Monday, December 21, 2015

Pay Attention: Your Stomach is Trying to Tell you Something!

As our last blog before the New Year, I want to leave you with one last (hopefully) helpful piece of advice that will wrap up November and December’s blogs focusing on taking pre-emptive steps in the right direction now, as 2015 comes to a close. These tips have included noticing what you are doing right on days when you feel like all cylinders are firing, adding a little more exercise to each day or week and cutting back on sugar, to give some of your vital organs and waistline a break. All of these tips were designed to create a slightly healthier end to 2015, and ensure that you have some footing come New Year’s Day. In other words, don’t give up in December because you have big plans to work out hard in January. Do better whenever you can this month, including cutting back (a little!) on Christmas treats, stuffing, alcohol, whatever, and hit the ground running next month.

So before we get to the main point of this blog, let’s remember: It’s prime time for sugar consumption right now. If there is one thing I can strongly suggest you do to keep your sugar intake to a minimum and give your body and mood a break, is to just step away before you feel full of sweets. I read once that sweets are fine if you can just adjust your idea of what constitutes a serving. Think of it as a bite or two, not a meal. In Europe, especially in the Mediterranean regions where fresh fruit is at most people’s fingertips (like here in California!) it’s common for fresh fruit to serve as the “dessert” and wrap up a great meal. A bowl of tangerines, apples or pears in the winter, or berries and stone fruit in the summer, provide that satisfying feeling of sweetness on the palate without the surges of blood sugar and insulin that tax your system and add inches to the waistline.

Which leads me to today’s rant moment of clarity: Avoid automatic eating. While you are enjoying those bites, don’t stare at your phone and get lost in a your Facebook feed or checking emails; have a conversation with the person sitting across or next to you; stare out the window, watch a bird, look at the clouds, and really taste whatever it is you are consuming. Whether it’s a cookie or small piece of fudge or better yet a crisp apple, don’t be a mindless eating machine (cue Jaws music).

Automatic eating has a few different meanings. One of them is more emotion-centered, where we eat out of habit, in order to feel better or associate a moment with comfort instead of anxiety or pain. The other type of automatic eating has more to do with the action of eating as being totally ignored by your brain. Think of it as thoughtless eating. Here’s why thoughtless eating can lead to eating more than we need to feel satisfied, which of course, leads to more pounds we then need to work off: Thoughtless eating separates our stomach from our brain. The stomach, when it’s full, sends a signal to the brain, via nerve receptors and hormones, which in turn signals the brain to think about stopping the action of eating.

Now, imagine your brain is a guy sitting next to a conveyor belt, feet kicked up, face in his phone, catching up with the Kardashians. Those signals coming in from the stomach? Totally missed. They glide right on by, piling up like a bad wreck on the other end of the factory (your waistline). That’s what happens when we eat while watching TV or looking at our phone. When you eat, eat. When you read, read. Can we also get lost in a conversation or watching some deer nibble on grass? Yes, but it is far more likely that we’ll become hypnotized by a screen than we might while observing Mother Nature or chatting with our companions. Screens kill. Remember that.

When you finish the appropriate sized serving on your plate, and you think you need to go back for another helping, wait a few minutes. Let your brain catch up with your stomach. I promise you, if you wait five minutes after eating a normal-sized meal, you will feel fuller than you did 30 seconds after finishing. Wait another five minutes and have a piece of fruit, or a maybe just a little sliver of pie. Pay attention to what you are doing, which is eating, and savor every moment. You’ll feel satisfied faster and ready to move on to the next thing on your “to do” list: couch surfing working out.

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in 2016 at Motivate Personal Fitness Academy!

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