Therapy Digest 06
Therapy Digest 06.
This week’s Therapy Digest looks at the nudge theory and how it can be applied to any areas of your life where you want to makes changes plus how losing weight is a mind game and how you can use food to eat your way out of depression.
13 ways to lose weight without dieting. Clue: It’s all in your mind.
1.Observe the emotions that might be triggering you to over-eat. Learning to check-in with how you’re feeling increases your intuition and self-awareness. Taking the time to acknowledge your authentic feelings can interrupt your established habits of turning to food when feeling angry or sad and is an effective first step in changing your behaviour.
2. Notice if you’re regularly bingeing on sweet things at certain times of the day. Mid-morning energy slumps or afternoon drowsiness can make you crave a quick sugar fix to help drive you through the day. Instead, find ways to add more protein to your breakfast or lunch to help you to stabilise your mood and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
3. Make the times when you eat your sole focus. Zoned out eating is when you eat while doing something else such as surfing the net; working at your desk; or watching television. The act of eating is your opportunity to honour yourself with proper nutrition so take the time to source the best food you can and appreciate this act of self-loving kindness.
4. Prepare your food. The act of preparing real food is a fundamental stage for your mind and body to recognise that you are about to eat. The sight and appetising aromas of your meal cooking cause physiological and psychological reactions including signals from your brain to your stomach to release digestive enzymes in the expectation that food is on its way. The whole process of cooking from scratch aids digestion leading to increased satiety. You may well find you need to eat less to feel contented and full.
5. Mouth full – hands empty. This mantra helps to remind you to put down your cutlery between mouthfuls of food. Eating hurriedly doesn’t give your body time to register when you are full. It takes time for the messages from your stomach to register with your brain that you have eaten enough. This mantra helps to slow down your eating until it becomes your natural eating pace.
6. Always sit down to eat. Find a quiet place to sit and eat that is away from your desk so your mind and body can be receptive to the nutrition you are providing for yourself. Alternatively, turn the TV off and take a breath or two to help you to feel more relaxed before your meal. Stress hormones in the body inhibit the digestion of nutrients, so it is beneficial to be as relaxed as possible at meal times.
7. See everything you plan to eat on a plate. Eating anything including biscuits or crisps from a packet makes it much harder to keep track of how many you’ve eaten. Tip the biscuits, crisps or sweets into a bowl first to increase your awareness of how many you are eating and then focus on what you are eating. You may well find you still satisfy your desire while having eaten less.
8. Reduce your portion size by reducing your plate size. An optical illusion can play a part in managing your portion sizes. The trend for oversized plates encourages larger food servings. Choosing a smaller plate tricks your mind not to notice your smaller portion or a deep bowl with a narrow opening gives the impression of eating plentifully even with a smaller sized serving.
9. Break the eating rules imposed on you. Any parental pressure when you were growing up to clear your plate can make you feel uncomfortable as an adult about leaving food on your plate can compel you to eat more than you want. Remember whether you eat it or not the food will still end up as waste so make it your new rule to throw away food you don’t want the moment you have finished your meal.
10. Find new ways to reward yourself. Compensating or rewarding yourself with food after a tough day is favourite defaults for emotional eaters. Consider new methods of treating yourself that do not revolve around food. How about running a bath with essential oils for an indulgent soak or telephoning a friend to share the news of your day? What activities did you used to enjoy doing that you haven’t done for a while? Find ways to incorporate them back into your life.
11. Are you eating your emotions? Swallowing down food is often a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. If you feel compelled to eat when you know you’re not hungry take a moment to focus on how you’re feeling. By merely acknowledging your feelings of anger, frustration or sadness it can be enough to break the binge eating spell and is a necessary step to dealing with what is eating at you.
12. Raise your bar and demand more. Eating foods to make you feel better or to distract yourself from life’s challenges are indicative of feeling disempowered or overwhelmed. What incremental, small changes could you make to improve how you feel about yourself? One perhaps surprising way is with walking. It is nature’s way of calming and grounding yourself by regulating your breathing. Even a short daily stroll outside can shift your mood and help you to feel refreshed and renewed.
13. Track the source of your negative, self-critical voice. We all have an inner critic to some degree, but if your inner voice is particularly acerbic or judgemental about your body size, shape or what you eat, then it is worth exploring where it originated. Becoming aware of one’s inner critic is the first step to silencing it for good. A lot of your self-judgements happen just below your conscious awareness and act as a constant drip-feed of disparaging and unkind comments. Focus on how you speak to yourself and question in your mind the assumptions you believe about yourself. Most likely they are negative and self-limiting. Learn to be your own best friend instead and speak to yourself with kindness and respect.
This post was originally written by Sally Baker & Liz Hogon for Healthista and was inspired by their book 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating available from Amazon.
If emotional eating is stopping you from achieving your weight loss goals, then you could benefit from exploring and releasing your triggers to disordered eating. If this resonates with you, book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.
Nudging yourself towards change
The Nudge Theory is about nudging or encouraging behavioural changes through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion. In the wider world Nudge Theory has been applied to economics, politics and health. Supporters in the effectiveness of the theory exist in the hallowed halls of academia, the White House under Obama and in the British Government to name but a few.
So, how can Nudge Theory be applied to you eating healthier in your own life?
Your existing habits, thoughts and beliefs have brought you to where you are today, so nudging towards making positive changes is vital in allowing easy changes and maintaining them in the future.
In practical terms, this means choosing a time to initiate changes that have the most chance of success. It is surprising how many people set themselves up to fail by launching a new initiative without thinking through how much they already have to do with their life.
Look at your diary for an opportunity when there may be a lull in stress levels at home or work or a time when you can give more energy to embrace fundamental changes to your usual eating habits. If you are canny with your timing, you will be giving yourself a head start towards success.
Ditch the crap
Behaving with your usual default habits around food perpetuates you feeling the same way about yourself. It is a truism that if you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always got before.
Reaching for snacks in your kitchen that you have always reached for maintains the status quo, so an essential part of your preparation is to ditch the old low nutritious, poor quality processed foods in your cupboards and replace them with tastier and highly nutritious options. If you’re not the only family member using the kitchen, then separate out their foods from yours and claim space and ownership of the foods you want to eat.
Ideally your efforts to maximise your health and well being would be supported by all family members, but more often than not you will face resistance. If you wait for everyone in your life to come on-board you could wait a lifetime so be the change you want to see in your life; set your own standard and let them see how much healthier and happier you are. It’s about doing something for yourself.
Just because you’ve decided to nudge yourself towards better nutrition doesn’t mean you will magic away all your impulses to snack.
This is especially true while you are adjusting to this new way of eating and feeling about food. The nudge ensures everything you need is at hand to fulfil your mealtime and snacking requirements to maximise your nutrition. This may mean shopping differently and stocking your cupboards and fridge with different foods.
You will find a comprehensive list of real foods in the ‘Foods to Marry’ section of Sally Baker & Liz Hogon’s book ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon
Eat your way out of depression.
Nutrition-related health issues seem to take an age to become part of accepted medical practice. The medical establishment requires comprehensive scientific evaluation, randomised trials and peer review before a new drug can be licensed, for instance.
The pharmaceutical company has to weigh up the costs of research and development versus the potential profit to be made from launching a successful product that can earn a good return on their investment. (When you add in the factor that 80 per cent of their budget goes on marketing, it is clear the stakes are high indeed.)
As real food is simply real food and can’t be licensed, branded or patented, there is little impetus for the business community to fund costly research.
Medical research over the last couple of decades has, nevertheless, highlighted how an unhealthy gut could contribute to many physical diseases and these findings are becoming more accepted in mainstream medicine. Clinicians increasingly agree that the gut-brain axis also plays a crucial part in emotional well-being, including the development of conditions as diverse as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and autism.
The gut-brain axis is a way of describing the interrelationship between gut health and brain health. The various aspects of digestion are controlled via the vagus nerves by a complex set of neurons embedded in the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. The brain sends messages to all the nerves in your body, including the neurons that control digestion. All works efficiently enough until a person is anxious or stressed on an ongoing basis. You perhaps know for yourself that if you are feeling nervous your stomach can feel upset and queasy. The reason for this is that strong negative emotions, stress and anxiety increase cortisol and adrenaline, which then stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and shut down the parasympathetic nervous system, which includes control of the gut.
This causes a physical chain reaction:
Reduction in pancreatic enzyme production
Reduction in gallbladder function
Reduction in the production of stomach acid
Slowing down of peristalsis – the involuntary muscle movements essential for moving food efficiently through the intestines for the absorption of nutrients
Reduction in blood flow to the intestines
Suppression of the intestinal immune system.
In the short term, this allows the body to focus its resources on ‘fight or flight’ – a good survival mechanism. However, with ongoing stress and anxiety, this cumulative slowing down and suppression of the digestive process can, over a prolonged period, lead to a condition called ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ (SIBO).
As the digestive process is compromised by stress and anxiety, the lack of stomach acid allows the stomach and small intestine – which should both be pretty much microbe-free – to be colonised by unhealthy bacteria, and yeasts, causing foods to be fermented rather than digested. In addition to gas and bloating, compromised digestion leads to declining absorption of nutrients, which contributes to the loss of the co-factors needed for good digestion and consequently further gut problems.
Now consider this situation lasting for extended periods of time. The integrity of the gut lining may be compromised, contributing to gut permeability (‘leaky gut’) that may be sufficient to produce chronic low-grade inflammation.
The inflammatory process includes the production of cytokines, chemical signals of inflammation that are carried by the blood to the brain. The cytokines can activate cells in the brain called ‘microglia’ – the brain’s immune cells – so that the inflammation originating in the gut thereby causes widespread inflammation in the rest of the body, including in the brain.
The impact of brain inflammation is that the brain has reduced nerve conductance which – guess what – shows up as depression, anxiety and stress.
This vicious circle can self-perpetuate and requires long-term changes to heal the gut, which in turn will help to heal the brain. This is done through changes in behaviour and improving levels of nutrition through changes to food choices. To improve your natural resilience to stress it is important to increase the amount of healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 oils in your diet, so look for oily fish, grass-fed meats and butter made from the milk of grass-fed dairy herds. Good plant sources include hemp seeds, linseeds, chia and some nuts and nut oils (macadamia, almond).
If you consider yourself to be depressed, it will be helpful for your recovery to manage your stress levels, improve your sleep patterns and add nutritious and gut-healing foods into your regular eating plan. For information about all this and more see the end of this post.
Do bear in mind, however, that you may also need professional help if you have been suffering from this debilitating psychological disorder for some time. Please make sure you are accessing all the medical and psychological support you need. Try hard not to add isolation to an already challenging situation.
As we have said, the health of your digestive system is increasingly acknowledged to be the key to your potential to be physically healthy and well. You cannot be entirely well if your digestion is out of kilter. However, you may not be aware that your digestive functioning is impaired. Many factors affect your digestion that is commonplace in our busy, modern lives. They include poor quality sleep, stress and anxiety (as explained above), stimulants such as alcohol and recreational drugs, and many prescription medications, including antibiotics.
Feeling sluggish, bloated or out of sorts becomes the usual way of feeling if it goes on for long enough. Add in processed foods and fast foods that are calorie dense and nutritionally poor, and your body becomes progressively less efficient at supporting a healthy immune system and fighting infections. Perhaps you’re already beginning to recognise yourself from this brief description.
You do not need to have had a medical diagnosis of Crohn’s disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to be experiencing the symptoms of digestive disruption. How about occasional, mysterious abdominal pain or fluctuating between diarrhoea and constipation or indigestion, heartburn and flatulence? Many people live with these symptoms for decades without ever consulting a doctor. It is as if they are resigned to feeling below par, and that this is how they expect to feel.
To find out more about how to maximise the health benefits of eating real food, then check out the book Sally Baker and Liz Hogon wrote called ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon.
Sally Baker is Senior Therapist, published Author and Speaker in private practice in London for face to face sessions and the world over via the internet.
With almost twenty years of professional experience, she employs cutting-edge therapeutic approaches to help one person at a time to transform their lives.
She has extensive experience working with people to alleviate their anxiety, depression, anger issues, eating disorders as well as conflicts within relationships and the family.
To find out more about Sally Baker, her books and her work visit her website, www.workingonthebody.com