Mindfulness and Meditation

wang-xi-727497-unsplash.jpg

Mindfulness and Meditation......Does it Really Work?

Well...yes, it really works. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “meditation" for the rest of the post.

The link between meditation and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Meditation reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

I'll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of meditation is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Meditation for mood

The most immediate health benefit of meditation is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week meditation program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include meditation. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that meditation has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While meditation alone  isn’t always a cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Meditation for achieving healthy weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including meditation, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).

How can this be?

One way meditation is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Meditaiton can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to "mindful eating." Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported eating smaller portion sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = eating less.

Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Meditation for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).In theory, meditation-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received meditation training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how meditation can help.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below.

BONUS Relaxing Herbal Teas:

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.

Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

●      Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)

●      White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)

●      Rooibos tea

●      Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)

●      Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy with a touch of honey if you prefer.

BONUS Guided Meditations (videos, apps & podcasts):

How to Meditate video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0y1Lu0L8nU&index=5&list=PLerdqrUWzOkd7m9HQj1yfJiI09pwVhPcD

How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtG8No-MMOM&list=PLerdqrUWzOkd7m9HQj1yfJiI09pwVhPcD&index=10

Calm App

https://www.calm.com/

Headspace App (free 10-day trial)

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Daily Meditation Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/daily-meditation-podcast/id892107837?mt=2

Hay House Meditations Podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hay-house-meditations/id955266444?mt=2

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/benefits-mindfulness-meditation/

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm

https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434

 

The Stress Mess

shutterstock_291501230.jpg

The Stress Mess: How Stress Messes With Your Health

We all have some level of stress in our lives.

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be beneficial by helping you react to and solve problems.

Under these normal conditions, when the “threat” (“stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let's dive into the "stress mess."

Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be at the top of the list for discussion.

Stress increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 - Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut."

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Remember the game "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favors.

Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

●      Put less pressure on yourself?

●      Ask for help?

●      Say "no"?

●      Delegate to someone else?

●      Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

●      Deep breathing

●      Meditation

●      Walk in nature

●      Unplug (read a book, take a bath)

●      Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)

●      Connect with loved ones

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

 

alex-boyd-336219-unsplash.jpg

Serves 1

  • 1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

 

Friday Night Dinner Party

rawpixel-com-247358-unsplash.jpg

"If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house......the people who give you their food give you their heart." -Cesar Chavez

It's true, I love cooking for family and friends.  Everything about preparing, cooking and sharing food makes me happy.   Making something with my own hands feels creative and satisfying, and sharing it with others is a joy and a privilege.  The meals I make are one way that I show my love and appreciation for my friends and family.

I really love having people over for dinner on Friday night.....I think it is the most relaxed evening of the week.  But when you work all day, your menu has to be easy - Here is one of my favorites:

Friday Night Dinner Party

Menu

Chef Kris's Roasted Garlic and Kale Hummus

Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken, from The Barefoot Contessa served over Brown Rice

Gwenyth Paltrow's Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard, from It's All Good

Simple Green Salad (I used 50/50 salad blend and dressed with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper)

Mixed Berries and Chocolate Covered Almonds

 

How To Start Meditating

shutterstock_631644992.jpg

Here's why I am such a big fan of starting the day with meditation:

When I meditate my day goes better.  I have more energy and I feel less stress. I am more creative and focused in my work. I have more patience.  I am kinder to myself and others. 

Many of my clients resist starting meditation because they "can’t sit still", they "don't have time" or they don't think they are "doing it right".

I can totally relate to those challenges! For years, I just dabbled with my meditation practice. I KNEW that meditation was an important key to my overall health and wellness, in the same way that exercise and nutrition are essential components.  But I didn't have the same powerful habits in place for daily meditation as I did for my exercise and nutrition routines.  Creating the HABIT was the key for me to finally start meditating daily even though I had tried a million times before. 

My practice is super simple:

I wake up an hour earlier than the rest of my family.  (Don't worry,  You can meditate at any time of day that works for you!)  It just works best for me first thing in the morning, and I find that I am more rested after meditation, than if I got that extra hour of sleep.  I get a cup of coffee, and sit down in the same spot every day, spine aligned, legs crossed.  I bring my attention to my breath.  Sometimes I use a mantra like 'So Hum', if my mind is really wandering around and I need to gently steer it back to my breath. My goal is to meditate for 5 minutes, but I usually sit for 20-30 minutes.  That's it!

Here's how to get started:

  • Get Settled: Find a quiet place where you can relax.
  • Breathe deeply: Take five deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, on the last exhalation, close your eyes.
  • Check in: Settle into your body. Align your posture and take notice of how your body feels.
  • Scan your body: Turn your mind inwards and take note of your body from head to toe, acknowledging any tension, and relax those areas.  Then turn to your thoughts, notice what comes up without trying to alter them.
  • Bring your attention to your breathing: You can count each breath, one (in), two (out), three (in) and so on, or use a mantra.  If you notice your mind wandering just gently bring your mind back to the counting or the mantra

Sometimes, I listen to meditation music on Pandora.

Sometimes, I use guided meditations.  Here are a few resources that I love:

I have a sweet, 5 minute gratitude meditation on my blog:  Practicing Gratitude

On the rare occasion that I do miss my practice - I am just not at my best.  But don't just take my word for it!  There is plenty of scientific evidence that suggests that meditation affects the brain and the body in positive ways;  Check out the research in the articles below:

What does your meditation practice look like? (Don’t worry if it’s not consistent). Or what questions do you have about meditation? I would love to hear from you!

Peace & deep breaths,

Lisa  

EMAIL ME

Eat To Thrive

We are all different.  There is no "perfect diet" that works for everyone.  Your idea of the "perfect diet" may change several times over your lifetime.

People are often surprised that as a Nutritionist and Health Coach, I don't recommend a specific type of diet to my clients.   My philosophy is "Eat to thrive."  Whether you are Vegetarian, Vegan, or follow Paleo or Keto programs.......my philosophy is to eat what makes you feel amazing.  Relax.  Listen to your body and don't judge.  And know that what makes you feel great today, may change at some point in the future.

I was a vegan for 5 years in my 20's.  I was attracted to a vegan lifestyle because of my love for animals and my desire to find the healthiest diet.  For several years, I felt great.  I experienced incredible energy, vitality and weight loss.  I worked out like a maniac in those days...hiking, biking or skiing for hours each day and teaching fitness classes.   I also avoided fat like the plague!  Overtime, I no longer felt nourished the way I was eating.  My energy reserves were depleted, my digestion was off, and I battled rosacea (a acne related skin rash) for many years.   In the end, introducing some meat, fish and healthy fats into my diet was the right choice for me.

Today I am not married to any one stye of eating.  I call it being "Flexitarian"!  I eat a heavily pant-based diet that includes good quality fish and meat.  I drink 60-80 ounces of water and 1-2 cups of green tea every day.  Most days, I lean towards vegetarian meals until dinner which makes me feel light, bright and energized throughout the day.  I always start my morning with an energizing green smoothie and I usually have a giant salad loaded with green leafy vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil for lunch.  Dinner is usually fish or high quality meat, or a whole grain dish with tons of veggies.  I don't digest beans and legumes well, so I naturally avoid these foods even though they are incredibly nutritious.  My favorite snack is avocado toast topped with a poached egg or sliced nectarines and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.  (Yum!)  If my energy is low, I will kick sugar, wheat and dairy to the curb for a few days.   I also love cooking for my friends and loved ones.....The more the merrier!  That is how I eat to thrive.

My "Eat To Thrive" philosophy is about focusing on whole foods, reducing sugar and processed foods and noticing how you feel every day.

  •     Do you have sustained energy throughout the day?
  •     Do you feel radiant and sexy?
  •     Is your skin clear?
  •     Is your hair shiny and healthy?
  •     Do you sleep well?
  •     Do you have trouble managing your weight or losing weight?
  •     Do you poop at least once per day?
  •     Do you often feel bloated after meals, or energized and ready to go?

When it comes to finding what foods make you thrive, you can carve out your own path. Don't be obsessed.  If you are trying to reduce sugar or gluten and some mistakes happen....Don't worry about it.  A little bit won't hurt you!  Just get back on track at your next meal. 

Yours in health, 

Lisa  

EMAIL ME

Transformation Story: Meet Earlene!

Meet one of my favorite clients, Earlene. I am thrilled to share her story of transformation.

I met Earlene 5 years ago at The Roaring Fork Club and she became one of my private training clients.  She lives in LA with her husband Herb, but they spend the summer months in Colorado.  She was 69 years old when we met, and was recovering from total knee replacement surgery.  She had just been cleared by her doctor to start exercising.  Earlene has a bright and sunny disposition and a very positive attitude.  She was very determined to regain her strength, mobility and balance after the knee replacement so that she could get back to playing tennis, working in her garden and enjoying an active lifestyle.  When we met, she was overweight, but weight loss was not a goal that she was ready to commit to.  

We worked together for two summers and she did get strong!  She hired a trainer in LA and continued to do strength training year round.  She started walking and water aerobics to improve her endurance, and eventually got back to playing tennis! 

When Earlene came back to Colorado for our third summer together, she told me at our first meeting that she was ready to talk about nutrition and weight loss.  She is 5"4", and at that time weighed 158 pounds.  I started her on a simple 3 day elimination diet: Removing sugar, coffee, alcohol, gluten and dairy.  We raised her intake of fruits and vegetables from 2-3 servings daily to a minimum of 5 servings per day.  I helped her plan menus that she and her husband would both enjoy and offered ongoing support and guidance.  The coffee elimination was the hardest part for her!  She was used to sipping coffee all day long instead of drinking water.  So after the 3 day elimination was accomplished, we added the coffee back in but limited it to one cup in the morning, after which she drank 28 ounces of water with fresh lemon.  She was already starting to feel amazing.  She had more energy, less knee pain and was getting excellent results.....losing 6 pounds the first week! 

We continued to work together for 12 weeks, during which time Earlene lost 30 pounds and went from a "tight size 14" to a size 6.   As you can see from the photos it was more than weight loss, it was a total transformation!  Her skin hair and eyes are glowing, she has terrific energy and she had to buy an entire new wardrobe, including bras and underwear!

Earlene and I have remained close and continue to work together every summer.  Last year, she had a serious health scare that was a major set back.  She has recovered completely now, and is back to full health.  Her doctor's credit her incredible health status as a contributing factor in her recovery.  I believe that is true.  That, combined with her unwavering positive attitude and determination.

Yours in health, 

Lisa  

EMAIL ME