In a given day how often do you breathe deeply? In a stressed out world you can unconsciously end up breathing short and shallow breaths, this can reduce oxygen intake and further drive the stress response.
Breathing is an interesting function of the body and arguably the only one that is both unconscious and consciously controlled. Think about it, until you start dreading this you were breathing without paying attention to it. It happens automatically. But you can also slow down or speed up your breathing pattern at your own will.
Rapid, shallow breathing is a natural response to a stressful situation. Deeper, slower breathing is a natural response when you are relaxed. Taking conscious control of your breathing during the day, especially when you are stressed, can help calm your nervous system so it can focus on healing, digesting and creativity.
Try this simple breathing exercise each day to calm you mind and body.
This technique was developed by Dr Andrew Weil as a great technique to calm your body when lying in bed at night to assist you falling asleep or to calm your mind and body during the day.
Exhale forcefully through the mouth
Close your mouth and silently breathe in through the nose as you mentally count to 4
Hold the breath for a count of 7
Exhale forcefully through the mouth for a count of 8
Do this a total of four times and repeat twice daily to maximise the benefits of the technique. The ratio of the inhalation to exhalation is more important than the overall length of time. At first you may not be able to hold your breath very long so count faster but as your body becomes more efficient over time you will find that you can really slow the process down.
Here you are in the midst of modern society. No time. Rushed. Distracted. And eating… really, really fast. It seems like half the time you’re not even chewing our food properly! It’s time to discover eating slowly and what it can do for your health and well-being.
Learning to eat slowly is one of the simplest yet most impactful things you can do to improve your health. But it’s not always easy, so let’s explore why it’s so beneficial and worthwhile.
Eating slowly gives your body time to realize that it’s full. It takes 20 minutes from the start of your meal before your brain sends signals that it’s satisfied with the amount of food and nutrients you consumed. Imagine the extra calories you’ve been eating simply because you haven’t given enough time for your body to realize it longer needs food!
Eating until satisfied is different from eating until you’re full. Satisfied can be around 80% full, which is what you should aim for. When you take the time to slow down and take in each bite mindfully, paying attention to the tastes and textures of the food, you end up feeling way better about what you eat… even if it’s just a sandwich.
Before you even put the food in your mouth, your body’s digestive processes are already at work. As soon as we see, smell or think about food we begin to produce saliva which contains enzymes to break down the food and moisten the mouth to aid in swallowing. Your stomach then starts to secrete more acid and your small intestines start to prepare for movement and food transport.
When we eat fast, we tend to take larger bites and chew less before swallowing. Food that isn’t properly broken down can lead to indigestion and other potential GI problems. Anyone who’s experienced either can tell you it’s not pleasant.
A study served lunch in two different ways to 30 average weight women. The meal consisted of a huge plate of classic pasta and a glass of water. All women were instructed to eat to the point of comfortable fullness. During one visit they them to eat as quickly as possible. On the other visit, they were asked to eat slowly and down their utensils between each bite.
Here’s what they found when they compared the difference:
Fast eaters: 646 calories in 9 minutes
Slow eaters: 579 calories in 29 minutes
That’s 67 less calories in 20 more minutes… which may not seem like much until you add up the three meals a day… 7 days a week. Do some simple maths and you’ll quickly realize that that adds up to 1407 extra calories a week!
On top of that, they found that when the women ate quickly they reported more hunger an hour earlier than when they eat slowly. This means that slow eating leads to less food consumption and more long-lasting satisfaction – which is both good for the wallet and the waistline!
What’s interesting is that they took the same study and compared the amount of water that the participants drank to find that the fast eaters drank an average of 289 mL and the slow eaters drank 409 mL! So they conducted a similar study, only this time they controlled water levels, and found that ate the same amount of food, but an hour after the meal the slow eaters reported less hunger and desire to eat.
So they concluded that drinking more water helps reduce portion sizes, while eating slowly seems to decrease hunger levels for longer. On top of that you get the other incredible benefits of drinking more water such as balancing body fluids, energizing muscles, helping your kidneys and bowels work better and improve skin appearance!
At the end of the day, if you’re eating slowly and drinking more water, you’ll consume less food and feel more satisfied.
Of course, eating slowly is not the end all be all for weight loss and health, but it will definitely help you with portion control and hunger satisfaction.
Should you avoid it? This is possibly one of the most controversial topics in diet and health, but today, we’re going to tackle it with hard-core science and unveil the facts you need to know.
First, let’s define exactly what we mean by sugar. Is it the white stuff you scoop into your coffee? Well it can be, but that’s only one type of sugar, called sucrose. Sugar is actually a group of molecules that share a similar structure, so it’s actually more appropriate if we refer to them as sugars. Sugars are a type of carbohydrate known as “simple carbohydrates”, which means they digest more quickly.
You have taste receptors on your tongue for sugars that tell you “this is delicious” because naturally, sweet foods like fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and energy. Nowadays, there are some not-so-nutritious foods that are packed with sugar. The tricky part about this is that everyone reacts to sugar differently. Genetically, some of us want it more, some of us like it in small doses and some of us like it so much that the more we eat, the more we want.
What does the data say about sugar’s link to weight gain?
Well no single thing – including sugar – causes weight gain. A study was conducted comparing the low-carb diet to the low-fat diet when the calories were kept the same and the researchers concluded that there was no advantage to either diet over the long term.
One thing that definitely contributes to weight gain is an increased caloric intake. So if you’re one of those people that loves sugar so much that it always leaves you wanting more; then it’s a good idea to restrict yourself from sugar because eating it will most likely make you eat more of it and that will increase your overall caloric intake, which can lead to weight gain. It’s all about experimenting with your body and finding what works.
What does the data say about sugar’s link to diabetes?
The short answer for this one is that managing sugar intake is just one piece of the diabetes-prevention puzzle. The biggest change you can make to prevent or reverse diabetes is to limit your fat intake that comes from all the animal products you eat such as red meat, pork, cheese, dairy milk and eggs. Research has shown that these types of fats are actually the biggest culprit driving diabetes. For more info watch the documentary ‘What The Health’ on Netflix.
This doesn’t give you permission to have fizzy drinks with your meals (bad idea). What it does is give you more insight on what you SHOULD focus on when looking to prevent diabetes, which is weight and body fat management. This is backed up by a LOT of research.
So… How much should I eat?
The point of this article is not to remove your guilt of eating sugar. It’s not a health food and it doesn’t even add a whole lot of nutrient value like protein or omega-3 fatty acid does. But you can’t blame one thing for all your health problems. Being aware of your sugar intake is probably a good idea. As a guideline, limit sugar to 10% of your intake. But ensuring that you’re eating real whole foods for proper nutrients and finding a way to move and exercise more often has far greater benefits. Focus on the big rocks before the pebbles, and you’ll find navigating health a whole lot easier.