Friday, August 10, 2012

Part 2: Mindfulness and Consumerism

Mindfulness as a Weapon Against Diabesity

What is Diabesity and How Common is it?

Diabestity is a term coined to indicate instances where diabetes is caused by obesity. It is known that excess weight in majority of patients is responsible for type 2 diabetes. In adults, type II diabetes is typically due to excess fat around the abdomen whereas in children with type II diabetes, the obesity is more generalized. Type II diabetes if infamous for deadly and quality of life depleting complications, including heart disease, stroke, amputations, dementia, blindness, kidney failure and impotence.

It’s almost impossible to overstate how serious and far-reaching a problem diabesity is. It affects more than one billion people worldwide, including 100 million Americans and 50% of Americans over 65. Recent statistics suggest that diabesity is the largest epidemic in the world today and is the fourth main cause of death in most developed countries.  And, its impact is expected to rise dramatically in the next 25 years. The good news is that this combination of obesity and diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle and genetic factors that contribute to the onset of type II diabetes are: diet, exercise, genetics, urbanization, and stress.  Over the past two decades research shows that stress causes both obesity and diabetes in a variety of ways. Studies also show that stress makes it hard to lose weight. This is one reason why some people just can’t seem to lose weight no matter how well they eat or how much they exercise. Stress is one of the most important – yet most often ignored – factors driving the diabesity epidemic. Stress is both psychological (fight with your spouse, losing a job etc) and physiological such as inflammation, environmental toxins, dieting, too much exercise, and insomnia.

Our bodies aren’t made for chronic stress

One of the reasons chronic stress is so destructive is that our bodies didn’t evolve to deal with it. We’re designed to handle short-term, acute stress fairly well. In paleolithic times, this might have been caused by getting chased by a lion or hunting for our next meal. In fact, this type of stress may even be beneficial for our bodies because it improves our ability to react to the challenges of life.

What we’re not adapted for, however, is the chronic, unrelenting stress that has become so common in modern life. This type of stress provokes feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – what psychologists call a “defeat response”. And it’s the defeat response that leads to increased fat storage, abdominal obesity, tissue breakdown, suppression of the immune system, and elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
What To Do?   Mindfulness Practices
Three habits which directly moderate the effects of diabesity by decreasing stress are:

a.  Relaxing: Push your pause button every day with deep breathing, visualization, yoga and   other relaxation/meditation techniques.
b.  Physical Activity: Aside from changing your diet, exercise is probably the single best medication for diabesity. Walk "mindfully" for at least 30 minutes every day. For some, 30-60 minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise 4-6 times a week may be necessary.
c.  Connecting With Others: Research is beginning to show that we get better more effectively when we get together. Invite your friends, families and neighbors to change their diets and lifestyle along with you. Together we can all take back our health.
Both meditation and mindfulness have been proven to reduce stress.  The point of Mediation, of doing nothing, is not an end in itself but a way to calm the mind, to see the true nature of things, and reduce the impact of suffering while increasing love, kindness, wisdom, fearlessness, and sympathy.  When we practice Mindfulness, we clear our mind of past and future anxieties and focus on the moment.  We employ all our senses to fully experience that moment and by doing so we create a calm, serene sate of mind that relaxes, refreshes, and renews our body. Mediation and Mindful practices reduce chronic pain, blood pressure, headaches, anxiety and depression.  They also help you lose weight, lowers cholesterol, increases sports performance, boosts immune function, relieves insomnia, increases serotonin, improves creativity, optimizes brain waves, helps in learning, focuses attention, increases productivity, and enhances memory.  In short, Min;dfulness practices greatly assist with managing the many life-threatening symptoms of diabesity. 
One specific practice of Mindfulness that directly affects diabesity is "Mindful eating".  It has the powerful potential to transform people’s relationship to food and eating, to improve overall health, body image, relationships and self-esteem. Mindful eating involves many components such as:

  • learning to make choices in beginning or ending a meal based on awareness of hunger and satiety cues;
  • learning to identify personal triggers for mindless eating, such as emotions, social pressures, or certain foods;
  • valuing quality over quantity of what you’re eating;
  • appreciating the sensual, as well as the nourishing, capacity of food;
  • feeling deep gratitude that may come from appreciating and experiencing food
Eating while multitasking, whether working through lunch or watching TV while eating dinner, often leads us to eat more. On the other hand, eating "mindfully," savoring every mouthful, enhances the experience of eating and keeps us aware of how much we take in.
Adults in the United States devote an average of 1 hour and 12 minutes per day to eating, yet spend between 2½ and 3 hours per day watching television. Our kids are rushed too. Studies have shown that school lunch periods provide an average of 7 to 11 minutes for students to consume their lunch.  And, the speed at which we eat isn't the only problem. As a nation of multitaskers, we often pair eating with other activities, such as driving or working at our desks. It is rare that we're simply eating when we're eating. In fact, 66% of Americans report regularly eating dinner in front of the television. With obesity at epidemic proportions, it is essential we take a closer look at not only what we eat but how we eat.

Mindful eating draws substantially on the use of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness helps focus our attention and awareness on the present moment, which in turn, helps us disengage from habitual, unsatisfying and unskillful habits and behaviors. Engaging in mindful eating meditation practices on a regular basis can help us discover a far more satisfying relationship to food and eating than we ever imagined or experienced before. A different kind of nourishment often emerges, the kind that offers satisfaction on a very deep emotional level.  And, sharing a meal with others in such a mindful manner increases the beneficial effects even more so.

So to counter the effects of diabesity or to ward off its' insiduous advance, try the techniques mentioned above and summarized below, DO
1.  Take time during to day to cultivate mindful moments, thereby relaxing, reducing stress, refocusing energy and refreshing the mind.
2.  Build some physical activity into a daily routine: a mindful walk, a relaxing swim, an ambitious hike with like-minded people, an evening walk with your dog to appreciate the sunset.
3.  Practice Mindful eating, make every bite count:  savor the flavors, rejoice in the season's bounty,  embrace fellowship, and have gratitude for Nature.
Sources:  Medindia: Fishting Diabesity with Lifestyle Changes
                 Chris Kresser:  Medicine for the 21st century, October 22 2010 in Diabesity.
                 Mark Hyman M.D.
                 Dr. Francine Kaufman
Recommended Reading:  Prof. Brian Wansink, the author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,”

Front Cover
Meal by Meal is a book of comfort, guidance, and insight for anyone with an unhealthy relationship with food. Its power is in its approach: each day is a self-contained journey of conscious eating to help people nurture new and sustainable attitudes and practices. Although bad habits cannot be changed overnight, the author, Buddhist devotee Donald Altman, shows how to find peace by focusing on food issues one meal at a time. He shares inspirational daily meditations, including quotes from Zen stories, Native American practices, Hindu scriptures, the Bible, and sages from all major wisdom traditions. He also explores food preparation, rituals, and social attitudes and examines questions like "How can we learn that eating is not a pleasure race, but an area to find grace?" and "How can we stop using food to fill ourselves up, and instead use it to fulfill ourselves?" Through daily reflections, Altman enables people to make wise food choices and create balance in their lives. 
Front Cover

HarperCollins, 1999-12-01 - 224 pages
Many of the world's religions value the simple act of eating as a powerful means of self-discovery and spiritual transcendence. Eating with awareness brings us into the moment, helping us understand what it means to be alive and connecting us to the mystery and source of all living things. Directing attention to how we choose, prepare, and eat our food can offer satisfaction and gratify more than our physical need for sustenance.  A meditation on eating as a means to gaining awareness, Art of the Inner Meal explores the joys of giving and receiving, the art of fasting, the reasons why the wisdom traditions recommend some foods while prohibiting others, and how awareness of what we consume can affect the environment. By understanding the spiritual meaning of food for cultures around the world and creating new rituals and traditions for our own families, we can strengthen family bonds, encourage love, and deepen our connection to the community. Altman encourages us to improve our spiritual well-being by investing the everyday act of eating with the meaning and significance it deserves .

Tomorrow:  Crippling Personal Debt 

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