A Summer Treat

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Using frozen bananas to make ice cream seems to be all the rage lately.  Even though I’ve ice creamsnagged several recipes for this non-dairy frozen delight from Pinterest over the last several months, I had never made it until last night.  I’m here to tell you that if you need a sweet treat this summer that won’t leave you feeling guilty, this ice cream will do the trick!

The general idea is that you take some frozen bananas and use them as the base.  When pureed in the blender or food processor, frozen bananas become soft and oh-so-creamy.  From there you can use as many different mix-ins as you can dream of.  Want strawberry ice cream?  Throw in some chopped frozen strawberries.  Want chocolate ice cream?  Mix in a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder and a little vanilla extract.  While a subtle taste of bananas remains, the flavors of the mix-ins are what stand out.

In addition to being low calorie, this “faux” ice cream is also great because it is gluten-free and vegan!  The recipe I used was for Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream from The Lemon Bowl blog.  For each 1/2-cup serving (this recipe makes 4 servings), there are 108 calories and 4.4 grams of fat.

Step-by-step instructions for making one-ingredient ice cream along with some more flavor ideas can be found here. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t even need a recipe!

-Katie Huffman

Photo by Liz DellaCroce of The Lemon Bowl

Click here for another healthy summer treat recipe

To Not Feel Deprived

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Gretchen Rubin, a happiness author and blogger whom we’ve featured on the blog before, has taken on a new challenge: figuring out what’s behind a habit and “how to make good habits and break bad ones (really).”  Ms. Rubin will reveal her findings in a book due out in 2015.  In the meantime, she has been blogging about her research into questions such as

  • Sometimes, people acquire habits overnight, and sometimes, they drop longtime habits just as abruptly.  Why?
  • Do the same habit-formation strategies apply equally well to everyone?
  • What are the overarching strategies that allow us to change our habits?

Ms. Rubin suggests that when in pursuit of a good habit, one of the most important things to do is to avoid deprivation.  When we feel that we have been deprived of something, we often compensate by giving ourselves permission to break the desired habit, even if by just a little.  For example, I’ve been known to say, “I was really good with my calorie counting this week, so I’m going to indulge in this brownie tonight.”

Ms. Rubin points to a recent study published in the NY Times.  In the study, participants were split into 2 groups before going on a 1-mile walk and then eating lunch: 1 group was told that the walk was for exercise and that they should focus on their exertion; the other group was told the walk was for pleasure and that they should enjoy themselves.  Afterwards, the “exercise” group reported feeling more tired and grumpy, and they ate more sweets at lunch.  The study results suggest that if you view a habit or activity positively, you’ll be more likely to stick to it and less likely to feel deprived.

In several posts, Ms. Rubin refers to “the strategy of treats.”  This is not about a reward system where you get a treat if you maintain a habit or reach a goal but is instead about giving yourself small, healthy treats on a regular basis:

“Treats help us to feel energized, restored, and light-hearted. Without them, we can start to feel resentful, depleted, and irritable. When we give ourselves plenty of healthy treats, we don’t feel deprived. And when we don’t feel deprived, we don’t feel entitled to break our good habits. It’s a Secret of Adulthood for Habits: When we give more to ourselves, we can expect more from ourselves.”

Some examples of treats that don’t cost much in the way of calories, money, or time are:

  • Rather than saving them for fresh flowersvacation, reading “fun” books regularly
  • Using spa-like hand soap in your own bathroom (not just for your guests!)
  • Lighting candles during a regular-old weeknight dinner
  • Twinkle lights every day of the year
  • Flipping through vacation photo albums
  • Keeping fresh flowers on your desk

What are your favorite treats?

-Katie Huffman

Thoughts inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s June 9, 2014 post, “A Key to Good Habits? Don’t Allow Ourselves to Feel Deprived,” Image by Flickr user Morgan

Pastoral Health and Sexuality, Part III

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 This is the third in a special series on Sexual Health by guest bloggers Dr. Bill Bixler and Greg Hill, LPC (see their bio below the article).  Click to read the first  and second installments.

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In the first post we looked at the importance of sex and sexuality for pastors and the dangers inherent in minimizing that part of their lives.  The second post explained how pastors can become vulnerable to the misuse of their sexuality, acting out via cybersex activities or by having extramarital relationships.

Pornography-viewing and other sexual acting out often serve a dual function of relieving stress and offering escape into a fantasy world. Such sexual acting out indicates a pastor’s life is precariously out of balance. Here are some tips for keeping your life in better balance:

  • Boundary-setting: One of the greatest stressors for pastors stems from their inability to set clear boundaries. What are some ways to set clear boundaries? Take time off. Construct a metaphorical fence around your day off. Let it be known that that time is vital for replenishment. Barring a dire church emergency, defer non-essential requests from parishioners. This can be done with grace and humor and will decrease burn-out symptoms.  Delegating responsibilities is another way to set a boundary. Avoid micro-managing and succumbing to the belief that the pastor needs to do it all. Learning to say “no” is an important aspect of boundary setting. For example, set time-limits on phone conversations and meetings.  Pastors often have a need to please everyone, which is impossible.
  • Self-care: Engage in self-care, including physical exercise, adequate sleep, proper diet. In addition, self-care includes time for pleasurable activities, time with friends, developing a hobby. Seek out a spiritual mentor with whom you can be transparent. sunset-13444_640Take time for your prayer and devotional life.
  • Nurturing marriage: Healthy marriages require quality time together. Keep a date night sacred. Take a weekend away. Talk to your spouse, especially about your feelings—fears, doubts, frustrations. Your partner is there, not to fix everything for you, but to provide care and support. Mutual emotional vulnerability can significantly enhance sexual intimacy. Talk with each other about your sexual needs and desires. Be playful; don’t get stuck in the same sexual routine.

This is not an exhaustive list of ideas but provides some seed-thoughts on rebalancing one’s life.  However, many pastors reading the above will likely consider the writers to be naïve or even delusional. The objection would be something like, “We don’t have time to engage in these activities. Church work is too demanding.” But this objection takes as a given, what we feel needs to be reexamined. It is incumbent upon the pastor to shape his/her ministry in healthy ways to reduce stress and the potential for sexual acting-out.

To succumb to the thinking that the above is impossible places pastors in untenable positions. To survive and thrive in ministry requires more than dedication to one’s pastoral vocation. It requires attending to the basics, balancing life, and caring for self as one cares for others. In so doing, the risk of needing to escape into sexual acting-out is significantly diminished.

Two final thoughts.

Firstly, for those who find they have been unable to stop pornography-viewing or other acting-out behavior, counseling with a professional trained to deal with these types of issues can be very helpful. These problems are treatable in a therapy context which assures both acceptance and confidentiality.

Secondly, the pastors who come to us for help are usually male, despite the fact that female pastors also struggle with sexual issues. We are aware that these posts may be unintentionally geared more toward male pastors. We would love to hear from female pastors regarding gender-specific differences related to the topics we have discussed.

-Bill Bixler and Greg Hill

Greg Hill     Bill Bixler

Dr. Bill Bixler (above right), a clinical psychologist, and Greg Hill (above left), licensed professional counselor, have both received clinical and theological training and are co-founders of the Center for Emotional and Sexual Health in Cary. They are certified sex addiction therapists and specialize in working with:  couples coping with infidelity; individuals caught in sex and porn addiction; teenagers struggling with porn, sexting, etc.; and spouses and families traumatized by the addict’s behavior. They are also available to speak to church groups on sex and sexuality. They can be contacted via phone: (919) 466-0770  or email:  dr.william.bixler@gmail.com  and  greghlpc@gmail.com.

Image by Pixabay user PublicDomainPictures

Pastoral Health and Sexuality, Part II

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This is the second in a special series on Sexual Health by guest bloggers Dr. Bill Bixler and Greg Hill, LPC (see their bio below the article).  Click here to read the first installment.

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Pastor John survived another Sunday, but just barely. Still awake after midnight, he stares at the  bedroom ceiling while a host of stressful thoughts bear down on him—parishioners’ criticism of his sermon, worry about the budget shortfall, power struggles with the assistant pastor. He needs some escape, some respite from the pressure. Almost without thinking John slips out of bed without waking his wife, tiptoes to his study, and proceeds to view pornography on his laptop until 3 a.m.

This scenario is, unfortunately, not rare.  Various surveys place the number of pastors viewing pornography between 30 and 54 percent in a given year.  Also, these surveys do not include additional acting-out behaviors, such as participating in sexual chat rooms, hiring prostitutes and escorts, and affairs with church members or staff.  If we included those statistics the above percentages undoubtedly would be higher.

Cybersex (the term used to describe all sexual activities on the internet) has three Computer_keyboardcomponents, the three A’s, which make it so compelling. It is:

  • Accessible– the click of a mouse or touch on an IPAD
  • Affordable– most pornography on the internet is free
  • Anonymous– it can be viewed in complete privacy

Many pastors exhaust their physical, spiritual, and emotional resources taking care of their flock. If stress and anxiety are not managed well and healthy relationships are neglected, pornography becomes a source of escape and emotional self-medication. The fantasy world of internet pornography becomes a substitute for real relationships and intimacy.

In addition, pastors who do not take the time to nurture their own marriages and friendships are at risk of cybersex activity. Marriage therapist John Gottman describes two types of couples: those who turn toward each other and those who turn away. Pastors who turn away may turn toward pornography or someone outside the marital relationship. An absence of genuine intimacy can lead to the false intimacy of extra-marital relationships or fantasy relationships via pornography.

As in the case of Pastor John from our introductory paragraph, cybersex can provide instant, but temporary, escape from the stresses of church work. In addition, some pastors seek to numb deeper emotional wounds:  emotional or physical abuse from childhood, memories of a perpetually critical father or mother, constant fears of not being a good enough minister, spouse, or parent.

Various psychological strategies are employed to allow pastors to continue their behavior unimpeded by self-restraint:

  • Compartmentalizing occurs when that part of the pastor’s life which is unacceptable to him/her is intentionally split off from the rest of life.
  • Minimizing is a type of rationalization, such as, “it’s not that bad because it’s only pictures, not actual sex with someone.”
  • Denial does not even recognize that there is a problem—“I don’t do it that often so it’s no big deal.”

But it is a big deal. Pornography-viewing and other cybersex activities generate intense shame and guilt, create emotional and sexual alienation in marriage, open clergy to accusations of hypocrisy, place ministerial vocations at risk, and severely weaken the spiritual vitality of the pastor.

In the next post we will examine how pastors can significantly reduce vulnerability to sexual acting-out, affirm healthy sexuality, and provide guidance to those who have tried many times to stop but have been unable.

-Bill Bixler and Greg Hill

Greg Hill     Bill Bixler

Dr. Bill Bixler (above right), a clinical psychologist, and Greg Hill (above left), licensed professional counselor, have both received clinical and theological training and are co-founders of the Center for Emotional and Sexual Health in Cary. They are certified sex addiction therapists and specialize in working with:  couples coping with infidelity; individuals caught in sex and porn addiction; teenagers struggling with porn, sexting, etc.; and spouses and families traumatized by the addict’s behavior. They are also available to speak to church groups on sex and sexuality. They can be contacted via phone: (919) 466-0770  or email:  dr.william.bixler@gmail.com  and  greghlpc@gmail.com.

Image from wikipedia

Pastoral Health and Sexuality, Part I

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This is the first in a special series on Sexual Health by guest bloggers Dr. Bill Bixler and Greg Hill, LPC (see their bio below the article).

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Gnosticism is a theological cat with more than nine lives. Its most recent resuscitators include Elaine Pagels, the brilliant Nag Hammadi scholar, and Dan Brown, author of the best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code.  Gnosticism continues to live in a church context whenever a pastor places spiritual formation on center stage and relegates physical life and health to the homilectical and practical shadows.

One aspect of physical life which many pastors struggle with is sexuality, so they place it in the deepest, darkest part of those shadows.stone-tower_Pixabay user steinchenPastors who ignore their own sexual health are not only flirting with Gnosticism, but are neglecting a vital and God-given part of their identities.  Affirming the goodness of sexuality should include more than an annual sermon on Adam and Eve becoming “one flesh.” Spirited Life encourages pastors to move toward a healthier lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, and timely physical and emotional health checkups. In addition, a healthy lifestyle needs to include a healthy sexual life.

In the Scriptures sex is not viewed as peripheral but as an essential part of marital relationship. For example, a battle-ready army was essential to Israel as it was occupying the Promised Land. Despite the necessity of a military fighting force at the ready, certain males were exempt from military service as follows, “If a man and a woman have been married less than one year, he must not be sent off to war . . . He must be allowed to stay home for a year and be happy with his wife.” (Deut. 25:4) Thus, for Israel, even national security did not trump the need to safeguard sexual and relationship nurturing during that vital first year of marriage.

So while the Bible shines a bright light on sex as good and right, it also is unflinching in its narratives of sex gone bad.  There are almost too many examples to illustrate this point, from the tragicomedy of Onan and his spilled seed to the horror of the rape of Tamar.

Whether describing the Song of Solomon’s beauty of sex, or the David and Bathsheba ugliness, the Scriptures address the issue of sex and sexuality head on. Sadly, many pastors do not.  By not doing so they leave themselves and many of their church members adrift in the struggle to live out their sexuality Christianly.

Pastors often focus their entire energies on spiritual concerns and church business to the neglect of their physical and sexual well-being. This unconscious homage to the anti-physical tenets of Gnosticism often carries a terrible price. Sex ignored can become master rather than servant. When that happens, sexual acting-out by the pastor is bound to occur and with it the tragedies all of us are familiar with.

In the next two posts we will be looking at how a pastor becomes vulnerable to sexual acting-out, whether with another person or via pornography. We’ll look at the factors that create that vulnerability and the various functions served by that acting-out. Lastly, we will examine what steps can be taken to develop healthy sexual attitudes and behavior, including making lifestyle changes which will greatly diminish the potential for sexually self-destructive behavior.

-Bill Bixler and Greg Hill

Greg Hill

Bill Bixler

 

 

 

 

 Dr. Bill Bixler (above right), a clinical psychologist, and Greg Hill (above left), licensed professional counselor, have both received clinical and theological training and are co-founders of the Center for Emotional and Sexual Health in Cary. They are certified sex addiction therapists and specialize in working with:  couples coping with infidelity; individuals caught in sex and porn addiction; teenagers struggling with porn, sexting, etc.; and spouses and families traumatized by the addict’s behavior. They are also available to speak to church groups on sex and sexuality. They can be contacted via phone: (919) 466-0770  or email:  dr.william.bixler@gmail.com  and  greghlpc@gmail.com

 Image by Pixabay user steinchen

Farmers Market Fun

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Last week I mentioned that I’m dabbling a bit in container gardening this summer, and hopefully I’ll get a few tomatillos and a handful of cherry tomatoes out of it.  For the majority of my family’s summer vegetable intake, though, we’ll be heading to our local farmers market a couple of Saturday mornings a month.farmers market2

It seems like more and more farmers markets are cropping up, even in smaller towns, which is great news for people who want to buy fresh and local products such as produce, meat, dairy, flowers, and baked goods (To find your nearest farmers market, click here).

To get the biggest bang for your buck and to ensure you’re truly getting local and garden-fresh produce, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Know what fruits and vegetables are in season (click here for a chart).  If a stand is selling tomatoes in early May, be wary, and ask the farmer how and where they were grown.
  • Go early or go late.  The freshest and best quality products will be available right when the market opens, but you may be able to get things at a discounted price as the market closes.
  • Take your own canvas bags, or even a little shopping basket (here are a few examples).
  • Make sure you have cash, preferably in small bills and change.  Some vendors are accepting credit cards now, but it will be faster, especially in large crowds, if you can pay cash in the exact amount.
  • Plan ahead so you generally know what items you are looking for and how you will later prepare your treasures.  Check out these farmers market recipes from Southern Living, Eating Well, and the kitchn.
  • On the other hand, be open to trying something new.  If you aren’t sure what to do with an item, ask the farmer how they would recommend using it or preparing it.
  • Enjoy yourself!  Farmers markets usually have fun and lively atmospheres, and some even offer special activities such as music and cooking demonstrations.farmers market

These and other tips can be found at About.com’s Local Foods section and News and Observer.

Want to grow your own vegetables this summer?  Click here for last week’s post, full of gardening tips and ideas.

-Katie Huffman

First picture by Flickr user US Dept of Agriculture; second picture by Flickr user North Charleston, both via CC

The Humanity of a Race

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On Sunday, April 13, 2014, Raleigh hosted its first Rock & Roll® Marathon and Half Marathon races.  Raleigh’s selection by the national Rock & Roll® franchise was touted as a defining moment for the city. But as one of the more than 10,000 runners competing, what struck me most on Sunday was that the race was a collection of thousands of defining moments that spanned the spectrum of the human experience.

image(1)At 6:00am on Sunday, I walked out of my brother’s house with my dad, brother, step-sister and a close childhood friend.  We headed to the starting line, each with our own story.  My brother was the only one of us competing in the full marathon. He’s a seasoned triathlete (an Ironman finisher in 2012 even), but this was going to be the first time he’d run “just a marathon.” My friend had a very specific goal – to set a new personal record and finish in less than two hours.  My father, a Boston marathoner at age 48, was running his longest race in the last 5 years. For my stepsister and me, this was to be half marathon #2. My father and I planned to run it side-by-side. He could easily out-pace me by 2 minutes per mile, but that’s not what mattered.  See, there was a time 15 years ago – when I was overweight and struggling with my own health – that he could run faster backward than I could forward.  But on this day, we’d be finishing those 13.1 miles together.  Those were our stories.  But what struck me both as we waited for the race to begin, and throughout, was how many other significant stories surrounded us.

While we warmed up and stretched, I spotted three sisters in matching tank tops labelled “older”, “middle” and “little,” who posed as their mother snapped pictures.  Others wore t-shirts emblazoned in scripture, prepared to share their faith while they ran. Many runners had Jimmy V Foundation-sponsored bibs tacked to the back of their shirts – they were running in honor of a loved one affected by cancer. Hundreds of others dedicated their race to the memory of a loved one, with pictures and names displayed on their race shirts.  There were Ainsley’s Angels, a group of runners that would be pushing wheelchairs for the length of the race so that individuals with special needs could experience such a great event of endurance.

As the race started: more stories.  About a mile in, I read the back of an elderly man’s shirt– he was 82 years old, had competed in every single inaugural Rock & Roll® event across the country, and this one was going to be his 166th marathon.  I had to let that sink in – 166 marathons! How many miles must he have run in his life?  At that moment, I realized I couldn’t fathom how many miles all the participants had logged in preparation for this journey of 13.1 or 26.2 miles. It takes countless hours away from friends and family to prepare for such a race. Not to mention money, effort, sweat – lots of sweat. And for more than 10,000 runners, this day was the culmination of all that hard work and dedication.

Further into the race, my attention turned to those who came in support of the runners. Hundreds of policemen and women reported for duty that morning to keep participants and volunteers secure along the closed course. They were running to the aid of fallen runners when one of the many EMTs wasn’t nearby.  And speaking of EMTs, they worked tirelessly, treating everything from ankle sprains to heat exhaustion.

Then there were the volunteers.  Many were there passing out water and sports drinks, no doubt being splashed constantly.  Dozens of bands – a highlight of the Rock & Roll® events – lined the course, sharing their gifts through music.  (To the band at mile 10 who was blasting a cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” as my dad and I passed, I give you special thanks for that perfectly timed tune.)

Next up were the families, friends, and strangers cheering from the sidelines.  My stepmom, in an effort to see and cheer for us all, covered nearly as much ground as we racers did. run w dad A friend stood with her dog at a sparsely populated corner providing encouragement and snapping pictures.  One newlywed couple dressed in gown and tux held one of the many funny signs we saw – it urged us to run faster, lest we be “caught like the groom.” Residents of the Oakwood neighborhood sat in rocking chairs on their porches, sipping mimosas, taking part in their own small way.  My favorites, though, were the seasoned spectators, angels in my mind, who made a point to stand along the course’s many hills, shouting at the top of their lungs that we “could do it” and we “were almost to the top.” We runners needed to hear that, we really did.

Not all the stories were joyous ones. Near the 11th (or 24th) mile, the course was lined with American flags and pictures of fallen service men and women.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the two men who inexplicably lost their lives while competing in the race.  In a day punctuated by so many precious moments, none display the fragility of life more than those two tragic losses, and my heart goes out to the families and friends of those dear men.

Thankfully, there were also beginnings and “firsts” to celebrate: the runners who achieved their first long-distance race… the couple who got engaged in front of the Raleigh Convention Center, just minutes after completing the race.  Remember my close friend, the one who wanted to finish her race in less than two hours?  She bested her goal by more than seven minutes.  And my jovial brother actually danced as he approached the finish line, stopping to kiss his wife, scoop up their baby and went on to complete the marathon with his child in his arms. At nearly six months old, she’s already crossed her first race finish line. It likely won’t be her last.

So many individuals from Raleigh, from North Carolina, and from the country, were joined together in this one event, and in the end that’s what compelled me to share the experience with you.

It mattered that 10,000 plus runners joined each other in one similar goal.  It mattered that siblings and parents and couples were running that race together.  It mattered that the service men and women of the city were keeping everyone safe.  It mattered that complete strangers were shouting words of encouragement to people they’ve never met and probably never will.  It mattered that friends were sending “good luck!” texts and that coworkers on Monday morning were asking “how was the race?!”

It matters when we set a goal and achieve it.  And it matters when we support each other – family, friends, strangers.  I’m certain that we’d all undo the race if it could somehow bring back those two precious lives, but I also take comfort in the belief that they were surrounded by such a profound display of love and support in their final hours.

My other hope in writing about the race is this: the next time there’s a race in your community – whether it’s a small 5k, a sprint triathlon, or a franchised full marathon – participate in it.  If your health (and doctor) permits it, and you have time to train – do it.  If your family, friends, church members or coworkers are competing – support them.  Wish them luck, send them prayers and blessings, stand on a street corner or the side of a hill and shout words of encouragement at them.  Make a funny sign. Volunteer and pass out water along the way or bananas and protein bars at the end. Host a spaghetti dinner at your house or your church the night before and help the runners “carb-load” before the race.cheering_flickr user Joe

Take part in whatever way you can.  Take it all in.  And remember, whatever you do, it will matter.

-Rachel Meyer

Bottom picture from Flickr user Joe, via CC

Doctor’s Orders: Laugh!

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine,” but there really is research showing that humor and laughter can improve physical and emotional health.  Here are some of the ways that laughter is good for your health:

  • Relaxes the whole body and even leaves your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes (after a good, hearty laugh)
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone
  • Increases blood flow and can help protect your heart from cardiovascular disease
  • Decreases pain
  • Reduces anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood- how can you feel anxious, angry or sad when you’re laughing?

Shared laughter is even more powerful than 1205px-Laughter_2_by_David_Shankbonelaughing alone.  It helps build strong and lasting bonds, and it can help heal resentments and disagreements as well as reduce tension in awkward moments.  Laughter also brings people together during painful and challenging situations.

Here are some tips for creating opportunities to laugh:

  • Keep a book of jokes or cartoons on your office shelf.
  • Pull up a funny movie or TV clip on YouTube.
  • Display pictures of you and your loved ones having fun.
  • Pick a screen saver and desktop background that make you smile.
  • Attend a laughter yoga class.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Do something silly with children.

How do you incorporate laughter into your day?

-Katie Huffman

Information from National Humor Month; Image by Frank Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

Taking a bite out of eating slowly

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Many of our readers are familiar with the mindful eating program called Naturally Slim, which has been offered to all three groups of Spirited Life participants. Most of our participants tried Naturally Slim personally; still others may have found themselves at a conference event, hearing their peers talk about “orange water, 10-5-10, and sugar island,” a few of the concepts in Naturally Slim.

One of the Naturally Slim tenets that seems to be most sandwichchallenging for people is eating slowly. I know it is for me! In fact, I would be embarrassed to share with you the number of minutes I spent eating lunch today (fewer than 10 fingers would be needed). Think about your last meal; how long did it take you to finish?

There is growing research to support Naturally Slim’s recommendation to slow down at mealtimes. One recent study out of Iowa State University found that chewing each bite of food more times is likely to result in fewer calories consumed at a given meal. Another study showed that slower eating at lunch resulted in less snacking later in the day, and yet another suggests that slowing down can reduce your risk of diabetes. On the flip side, waiting to stop eating until you feel full and eating too fast can triple your risk of being overweight. A researcher at the University of Rhode Island described it this way: “If you are eating for 20 minutes at 100 calories a minute, that’s a lot. But if you are eating for 20 minutes at 20 calories a minute, that’s not a lot, and it gives your body time to realize it’s full.” There’s also evidence to show that eating too quickly can contribute to digestive problems, acid reflux, and complications after surgeries.

Convinced yet? Maybe you are, but it’s hard to slow down! Naturally Slim offers a free smartphone app with meal timer that chimes when it’s time to take a break in the middle of your meal.

And now there’s a new technology on the market to help you monitor and track your chewing hapiforkhabits. It’s called the HAPIfork, and its slogan is “Eat slowly. Lose weight. Feel great!” The fork measures how many bites it takes to eat your meal, how long the whole meal lasts, the fork servings per minute, and intervals between fork servings. This data can be uploaded via USB or Bluetooth to your smartphone or online account where you can track your numbers. Not only does the fork collect information, but it even lights up and vibrates when you eat too quickly!  Check out this short NYTimes video review; and this Newsweek review for the practical pros and cons of the HAPIfork.

-Katie Huffman

First image from OpenClipArt user rg1024 via CC and second image from Flickr user David Berkowitz via CC

February Wellness Calendar

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Back at the beginning of January, I came across a new kind of calendar where you focus on a different wellness goal every day of the month.  For each day, a healthy activity is suggested and you customize it by setting a goal that makes sense for you.  The daily goals can be very simple and include things like hydration, having fun, eating healthy, staying active, and self-care… good habits that many of us in Spirited Life are striving for.

The blogger who creates these calendars says, “A healthy lifestyle is made up of a whole collection of small daily decisions… and when spread out over a week, month or year, it adds up to a healthy, happy you.”  I found that even though I might only focus on hydration for one day, those actions I set up carry over into the following days and without meaning to, I’ve started a habit of drinking more water every day.

I enjoyed this exercise and plan on trying it again in February.  Click here or on the image below to download a copy for yourself.  And the good news is that this is for YOU, so if you don’t like one of the recommended activities, replace it with something of your choosing!

feb2014-Katie Huffman

(Find more calendars and healthy recipes at back to her roots)