A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices.
This alternative approach has been dubbed "mindful eating." It's based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. In other areas, mindfulness techniques have been proposed as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties.
Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food. Some elements of mindful eating seem to hearken back to the ideas of Horace Fletcher, an early 20th century food faddist who believed chewing food thoroughly would solve many different kinds of health problems.
Experts suggest starting gradually with mindful eating, eating one meal a day or week in a slower, more attentive manner. Here are some tips (and tricks) that may help you get started:
- Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.
- Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you're a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.
- Use chopsticks if you don't normally use them.
- Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun's rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
- Take small bites and chew until all the material is liquified, then swallow.
Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University and colleagues at Duke University conducted an NIH-funded study of mindful eating techniques for treatment of binge eating. The randomized controlled study included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psychoeducational treatment and a control group. Both active treatments produced declines in binging and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating. Those who meditated more (both at mealtimes and throughout the day) got more out of the program.
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Maintaining Health in a Disease-Centered World
Out of suffering can come profound transformation; It can deepen and strengthen our life purpose. But it is best to find a path to optimal health that can help us remain healthy and in right balance, even in the face of illness or disease.
The good news is that great strides have been made in whole person health care. The integration of body, mind, and spirit has become a key dimension of health education and disease prevention and treatment. Despite many advances in a wide range of holistic approaches, however, our health care system remains primarily disease-centered rather than addressing the well-being of our whole being.
To thrive as individuals and as members of healthy communities, we are called on to develop our inner wisdom, derived from direct personal experiences of illness and health, and transformative practices that promote our health and well-being—allowing us to move from surviving to thriving.
7 Key Tenets of Consciousness and Healing
- An integral approach to healing involves a whole-systems approach based in healing and the restoration of wholeness. We are part of an interconnected whole that includes biological, personal, cultural, and transpersonal dimensions.
- Understanding consciousness and awareness helps us understand and experience health and well-being, including our will to live, grow, and die with grace.
- Our interpersonal relationships are a vital part of our integral nature and they impact our health and well-being.
- It is hard to be healthy in a sick society and we have different levels at which we are part of the social fabric in conscious and unconscious ways. Social healing offers a path to mend present and historical wounds that have been created by conflict, collective trauma, and large scale oppression.
- Our connections to our and other's culture and worldview opens us to our connection to tradition and diverse ways of knowing and being in the world and to a wide range of complementary healing systems.
- Much of standard medicine, with its high tech and low-touch approaches, removes healing from its ground in nature. Moving from a view of separation from nature to one of fundamental interconnectedness and our ability to perceive the beauty and sacred language of nature.
- Spiritual interconnectedness. Life is the great teacher. Our ability to see the way to a new approach to health and healing requires deep humility in the face of wonder and mystery. Gratitude, love, and compassion are essential tools to an inclusive and whole-hearted healing system.
Wonder What's In Your Subconscious? Look At Your Body
According to Dr Candace Pert, an internationally recognised neuroscientist and pharmacologist who published over 250 research articles and was a significant contributor to the emergence of Mind-Body Medicine as an area of legitimate scientific research in the 1980's, your body is your subconscious mind.
In particular, Candace formulated a theory of the emotions, mediated by receptor-active peptides, such as the neuropeptides and immune system cytokines, as the agents that integrated communication between the brain and the body. Candace thought emotions were stored in the body and that healthy communication via emotional expression was key to integrating the mind and the body. Wellness practices such as somatic, behavioral, and contemplative practices thereby had a physiological basis and could be used to promote or enhance health and recovery from illness. It would marshall the body's native repair and regenerative systems, providing a modern interpretation for the "wisdom of the body".
What Dr Pert found was that our feelings, habitual reactions, and beliefs are embedded in our bodies, across our central nervous system, connective tissue, and fascia. "In recent years some of the world's leading biochemists, physiologists, systems theorists and consciousness researchers have turned their attention to this mysterious substance known as fascia. Often the terms connective tissue or soft tissue are used interchangeably for fascia but this is somewhat misleading as they would imply a fibre- or muscle-type material when actually, fascia is primarily a fluid gel found throughout the body. To understand fascia, we have to understand a fourth state of matter in between solid and liquid (plasma) and also the behaviour of liquid crystals."
Try this: Tell yourself before falling asleep, "I intend to become aware of the most painful experiences of my life and where they are lodged in my body." You'll be amazed at how your brain will work to gather this information for you while you rest. Once these awarenesses start to come to you, heed the body's calls for what it may need in terms of exercise, food, breathing, environment, etc., and allow all emotions to flow freely. In this way, the body can finally release its wounds.
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