Archive for ‘Dietary Compliance’

July 24, 2018

Speed Kills

Remember the ad campaign, Speed Kills? I can’t remember if I first heard the term in an anti-drug campaign or an attempt to reduce speed limits. The phrase has been used for both. This week, I’m thinking of Speed Kills in totally different terms.

Last weekend I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This movie chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, the creator of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. There was nothing speedy about Mister Rogers. His slow pace stands in stark contrast to other children’s entertainers. This was deliberate. It was also significant.

Mister Rogers understood that very important things happen when we’re still and quiet. He included long pauses and silence in his television program. This is considered a no-no in the TV world, but as someone observed in the movie, there were many times when nothing much was going on, but none of the time was wasted.

On some level, parents and children must have sensed the significance of this. They certainly responded. Mister Rogers became hugely successful in spite of doing everything “wrong” for a television audience.

In my home, I observed that when my boys watched MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD their behavior was markedly different than when they watched He-Man. He-Man led to an afternoon of hitting each other, breaking toys, and generally violent behavior.

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, on the other hand, had a calming effect. After watching, the boys were kinder, gentler, and quieter. They played together instead of fighting. My house was infinitely more peaceful.

At the time, I didn’t take time to analyze why this was true, I just did the practical thing and banned He-Man. If I needed the kids to have screen time so that I could clean up the kitchen or do the laundry, we opted for MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD or the video disc Free to be You and Me.

Now, with much more experience under my belt including many years of working long hours, never missing an event, frequent travel, work-work-work-play-play-play and rarely saying no, I understand the importance of being still. Being present requires taking pauses to notice what has happened and how it makes us feel.

I know you may read that and say, “duh,” but look at how we live. We rarely pause between activities, much less during them. We fill our waking hours with movement, noise, and electronic distraction.

One of my grandchildren has 4 structured activity classes per week – he’s 9 months old! Will he be able to lie on his back, stare at the clouds smelling fresh-cut grass and feeling the solidness of the ground supporting him when he’s three or will he be lost without constant activity?

It seems we have some level of awareness that we need to increase our sense of well-being. Ways to increase wellness are often featured on morning TV. The number of people practicing yoga in the US has doubled since 2008. The mindfulness movement touts the health benefits of meditation.

In contrast, we see our friends, neighbors, and family members numb themselves with work, gaming, social media, TV, sex, food, alcohol, and drugs on a regular basis. Sometimes we see ourselves doing the same. If we know we need to feel better, and we know that slowing down to reflect and be present in the moment will help, why do we keep speeding forward?
speed
What’s difficult to admit, much less discuss, is what lies underneath a need to speed through life at a level of maximum distraction. If you have lived in an environment of chaos and/or danger to your physical or emotional well-being that you could not escape, it is excruciatingly hard to sit still and be present. It is also necessary if you are to heal the wounds your spirit has suffered.

It is in this context that I now view the phrase – speed kills. Speed kills our connection to our spirit. This removes us from knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves. It removes us from the very best parts of ourselves. At its worst, this disconnect allows us to act out our anger, hurt, and frustration in vindictive, destructive ways.

In the face of a tragic, hostile act, we often wonder – what kind of person would do that? Often the answer is simple: someone who has suffered in ways you cannot see and may not be able to imagine.

Remaining present and emotionally open in the face of violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning, is intolerable for most everyone. It is absolutely healthy in those situations to engage in fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning in order to protect yourself.

The problem is many, not just some, MANY of us have lived in an environment in which violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning were the norm. Living in persistent, unrelenting physical and/or emotional danger creates wounds that are both physical and emotional and result in disconnection from ourselves. Constantly being in a state of fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning creates long-term barriers to calm, peace, connection and joy.

When we have the strength and courage to sit still and be present, it opens the door for all the emotions we have been avoiding to come rushing in. This is a great opportunity to release those emotions and the hold they have over us. That’s easy to say, but terrifying and hard for many of us to do even if it is worth it in the long run.

I’ve spent years unraveling the knots in my stomach and my spirit. I know that I did not choose the environment that created them. I was born into it. Accepting this hasn’t eliminated the seemingly bottomless well of sadness I feel in my solar plexus. It hasn’t removed every trigger that can send me into an emotional flashback that I simply can’t outthink. (I know this isn’t some particular defect in me. Signals from the amygdala can override executive function, but it still feels terrifying and out of control.)

Mindfulness has helped me rewire my brain away from anxiety toward noticing small ways in which I feel good. I feel less braced for the (as I learned to view the world) next inevitable attack. My new level of awareness lets me deliberately shift my focus in order to feel better in a given moment.

I am painfully aware how difficult it can be to find support for a healing path. Even places we expect to provide a cushion for processing trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms – the therapist’s office, doctor’s office, church, or support groups, may not provide the type of support we need. Feeling unseen, unheard, dismissed, targeted, or misunderstood can leave us feeling even more alone and, sometimes, revictimized.

Healing can bring immediate improvement, but I do not know of a straight or swift path to wholeness. That journey is a process unique to each of us. The best support along the way is to be seen and accepted just as we are at any given moment.

Perhaps this is why I so appreciate Mister Rogers simple affirmation that he likes us just as we are. But I cannot fully receive that message unless I am sitting still.

http://www.doitnow.org/pages/psas.html

http://focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

https://www.fredrogers.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_to_Be…_You_and_Me

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/untold-story-america-mindfulness-movement/

http://childhood-developmental-disorders.imedpub.com/systematic-review-of-mindfulness-induced-neuroplasticity-in-adults-potential-areas-of-interest-for-the-maturing-adolescent-brain.php?aid=8553

https://seattleyoganews.com/yoga-in-america-2016-statistics/

https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/domestic_violence2.pdf

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518443/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/sometimes-stop-order-start/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-17-stay-home/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

July 3, 2018

Your Gut Has a Mind of Its Own

If you feel like your gut has a mind of its own, it’s because it does. The billions of neurotransmitters in your intestine are of the same type as those in your brain and house the Enteric Nervous System. The gut is capable of a level of independent intelligence equal to that of your dog.
diet
Does that mean our stomachs can be trained?

It’s kind of a funny idea, but it’s one that’s currently being explored. Some scientists hypothesize that we can treat stomach pain using hypnosis — essentially curing our tummies by talking to them.

The gut is host to 100,000 billion bacteria. When researchers mapped the DNA of one study participants’ microbiomes, they first reported that each of us falls into one of 3 enterotypes.

Subsequent research has called this limited number and the specific characteristics within each type into question. Things may be a bit more nuanced and complicated than originally indicated. Research continues and will bring a clearer picture over time.

We do know that the gut communicates with the brain via the vegas nerve and can affect our emotions. That could be why it feels like the gut has a mind of its own that sometimes controls us.

Ninety-five percent of the seratonin in our bodies is produced in the gut where it regulates the immune system and sets the pace for intestinal transit. Seratonin is also released into the bloodstream acting on the hypothalamus and registering in the upper brain as a sense of well-being.

With conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in which there is no observable organic malfunction, it is theorized that there could be a problem between brain and gut communication. One of the brains may send the wrong message or a message may be misinterpreted resulting in the symptoms experienced.

Learning more about this possible process may lead to innovative treatments for the 1 in 10 of us who suffer from IBS. It also has potential benefit for those who have become hypervigilant as a result of trauma.

An examination of the microbiome can increasingly assist in diagnosis and treatment of disease. The microbiome can show a propensity for Type II diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease and may influence obesity. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) show an increase in pro-inflammatory molecules and a decrease in inflammatory dampening bacteria. Altering microbial composition could possibly be used to reduce inflammation or calm down the immune system.

Researchers have successfully diagnosed Parkinson’s disease through intestinal biopsy paving the way for additional exploration of the possibility that the gut and brain share diseases. This could be key to a greater understanding of autism spectrum disorders and alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Michael Gershon, Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center who is sometimes referred to as the father of neurogastroenterology has, along with Dr. Anne Gershon, demonstrated that shingles can occur in enteric neurons and may be the cause of several gastrointestinal disorders currently of unknown origin.

It’s a little unclear whether the DNA of a microbiome is a set entity that changes slowly over time or whether researchers were simply mapping a DNA moment in a constantly changing microbiota. Studies have shown that the microbiota can change within one day with a change in diet.

That sounds like great news to me! It’s possible that a change in diet could bring symptom relief fairly quickly once we better understand what in the diet needs to be altered.

The possibilities are huge and the research has just begun. Changing the microbiome through diet, prebiotics, and probiotics may have a much greater effect in preventing and reducing disease than we previously believed. Diet may not just be fuel to keep the body strong, it may be real medicine that can be used to reduce inflammation, revise autoimmune response, and change the messages transmitted from the gut to the brain.

Knowing that my gut has a mind of its own sounds like relief to my upper brain!

https://www.pathology.columbia.edu/profile/michael-d-gershon-md

http://sales.arte.tv/fiche/3707/VENTRE__NOTRE_DEUXIEME_CERVEAU__LE_

http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/1/6/6ra14.short

https://www.mdedge.com/jfponline/article/105514/gastroenterology/targeting-gut-flora-treat-and-prevent-disease

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25786900

https://www.pathology.columbia.edu/profile/michael-d-gershon-md

June 19, 2018

Notice What Feels Good to Improve the Feeling in Your Gut

When you’re in distress, it’s hard to notice what feels good. If your head hurts, it draws your attention. If your tummy hurts, it draws your attention. If you suffer a loss, the resulting sadness, emptiness and fear draw your attention. When four or five difficult things happen during a short period of time, the feeling in your gut may be so stressful it can become increasingly difficult to notice what feels good.

I suppose it’s the same phenomenon as the squeaky wheel. If some part of us is screaming for attention, that’s where our energy goes. Unfortunately, over a long period of time this shift in focus can become a habit. When the focus on distress becomes intolerable, we tend to do anything we can to avoid feeling it. We often numb ourselves with work, shopping, sex, exercise, binge-watching, gaming, alcohol, or drugs.

Is there a way to feel the good in the midst of hardship?

You’ll find a lot of things written about practicing gratitude. I’ve written some myself. You’ll find a lot of information about being present in the moment. You’ll find resources on showing up authentically and practicing vulnerability. You’ll hear psychological professionals toss around the term self-care. You’ll hear religious leaders espouse prayer. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There is merit to all of these practices, but if you’re white-knuckling yourself into doing them, you may need to go backward to go forward.

Over the past few years as I’ve become able to sit still, able to practice yoga, able to know that intellectual insight will follow trusting my body’s signals, I have become increasingly aware that ease, comfort, stability, and balance are often present when I slow down and shift my focus.

After noticing a feeling of tension in my back, I may notice a feeling of ease in my right abdomen. If I hold onto that feeling of ease, I may feel my back relax. When I feel anger or agitation begin to bubble up, I may notice that synchronizing my movement and breathing causes the tension to quickly dissipate. Remembering that when some part of my body is working, another part is at ease allows me to shift my focus to notice ease more often.

It is this noticing of physical ease and comfort that helps me unknot the discomfort in other parts of my body. The unknotting of my mind always follows. Yes, always. The shift is often tiny. The key is making the space to notice. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with my body. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with real emotions. It is through breathing that I build resilience, confidence, and safety.

Notice that the only connection here is with myself? Notice there is no analysis required? Notice that I don’t try to figure anything out? Notice that I am not forcing myself to do anything? I can simply breathe and notice. Breathe and notice. Breathe and notice.

I have gone back to absolute basics. It sounds so simple. It is and it isn’t. If you’re like me and surrender feels like giving up, it’s one of the hardest concepts in the world! It has literally taken me years to even begin to surrender and I am still a beginner.

If you stabilize your world through control, hold your breath, or muscle through difficult situations, this post may seem like the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever read. When you reach the point that all of that muscling through leaves you with anxiety and constant panic, come back. Read it again.

The bottom line is, yes there is a way to feel good during hardship. It comes from what some would call receiving. That term confuses me, so I’ll call it noticing — noticing breath, ease, comfort, accomplishment, a feeling of solidness your legs provide, a feeling of strength, a feeling of contribution, a feeling of connection, a feeling of competence, a feeling of possibility, and a feeling of power.

When you’re noticing those things, you are not noticing a feeling of tension, a feeling of heaviness, a feeling of pain, a feeling of sadness, a feeling of loss, a feeling of fatigue, a feeling of panic, a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling of anger, a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of worthlessness, a feeling of doom, a feeling of bracing for the next shoe to drop, etc.

You are not wrong for feeling any of these things, but in an odd way, noticing the opposites will allow you to stop avoiding, fighting, numbing, or trying to move away from “negative” feelings (feelings are feelings and all are okay). All feelings can then move freely instead of remaining stuck in our physiology and psyche.

How all of this works is understudied, but we are learning that yoga practiced specifically to reconnect trauma patients with their bodies affects change in their brain scans. We are also learning that gut neurons communicate with the insula in the brain — the area believed to control compassion and empathy, perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience.

Body, brain, emotions, and perception share a complex relationship. We can’t necessarily think or talk our way through an emotional problem, set good boundaries, or move on from trauma without reconnecting with our bodies. When we reconnect, our gut flora may affect our perceptions.

The easiest path I know to feeling better is to start with basics – eat a variety of as fresh as possible food with minimal sweets, stay hydrated, sleep at least 8 hours per night, incorporate yoga for trauma and/or guided meditation into your exercise plan, and strengthen your boundaries.

Then…
Notice the feeling of being nourished by your food. Time your eating so that you never feel distressed by hunger.
Notice how you feel when you awake rested and how you feel the first moment you become tired. Do not push past your tired feeling. Take a nap or go to bed.
Choose yoga that emphasizes your control over the process, moves slowly, and has an instructor with a soothing manner and voice.
Practice giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself. Notice how that feels.
Use a physical boundary to help yourself visualize your limits. Verbalize your boundaries when needed.
Notice a feeling of ease each time you notice a feeling of tension.
Notice how you feel when you make a decision that’s unlike previous decisions in similar situations. If you feel peaceful, calm, relieved, energized, freer, happy, joyful, or even neutral

With these simple steps, you may be surprised how quickly you begin to automatically notice what feels good! That can have a very positive effect on the feeling in your gut!

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gratitude-is-my-best-defense/

June 4, 2018

Make Sure You Get Your Share of Prune

When you’re in New York City, make sure you get your share of Prune! When I was reviewing this year’s James Beard Award winners and saw Gabrielle Hamilton’s name, I was reminded of my first visit to Prune.
prune
It was 2003 or 4. My boys and I were traveling together. It was their first time in New York City. We had a memorable limo ride from the airport to the Algonquin Hotel. Our driver was a boxer who had sparred with Mike Tyson, swore his father had illegally entered the US in the wheel well of an airplane…twice, and asked the stranger with whom we shared a ride whether she liked threesomes. There were a couple of moments that I questioned my judgement during that ride, but ultimately it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Another highlight came a couple of days later at dinner. I don’t remember exactly where I heard or read about Prune. It seems like some publication had listed it as “the place to be seen” a few months before our trip. Nonetheless, I became aware that a reservation was very hard to get.

The boys and I decided to make ours in person. We walked miles and miles down through Greenwich Village to Battery Park, up and over to Little Italy and Chinatown experiencing the city, then on to 1st Street and 1st Avenue to secure a seat for dinner. Ben was tired. He hit the subway headed for the hotel to take a nap.

James & I continued exploring the city. We arrived at Prune on time. They agreed to seat us at a table by the large front windows where we could enjoy the night air even though Ben wasn’t there yet. The menu at the time included sardines & crackers and overcooked southern vegetables.

While we were perusing it and discussing our options, the landline phone rang (remember those?). Someone behind the bar said, “Cheri?”. I looked back and raised my hand. “You have a phone call.” This was unexpected! I made my way to the bar.

On the phone was Ben. He had gotten off the subway, turned the wrong way, and walked away from the hotel hours earlier. He had finally arrived at our room and realized it was almost time to meet us. There was no way he’d make it. He wanted to know if we could bring him something to eat later. I agreed feeling bad that he was missing dinner with us and amused at his lack of navigational ability. He and his brother are exact opposites in this area.

James & I focused on choosing our food and absorbing the atmosphere. Prune is small. It brings an odd tension between high end and intimate cushioned by a sense of humor and ease. It thinks too much of itself to be a hole-in-the-wall, but not so much that it won’t serve sardines & crackers or fetch a customer to the phone as if all customers get phone calls. It’s the sort of place I love.

Looking at the current menus, the dish descriptions read a bit fancier. I don’t know if the food itself has changed; it has always been simple and upscale (another dichotomy that’s not often done this well). The overcooked southern vegetables I chose from the menu all those years ago may have sounded like the description of typical soul food, but lacked a good 20 minutes of cooking to reach the texture I grew up with in the South.

Over time, I’m sure the restaurant has evolved as all businesses do. Owner and chef Gabrielle Hamilton has written a book, won at least 3 James Beard Awards including Outstanding Chef this year, and is writing a second book all while writing a weekly column for the New York Times magazine and running her restaurant. As her experience has grown, I’m sure it has been reflected in the restaurant. That’s what keeps a small business vibrant.

And vibrant Prune still seems to be. When you visit, expect to sit close to your neighbors. When James and I were dining, the table arrangement was so snug our waiter stepped out the front window onto the sidewalk and then back in to serve the table next to us. There simply wasn’t room to walk between them. That step out the window wasn’t awkward. It seemed perfectly natural and added to the charm of the whole experience.

Some people just draw you in. Some places do the same. These are the people and spaces in which you just may find inspiration. Prune could be one of those places. When you travel to NYC, make sure you get your share of Prune!

prunerestaurant.com

https://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/the-2018-james-beard-award-winners

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/dining/prune-review.html

http://www.algonquinhotel.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=restaurant

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”