Brian Wansink studies how you eat. He’s a professor of consumer behavior and nutritional science at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, and he’s written several books, including Mindless Eating and Slim By Design. Essentially, he’s a proponent of controlling our immediate environment – particularly in our own homes and kitchens – to help foster healthier eating patterns. The size and color of our plates, the shape of our glasses, how our food is stored in our refrigerator and cabinets can all influence how much we eat… and he offers tips to help us to design our environment to make better choices.
An article in Lifhacker’s Vitals talks about Wansink’s approach and links to a simple checklist of ways to “help your kitchen make you slim.”
Wansink has provided this sort of “checklist” (PDF) that’ll guide you toward making your home environment more conducive to healthy eating. You’ll find tips like eating from smaller plates; placing a bowl of fresh fruit plainly visible in the kitchen; keeping junk food out of sight (and out of reach); and keeping the TV turned off while you eat. These familiar-sounding tips are based on food psychology and work by manipulating your environment to let you continue eating “mindlessly.” At the same time, you end up making better choices without needing to tap into your willpower much or at all.
We’ve got two video clips that offer more on his ideas. The first is a CNN 5 minute intro to some of his ideas on Mindless Eating. It shows some of the tests that he ran and why we are so easily tricked into overeating.
The second clip is a longer but highly entertaining 22 minute talk in which Wansink takes on two myths: that “buffets make us fat” and “we are smarter than a cereal bowl.” He talks about ways to make small structural changes to our environment to push us in the right direction, and offers tips. He talks about how our eyes often trick us about portion sizes. For example, in switching from a larger to a smaller bowl, the portion difference may seem imperceptible but the difference over a year could be as much as 17 pounds.
September is National Yoga Month!
Among the many benefits of yoga, add pain relief. Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat offers an excellent article on the physical benefits of yoga. In addition to enumerating some of the many health benefits, one area the article discusses is how yoga can be used in pain management, including studies showing how yoga can help reduce back pain…
In one study, published in the journal Spine, people with back pain who did two 90-minute sessions of yoga a week for 24 weeks experienced a 56% reduction in pain. They also had less disability and depression than people with back pain who received standard care, such as pain medication. The results also suggested a trend toward the use of less pain medication in those who did yoga. When the researchers followed up with the participants six months after the study, 68% of the people in the yoga group were still practicing yoga an average of three days a week for an average of 33 minutes per session. That’s a good indicator that they found yoga to be helpful.
… and arthritis pain:
In a 2014 study of 36 women with knee osteoarthritis, those who did yoga experienced significant improvements in their symptoms compared with women who didn’t do yoga. The yoga group had a 60-minute class one day a week and then practiced at home on several other days, averaging 112 minutes of yoga a week on their own. After eight weeks, they reported a 38% reduction in pain and a 35% reduction in stiffness, while the no-yoga group reported worsening symptoms.
Many yoga proponents say that it can help with alleviating other pains as well, from migraines to digestive distress.
Here are a few low impact, beginner yoga exercises for low back pain
In a prior article, Healthbeat talked about another health benefit: It’s no stretch — Yoga may benefit heart disease. Of course, these aren’t the only health benefits – many people turn to yoga for relaxation, to reduce high blood pressure, to enhance digestion and to improve sleep. Here are some other potential benefits:
- Reduces stress and tension
- Relieves pain
- Increases joint and muscle strength
- Enhances flexibility, balance and mobility
- Improves heart health and circulation
- Strengthens bones
- Helps weight loss or weight maintenance
- Boosts energy and immunity
- Improves sleep
Want to be an all-star at work? Improve your sleep routine! Experts say that getting more sleep can help your work performance – and getting too little can degrade it. In Forbes, Moira Lawler talks about several recent studies about the effect of sleep – or lack of it – on work performance. She notes:
A study in the journal Sleep found that subjects who racked up just six hours of snooze time per night for two weeks functioned as badly as if they were deprived of sleep for 48 hours. Here’s the thing: The study’s subjects actually thought they were performing well—not just skating by but actually doing an all-star job.
Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important to our overall health, but for many, the trick is how to get enough in terms of both quantity and quality.
Some great tips on improving your gut health from Dr. Mark Hyman:
9 Ways to Optimize Gut Flora
The best way to grow a healthy inner garden and make your gut bugs happy begins with your diet. Here are 8 ways to build healthy gut flora starting with your next forkful:
- Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. One of the best ways to maintain gut health involves cutting out the sugar and refined carbs and jacking up gut-supporting fiber.
- Make 75 percent of your plate be vegetables and plant-based foods. Your gut bugs really love these high-fiber plant foods.
- Eat good fats and get an oil change. The good fats we mentioned earlier (like omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil) will help with decreasing inflammation, giving healthy gut bugs a chance to flourish.
- Supplement smartly. Beyond the numerous benefits (including reducing inflammation), studies find omega-3 fatty acids can support healthy gut flora. You should definitely supplement with an essential fatty acids formula, if you’re not regularly eating wild-caught fatty fish. You can find professional-quality formulas in my store. Take a good probiotic supplement. This helps reduce gut inflammation while cultivating health and the growth of good bacteria.
- Add more coconut. Studies demonstrate anti-inflammatory and weight loss benefits from adding Medium Chain Triglyceride or MCT oils. One of my favorite fats, coconut oil and coconut butter, contains these fabulous fat-burning MCTs.
- Remove inflammatory fats. Cut out bad, inflammatory omega-6 rich fats like vegetable oils. Replace these with healthier oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
- Add fiber-rich foods. Nuts, seeds, and a special fiber called glucomannan provide prebiotics and feed our healthy bacteria.
- Add fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso contain good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply.
The above recommendations are not miracle cures. They are the actions that lead to normalized gut function and flora through improved diet, increased fiber intake, daily probiotic supplementation, the use of nutrients that repair the gut lining, and the reduction of bad bugs in the gut with herbs or medication.
Yes, inflammatory fats will definitely damage your gut bacteria. But the right fats, including omega-3s and extra-virgin olive oil combined with a whole, real food diet can actually repair your gut and even increase good bacteria.