Reward ≠ Food

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Patient and client conversations can be a rich source of writing inspiration to address common concerns. As we discuss new changes, cravings, accomplishments and challenges, ideas start to percolate as we work together to find the best solution for the individual. If the same issue is mentioned by different individuals more than three times in relatively short succession, we can almost *feel* the universe tapping on our shoulder.

The latest recurrent theme among us all seems to be regarding emotional eating, over-eating, and reward-eating.

Let’s break this last one down. Why would we associate certain foods with a reward?

    • With thousands of years of evolution working for (or against) us, humans naturally crave sweet flavor. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a little *ping* of dopamine by eating berries and other naturally sweet substances. The brain would reward eating this food, which some argue helped our ancestors survive by promoting fat storage to see them through the leaner times. This survival mechanism is all but unnecessary during the times in which we live, with plentiful food stores and sedentary lifestyles (when was the last time we burnt 2000+ calories a day hunting down buffalo?).
    • An ostensible lack of other options or ideas for rewarding ourselves. We’ve leaned on food to give ourselves a pat on the back after a hard day in the office, for finishing a big project, or to relax after a full day with the kids finally in bed. After many years of this, we may have forgotten how to celebrate our accomplishments without cake, doughnuts, french fries, or chips.

After the sleeve of cookies is finished, there can be a poignant anxiety that settles in. Guilt and shame follow soon after and we feel terrible about ourselves. Then we say “what the Hades, I’m probably never going to lose the weight anyway” and keep going or we decide with firmness and determination, “starting tomorrow, no cookies ever again!” However, we all know how this plays out; the deprivation leads to cravings and the whole cycle begins anew.

When you eat, try eating to nourish your body and experience pleasure. Tying food to your reward-system will unravel advances in your health goals and, here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even work. By the time we are done with the chocolate chip cookie party, we only temporarily feel sated before we either look for more sugar (during the ‘down’ of our blood sugar rollercoaster) or we feel guilty…..which drowns out what ephemeral feeling of pleasure we got from the food in the first place.

By having some non-food rewards instead, or at least sprinkling them into your current routine, you can start to challenge the ‘need’ for something sweet and, instead, ‘treat’ yourself ‘sweetly’ (double puns, couldn’t resist :D). Here are a few ideas to get your started on non-food rewards:

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5 Tips to Spark Creativity!

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Early on in our sessions, every client fills out a circle of life handout. This assessment looks a bit like a wheel with a bunch of spokes, some of which are labeled “home environment” and “relationships;” then there’s a spot with the word “creativity.” As clients complete this exercise, there’s an awareness brought to the areas of life that aren’t working for them or aspects they’d like to enhance. Creativity is typically one of those areas. Even those who profess themselves to be the antithesis of artistic can find that creativity exists in so many forms. Increase your happiness and productivity by boosting your creativity:

1. Find an absorbing, slightly challenging pastime that allows you to feel some mastery – could be singing, a conversation, rock-climbing, creating a story, piano playing, or wood-working. In the state of flow, psychologists say, you forget yourself as you merge yourself with the task; this can also lead to higher self-esteem.

2. Let your ideas FLOW before you try to filter them. Not everything we dream up will be a smashing idea. The purpose and process of brainstorming can lead to several great ideas; however, if we censor them on the outset, we are less likely to find a successful solution or experience a stroke of brilliance.

3. Silence!? While too much noise can distract from your creative process, ambient noise (think coffeehouse-level at 65-70 decibels) can be beneficial. Consider listening to some theta brain wave music to get into a flow.

4. Daydreaming & following your thoughts. Contradictory to the idea that day-dreaming is something we are supposed to outgrow, it has been hailed as important to creative thinking (by none other than Sigmund Freud, for example). No matter where they wander, playing follow-the-leader with your thoughts can improve your mental performance according to a Psychological Science study. The perfect anti-dote to willful focus on a task is daydreaming. Think of it as a brain HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout!

5. Body movement = brainstorms! Exercise gets blood flowing to your brain and even 20-30 minutes can be enough to give your brain a boost for more innovative thoughts. Bonus: playing with a child often involves physical activity and creating stories to go along with the toys.

Your Life’s Work + 10 Years

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Without consciously planning, people often assume roles, professions, and jobs they find acceptable or even just barely tolerable, believing the shape of their lives is due to circumstance.

Our belief is that each one of us has a purpose on this earth. A mission. A way of living and working that encourages the sharing of your intelligence and creativity as well as fitting with your values and allowing you to be yourself, authentically. 

Traditional work often requires more of us than we want to give (which can lead to resentment); our life’s work is driven by our passion, intention, and sense of mission. We give more time and energy than we would in traditional work because we feel, compelled out of love and joy, to do so.

We all weren’t born with knowing our life’s purpose. Some find their purpose earlier than others. If you’re feeling directionless, here are some ideas on how to make a discovery of your mission:

  1. Consider the interests you have now and those you had as a child. Perhaps you liked building cities out of Legos, drawing up architectural plans of your dream house, using imaginary tools to perform ‘surgery’ on your dolls, being a movie director and casting your siblings in a superhero drama, organizing events or games for others to play, teaching others how to do gymnastic moves, doing arts and crafts, reading or drawing, cooking or baking with your parents. Mine your memory for some of your favorite activities or a certain profession you were drawn to – they can be a hint for what you may enjoy doing now.
  2. Conversely, are you harboring an interest in something as of yet unexplored? Perhaps being a travel agent, working to protect the environment, learning how to program computers, or starting a pet massage business is something you’ve been secretly yearning to do.
  3. Take inventory. What are your skills, strengths, beliefs, passions, and values? These can help you refine your search for purpose.
  4. Create space to consider what you feel called to and narrow it down. Ask yourself how you want to work. Do you like the environment of a fast-paced laboratory? Do you like working with your hands? Sit quietly in meditation and set an intention to be open to clues or signs of what you’re meant to do.

On your journey to uncovering your life’s mission, you may realize your true potential and live a purposeful and authentic life. Also, because life is rarely linear, you may find that your life’s work will change at various points in your life. Perhaps after years of loving numbers-crunching as an accountant you now feel you want to help others relax as a yoga teacher. Maybe you felt strongly about being a present parent and devoted almost two decades of your life to that pursuit only to find that you’re now free to discover your next step or new passion.

How you know you’ve discovered your life’s work: you are energized and eager to face each day. You feel good about the work you do as well as who you are.

Here at One Bite Wellness, from director to associate to intern, we are here because it is our life’s mission to improve the lives of others – body, mind, and spirit. We empower and support each client to take care of their health and their lives, including finding their life’s passion.

For over 10 years since we’ve found our mission and calling, we feel supremely thankful to be able to use all of our gifts to serve you. Thank you for supporting our life’s work.

Call to the Nation: Take your Vacation!

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Of all industrialized nations, America has the least number of vacation days. A far cry from the 30+ days offered as annual leave and paid holidays by other countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy, some Americans are lucky to get (and use) the roughly two weeks given as a ‘benefit’. However, quite a few of us are not even taking this small amount of time off, in the true sense of the word. To ask for a week or *gasp* two off requires advance notice of a few months, large efforts to secure work while away (though about a third of us do work during vacations), and tends to bring a decent amount of anxiety as we worry about being perceived as disloyal or lazy.

Often vacation time is now mostly utilized as personal days, taken here or there, to run errands and ‘catch up’ with life’s demands or to take a mental break from the severe stress of over-work. Do you know anyone who works 40 hours a week? Rarely do we at One Bite Wellness encounter a person who works 40 hours or less at a job; most people answer their work ranges from 45- 60 hours per week. Because of this over-working, we have higher levels of stress and depression and less recreational time with friends and family, much less time to cook and exercise.

Americans may be economically more advantaged than other countries in the world, but we seem to have lost our health and longevity. We have some of the poorest health rankings and spend more money per capita on healthcare than almost any other country. In 1980, we ranked 11th in the world for longevity; now we’ve fallen to 42nd, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here? Well the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regulates the maximum number of working hours, over-time, child labor, and minimum wage but never mentioned paid time off. There was never a baseline set for vacation or sick time and now it’s up to the employee and employer to negotiate. Many companies will give workers about 1-2 weeks off per year, but they can also stipulate that you cannot use more than a certain amount of days in a row. About a quarter of Americans don’t get any vacation time at all.

Benefits of a Break

  • Studies suggest that those who take vacations are less likely to suffer from heart disease and other illnesses.
  • Taking a vacation from work is associated with better health, relationships and social life, productivity and creativity, and general well-being.
  • Replenishment and life-enriching experiences, preventing ‘burn-out’
  • Stronger social and familial bonds
  • Improved patience and tolerance, less anxiety and depression

These benefits really take place over a block of vacation time, not a day taken here or there.

Focusing on this issue of vacation time forces us to examine our values, as individuals and as a country. What do we value? Economic progress over all else? What about our health and our families? Our mental well-being? We work hard and long for progress and production, but if we want to improve our quality of life and well-being, we have to fully realize that vacations matter greatly.

Do it for your sanity and your health. Be ‘time rich’. Take a vacation– holistic nutritionist’s orders. 🙂