Why Blessing a Meal Matters

Ever wonder why so many spiritual traditions have a ritual designed around blessing the food you consume? Although they are different, many serve the same purpose. To get you to a place of parasympathetic response before you eat. Thus upping the chance that you will get the nutrition you need and be better prepared to survive.

This is the nervous system state you are in when you are calm, feeling centered, connected, and safe. It is often called the “rest & digest” state. In this state your neuro-chemistry is working in your favor to help decrease the stress load on the body. Food items are chemicals that must be broken down to be useful. For the body optimal digestion happens when the body can focus on this task (not stressful events and vigilance) and work to give you the nutrients you need.

If you are stressed when you eat, the body cannot focus on breaking down your food well. It has to maintain vigilance to survive your environment. Events like driving your car, fights with family/friends, office politics, watching the news, worrying about household tasks to complete – can be stressful events your body is attempting to manage instead of focused digestion.

What is physically happening when you are stressed

When your body is stressed you are activating your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). This is the circuit that manages your stress chemicals. When it is active the body has to attend to the adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones because they are being pumped into the system for a reason. The body knows the “fight & flight” feelings they create are about keeping you alive aka … are important. So the response to them dominates the rest and digest option.

When you are working to digest food under a high stress feelings, the body holds calories (often depositing them around your middle). This is because it is concerned that it may need these extra sources of energy for escape. You might truly feel like you need to escape from the office board room during your working lunch, however you probably do not want the calories you are consuming during it contributing to your muffin top.

Reasons to say a blessing over your food

To optimize our food choices we must be in a state of calm when we eat. Saying a prayer, blessing, thank you, or even just taking a deep breath before you eat helps the nervous system calm down and be better prepared to digest and use the food you are about to take in.

Try this little experiment on yourself. Next time you eat find a comfortable spot that you enjoy being in, sit down, spread your food in front of you so you can examine its textures, colors, smells. Take a deep breath and say a small blessing (can be as simple as thank you) before you eat. Acknowledge how you are feeding yourself to take care of you and then enjoy. Pay attention to your level of fullness as you eat and take a break or stop eating when you begin to feel full. Enjoy the space you are in and notice the colors, sounds, why you like it, what makes it interesting and unique to you. After 5 or 10 minutes decide if you would like to continue eating and what you would like to add to your meal. Then enjoy. Note your experience of the food while you ate and how you feel for a few hours and/or days after.

Contrast this experience with the rushed, harried, absentminded, and overwhelmed experiences you have had or had since the experiment above. Which meal nourished you?

You might find, practicing a nourishing meal experience more often may be the key to successful weight loss, positive mood states, and overall better life balance.

Share your experiences with us by commenting on this post in our FB community. I think you’ll find a common experience and support to continue to feed yourself well even when it is not an easy task.

Food & Mood Connections … what are you noticing?

What you eat impacts how you feel.

What have you noticed about eating and feeling?

Have you found any links between how you feel and what you eat?

This morning, my husband and I had a long conversation about caffeine, sugar, and stomach acid. It’s interesting to think about how these chemicals (both external and internally produced) impact my body, my mood, and my capacity to deal with day to day operations of my life. 

Where in your daily routine are you noticing the links between your food intake and your mood output? Join the conversation on Facebook: StacyReuille.com and tell us about your experience. 

Making Brussels Sprouts Yummy

Want to add more veggies into your diet but struggle to break out of the common choices. Try Brussels sprouts in this easy and quick recipe.

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

I love vegetables. I really like them. So much that my older cousins used to call me vegetable when I would chose the celery over Grandma’s cookies. I have never been much of a sweet eater. I prefer salty and bitter flavors. It should be no surprise that I might find brussels sprouts a good idea.

I often eat them for breakfast, but this easy recipe makes a great side dish too.

  1. Chop your Brussels sprouts into bite sized pieces and trim the tough parts. I like mine to be cut so some of leaves come off while cooking. They get nice and crispy.
  2. Heat up some bacon grease in a frying pan
  3. When it is hot, add your Brussels sprouts. Cook until they soften, but not too much. I like to have some crisp outside leaves and a little brown on the cut sides. I do not like them soggy. They should still have some form when you eat them. Maybe not “crunchy” but not soggy.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste

These go great with eggs, kale, steak, hamburgers, chicken, fish – with pretty much anything.

At least I think so. Enjoy.

Food as Medicine

Food is medicine. Treat it as such.

If you missed yesterday’s blog post and video on the links between food and mood check it out here: Food and Mood

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food" - Hippocrates
Let food be your medicine. Whatever is ailing you, do not underestimate the role food plays in your ability to create what you need to heal. Learn about minerals, vitamins, nutrients and eat to heal and support your physical structures and your mental capacities.

Healthy Eating Made Easy: A quick tomato based side dish to bring to the party for busy people.

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part.

So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

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Today’s Food Mantra: I know that what I eat matters in how I feel. If I want to feel good, I have to eat good. Food and mood go together. Eat Well, Feel Well. Speak this mantra out loud and repeat as necessary. @StacyReuille

Here’s a great side dish or lunch idea. It can make a great meal on it’s own, a dish to share at the local potluck, or a side to some great grilled items, a soup, or smoked turkey.

Tomato Cucumber Salad: 
1. Get some tomatoes. The fresher the better (may need to check out the local natural food store this time of year)
2. Get some cucumbers. The fresher the better (same as above)
3. Get some onion. I like the white or yellow kinds in this dish. 
4. Cut all those up in bite sized chunks. I like to keep all the tomato juice and seeds in. If you don’t, don’t. 
5. Find some really good ranch dressing. I haven’t gotten to the point where I make this from scratch yet. I use full fat and organic. I like the Newman’s Own brand. I just look for small list of ingredients on the back and low to no sugar. Put a little in the bowl. Start with a small dollop. You can always add more. 
6. Salt and pepper if you like. I usually add cracked black pepper, but salt depends on the dressing. 
7. Mix it all up and taste. If you feel like you need to add more of anything, do.

Word of caution – If you are going to put in the fridge to blend the flavors, you need less dressing and salt/pepper than you think. Even when I make and eat, I need less salt and dressing than I think.

Ta-da! Yummy and done.

For years I have worked with people who are lost when it comes to follow through on goals and behavior changes. It can be frustrating to set goals only to fail at achieving them. One reason people do not reach personal goals is they do not prioritize themselves above others. Now this may sound selfish, and many of us have been taught that to focus on myself would mean I am not a community player. However, the reality is … you MUST focus on yourself first. You cannot take care of anyone else if you are depleted. You HAVE to put yourself first if you are to be in a place to give. 

Many of us are so busy. In fact you may be saying “if I take that hour for myself, I won’t be able to feed my kids dinner or walk my dogs or get that project done at work”. Believe me I know. This is a constant struggle in my life. How can I balance my personal creative outlets, workouts, work tasks, feeding people, being a good pet owner, and showing my kids and husband how much I love them? Some days it feels like an unsurmountable task.

Yet what I know is … if I take care of me first, then the other stuff gets done AND gets done better. I’m more focused, engaged, and connected to my family, friends, and pets. I am more efficient at getting my work done because I am focused. I am happier because I feel better about myself. This is a direct result from accomplishing a goal I set in front of me. I feel masterful. The feeling of mastery is important in building self confidence which brings out my best self to share with others. To have all this, I MUST put myself first. 

In a study done by Burke, Swigart, Warziski, Derro, and Ewing (2009), the authors found that self-monitoring is a great way to increase understanding of behavior choices and change options, however 2 groups of people struggled to follow through. One group committed half way and the other gave up, completely. Key factors included making themselves and their goals a top priority and finding positive supportive people to surround themselves with. The pieces that separated those 2 groups from the one that solidly made their goal during the year of weight loss, and maintained it 6 months later, outlines ideas we can all use. 

First, the group that made it was organized and focused on the goal. They carried their food diaries (part of the study guidelines) with them, recorded their food and exercise choices, and had supportive people in their lives. They reported an understanding of cause and effect. They knew and/or learned how their choices everyday contributed to the goal they’d set and they made their choices in ways that promoted their success. On the other hand the groups that struggled had some big differences.

In both groups that struggled to meet the goals people were not as organized. They spoke of forgetting their journals or writing down daily food choices on scrapes of paper they later lost. They didn’t have strong support people in their corner and they didn’t prioritize themselves over other obligations. They used more excuses regarding busy life tasks and other responsibilities to make up for emotional eating and lack of adherence to the plan set forth by the study. Some even hid their goals and hopes from their loved ones and co-workers or commented on the sabotaging behavior toward them partners and friends did regarding their goal. In the group that struggled the most they were more overwhelmed with life, reported more physical exhaustion, had more self blame, and were not able to nurture and take responsibility for themselves. 

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It’s interesting how we get in our own way. In the last article on the imposter phenomenon (Feeling Like a Phony. The Imposter Phenomenon) we discussed how we might come to hide our brilliance or feel like we can’t really try because we might fail. Many of us use this as a way to circumvent reaching our goals. Today, we are looking at how not taking full responsibility for ourselves and our personal choices gets in our way. Do either sound like you? If so they may be keeping you from your health goals.

Do you set a goal only to find ways around by blaming yourself or others? I hear things like “I can’t eat that way, my family won’t like it” or “I had to stay late at work because I couldn’t say no” or “everyone does it that way in my family, I don’t think I could go for a walk instead of watch TV”, this list goes on.

Do you find yourself setting the bar so high you’ll never make it on the first try and then blame yourself or others for your failure, shame yourself, or collapse under the strain of trying to be prefect?

What about organizing and planning well? Do you find yourself disorganized and unable to find your keys, journal, pen, a shoe not to mention find the time to collect your thoughts and write them down/track your food and moods?

The bottom line is you have choices everyday all day long. When we understand the link between our choices and our outcomes – plus take full responsibility for those outcome – we become more powerful. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Are you the top priority in your life?
    1. If not, why not?
  2. Can you keep your goal in your sights all the time (i.e. the office lunch? Holiday dinner? Getting to bed on time so you can work out early?)
    1. If not, what gets in your way?
  3. When planning your focus, can you follow through on packing snacks, choosing healthy movement/eating options, and getting enough down time in your daily life?
    1. Again, if not, why not?
  4. And if you can do those things – how do you do it? 
    1. What makes you successful? 
    2. How do you hold your focus?

Do you have the right support people in your corner? Who are they and what do you like about their support? If you don’t have supportive friends and family, where can you find them? A group? Work? Trainer? This was an important part of success for the group able to maintain their weight loss and a huge factor for the group that struggled the hardest. Here are some tips on finding a workout buddy who can support you: 3 things to consider when choosing a workout partner. 

If you are struggling with any of the above connect with me. Sometimes the behaviors getting in our way are serving a purpose. For instance, you might not know anyone you respect who is organized, or you may have been taught to be perfect is the only option. You might find that to reach your goal means your friends and family become distant and that is painful and confusing. At times the lack of accomplishing a goal is about the meaning we place on the goal and our identity tied into who we are today and who we believe we can be tomorrow.

Reference:

Burke, L.E., Swigart, V., Turk, M. W., Derro, N., and Ewing, L. J. (2009). Experiences of self-monitoring: Successes and struggles during treatment for weight loss. Quality Health Res 19(6), 815-828. doi:10.1177/1049732309335395 

Photo Credit: Confessions of a Jesus Freak Blog Post

 

80/20 Diet Rule: Staying on Track – Exercise is only ½ the battle, you’ve got to keep focused on healthy eating, too:

Remember – the nutritional part of maintaining a healthy weight is about 80% of the battle. While exercise matters for quality of life, ability to live well into our older years, and feeling alive, it’s only about 20% of losing/gaining weight. This is because exercise is good at helping us use up calories (aka stored fat) but only if we aren’t putting more into storage.

In addition, exercise often creates more hunger – because you are using more calories you need more fuel. If you are eating your fuel via junk food you are only filling your tank with junk. The body then struggles to help you rebuild tissue and have what it needs to make sure you are strong and ready for your next workout.

Planning your meals and making sure to follow the 80/20 rule when choosing foods is important. Here 80% of the time you are on track for your goals (weight loss, maintenance, or gain) and 20% of the time you eat what you want. This can be looked at according to the hour, day, week, etc.

Check out E-Meals for help making healthy meal planning easy!

If you are following the 80/20 rule on food and making good, healthy, whole food, nutrient dense choices, you can be pretty sure your also following the 80/20 rule when it comes to the way diet and exercise work together to create a healthy weight for you.

This video goes over a case study of someone who works a lot, isn’t able to find the time to exercise, and is starting to have physical problems as a result of being about 100lbs overweight. He outlines where to start and how to stick with it.

If you liked this article – check out these:

More on food choices: Eat Well, Feel Well or making sure your workouts are fun and interesting: Cycling Your Workouts.

Photo Credit: Diet Quotes

Finding Healthy Rewards

Often rewards are one of the reasons people stay focused on workout goals. However if your workout goal is also focused on giving into your favorite “sweet foods” because you deserved it, you may find that you are over-indulging and sabotaging yourself along the way. As we begin a workout program we tend to increase our hunger because our body is requiring more calories (aka fuel) to do what’s asked of it. If we are filling those extra calories with junk because “we worked hard” we aren’t keeping our ‘eyes on the prize’, which has been found to help us reach our goals, and instead we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Smart pre and post workout snacking can help balance out those extra cravings and make sure the fuel you are choosing is the right kind for your needs in this part of your training cycle.

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize Matters. Check Out Why ~

If you aren’t going to reward yourself with food … then just what will you get for all that hard work? Answering a few simple questions can really help you define what’s important to you and keep you motivated to reach your goals. Think about:

  • What you really like do?
  • What do you value?
  • What do you usually forgo?
    • a mani/pedi, facial, expensive razor, a day at the driving range, time to read, a Netflix binge episode, sleep, a different/new food (that’s healthy for you), a new fitness tracker, etc.

These are all ways you can help yourself stay focused and excited to reach your goals, without blowing your long term health vision.

There are a few rules to the above answers. First, make sure you stick within your budget. If you end up healthier but then strapped for time to pay it off, you are apt to return to your old behaviors and lose your gains. Second, consider timing. I am a mother of 3, I might like a binge watching episode of Netflix, but if it interrupts my family time, it might not be sustainable or as enjoyable, leaving me demotivated. Third, plan for a variety of rewards. This way you won’t get bored doing the same activities over and over, get stuck in a rut and you are likely to resort to old unhealthy coping to beat the boredom. That’s a no-win.

Finally, remember the reward should be fun and shouldn’t be so far off and unavailable that it seems impossible to get. Once I gave myself a new pair of workout shoes, however the price tag on the ones I wanted was so much on my salary I had months of saving before me. That reward was too far out for me to stick with it. One time, I also gave myself a facial appointment if I met my goals, problem with this reward –  it seemed so unlike me and too pampering. I wasn’t motivated to reach my goals to get it. It felt too uncomfortable at the time. I backed that goal down to something that felt better for me and had a massage instead.

Once I was able to switch the way I thought about “what I deserve” after apply hard work and big effort, finding unique and motivating rewards got a lot more fun. See what you come up with to give yourself today.

Here’s some other ideas:

If this article was helpful you might like these older posts I wrote: 10 Rules of Motivational Rewards  or look at how you might honor your hard work and get ready to crush your next goal in Harvesting Your Fitness Garden

What Does Clean Living Mean to You? 

This was a contest I entered on Instagram. 

I thought it posed an interesting question that lead to simple or complex answers. It made me think beyond the New Year’s detox diets, breaking up with sugar rules, and weight loss desires. 

My answer included all aspects of my life, my food & beverages, my exercise habits – do I train too hard? Too light?  Not enough? Too much? The things I let into my awareness  – news, music, people, TV, photos, etc, and the concept of who I want to be. All these role together to create my concept of clean living. 

Check out my response below & visit the two health coaches who sponsored the program on Instagram – Sarah Teddy Klein @wholehealthlab and Karen Wojciechowski @realenergyfood #wholecleanliving

Here was my response… 


Clean living is about burning away all the choices that clog you up. Living clean is about staying grounded enough to be open to the possibilities that cross your path. 

One cannot do that without feeling well. For me to feel well and remain open I must be vigilant about my daily movement, my food, my spaces, and my social times. 

I must honor myself in each choice doing just what is needed to move me in the direction I want to go. Doing too much will clog me up, doing too little will clog the path. 

To remain clean I must focus on the pleasure of treating my mind, my body, my heart, and my soul well. It starts simply with movement and is followed by what I allow in. Will this food item, news report, musical song, person help or hinder me? 

Then I must choose wisely, burn away all that is no longer serving me, let go of all I no longer need, and live fully into the moment right in front of me. That is clean living. 

The Recovery 2.0 Conference

I have been attending these online conferences and sending clients to attend for the last few years. He’s always got a great line up of speakers that speak to all areas of healthy regulation – food, sleep, exercise, social, psychology, medical, trauma – all sorts of great info.

Even if you aren’t in recovery from drugs, alcohol, or any of the “Big 6” –  we are all in recovery from something. Here’s the link to sign up for this free conference, you attend from the comfort of your own home or office or car or trail run or where ever you happen to be.

http://recovery2point0conference.com

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