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Mind-Body:

** To me Mind-Body is not just, how do you feel, but also where you are. Paying attention to where you are eating significantly impacts how you feel. It's also recognizing your hunger ques and stopping when you are full, knowing your metabolism, and being mindful of everything surrounding the meal.

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Where Are You Eating

Loving your Space

The kitchen and dining area are the connecting points of the outside world and the cellular you. Food choices and purchases impact the environment and agricultural markets. Once the food is turned into meals the nutrients are absorbed and eventually become part of the cellular you. Everyday the food you eat puts you together, it's essential to cell structure, physiologic functions, health and longevity. The kitchen and dining area should be functional and enjoyable to maximize this process.

Surroundings and Design:

** The surroundings and design of where meals are prepared and eaten can have far reaching impacts. There is significant research on the obesogenic effect of environment on food intake. Additionally, behavioral neuroscience research is confirming that physical environments deeply influence one's sense of well-being. It’s not rocket science that the feeling a room gives you can affect your mood and in-such your attitude to stay focused on a goal. It’s known that meal initiation and meal termination are from different mechanisms but both impacted by surroundings, feelings and goals. Research has identified that some immediate food environmental variables such as, portion size, proximity and variety of food, and presence of distractions, can be associated with increased energy intake and decreased nutrition quality. If the goal is health then the design should support that. While architects and decorators specialize in helping clinicians and hospitals set up the best, health-promoting offices, it's helpful to have a residential nutritionist involved in health-promoting kitchen and dining design choices.

As noted in his new book, Gastrophysics, Charles Spence states, “…environment impacts both what we think about what we are tasting and, more importantly, how much we enjoy the experience. Ultimatly, there is just no such thing as a neutral context or backdrop. It is time to accept the growing body of evidence demonstrating that the envvironment not to mention the plateware, dish-naming, cutlery and so on, all exert an influence over that tasting experience. Once you have that straight it certainly makes sense to optimize “the everything else”, along with whatever you happen to be serving on the plate.” I would add that in addition the environment impacts your digestion, absorption, nutrient status and cellular status and function.

Design should consider that intuition, sensitivity, and creativity help to create psychologically supportive environments. Here are some of the things I think of:

  • Make kitchen design realistic. It may be that you start out by just painting, reorganizing and setting new rules. It doesn’t have to be a total kitchen redo.
    • Plate patterns and size, silverware, linens etc. all have an impact.
  • Plant great smelling herbs (like mint, thyme or lavender).
  • Make your kitchen comfortable, use good quality mats to stand on.
  • Research has noted that eliminating clutter and putting order in your kitchen is essential to maintaining a calm-focused environment.
    • Order allows you to stay focused on taking the time to plan, shop, prepare and eat your meals.
    • An orderly well-liked space encourages you to socialize leading to a deeper social support.

Leslie Harrington, a color consultant and noted expert on the use of color in residential and industrial décor noted, "What color you paint your walls isn't just a matter of aesthetics. It's a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior."

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What do you want your food/meal experience to be?

** Use design to plan the food and meal experience. Do you want your meal to be a time when you focus only on health, or do you want it to be a time when you turn everything off and talk to your family about the day ahead or behind? Each meal will be different, breakfast is not the same as dinner. When you think of this experience how would it ideally be designed, both aesthetically and practically. In our family, I am a breakfast enthusiast but my family isn’t there yet so I eat breakfast on my favorite china, and read the paper alone. It’s time to set the tone of my day. In comparison, we all have dinner together, so my focus is spending time with each other enjoying a meal. Dinner is more about closing out my day and checking in with my family. I have a smaller dinner to allow me to get ready for sleeping. Meals may not always work as planned but it’s important to know the priorities.

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Mind Power: Get Control of Your Hangry:

** This is really going back to signs and symptoms, and being in touch with body ques. Learning what it feels like to be hungry or full, and taking control of that. If you’re full, stop eating. If you’re hungry learn to deal with those feelings. There are several tools to assess hunger level. If someone is trying to change how they eat and their relationship with food one of the most important factors is knowing when they are hungry, and how they are going to react to it. People don’t have to eat every time they feel hungry, we can learn to wait for meals. Unlike the Snickers commercial people can be in control of their behavior, even when they’re hungry. Mindful eating is based on understanding and managing hunger and fullness queues, not being ruled by them. When helping someone deal with being hungry I break hunger into a 4-point scales, 1 – full; 2-not hungry, 3-hungry, 4- starving. No one should eat when they are 1 - full, and people need a plan in situations when they may become 4 - starving. Additionally, people should strive to be aware of the difference between 2 and 3. It can be included in food diaries and plotted. Ideally people should be at a 3 (3.5) before a meal, and a 2 (1.5) post-meal, three times a day.

I am proponent of eating three meals a day without snacking, with a large breakfast and a smaller dinner. It’s metabolically better for most people, with the exception of significant athletes, children, people with specific health conditions, or in situations when meal aren’t possible. Research has found that having several meals a day may increase overall calorie consumption and having three meals a day helps to better control overall intake. Increased snacking is correlated positively with obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions. I noted in earlier blogs I also believe it’s important to eat with your circadian rhythms. Sleep/wake cycles, body temperature, hormone secretion, hunger ques, and other functions are dependent on circadian rhythms.