Connect Your Mind to Your Body to Experience Increased Health and Wellness

The brain and body are connected.  When the brain is not working properly the body will suffer and when the body is not working properly the brain will suffer.  We do not know what comes first, the brain or body.  What we do know is the brain and the body work together to keep a person mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.   Research clearly demonstrates that the thoughts a person has is directly related to physical health (Goebel, Trebst, Steiner, Xie, Exton, Frede, & Canbay, 2002).  People with more positive thinking have improved health whereas individuals with negative thinking have decreased physical health (Cakirbay, Bilici, Kavakci, Cebi, Guler, & Tan, 2004).  The quality of your thinking and the thoughts that flow through your mind have the power to make you ill or to make you healthy.  Research suggests individuals with a physical health condition had an improved immune system when they had more positive thinking, as evidenced by decreased depression and increased production of cells in the immune system responsible for fighting illness and disease (Cakirbay, et al., 2004).  Millions of Americans suffer from chronic illness and millions seek treatment in order to fight illness, improve health, and feel better.  Most often illness and disease is treated with medication.  Medication is necessary and it is advised to always follow physician treatment recommendations, however, medication can have complications.  Perhaps improving the brain and the quality of thoughts in the brain can improve health and the need for medication.

Medication, as helpful as it is, is also associated with increased side effects and discomfort due to side effects.  This makes treatment compliance difficult.  Treatment non-compliance can cause symptoms to increase and make it more difficult to treat the illness in the future.  Additionally people sometimes develop tolerance to medications and they are no longer effective (CDC, 2011).  Medication is helpful and effective, however, individuals with chronic illness can also benefit by allowing the brain to heal the body.

Practicing wellness will create a healthier brain, and a healthier brain will think better, behave better, and function better.  Research supports this conclusion as well.  Studies showed that maintaining positive thinking about maintaining health behaviors, like healthy eating and regular physical activity, was related to decreased emotional  distress, improved sleep, and improved physical health symptoms (Goebel, et al., 2002; Meissner, Bingel, Colloca, Wager, Watson, & Flaten, 2011; Nicklas, You, & Pahor, 2005).  Simply thinking will change behaviors can that improve health.

People become overwhelmed with the notion of changing behavior and many find it difficult.  It can be hard to change behavior and start something new simply because the brain can be lazy, at times.  Your brain and your body are accustomed to doing things, and in order to change it requires a shift in thinking.  This shift in thinking must be intentional.  You must re-condition your brain to think positively about the new behavior change.  The brain will be more likely to develop positive thinking about the new behavior if individuals use verbal and environmental cues (Meissner, et al., 2011).  In order to change thinking a person needs to speak positive statements.  List and state out loud the positive affects of starting and maintaining the new behavior.  If the behavior change is to get more sleep (which will improve health) then list all the good things about going to sleep 1 hour earlier.  If the behavior change is to eat more fruit and vegetables write down all the good things about eating more fruits and vegetables.  Saying the things listed out loud will help motivate the behavior and cause the more positive thinking to linger. Speaking the positive benefits will convince you to engage in the new behavior.  You can be your own motivation by reminding yourself of this list and saying the things out loud over and over.

Your environment can also trigger behavior changes.  If your goal is to drink more water, have a large water bottle or jug in arms reach throughout the day.  Whenever you see the water bottle you will be reminded to drink more water.  If you want to improve sleep agree to turn down the lights in the house, turn down the volume of the TV, watch less stimulating television, and put away cell phone, computer, and other technological devices.  This will allow the body to relax and unwind and once the body is relaxed it is easier to sleep.

A change in thinking will lead to a change in behavior.  Increasing healthy behaviors will improve health.  It is possible that improving the quality of thoughts can reduce physical symptoms so that you can live a life where your physical health is only a minor concern.  If your body is not feeling well, try embracing the concept of positive thinking and enjoy healthy behaviors like increased sleep, healthy eating, physical activity (as you are able), and relaxation.  This will lead to a healthier body.  Engaging in daily healthy behaviors will improve overall health in general.  It is worth it to make a slight change in thinking to be a happier and healthier you!

 

 

References:

 

Cakirbay, H., Bilici, M., Kavakci, O., Cebi, A., Guler, M., & Tan, U. (2004). Sleep quality and immune functions in rheumatoid arthritis patients with and without major depression. International Journal of Neuroscience, 114, 245-256.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Corticosteroid Therapy (Prednisone, Prednisolone). Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). Retrieved from: corticosteroids/non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Goebel, M. U., Trebst, A. E., Steiner, J., Xie, Y. F., Exton, M., S., Frede, S. (2002).Behavioral conditioning of immunosuppression is possible in humans. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 16(14), 1869-1873.

 

Meissner, K., Bingel, U., Colloca, L., Wager, T., Watson, A., & Flaten, M. (2011). The placebo effect: Advances from different methodological approaches. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(45), 16117-16124.

 

Nicklas, B., You, T., & Pahor, M. (2005). Behavioural treatments for chronic systemic inflammation: Effects of dietary weight loss and exercise training. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 172(9), 1199-1209.

 

 

Eat for Health – the Weight Loss and New Body Will Just Be An Added Benefit

There is so much emphasis on fad diets nowadays and people are frequently talking about the newest workout trend.  These things can be exciting and are fun to try.  The trick for maintaining wellness and health, for life, is to find what works best for you.  This requires patience because it takes time to have your body adjust to a new diet and workout routine and then it takes time for your body to show the progress of these changes.  I encourage you to try different things.  Try different workouts.  Try different ways of being physically active.  Try different diets.  This will help you find what is best for you.

However, as far as diet is concerned, adjusting your meal plan too much can cause serious health problems.  You see what you eat impacts your body, every single square inch of your body, all the way down to your cells.  Let’s discuss a little biology 101.  (Don’t worry I am not a biologist, so I will keep this simple).  As a living organism we are made up of cells.  These tiny little life sources contain many parts, including DNA.  DNA, without getting too complicated, is the roadmap that provides the directions to live, to be you, and to be human.  DNA, although tiny, is what contains your uniqueness, your ability to breathe, your ability to think, and your ability to live your life.  DNA is always replicating and reproducing in our cells to make more cells.  As long as we keep making cells then we can continue to live a healthy life.   What you eat will contain chemicals, nutrients, and products that will be metabolized down to your DNA.  Your DNA needs food and will use these chemicals, nutrients, and products (healthy or not) to continue replicating and reproducing.  It has been said before, you are what you eat!

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Some foods contain nutrients and products to help DNA continue to grow in healthy manner.  However there are also foods that can destroy and damage DNA.  Literally there are foods that will change your DNA, and this will increase risk for heart disease, cancer, blood disorders, and speed up the aging process.   Cells will be damaged, although cell death and cell damage is a natural process, you do not want to speed up this process.  What causes danger is when cells become mutated and rather than die they work to replicate the mutated cells.  This may be a slow process in the body, however, in the form of some illnesses and disease the health implications become more evident.

What you eat can slow down the aging process.  Food can actually heal the body from illness.  What you eat may not cure your illness, but it could improve your health.  What you eat can reduce the risk of disease and illness in the future.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring nor does it have to taste bad.  Eating healthy is as simple as adding some foods and spices to your diet.  Consider adding these things to your diet to help fight aging and improve your health.

  • Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that can slow down cells destruction. They are also associated with reduced heart disease, cancer risk, and disease.  Strive for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  Try adding 1/2 of blueberries to cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, a banana mid morning will keep energy levels up, add a cup of broccoli to your lunch, an apple mid afternoon will help avoid that 3:00pm crash, and eat asparagus with your dinner.  Sadly french fries are the most consumed “vegetable” by American children.  Not knocking potatoes or French fries, but other fruits and vegetables offer better health benefits.
  • Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that only they can provide.  They provide the type of nutrition that cannot be obtained from a supplement or vitamin.  Try eating orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe, and apricots) to improve the health of your eyes.  That is not just a myth, carrots contain nutrients that contain the same properties needed for your eyes! Eating green and yellow fruits and vegetables like melon, avocado, kiwi, green beans, and spinach are associated with decreased cancer risks.  Onions, mushrooms, potatoes and turnips lowers bad cholesterol.  Blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant improve memory and reduce the effects of cell aging.  Peppers and apples reduce risk of cancer and improve heart health.  Eat a rainbow for wellness and health!
  • Rather than cooking with butter try adding olive oil.  Do not be dismayed that oil is a fat.  We need fat in our diet.  Cooking with oil will help protect cells from damage, and oil is associated with decreased heart disease risk.
  • Nuts and flaxseed are another great fat source with added health benefits.  Walnuts, soy, flaxseeds, and beans contain nutrients to lower heart disease risks.

Perhaps eating vegetables, nuts, and beans is not your favorite thing – never fear there are things you can do to spice up your food that will help decrease adverse health complications.

  • Not only will many herbs and spices add a nice flavor to your foods but they offer health benefits as well.
  • For example garlic has chemical properties associated with decreased cancer risk.  Evidence suggested that properties of garlic fought against tumor growth and lowered risk of heart disease.  Garlic is easy to add to most foods.  Simply buy a bulb, crush, and add to meats or vegetables for a flavorful and healthy dish.
  • If garlic is too overwhelming add onion, chives, or leeks to meats and vegetables.  Research has demonstrated these additions can reduce risk of heart disease.
  • Another simple spice to add to your diet to improve the health benefits of your food is cinnamon.  Cinnamon can be added daily and adding cinnamon has been associated with decreased inflammation and decreased blood clotting.  In other words cinnamon will improve your immune system and can help keep the heart healthy by keeping blood clots from developing.  Another perk of cinnamon is that it helps with metabolism and research demonstrated it helped the body process carbohydrates.  This is important for the risk and management of diabetes because it will help blood sugar levels remain stable.  Cinnamon can be added to toast, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, and tea.  All that is needed for health benefits is 1/2 tsp.
  • Rosemary is an easily found herb that can be quickly added to foods.  Rosemary will improve food flavor and is associated with decreased cancer risk.  Try seasoning meats with rosemary.

Do not fall for the belief that dairy is bad.  Dairy is a fat, but again, fat is needed in the diet.  Here are some dairy options to consider adding to your diet for improved health.

  • Yogurt contains probiotics and probiotics (a bacteria needed for digestion) helps keep the colon and digestive system healthy and working properly.  Many yogurts contain high sugar amounts in order to improve taste.  However it is easy to keep a healthier version and still the enjoy the taste.  Add peanut butter – peanut butter makes everything better.  Or add microwaved frozen cherries, strawberries, or blueberries to a plain non-fat yogurt.  Adding granola or nuts will give the yogurt a nice taste and a crunch.
  • Drink milk because it contains calcium to keep bones strong.

And if you are still not sure you will enjoy the healthier food options discussed, try eating chocolate.

  • Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is associated with decreased risk of heart disease.  Chocolate contains chemicals and nutrients that helps arteries to improve blood flow and heart strength.
  • Chocolate, however, should be eaten with caution.  This does not give you permission to binge on chocolate.  Eating chocolate in moderation provides a health benefit.  It is easy to binge on chocolate due the association of chocolate and the pleasure receptors in the brain.  In order to avoid overeating chocolate use mindfulness while eating.  Have a seat in a relaxed area with limited distractions.    Enjoy the taste of the chocolate as you eat it.  Remaining mindful while eating chocolate will decrease the likelihood of overindulging in chocolate.  Calories may need to be replaced elsewhere when chocolate is consumed and strive to eat 3-4 oz of chocolate a week.

Carbohydrates are not bad either.  Carbohydrates are necessary for metabolizing food and for maintaining and growing muscles.  Carbohydrates are helpful for health in the following forms:

  • Carbohydrates contain fiber.  Look for foods that contain about 2.5 to 4.9 grams of fiber.  Fiber helps reduce risk of heart disease, reduces inflammation, and helps with digestion.
  • The problem with fiber and carbohydrates is that Americans may be consuming types that are more difficult for the body to process and metabolize and increase blood sugar levels rather than stabilize.
  • Oats and beans are high in fiber, have improved health benefits, and will also help you feel fuller longer.
  • Quinoa is a grain not only high in fiber but tons of healthy nutrients.  Quinoa is easy to eat instead of rice.
  • Eat whole grains to reduce the risk of heart disease.  There are many foods that claim to contain whole grain.  However Americans are still not consuming enough.  Look for food products that list “whole wheat flour”, “whole oats”, or “whole grain corn” first.  Wheat bread or brown bread may not contain sufficient whole grains so choose breads carefully by reading the ingredients.

You do not have to eat chicken and broccoli at every meal to find health and weight loss.  Health and weight loss can happen by simply adding fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, fats, and whole grains to your daily meals.  To be healthy does not mean you need to cut out foods you enjoy, to be healthy means to eat various foods, eat more colorful foods, and eat all foods in moderation.

Your Food Can Impact Your Mood

Millions of people experience periods of depression.  Millions also have a chemical imbalance, due to mental illness, that creates difficulty regulating moods.  Although research clearly supports the effectiveness of medications to treat depression and other mood disorders many individuals choose to refrain from pharmaceutical treatment due to side-effects and costs of psychotropic medications.

There is new research to suggest that quality of food is related to mood.  Researchers are looking at how particular foods will either improve mood or contribute to depression, anxiety, stress, anger, and psychosis.  For example a study looked at mood and food consumption and found that women with high fat diets had increased levels of depression and women with increased starch in their daily diets had increased anger (Pepino, Finkbeiner, & Mennella, 2009).  Diet and mood are closely related due to evidence that suggests that diet, regardless of healthy or less healthy, changes the brain.

The food consumed contains chemicals, vitamins, substances, and nutrients the body needs to function.  The importance of food on brain functioning became more clear as researchers found a connection between the “gut” and the brain.  The gut/brain connection is important to understand how food impacts mood.  Specifically the stomach, intestines, and the brain share the same tissue and nerves, and the nerves in the gut transmits chemicals directly to the brain (Mayer, 2011).  If chemicals in the gut, where food begins the metabolic process, are stable then chemicals in the brain will remain stable.  However as the chemicals in the gut become unregulated due to food consumption and metabolism then the chemicals in the brain will also become unrelated.  For example once food in consumed the body starts to metabolize food in the cells and this signals a growth hormone in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (Gomez-Pinnilla, & Nguyen, 2012).  This chemical is responsible for growing new brain neurons and helps keep the brain healthy and functioning well.  BDNF is needed for memory, energy, and learning (Gomez-Pinnilla, & Nguyen, 2012).  BDNF levels are also related to mood and researchers found that decreased BDNF was associated with a depressed mood.  Due to this connection of brain chemicals in the gut researchers looked at how foods impacted the regulation of brain chemicals.  Specifically researchers found that increased sugar intake was related to suppressed BDNF levels (Sharma & Fulton, 2013).  Clearly the type of foods consumed, the amount of food consumed, and the quality of food consumed is important not only for physical health but for mental and emotional health.

Sugar is not the only food that is associated with dysregulated moods. Specifically diets high in fat are related to decreased hippocampus functioning and this will decrease how the brain works, thinks, and responds.  Individuals with difficulty thinking, focusing, and recalling memories may have diets higher in fat.  Additionally research indicated that diets high in calories were related to increases in a chemical, reactive oxygen species (ROS).  ROS is a harmful chemical that destroys cells and increased ROS is related to increased psychiatric disease (Davidson & Kaplan, 2012; Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).  However the foods consumed can reverse this damage as well as improve brain functioning.  Specifically foods that contain antioxidants will protect the brain from ROS (Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).

It is easy to read this information and think that elimination of certain foods will help improve brain functioning and mood.  Eliminating foods can only further cause brain deterioration and mood problems.  For example there is often fear that consuming carbs will increase weight gain.  Carbs contain sugar and therefore many eliminate carbs from the diet due to fear of weight gain, and now in an attempt to improve mood.  Although increased sugar intake will increase inflammation, decrease immunity, and decrease the brains ability to process insulin and leptin (chemicals needed for energy), carbs are necessary for the brain to function properly (Davidson & Kaplan, 2012).  Specifically carbs contain tryptophan, an amino acid, and increased tryptophan is associated with increased serotonin.  Increased serotonin levels will improve depression.  The message communicated by this research is that the quality of food consumed will impact mood.

The following is a list of foods that are associated with improving mood.

  1. Carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain tryptophan that will improve mood by increasing serotonin levels (Davidson & Kaplan, 2012).
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids are foods like fish, flaxseed and walnuts. Omega-3 is associated with decreased depression.  Adding omega-3 is important to mental health.  Research suggested that decreased levels of omega-3 was associated with decreased brain size and increased suicidal ideation (Davidson & Kaplan, 2012; Lin, Mischoulon, Freeman, Matsuoka, Hibbein, Belmaker, & Su, 2012).  If fish is not regularly consumed an individual could benefit from adding an omega-3 daily supplement.
  3. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants to protect against ROS as well as contain chemicals, called polyphenols, that promote brain growth and health (Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).  Fruits like plums, apples, and cherries also contain chlorogenic acid, which is associated with decreased anxiety (Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).  Blueberries and blackberries are high in antioxidants and are associated with improved dopamine levels.  Dopamine is associated with improved coordination, memory, thinking, and mood (Davidson & Kaplan, 2012).
  4. Green tea contains epigallocat echin gallate, EGCG, which is responsible for improving cognitive functioning, improved focus, improved concentration, improved thinking, and improved mood (Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).
  5. Turmeric, a common spice that contains curcumin, has many health benefits, including improved mood.  Specifically curcumin increased serotonin and dopamine in the brain and this was associated with decreased depression and decreased stress (Gomez-Pinilla & Nguyen, 2012).
  6. Foods like turkey and chicken  contain protein sources that are important to control mood due to the ability to regulate blood sugar levels.  Increased blood sugar is related to irritability, depression, and anger (Sharma & Fulton, 2013).  Therefore lean proteins will promote weight loss and regulate blood sugars to control mood.

A diet high in fat, high in sugar, high in processed foods, and high in carbs may contribute to difficulty regulating mood.  Eating well one meal may cause a temporary change in mood, thinking, and energy, however, in order to maintain a positive mood it is recommended that healthy and whole foods be consumed daily with every meal.

For more information please see the following article: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/02/food-affects-mood.aspx

References:

Davidson, K., & Kaplan, B. (2012).  Food intake and blood cholesterol levels of community-based adults with mood disorders.  BMC Psychiatry, 12, ArtID10.

Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Nguyen, T. (2012).  Natural mood foods: The actions of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 15(3), 127-133.

Lin, P.Y., Mischoulong, D., Freeman, M.P., Matsuoka, Y., Hibbein, J., Belmaker, R.H., & Su, K.P. (2012). Are omega-3 fatty acids antidepressants or just mood-improving agents? The effect depends upon diagnosis, supplement preparation, and severity of depression.  Molecular Psychiatry, 17(12), 1161-1163.

Mayer, E. (2011).  Gut feelings: The emerging biology of gut-brain communication.  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 12(8), 453-466.

Pepino, M., Finkbeiner, S., & Mennella, J. (2009).  Similarities in food cravings and mood states between obese women and women who smoke tobacco.  Obesity, 17(6), 1158-1163.

Sharma, S. & Fulton, S. (2013).  Diet-induced obesity promotes depressive-like behavior that is associated with neural adaptations in brain reward circuitry.  International Journal of Obesity, 37(3), 382-389.

The ONE Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Workout Gains

I have been working out consistently for about 7 years. I have also maintained healthy eating consistently during that time. Granted the intensity at which I worked and the dedication to my meal plan have not always been 100 my commitment, passion, and interest to maintain fitness and achieve physical goals with my body have always been consistent. 

Despite all my work I still see areas of my that need improvement. I am probably like most girls that complain about particular areas of my body. A lot of my commitment and dedication to working out and eating well was an attempt to change my body. And still after all this time, I struggle to accept, appreciate, and value areas of my body. In fact I felt ashamed of parts of my body and I would try to hide these “flaws”.

Outsiders see my body and have their own opinions and I have been called crazy for not fully accepting my body. People may say “you are so skinny”, “you are so fit”, or “I wish I looked like you”. However kind those words may be I struggled to accept their compliments because all I saw was “thunder things”. How I viewed my body, known as body image, was not accurate and was based on a skewed idea. 

Researchers posit that body image consists of an individuals thoughts about their body and these thoughts are based on the individuals situation (Bruin, Oudejans, Bakker, & Woertman, 2011).  For example you see your body as it relates to an idea in your head that developed from seeing others, watching TV, and reading magazines. When what you see does not match the idea in your head you will start to judge your body. Judging your body and having negative thoughts about your body will prevent you from seeing your body accurately. It will cause you to have negative thoughts and feelings about your body. If you think you have “thunder thighs” then when you look at your body you will see “thunder thighs”. This is not just an issue that will impact individuals with eating disorders. No, body image will also impact people that strive for fitness and health. This is known as “athletic body image” (Bruin, et al., 2011). Athletic body image is based on your evaluation of your body as compared to another athlete or fitness professional. You may be working hard but if you are comparing your progress to someone else’s you can develop a negative body image. This will only cause you to continue to compare, continue to make you feel bad, and keep you from seeing all your hard work and feeling proud about that work. 

Your progress toward a healthier body is directly related to how you think about your body. For example if I see my thighs as big and fat then I will see my thighs as big and fat when I look at them.  All of this information is necessary to tell you the one thing you need to do to improve your body and make progress on your fitness and health goals. 

Simply change your thinking! 

Your work in the gym and your dedication to healthy eating is working but if you continue to judge your body you will not see this progress. As I shared above I have really struggled to accept my legs. Despite all my hard work I continued to judge my body and dislike my progress. There is power in thinking!  So I decided to hink differently about my legs. I decided to praise them. I choose to see the positive and remember that my legs are strong. I expressed thanks and gratitude that my legs help me move, walk, lift, run, and live a blessed life. This thinking shifted my attitude. Once all the negative thinking was out of the way I was able to see my body in a different way. I was able to see progress in my legs. I was able to see the muscle definition I had been working toward. I was able to embrace my legs and found excitement in the progress. 

Embrace the things you do not like about yourself. Honor, respect, and value your body. Identify your problem area and point out all that is great about it. Rather than criticize your body for what is disappointing, praise your body. Doing this will allow you to see the progress. Thinking more positively will help you learn to love and enjoy your body, flaws and all. 

Tell me, what is your favorite thing about the least favorite part of your body?  

Stephanie

References: 

Bruin, A. P., Oudejans, R., Bakker, F., & Woertman, L. (2011). Contextual body image and athletes’ disordered eating: The contribution of athletic body image to disordered eating in high performance women athletes. European Eating Disorders Review, 19(3), 201-215. 

Getting Real and Getting Over Emotional Eating

I was on the local news this morning talking about emotional eating and how to overcome it.  Check it out.  Just click the link below.

 

Emotional Eating

Avoid the Weekend Binge: Control Your Mind Control Your Eating

It’s Friday, and if you are like most people you are looking forward to the weekend. Weekends are less structured with more free time and generally time to have fun and relax. We need this time to decompress and settle down. The lack of structure is great and necessary. However the lack of structure can be detrimental to health and weight loss goals. 

Specifically people find they binge or have increased “cheating” over the weekend. It is easy during the week to stay on track and maintain a fit and healthy routine. Know that a lot of people struggle to maintain a routine over the weekend and a lot of people “fall off the bandwagon”. That is why diets start on Mondays and a Monday in the gym is one of the busiest days of the week. People are in the gym trying to undo the damage they made with their eating over the weekend. Unfortunately it is not that easy; your body has already metabolized the food and it is impossible to out-train a bad diet. The act of binging over the weekend may be why people abandon their weight loss and health goals. They see a cheat meal, or two, or three, as failure. They let this failure cause them to lose hope. They probably think things like, “I can’t do this”, “I am not motivated enough”, or “it is too hard” to continue to maintain a fit life. If those are the thoughts then those things will be true. I have written a lot about this in previous blogs, so feel free to read those. Bottom line is, you ARE, what you think you ARE. 

The struggle is not necessarily due to being weak, lacking motivation and willpower, or having too strong cravings. The struggle is related to what you think!  How you encounter meals and the thoughts associated with eating any meal will determine whether you are successful or unsuccessful at maintning your healthy eating and fit lifestyle. 

What you think is vital to your eating behaviors and whether or not you will maintain your weight loss and health goals. Researchers found that people on diets failed because certain foods triggered enjoyable and pleasurablemthoughts about the food (Papies, 2008). People that struggled with self-regulation were less successful at avoiding the temptation, whereas people that were able to evulate their thoughts were more successful. 

Staying with your plan requires self-regulation. Self-regulation is understanding your thoughts and how your thoughts cause you to feel and behave. Let’s say I show you an image of chocolate. Looks good right?!? The majority of people would see that image and agree chocolate is good and would agree they would enjoy a piece of chocolate. The people that say “no”  and refuse the chocolate (despite agreeing the chocolate looks good) are able to see the temptation but are also able to remain focused on thier goal. Individuals with temptation-goal self-regulation thinking are able to avoid temptation and remain successful toward their weight loss goals (Kroese, Adriaanse, Evers, & De Ridder, 2011). If you are someone that struggles with binging and experiences increased cravings over the weekend do not lose heart. What is most exciting about these research studies is that volunteers were unsuccessful dieters prior to the study. They were able to learn to reframe their thinking to avoid food and they found increased weight loss success. Here is how you can win the battlefield of your own mind and stay on track this weekend. 

  • When going for a meal or snack; Stop, take a few breaths, and think. Ask yourself if the meal is worth it?  Is this really something that you want right now?  Is there another choice that sounds good? How will you feel after eating this meal?  Is it worth it to feel that way?  If you are not sure how eating makes you feel keep a food diary.  This is different than apps like MyFitness Pal (for example). In addition to writing down what you are eating and tracking the number of calories consumed and the number of macronutrients you also write down how eating that meal made you feel physically and emotionally.  
  • Avoid boredom eating by keeping the mind focused. Say to yourself, “I am in charge. I control my thoughts”. You are the boss of you, not the food. You have the power to tell yourself what to do and how to do it. In that moment you are in charge of your behavior. 
  • You choose what you put in your mouth. Say, “I choose what to eat and I right now I choose not to eat that”. This kind of thinking is only asking you to stay on task and focused for this meal and this moment in time only.  You worry about the next meal at the next meal. When learning new behaviors it is a step-by-step process. Take the urge to binge and eat poorly one meal and one step at a time. 
  • Think about your goal and your motivation. Ask, “how will eating this meal impact my goals?”  You know the answer to this and you know the right decision to make. Trust that. If you make a choice to refuse tempting foods that should cause pride and confidence for you to make healthy decisions at your next meal. If you choose to binge or “cheat” that one meal it is still ok.  Remember you are OK with taking things one meal at a time. 

A cheat meal is not a slip up. A binge is not a slip up. It is ok. Tell yourself that. You are human and you make mistakes. You are human and have the right to enjoy things. You can keep going forward and choose to eat something healthier next time. You can avoid future cheats and binges by applying the thinking above to each meal situation. Changing thinkng can be hard, but you will gain confidence as you are successful at each meal. To help improve compliance and increase confidence try carrying healthy snacks with you so you do not get too hungry. Or if you are craving a food try finding a healthier alternative. Pinterest (for example) has many clean and healthy recipes to satisfy any tantalizing craving and eating the “clean” version will leave you feeling guiltless. 

A dirty meal here and there is ok. Please enjoy your weekend and eat well. Enjoy dessert. Enjoy a fattening and dirty meal. If you do well over the week a cheat meal or two on the weekend will not mess up your goals. However binging and grazing over the weekend can be harmful. It will definitely harm your ego and your pride. If you feel guilty, bad, “fat” or shame after eating then you know you went too far. A meal, regardless if cheating or eating healthy, should not make you feel bad. Eating should make you feel full, energized, and fulfilled. Enjoy the opportunity to let loose and enjoy your self but know you can stop. You do not have to become victim to sabotaging your healthy eating. You are in charge. You are in control. 

 

References:

 

Kroese, F., Adriaanse, M., Evers, C., & De Ridder, D. (2011). “Instant Success” turning tempest ions int cues for goal-directed behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(10), 1389-1397. 

Papies, E. (2008). Healthy cognition: Processes of self-regulatory success in restrained eating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 1290-1300. 

Get Over It – Your Mental Health is Just as Important as Your Physical Health

It is sad to say that a stigma remains regarding mental health. I have been in the mental health field for over 10 years and it is unfortunate that many continue to see mental and behavioral health conditions as shameful. The stigma associated with mental illness and asking for help continues to shame people struggling with mental illness and keeps many more from seeking treatment and help. We must put an end to this.

stigma(Photo from Personality Disorders Awareness Network – visit on Facebook).

There are conditions of every single body system. There are diseases of the skin, hair, bones, muscles, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, liver, stomach, and joints. People are more likely to seek treatment for these conditions due to physical discomfort and limited or decreased mobility. Just like the body can be allficted with illness and disease so can the brain. Mental illness can decrease attention, concentration, skew thinking, and will cause uncomfortable and distressing feelings. However people are less likely to seek help when they “feel” bad. There is a societal belief we need to, “suck it up buttercup”, or that we need to “pull up by the bootstraps and keep going”. When people are unable to do this they feel increased shame, failure, and hopelessness.

Life can be really sad and hard at times. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has had terrible events, circumstances, and situations. Granted each person’s personal experiences are unique, but the bottom line is that humans will suffer from time to time. These events and experiences may bring extreme sadness, fear, anxiety, stress, and anger. These events can interfere with your ability to sleep, eat, or work like you used to. Your situation, past or present, can make think there is no hope, you are worthless, and that you are weak.  This is not true!

Societal expectations make asking for help difficult.   We Americans are a people of hardwork. We spent our early years working hard to build homes and grow families and communities. People fought hard and to struggle was a way of life.  Hard work does not mean you are required to feel sadness, anger, and hopelessness.  Hard work means you may have confront issues to overcome the things that are causing your emotional upset.

It is also possible that people feared treatment in those days. I am sad to admit that the history of the field of psychology is bothersome. People with mental illness were not treated well and treatment was long, costly, and painful. People were treated differently by their community due to labels and misconceptions about mental health. The field of psychology has come a long way and treatment is now helpful, beneficial, supportive, and healing. However it is still difficult for many to seek treatment in times of need. Not only are people afraid to seek treatment but they are afraid to admit they are hurting. They fear the judgment they will receive for not being able to manage emotions.

Sometimes, though, we can become overwhelmed. Things in life can be too hard to overcome. There are times when emotions become so big it is difficult to know how to handle them. Perhaps the coping skills you have used before to help you are not able to reduce the upset feelings now. This not mean you are flawed, rather it means that what has worked in the past is not working now.  All adults need to learn to deal with situations differently at all stages of life. Seeking help for emotional upset is only a way of learning a new way to cope.

Not only can situations in life and circumstances cause overwhelming emotional upset but there are times when emotional and behavioral upset develops due to illness and disease.   Remember the brain can have an illness or a disease just like any other part of the body. When the brain isn’t working properly due to illness and disease feelings are harder to handle and behaviors will change.  Do we judge people for having cancer?  No we want to help them fight and survive the disease.  People with mental illness need support and help to overcome their disease as well.

It is important to know you are not alone. It may seem like you are alone and it feels like no one can relate to your situation and your feelings. Please know everyone has felt the same way you have at some point in their life.

Know that you are not the only one feeling anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, loneliness, frustration, hopelessness, and anger. Mental health conditions are not rare. Millions of people suffer from mental illness.

You do not have to suffer alone. There is help. Talk to someone you trust. Tell someone how you feel.

If it is hard to say what you feel and it is scary to open up to others try journaling how you feel. The best way to feel better is to open up and get it out.

I use this analogy with clients all the time. Having a mental health condition can feel like you are carrying around a huge, heavy bag of trash. The trash smells bad and it is so heavy it causes exhaustion and makes work and other activities harder.  Maybe you are so used to living your life carrying this bag of trash it seems easier to keep going then to let it go. Or maybe you don’t know how to let the trash go. It can be scary to let go.  Letting go requires a change.  Letting go means that things will feel differently, perhaps better, however when you are used to feeling badly it can seem easier to stay stuck there.  At least if you keep going the way you are, you know what to expect.  To feel better you need to go through and take out the trash little by little. You do that when you talk about how you feel or share what is on your mind.  It does not mean you need to reveal all your secrets, rather simply saying how you feel can lighten your load.  If you cannot identify how you feel gathering support can lighten the load.  Each time you do this, the trash gets lighter and lighter.

Please remember that help is always available. If you do not have a friend or family member you can trust to open up to find a therapist. Do not be ashamed by asking for help. Asking for help takes courage. You see, asking for help requires making a change and doing something really scary.  Asking for help makes you a survivor. People with cancer do not sit at home and wait to die. No, people with cancer are called survivors because they seek treatment to overcome the disease. The same is true for anyone with mental health seeking treatment. Rather than sitting around feeling horrible you seek help and treatment to survive. Reclaim your life and your right to be happy and live in peace.

* Stephanie is a Masters level therapist and licensed professional counselor in addition to being a near psychologist (pending completion of dissertation). Please contact Stephanie for more information on finding help and how you can start feeling better today.