball, chasing your kids around the house (I think you get the picture) just do something, anything, to move your body.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eating Out of Boredom

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” - Dorothy Parker

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this whole “mindful eating” thing and it’s made me realize how many times I’ve eaten out of sheer boredom. In fact, eating out of boredom is very common. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that whenever I’m not consumed in something worthwhile, all I think about is food. This happened to me last week when I was in class; about mid-day I found myself bored and all I could think about was food. At one point I polished off a bag of gummy bears, some mixed nuts, and something else that I can’t quite remember—for no particular reason other than I was bored. Oh, and then I went to the library where they had a bowl of candy out front and, yes, I had a handful of that as well (and, no, I wasn’t hungry!) This caught my attention because it made absolutely no sense; why was I still eating when I wasn’t even hungry? So, here’s the deal, disciplined eating habits require more than head knowledge. There must be motivation and interest—in other words—a “will” to do something. So now what? Well, first, when you feel bored it's important to realize that your body is trying to tell you something. Often the message it's trying to convey is that life has become dull and it’s time to find something to get motivated about. When you feel bored your body is trying to tell you something. Food is very comforting, so it’s often much easier to eat out of boredom than to actually fix the real problem. The only cure for boredom is to find something to become interested in. Get curious; use your imagination to come up with interesting ideas. Expose yourself to new experiences and interests. Why not start today?

Well anyway, those are my thoughts…I would love to hear yours.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mindfulness in Relationship to Eating

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of being aware; it is a process of observation and attention in the flow of changing stimuli and perceptions. Mindfulness means being in the moment, present, and being engaged with your awareness.

So, you're asking, what does mindfulness have to do with eating? Well, I'll start with saying that seeing only engages one of our senses. But food is a powerful experience that engages all of our senses; this is why we are so easily seduced by the sight, smell, and taste of food (this is also why most grocery stores strategically place the bakery at the front of the store). Use mindfulness to create the relationship that you want to have with food; observe your thoughts and senses while eating; let nothing escape your awareness. Next, pay attention to your thoughts as you eat, don’t let anything escape your conscious awareness. Enjoy every bite and when you’re satisfied, stop eating. I’ve also learned through trial and error that food eaten at a table is better for me than food eaten hunched over at my desk, at the counter, or driving in my car. Eating at the table allows me to pay attention to my food and appreciate it more; it also keeps me from being distracted and overeating out of habit. Oh, and just a reminder; I'm not a huge fan of dieting. Why? Simply because diets don't work! Eating well and taking care of yourself is a lifestyle choice and successfully changing your eating habits is a lifelong commitment. When you deny yourself that pie, ice cream, or chips, then you create an opposite and equal (or greater) desire for what is being denied. This is simple cause and effect. Instead, slowly practice healthy moderation in place of denial; this lets you slowly change a habit, by taking one less bite of offending food—and one more bite of desirable food—than you did the meal before.

As always, bon app├ętit!