Author Archives: reginazopfmd

Take a ZEN BREAK!

 

So you are using self-awareness and you find yourself stressed out at work. What do you do?!

Take a ZEN BREAK!

Recharge yourself. Stop what you are doing. Forget about work and allow yourself to just breathe. Throw on your headphones and link to some extremely relaxing meditation music here.

When you are stressed out, you won’t think straight or being efficient anyway. Your mind and body are hijacked by your amygdala and by coritsol and in this state the thinking part of your brain is shut off. You can’t digest your food properly and blood flow is going out to your muscles to help you run away from the proverbial tiger.

Stopping to take a “Zen Break”, even for 5 minutes, can build resilience and help you refocus your energy. Your creative juices will flow and you may find solutions when you thought there were none.

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

Trying to change a habit? You might want to start chanting OHMMMM…. first

That’s right, a very interesting study by Judson Brewer and Colleagues out of Yale published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2011 evaluated whole brain activity and showed that the way people think in about 50% of our waking life is different than the way people that meditate think.

This habitual “mode” of thinking is called the Default Mode Network. You could also equate this to “mind-wandering” or the habitual thinking patterns that many of us have. This is basically the way you think when you are on “auto-pilot” and not completely involved in the activity at hand. Incidentally, these thinking patterns are also associated with unhappiness. They tend to be negative thoughts  with you existing as the sun at the center of the universe. This type of thinking is often focused on anxieties and ruminations about the past, or the future. Habitual thinking…just thinking about it makes me want to scarf down some chocolate to make myself feel better!

 chocolates

On the other hand, people who meditate have a different Default Mode Network. Their brains fire differently even in every day life. They tend to be more focused on the present moment and are less self-referential, instead understanding that they are a part of a greater whole. And yes, less of the “mind-wandering” is actually associated with happiness and less negative thinking. In addition to personal motivation positive thinking is one of the most predictive factors predicting success related to changing behaviors.

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So happiness is the silver lining related to changing this habitual thinking. If you want to change what tends to be an impulsive, or compulsive, out of control behavior, like emotional eating, loafing, shopping too much, or even if you just want to stop that anxiety provoking negative thinking, you might want to try meditating first. Even  5-10 minutes a day is a great start o break the patterns of habitual thinking. The benefits continue beyond the time you meditate.

Want to break that habitual thinking?

Here are some websites that can guide you through meditation:

UCLA Semel Institute in Mindfulness Research: Guided meditations: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

Insight Meditation of Massachusetts guided meditation: http://www.dharma.org/resources/audio#guided

Interested in positive thinking? Check out your positivity ratio on this website

http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php

Eat fish for a smarter baby

In case you haven’t heard…if you are pregnant, you should be eating fish for increasing the smarts of your offspring according to this well known study published in the Lancet in 2007 that showed that women that did not eat fish in pregnancy had a significantly increased risk of having children with low verbal IQ. The study concluded that even when weighing the risks of mercury and toxins, the risks of not eating fish were much higher.

The FDA came out publicly on the subject on July 10, 2014 setting minimum amounts of fish that women should consume during pregnancy. Basically they recommend that women eat fish that are low in mercury 2 or 3 times weekly. You can see the statement here.

But how do you know which fish are the good fish?!

Say yes to: Salmon, canned light tuna, cod, sardines, tilapia, and catfish. Or if you can’t remember, you can use the rule of thumb, “If the whole fish fits on the plate then it must be great”.

Say no to: tilefish, mackeral, shark, albacore tuna, mahi mahi (BIG FISH!) Because they are big, they have more time to accumulate toxic mercury.

Oh…and by the way, please no sushi ladies. You don’t want Hepatitis A in pregnancy, trust me!

Here is the link to Seafood Watch so you can also see up to date information on toxins as well as safely fished species and species to avoid for the ecological impacts so you can be green while nourishing your body and your baby.

 

Don’t just exercise, HAVE FUN! and lose more weight…

Don’t just exercise, have fun doing it! You will lose more weight by making better food choices after you finish. How so?

According to this article published in the journal, Marketing Letters on May 15, 2014, 2 groups of women were told to walk the same one mile course in 30 minutes. One group of women was told to walk the course for exercise, while the other group of women was told to walk the course as a form of enjoyment. The enjoyment group was told that the purpose was to have fun. They were given music to listen to and instructed to rate the clarity of the music at 6 stops along the way.

When they returned, the women from both groups were invited to the same “all-you-can-eat” buffet. They were also given an option of applesauce for dessert or chocolate pudding and a beverage of either water or Coke.

While the groups of women consumed the same amount of calories from the buffet, the women that walked for exercise were significantly more likely to choose both the sugary dessert and the sugary beverage and consumed more of them, thus increasing their overall calorie intake when compared to the women that were instructed to exercise for fun!

They were compensating for their excellent exercise behavior by eating more sweets and sugary beverages. WOW!

They also measured levels of fatigue and mood after the exercise. Women that exercised for the sake of exercise experienced more fatigue while the exercise group doing it for fun reported a more positive mood. Remember, having a positive mood improves many health outcomes and leads to more success with health behavior changes.

So don’t just exercise, ENJOY IT!

Here are some articles exploring how to do just that!

Oprah.com

Familyshare.com

healthyaging.com

Bike to save the world, and your health…

More and more these days I realize that what is good for our planet is good for our health. I think bikes are the most perfect example of this. Not only are they one of the most ingenious and beautiful machines ever made, they are also equalizers, bringing opportunities for transportation available to poor and rich alike. Most importantly if you hop on one on your way to work, for example tomorrow for DC’s “Bike to Work Day”, you are not only getting your work out done first thing, you are boosting your metabolism. Did you know that you are burning calories even after you stop exercising, leading to a fully guilt free day? Sounds like a good excuse for a latte, with an “I’ll take the whole milk”!

And who can beat the feeling of the momentum on the bike. You just can’t help but be mindfully aware of the wind blowing through your locks, au plein aire, lest you crash into a tree. The benefits of mindfulness are lasting too…in a resilience building sort of way. So if you haven’t tried it, why not start tomorrow.

Check out the pit stops tomorrow here. Be sure to register for a free T-shirt!

Intimidated by the other bikers on the road? Learn some ground rules here 

Want to gain further benefits from your ride by knowing you are saving the planet? here are 10 ways you are doing just that!

Love bikes as much as we do? Consider a “CAR-TERNATIVE” like this one! Traveling

in style…

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Dieters? Go ahead, INDULGE! but do it mindfully

With all of the varied diets that are promoted all over the place, what’s a woman that wants to stay healthy to do?

So by now, most of us know we shouldn’t “diet”. It is really about making healthy food choices that become a part of our everyday life and habits. Does that mean you can’t sneak a sweet treat every now and again? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But if you do, be sure to fully indulge. Here is a great posting on NPR from yesterday. When folks were given the same exact 300 calorie delicious milkshake, one was labeled low calorie, fat free, and guilt free, while the other was labeled with exactly what it was, 300 calories. Well what happened next was yet another window into the mind body connection and the miriad of ways that what we believe can actually affect how our body responds the food we put into our bodies! The folks that drank the mislabeled “healthy milkshake” secreted more Ghrelin. This hormone basically makes you think you are hungry and leads you to seek out more “satisfying foods”. But wait…there’s more, it also slows your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories and easier to gain fat and store sugars.

WHAT!!!!

So what does this mean? It means, fully enjoy in your food. Eat mindfully and indulge in your food. Even if it is healthy food. When you are mindfully eating, enjoying your food and the way it is nourishing your body, your mind is sending out all the right hormones to satisfy your hunger. If on the other hand, you are restricting your diet with health foods you really don’t want, you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot.

You can try mindful eating on your own the next time you eat. If you have a grape handy, it is always fun to try with that. Take a quiet moment to savor a grape in a way you never have. Slow down. Pick up the grape. Feel it in your fingers, note how it feels or any thoughts you may be having about eating the grape. Place the grape in your mouth. Notice any sensations on your tongue. Slowly bite into the grape and feel the texture, the pressure on your teeth. Feels the juicy sweetness that bursts onto your tongue as you bite into the grape. Take your time as you savor the flavors and aromas. Notice how you feel while you are eating the grape. Note: You can try this with any food.

Want to try a free webinar on mindful eating? Check out the Center for Mindful Eating. They have a webinar coming up on April 24, 2014. For further reading, check out a NY Times article on mindful eating to avoid binging here.

Mother Nature’s Network author and registered dietitian Jenni Grover recommends these 5 tips for mindful eating:

  1. Eat Slower
  2. Savor the Silence
  3. Shut off the phone and TV
  4. Pay attention to flavor
  5. Know your food

You can read more about these tips from the original blog post here.

The Healing Space of Spring

I am so grateful for Spring’s finally undeniable arrival in the Washington DC area as I gaze upon one of my favorite “blossomplosions” of the year, the spring blooming Magnolia trees. The National Arboretum has a collection that allows the viewer to appreciate their gloriousness within an uninterrupted experience of nature.

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Surrounded by walls of magnolias, drenched in a subtle floral fragrance, with sounds of wood peckers and volleying calls of nearby song birds singing their songs of Spring, I am transported instantly into a world of beauty and, in my son’s words, “a land of magical trees”. My breath becomes free and easy and a smile unravels on my face and permeates through my being. Ahhhh, SPRING!

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I love this image. The flowers are presented so elegantly, like wine goblets arranging themselves as if to say, drink from me, there is plenty go around. I fully expect to tip one into my mouth and taste the sweetest wine I have ever enjoyed in the most beautiful surroundings.

Nature is my castle.

In relation to health, I am reminded of the work written by neuroscientist and physician Esther Sternberg, MD who studies the beneficial effects that healing spaces can have on our health and immune systems. She writes that healing spaces can more easily allow us to enter a state of mindfulness and calm which optimizes our body’s ability to heal.  See her speak here, or her TEDx Talk here and find her book on the health benefits of healing spaces here:

Get inspired this Spring, allow yourself to be immersed in the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it’s good for you!

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.