This week we are back for part two of The Five Pillars of Nourishment and Nutrition, part of my Hungry for More series in which we explore and learn about the physiologic, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our hunger. Today I discuss the final two pillars, explore why they are important for nourishment, and provide tips and tricks for implementing these concepts in your life.
If you haven’t listened to previous episodes in the Hungry for More series, go back and check them out to deepen your understanding of hunger:
Episode 1: The anatomy and physiology of our hungers - listen to it here.
Episode 2: The science behind emotional eating and what we can do to overcome it - listen to it here.
Episode 3: Mindset and how it can affect your chances of success - listen to it here.
Episode 4: The importance of cultivating self-compassion – listen to it here.
Episode 5: The Five Pillars of Nourishment and Nutrition (Part One) – listen to it here.
Listen to the episode on Food Addiction: Truth or Fiction with Dr. Vera Tarman here.
Find more inspiration, join my newsletter, or see my curated collection of supplements and protein bars at dradrienneyoudim.com.
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My new book Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight Loss From The Inside Out is now available! If you’d like a hardcover, personalized, autographed copy with free shipping, use the code freeship at hungryformore.net.
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Thank you for coming back to health bite to the second installment of our five pillars of nourishment. Last week, we talked about how the way you nourish yourself, mind and body, is the same whether you are trying to lose weight, whether you are trying to achieve health or prevention, whether you are trying to level up your productivity in the workplace or improve your mood and cognition. So these pillars really are effective and evidence-based to help every single one of those goals.
Last week, we talked about diet relating to not restriction or a dietary approach that is intended to facilitate weight loss, but just what you eat and how you should eat. We also talked about movement and the benefits of movement that are independent of weight loss in terms of cardiovascular, metabolic, cancer prevention, all of the above, as well as in terms of mood and cognition. And then finally, we talked about sleep. I always discuss sleep as a nutrient essentially, because it is. Sleep is essential to cognitive and metabolic health as well. And we talked about some of the ways in which sleep can be disrupted, and some of the strategies to help. If you didn't listen to that episode, go back to health bite anywhere you podcast and check out last week's episode.
Now we are going to go into the last two pillars of nourishment. And then we're going to talk about some tips.
4. The Mind’s Diet
The fourth pillar that I'd like to talk about is the mind's diet, that entails mindfulness. I've talked about mindset in a previous podcast, but essentially mindset and how we see things in terms of whether we allow ourselves or believe that we can evolve or grow or whether we have a limiting mindset where we think things are fixed and we were born a certain way. Studies have shown that that affects not only academics, performance, and athleticism in business, but it also affects health parameters. So what you think about yourself really does come out to play. So it is important to have a growth mindset, a mindset that says hey, I'm going to meet myself where I'm at, and I'm going to use that as a starting point, to pivot and or to grow.
I also include in this category self-compassion, which I've also talked about in another episode, but I think it's worth repeating. Self-compassion is a practice that contains three elements. The first element of which is just awareness of what we are saying to ourselves, awareness of how we respond to ourselves in those times when we are imperfect or fallible. To be flawed is to be human and to be human is to be imperfect. But so often we use that imperfection as a place of self-judgment, self-deprecation, and as a place which is absent or totally devoid of self-compassion. And that absence of self-compassion, not only is not nice and makes us feel bad but actually gets in the way of productive and successful habit change. The first part of that is just being aware because studies show that we have 60 to 70,000 thoughts per day and that 70% of those thoughts are negative. And so how many thoughts are we having that are negative towards ourselves that we're not even aware of. So the first step is being aware.
The second step is to offer ourselves compassion in that moment. So think about what you would do if your child or your best friend fell at a party while she was carrying a piece of cake. You wouldn't laugh at her or kick her while she's down or call her clumsy and say that was so stupid, you would offer her compassion. So in those moments where you are imperfect, or didn't do things the way you had planned, things didn't go your way, offering yourself compassion in that moment.
And then the third element of a self-compassion practice is acknowledging our common humanity. So everybody is imperfect. Everyone is fallible, despite what it may seem or appear to us because of perceptions, because of social media, because of a whole number of things that come into play in terms of how we perceive others. But regardless, there is no human on this earth that is not subject to the same human condition, and acknowledging that common humanity allows us compassion for ourselves. That is the fourth pillar, the mind's diet, which consists of a positive mindset, a growth mindset, as well as positive self-acceptance and self-compassion.
5. Nourishing Your Soul
Finally, the last pillar of nourishment is really nourishing your soul. So doing something that is introspective. These practices can include meditation, they can include being amongst nature, there are abundant studies that show being in nature regularly, or even just one snapshot does affect mood as well as cognition and productivity. They did a couple interesting studies that I'm going to share in terms of nature. The first was they took students and they divided them into two groups. The first group was told to go walk around in a park or in an area that had trees in nature, and another group was asked to walk around in an urban area. They were given the same test before and after. And the studies show that having students just walk around in nature actually boosted their test scores as compared to the ones who walked around in urban areas. Of course, there's also mood-enhancing benefits and also physiologic benefits to being in nature. And in one particular study, they again took two groups of people, they exposed them to a horror flick, got them all worked up and anxious, and then separated them into two groups, one that was given nature film, so they weren't even actually placed in contact with nature, they were merely visualizing it on a screen, compared to another group who watched an urban area or a video of an urban area after being exposed to this horror flick. And the individuals who were exposed to the nature videos had a reduction in heart rate, had a reduction in skin temperature, which is a surrogate of the sympathetic nervous system response. And so they showed that physiologically, being exposed to nature even just visually improved physiologic parameters of anxiety and kind of the heightened fight or flight system.
So being in touch with nature is kind of a spiritual practice, but then there are others. Journaling practices are also something that is very powerful. Journaling is something that I wholeheartedly believe in and have been practicing since I was six years old. Journaling has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. Journaling has also been shown to enhance emotional regulation. When you have a journal, it gives you an opportunity to just dump what's in your mind, dump the ruminations that are kind of really in your head. And by getting it out of your head and onto paper, you are able to reduce that mulling over or rumination process. it also allows you to process emotions and experiences. And then, believe it or not, journaling has also been shown to help physiologic health parameters. So it has been looked at in chronic conditions like asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and a regular journaling practice reduced pain scores in rheumatoid arthritis, improved functional testing in asthmatics, and has also been shown in cancer patients to tolerate their difficult therapies like chemotherapy a little bit easier. So lots of benefits to a journal in practice.
I do want to say, however, that if somebody is in the midst of a very distressing situation, and or has significant anxiety or depression. journaling actually can be more triggering and can bring about thoughts and feelings that the person is not capable of handling on their own. So if you find that you're in that place, please get the help of trained mental health professionals who can help walk you through this difficult time.
And then another kind of practice that I like to talk about is coloring. So really, any kind of creative practice has been shown to improve mood, enhance cognition, and some of these practices are associated with health parameters. And coloring is one that is also associated with a more emotional well being and ease. And in fact, coloring has been shown to do a few things in terms of cognition. One, it increases the amount of acetylcholine, this is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with memory. So it enhances memory very concretely in that way. Coloring has also been shown to result in neuroplasticity, which is kind of the change in our neurons and our connections between our neurons or brain cells. And it has been shown to improve the dendritic connections, those are the ways in which the projections by which our brain cells connect. So coloring is an amazing practice that not only enhances mood, cognition, but also can be prevented in cognitive decline.
You may be wondering for those of you who've been following me along from a weight loss perspective, because that is what I primarily specialize in, how this might relate to weight loss. Again, remember what's good for the mind is good for the body. And if you recall, several episodes ago, in health bite, we talked about how our emotions literally hijack our hunger hormones. We talked about the physiology, the neurobiology, and neurochemistry behind emotional eating. And so all of these practices, if for nothing else, are enhancing or improving our emotional well being, and that directly affects our triggers for emotional eating, or eating when we're not hungry.
So let's talk about a few tips on how to implement these nourishing pillars and put it into practice.
So the number one barrier that I see in my practice is the barrier of time. If we think about it, our most precious resource really is time. And that is the barrier that I'm always met with when I'm talking with clients, whether it's lack of time to cook or prepare food or even shop, whether it's inadequate time to exercise or meditate, or really any of these things, time is essential. And I like to think about time in a different way because as a busy mother of three, entrepreneur, physician, now author, yeah, time is an issue. And I used to be the queen of I have no time, and it occurred to me that time really is a concept that has very much to do with our priorities, with our values. And with our boundaries. It occurred to me that if I were in a super busy time of my life, and the phone rang, and a family member needed something from me, not necessarily an emergency, but needed something of me, I would make the time. If I were at work, and I needed to spend extra time with the patient, I would make the time. If I were in my workplace as an employee, if I was strapped but needed to get a project done or report taken care of, I would make the time. And so we make time for things when we make them a priority. The problem is that we rarely make ourselves a priority, and therefore we don't set the appropriate boundaries in order to make that priority happen. But when you do, you're informing yourself of your own worth, as well as informing the relationship. And so it does come down to worthiness.
I want to pose this question to you, if you are thinking to yourself, this sounds great, these pillars sound great, and yet, I don't have the time. I want you to ask the question, well, am I worthy of that time? And if I believe that I am worthy of that time, then I need to make the appropriate boundaries around my time to make it happen.
The first step in implementing any of these is acknowledging the barrier of time, and it's really important to set routines. One of the things that happened during the pandemic was that our routines were destroyed. Many of us did things like clockwork, woke up in the morning, maybe exercise first thing, had our ritual of coffee, had the ritual of driving to and from work, these kind of bookends to our day, were also part of creating a routine. And so when we went from that to the more nonchalantness of being home, something that happened was that people who used to exercise every morning, thought, Well, I don't need to wake up early, I can exercise whenever I want. And so loss of that routine meant loss of that activity. What also happens when we don't have routines is that we are able to negotiate ourselves out of them. For example, if we tell ourselves, we can exercise later in the day, without a structure, time or routine around it, then later in the day could mean before lunch, it could mean after lunch, it could mean before dinner, it could be before bedtime, and what we will do is go through this negotiation with ourselves of when is the best time to do it. That negotiation in and of itself is so exhausting, I really recommend setting a routine so that you don't exhaust yourself with this negotiation that ultimately gets in the way of the work.
The same is true with creating meals and meal planning. Maybe you're working from home in some part indefinitely, and so you don't really feel like you need to meal prep. But consider this. If you have the routine of putting aside a healthy, balanced nutritious meal every night before you go to bed or when you're clearing the table, you have that routine of being mindful of your health and also having that made for you so that you're creating an environment of success. So routines are critical. I recommend that if you are off your routine If you feel like you have no time that you do a time audit, download a timesheet and just spend a couple days filling out what you're doing every day. You may find that you were losing big pockets of time throughout your day, unbeknownst to you, pockets of time that could be used in a way that is much more valuable.
The third piece that I want to talk about is creating an environment for success. So creating an environment for success applies really strongly to our diet and the food that we choose to eat in terms of how have we stocked our fridge? How have we stopped our pantry? If the pantry is filled with non-nutritious, palatable foods, do you think that we're going to take the time to run out to the market and get lettuce for our salad? No, we're probably going to end up waiting and snacking on what we have. So create an environment that is conducive to your success. And that may mean for a short period of time eliminating those highly palatable foods that trigger you. We also talked in a previous episode with Dr. Vera, who's an addiction specialist, and she talks about that dopamine chase, the fact that when we eat these palatable foods over time, not only do we develop a habitual response to them, meaning that we want to do it again and again. But the ante is upped, meaning that we need to consume more of this food in order to get that dopamine release to get that kind of euphoric feeling. So it really becomes kind of like an addiction requiring more and requiring it regularly. And if you're triggered by that bag of chips, then maybe that bag of chips just needs to be out of the pantry. Maybe your environment for success means having it out of the pantry or out of the kitchen.
The second part to create an environment of success is having the right things there. So I recommend that people have a standing shopping list of the basics, what needs to be in the house and spend the weekend at the farmers market or at the supermarket and really make sure that you are always stocked in certain things, quick proteins like rotisserie chicken, tofu, canned tuna, garbanzo beans in the pantry, lentils. So these are quick protein sources. So it gives you five different options for five different days. Greek yogurt for the morning, eggs, hard boil them and keep them in the fridge, really create the environment for success. Again, if you're busy running around chasing your kids or working from home, you're not going to necessarily stop to create a nutritious meal for yourself. So creating an environment that supports your success in advance allows you in those moments to make the right decisions.
I think that's it for today's podcast. I hope that you enjoyed last week's and today's, we talked about my five pillars of nourishment which includes diet, movement, sleep, a mind diet, which is mindfulness and self-compassion. And then finally engaging in some activity that nourishes your soul, something creative, something meditative, something introspective. And then we talked about some tips and tricks to really achieve that, creating an environment for success, creating and maintaining habits and routines until they become ritual in your life. And also being very clear as to your barriers, particularly the number one barrier for us all, which is time. I hope you enjoyed this podcast. I hope you took away some tangible guides and tips to nourish yourself more deeply. I will be back next week with another episode of health bite.