Remove the distractions that lead to mindless eating to stop overeating and lose weight

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Eating while distracted can lead to overeating and weight gain

Research presented by Dr. Marion Hetherington at the 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo about multitasking and mindless eating provided proof that weight gain isn’t just about what you eat, but how you eat.

Dr. Hetherington explained that “satiation” is the sensation that lets us know when to end a meal or stop eating. “Satiety” describes what we feel after eating that tells us we’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to eat again. Being able to detect each of these physical conditions has strong cognitive component.

Or simply put, we must pay attention when eating so our mind can process all of the signals that our body receives through sight, smell, taste and touch, in addition to the barrage of gastrointestinal signals transmitted with each bite.

According to Dr. Hetherington, several studies show that if you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, reading or even talking, you can end up overeating. Appetite regulation is also affected by the amount of food available, such as large servings or buffets, even if the food doesn’t taste that good.

Based on this emerging research, a new direction for treating weight gain and obesity has evolved that focuses on the act of eating. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD explained how Intuitive Eating, an approach she helped pioneer, allows people develop a healthy relationship with food and their own body.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles which begin with rejecting the diet mentality and all the externalized rules for “dieting” that go with it. In this way the physical cues of hunger and satiety can begin to guide eating.

Ms. Tribole described “eating amnesia” as what occurs when you eat while distracted. She went on to explain that eating intuitively requires being aware of the food in front of you, as well as your emotions and body sensations.

The benefits of overcoming mindless eating and eating more intuitively go far beyond weight control according to both speakers. Practitioners gain a whole new appreciation for how to live in their own bodies and more accurately interpret their other needs, feelings and thoughts unrelated to food.

Given the abysmal results of most weight loss diets and the constantly changing food landscape, it makes sense to redirect your attention to how you eat, instead of what, if you want to lose weight. Why not shut down all the electronics and other distractions at your next meal and see how it feels?

World’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals changes name after nearly 100 years

Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo Presents Cutting Edge Research to Over 6000 Nutrition Professionals

Dietitians attending Food & Nutrition Conference come away with new identity

I just returned from the 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) where I spent four days attending presentations on the latest research in food and nutrition science, networking with professional colleagues and learning about new products in the marketplace. I have attended every one of these annual gatherings of registered dietitians and other nutrition professionals since 1974 and am always rewarded with cutting edge information and insight.

I am going to share some highlights from this year’s sessions in my next three blogs. One will be devoted to the best new products I discovered on the exhibit floor and another will be about the most interesting nutrition research studies presented. But in this blog I am going to share with you what was for me the biggest news of all.

The president of the American Dietetic Association announced at the Opening Session of FNCE 2011 that the Association was officially changing its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!

The former ADA was founded in 1917 with the mission to help the government conserve food and improve the public’s health and nutrition during World War I. Since that time it has grown to be the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals with 72,000 members working in schools, hospitals, athletic programs, food services, public health centers, grocery stores and many other settings where people eat, make food decisions and need nutrition guidance.

The decision to change the name to the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics (AND) reflects the strong science background of the members since an academy is a society of learned persons organized to advance science. The inclusion of the term nutrition underscores the focus on wellness, prevention and treatment through better food and nutrition choices.

The word dietetics was retained in the new name because it continues to reflect the title of most of the members, whether a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). These titles are earned by meeting and maintaining the standards for certification and credentialing of Commission on Dietetic Registration.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics will have the same mission as the former American Dietetic Association, and that is to protect and advance the nutritional well-being of the public. To find out more about the former ADA/new AND, or to find a Registered Dietitian who can help you, go to www.eatright.org.

Eating regular meals provides a way to slow down a busy day.

Being Busy Interferes with Eating Regular Meals

Eating regular meals provides better nutrition and an antidote to busyness

When I was growing up, no one I knew had an appointment book. The families in my neighborhood all got a free calendar from the bank at Christmas time and it hung inside a kitchen cupboard. The boxes for each day of the week weren’t that big, but it didn’t matter since people didn’t have much to keep track of then.

Today people have calendars on their walls, desks, computers and phones to stay on schedule, and get electronic reminders to tell them what to do next. When people say “time flies,” I think what they really mean is they are too busy being busy.

One of the most dangerous effects of being so busy is its impact on our meal patterns. You remember meals, don’t you? When you were a child they probably involved daily rituals like washing your hands before coming to the table, saying grace before eating, not talking with your mouth full, being excused when you finished what was on your plate, and taking turns washing and drying the dishes.

In addition to feeding us and providing a means to transfer family values, regular meal times serve as the anchors in our day. A time to regroup, while we refuel. Meals provide the perfect antidote to busyness.

When not eating meals people tend to snack and graze their way through the day. No rituals, no table manners and certainly little attention to nutritional needs. Just one more gulp and go day in an eat and run world.

Diet plans and nutrition information may change over time, but meals remain the same. Here’s all you need to know:

  • Sit down to eat
  • Share the meal with others
  • Eat foods from at least three different food groups
  • Use eating utensil, not your hands
  • Disconnect from the outside world – no television or texting at the table

Think about it, is that really too much to ask? And what have you got to lose but another appointment in your PDA?

Bon appetit!

Fast food undermines survival instinct to work for food

Fast Food May Hurt Us in More Ways Than One

Eating fast food removes the effort that helps keep our mind and body in shape

When most people think of fast food, images of burgers and fries come to mind. But if you are part of the Slow Food Movement, even sliced bread would be in the picture. Although all convenience foods do not come loaded with calories, recent studies have me thinking the faster we get our food, the easier it is to get fat.

Let me explain.

For most of human history, hunting and gathering food took all of our time and energy. When we figured out how to raise crops and animals more than 10,000 years ago, we had a somewhat more reliable food supply, but still had to work very hard to get something to eat. Then with the dawn of modern agriculture less than 200 years ago, the era of cheap, easy and fast food began.

Whether it’s take-out fried chicken or boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, fast food brought with it a dramatic change in our way of life. Once we no longer had to expend much effort to get our food, we had a lot more time to think about other things, like ways to produce even more food even faster.

But what if the evolutionary connection between food and work is important to our survival? It appears this may be true for some animals.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the more effort mice had to expend to get their food, the more they valued it. In the study, mice were trained to press levers to receive treats. They preferred the sugary treat that took 15 presses of the lever over the treat they could get after pressing the lever just once. Then when the sugary treat was replaced with a low calorie (less tasty) snack, the mice continued to show a preference for the harder to get treat.

The study suggests that mice valued working for their foods so much they would eat something less palatable (and better for them) as long as they could “earn it” through hard work.

A related finding was seen in birds. Researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Centre in Upsala, Sweden found that survival among birds in urban areas was based on brain size because they have to work harder to find food than birds living in the countryside. These “urban adapters” as the researchers called them, are able to develop novel foraging techniques and sustain a varied diet, which is key to survival in a changing environment. Again, working for food paid off.

I realize animal studies cannot explain human behavior. But it makes me think our quick and easy food supply may be bad for us in more ways than just nutritionally. I know I have never heard anyone complain about a meal of home-grown, home-made food, have you?

Getting your body in motion is all it takes to exercise

Exercise Can Be Fun!

Do what you like to take the work out of workouts

I don’t have a problem getting enough exercise. I spend at least one hour a day doing something most people would call exercise, then sneak in lots of other mini workouts just for the fun of it. I live at the beach so take long walks along the ocean shoreline or on the board walk that extends for miles alongside it. I cultivate a big vegetable garden that is 99% weed free and 100% herbicide free. When out listening to live music, I always dance.

Those activities don’t feel like exercise to me because I enjoy doing them so much. Sometimes I have to time myself to stop weeding after 30 minutes so I can get back to doing the real work I’m supposed to do, like writing these blogs. But that’s a whole lot better than having to force myself to lift weights for half an hour.

Don’t ask me to swim laps in a pool or pedal endlessly on a stationary bike, either. I don’t like to do those things and will surely find a way not to. My goal is to get a workout without it feeling like work.

So while other people check the morning weather to decide if they’ll need an umbrella to get where they’re going, I check it to see if the skies will be clear enough to go outside and play. And if I can’t, I feel cheated out of doing the thing I look forward to most each day.

Anything you enjoy doing that involves some form of movement can count as part of your required physical activity. Yes, there are important guidelines that tell us we should vary our exercise routines to develop strength, stamina and flexibility, but the most important recommendation of all is to put the time in. By doing something that’s fun, you’ll spend more time doing it and reap far more benefits than procrastinating about what someone else thinks you should be doing.

This enlightened approach to exercise will work wonders on your mental health, too. When all the guilt over what you’re not doing is replaced by the pleasure of doing what you want, you attitude improves immeasurably. Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting and it shouldn’t hurt. It should simply put your body into motion for an extended period of time with a smile on your face.

So what would you do if you could ignore all of your other obligations for the day and just spend it doing an activity you love? Now how are you going to get that activity back into your life on a regular basis? Answering those questions is one exercise you should complete without procrastinating!

Poor time management can lead to weight gain

Lack of Time Can Cause Weight Gain

Learning time management can lead to weight management

People are always complaining they don’t have enough time. They blame their lack of time for not reading more good books, not visiting their favorite relatives and not improving their tennis serve. The lack of time is also keeping people from losing weight.

Weight control requires that you have control over two other things in your life: the number of calories you consume and the amount of energy you expend. Controlling those two halves of the weight control equation requires a big investment of time.

To control the calories coming in, you have to be willing and able to prepare foods that can fill you up without exceeding your allotted calories for the day. To keep that number high enough to be satisfying, you have to be willing and able to be in motion more hours of the day.

Both take time.

The foods that are most filling while also being lower in calories are fruits and vegetables; lean meats, fish and poultry; and whole grains. Building your diet around these foods requires more time to shop for them and prepare them. No matter how many modern appliances you have in your kitchen, none of them can do the labor-intensive part of food preparation.

You can let the food industry do some of your fresh produce prep, like husking your corn and shredding your cabbage, but you’ll pay more and get less nutritional value for that time savings. And as good as frozen vegetables are, there are no frozen salads.

Turning lean cuts of beef, pork and chicken into tasty dishes takes time, too. Lacking fat, flavor must be provided by marinades, spice rubs and sauces, preferably not from a jar. And a side of brown rice, pearl barley or bagged beans takes longer to cook than their white, instant and canned counterparts.

Fortunately, shopping and cooking are a form of physical activity, the other half of the weight control equation. Whether done in a gym four times a week or wedged into each day, finding time to stop everything else and put your body in motion is an anti-obesity strategy that deserves your time, too.

If you are one of those people who is time-starved and overfed, this is your wake up call. Please don’t hit the snooze button. It’s time to take control of your time.

To get started, here’s 3 Smart Time Management Tips for Better Weight Management.

  1. Handle food in batches to avoid duplication of effort. Examples: Prefill coffee filters with ground coffee and stack them up for the week, cook a large amount of brown rice and freeze extra portions in zip-top bags for easy thawing, chop 3 onions at a time and save some for another day.
  2. Put other things in the oven once it’s preheated and in use. Examples: Add a few potatoes or yams so they’re ready for a quick lunch, cut-up pita bread or corn tortillas for homemade chips, slice and drain tofu and bake for use in a stir fry later in the week.
  3. Stand instead of sit whenever you can. Examples: In any waiting room, at airport gates, when talking on the phone, watching kid’s sporting events.
The concept of Yin Yang can be applied to food selection for a healthy diet

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

How to use the philosophy of Yin Yang instead of MyPlate to make healthy food choices

The food world got a new circle in June called MyPlate. It was created to illustrate how we should proportion our food at each meal to balance the diet. It works pretty well if you can separate your food into individual piles of grain, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy, but not if you’re eating a slice of mushroom pizza and a fruit smoothie.

Given the many ways food is combined to make it taste good – think lasagna, burritos, sushi – the strategically divided MyPlate is not the handiest tool for diet planning. But the ancient symbol of Yin Yang is. It represents the idea of balance by viewing everything in relation to its whole, like the complementary characteristics of day and night, sky and earth, fire and water.

Using the concept of Yin Yang at meals would encourage us to think about whether our choices harmonize well as part our daily diet, instead of trying to figure out into what food group each item on our plate belongs. I particularly like the way the symbol of Yin Yang invokes the importance of balance without making us feel like we need a scale to get it right.

Seeing the image of Yin Yang might gently nudge us to be mindful when eating and consider whether we have had enough whole grains for the day or possibly too many. In that way it could help us make healthy food choices without ever having to deconstruct a bowl of soup into its component parts.

The inclusive nature of Yin Yang also allows for all of our food choices, without judgment, as long as no food or drink dominates our diet or is neglected. This distinction of Yin Yang preserves the essence of cuisine that makes eating so enjoyable. In the harmonizing world of Yin Yang, food can be a little salty or spicy or savory or sweet. It can be hot or cold, liquid or solid, crunchy or smooth. All of the most highly personal to the most patently universal aspects of food selection can be accommodated.

In short, the Yin Yang message can be used to promote moderation and variety in the diet. And that’s pretty much all we need to know to achieve good nutrition. Why not conjure up the image of Yin Yang at your next meal and see what happens?

Super foods are not enough for a healthy diet

Are Super Foods the Key to a Healthy Diet?

Quality and variety are essential for good nutrition

The battle of the super foods has always fascinated me. We live on a planet with more than 390,000 plant species, many of them edible but never sampled, yet there are some who think they have figured out what the Top 10 Super Foods are that we should eat for good nutrition.

I don’t buy it and never did. Any time you limit your diet to a top 10 food list, no matter how virtuous, you are losing the value of variety.

Eating a wide variety of foods is one of the basic tenets for a healthy diet. This means you should spread out your choices over all food groups and within each one, while also switching it up with the seasons. For example, if you like apples, it’s a good idea to buy some from New York State as well as Washington and swop out a Cortland for a Crispin or a Cameo occasionally, too.

That said, eating an apple a day is not the goal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat 3-4 servings of fruit every day. That’s 1 ½ – 2 cups of fruit 365 days of the year. Most Americans don’t even come close to meeting that goal.

A 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that in no state were U.S. adults eating the recommended 3-4 servings of fruit a day and only 32.5% were consuming fruit two or more times a day. Debating whether blueberries or pomegranates should hold first place on this year’s super food list is a distraction from the more important issue that most Americans simply need to eat more fruit!

Eating fruit in any form can help close the gap. Fresh fruit is fine when available and affordable, while frozen fruit offers year round value. Canned fruit in unsweetened juice provides convenience and cost savings every day of the week, and dried fruit offers economy of space as well. And what could be easier than drinking a cup of 100% fruit juice once a day?

My strategy has been to always include a serving of fruit as part my breakfast and lunch, then have another as an afternoon snack. Even if I’m traveling, I can always get a glass of juice on a plane or in a bar and buy some trail mix with dried fruit in any convenience store. When the fruit bowl is empty at home, I always have berries in the freezer for my yogurt, mandarin orange segments in the pantry to toss into a salad and sundried tomatoes to snack on.

Something as basic as eating more fruit can result in dramatic changes in the quality of your diet. You’ll benefit not only from all of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients you’ll be consuming, but also because of all the other stuff you won’t be.

Why not keep a list of the different types of fruit you eat over one year to see if you can come up with 100? That’s a as a super food list I’d really like to see!

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Motivation comes from within, the reasons are your own.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Why motivation is a critical step to eating right

Somewhere along the way, after counseling thousands of clients about food and nutrition, creating hundreds of handouts, writing books and articles, teaching classes, delivering presentations and providing media interviews, I realized that all of the valuable nutrition information I was disseminating did not automatically motivate those on the receiving end to eat better. The only real measure of success for all of my efforts has been the improved knowledge about food and nutrition people have gained from me. But seeing that knowledge put into practice is another matter entirely.

Finding the motivation to act on one’s knowledge of how to lead a healthier lifestyle is a private matter. It cannot be taught, but must be discovered within. And it must be a deeply powerful motivator because we must draw upon it every day, several times a day, to reap the benefits. Making good food choices just three out of seven days a week doesn’t cut it. Nor does exercising like a fiend after every binge.

My motivators for eating right and exercising regularly have been clear to me for most of my life. I had the motivation long before I had all of the knowledge acquired as a registered dietitian about the do’s and don’ts of living well. Those forces have never weakened their hold over me. With each new day and every new situation I have faced, the decision to make wise food choices and remain active have always won out over all other temptations and distractions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my life is a bore – far from it. I just don’t lose sight of the prize.

Here’s what has motivated me to maintain a healthy body weight for over 50 years and better than average stamina, strength and flexibility for a woman my age:

Low pain threshold. I don’t like to hiccup, let along cough. Knowing certain behaviors can increase my risk for pain and discomfort is like an inoculation against living carelessly.

Belief in prevention. Most treatments involve some risk and lots of side effects, not to mention pain, so preventing injury and illness has always made more sense to me. By living clean I pay it forward.

Fear of hospitals. Maybe it was that first time I visited a hospital as a little girl and smelled that smell when I exited the elevator on the ward where my grandmother was a patient, but I can still recall wanting to run away as fast as I could. I have never gotten over my aversion to hospitals and do all that I can to avoid them.

If you haven’t found your personal motivation to eat smart and stay fit, this is where your journey should begin. If you have found it, I’d love to hear what works for you?

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