BEFRIENDING YOUR BODY WITH MINDFULNESS

Being disconnected from or being self-critical of your body can have serious health consequences. An 18-year-old woman had bilateral breast implants at an out-of-state clinic. Since her early teens, she had wanted this surgery because she thought her breasts were too small and unattractive. When she saw me the week after her surgery, her breasts were painful, tender, red and obviously infected. She was now ashamed and deeply regretted her decision to alter her body based on social pressure and images....

….FULL ARTICLE

MINDFULLY MANAGING ANGER

Anger can be a healthy emotional response or a serious health risk.  Managing anger appropriately does not require that we deny it, repress it or get completely rid of it. Brief, mild-to-moderate episodes of anger and righteous indignation can be a useful stimulus to positive and constructive action on both the personal and societal levels. However, severe, repeated or uncontrolled anger can lead to serious harm to oneself or others.  The body’s stress (“fight or flight”) response is triggered by anger.

….FULL ARTICLE

LET FOOD BE YOUR MEDICINE

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is the world’s premier nutrition education resource. Harvard Medical School and the Department of Nutrition at HSPH developed the Healthy Eating Plate to provide the general public with up-to-date, science-based nutrition education. They recognized the need to provide more scientifically accurate information than is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate, which does not accurately reflect current, science-based nutrition advice.

….FULL ARTICLE

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MANAGING WEIGHT WITH MINDFULNESS

Where is your attention when you eat?


Do you love the pleasure of eating so much that you overeat from sheer enjoyment rather than from physiologic hunger cues? Do you overeat as a self-soothing antidote for emotional stress, anxiety or depression?


Or do you consider eating a necessary but boring interruption in your busy day at home and work and overeat while reading, watching TV, driving or talking?


If any of these eating patterns describes you, the power of your attention is being used unskillfully. Your health could suffer simply because of misplaced attention.


Whether you are pleasantly engrossed and joyfully overeating or unpleasantly distracted and emotionally upset while you eat, you may consume excess calories, leading to overweight and obesity.


Eating Mindfully

Simply changing how you eat can transform your relationship with your weight. Mindful practices can help you manage the stress that may con- tribute to overeating.

You may be able to lose weight without actually “dieting. ” Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to present-moment experiences intentionally and non-judgmentally. Mindful eating means paying less attention to the past and future and more attention to this plate in this moment. It means paying more attention to the food itself and less attention to the distractions all around you.


When researchers measured people’s mindfulness scores with questionnaires, they found people who were more mindful and paid more attention to body sensations and hunger cues experienced fewer weight fluctuations over time, compared to those who were less mindful. Research has also shown the regular practice of body scan meditation is associated with more mindful eating, accurate assessment of hunger cues and successful weight management.


Mindfulness can also help control cravings and food addictions. Based on your previous experiences, the sights, smells, thoughts and images of certain foods activate areas in the brain as if you were actually eating that food.


Mindfulness can disrupt that automatic neural network firing. With practice, you

can train yourself to experience your desires and cravings as nothing more than thoughts and allow them to simply come and go like any other thoughts.


Seven Kinds of Hunger

Mindfulness is the world’s leading behavioral, mind-body practice for promoting health, managing stress related chronic conditions and enriching your experience of being alive.


Mindful eating and food preparation can be important ingredients in your overall practice of mindful living and will enhance your overall relationship with food – its production, distribution, preparation and consumption.


Those with eating-related conditions such as overweight, obesity, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating disorders, body-image disorders and night-eating syndrome can also benefit by including mindful eating in an overall treatment plan.


A useful review of the various ways to conceive of hunger is offered by Jan Chozen Bays in her book, “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.”


Based on her work as a pediatrician and mindfulness meditation teacher, Chozen helps patients and families reconnect with health-promoting, physiologically based hunger signals and avoid the temptation of false appetites.


Bays describes seven types of hunger:


  1. Eye hunger. To avoid overeating and to satisfy eye hunger, intentionally appreciate the visual appearance of your food as you begin to eat.
  2. Nose hunger. Much of your sen- sation of taste comes from your sense of smell rather than your taste buds. Honor this aspect of your eating experience by focusing on the smell of the food you are about to eat.
  3. Mouth hunger. So many of your preferred tastes are socially conditioned from your family and acquired eating habits. Can you eat with curiosity, openness and experimentation as you add more or less amounts of different spices and seasonings? Observing your eating experience this way can put you in charge of your food consumption.
  4. Stomach hunger. Abdominal rumbling and growling may suggest hunger when the body doesn’t need to eat. These sensations may reflect stress, anxiety or an artificial eating schedule you may have developed out of social convenience more than physiological need. Listen to overall hunger cues before trusting stomach hunger.
  5. Cellular hunger. This is the underlying physiological need being addressed by hunger and eating. Becoming more attuned to your body through body scan meditation and other mindfulness practices can put you back in touch with this deeply physiological “true” hunger.
  6. Mind hunger. Your food choices may sometimes be driven more by advertising and fad diets than your true body needs. Pay attention to your food as you eat. Avoid eating while watching television. If you typically eat with family, practice attending to mind hunger by eating some meals alone and really tuning in to the full experience – physical, mental and emotional.
  7. Heart hunger. Your eating choices may sometimes be driven by a desire for comfort foods and feeding emotional needs that you can address in a healthier way. A hot bath with candlelight, journaling, talking with a good friend or walking in nature are low-calorie/ high-nutrition options for feeding heart hunger.


Practical, ancient meditation practices and modern scientific research can be combined to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight through mindful eating.


Sources and Resources

A detailed description of Mindful Eating Instructions can be found on my Website

Body Scan Meditation recordings (5-minute and 40-minute versions) are also available on my Website

DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

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