The Microbiome Gains Ground

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Appetite is the healthy expression of the body’s need for fuel. When appetite goes wild, a craving is manifested. If the body really needs a particular nutrient urgently, the craving is legit, but if some trickster bugs hoodwink the body into believing it has to have a particular input right now, that’s a problem.

The various populations of bacteria that make up the gut microbiome generally work together well, but they do have their own agendas. Apparently, if Bug A isn’t happy about the incursions of Bug B, Bug A can convince its human host to commit chemical warfare by eating something that isn’t good for Bug B. While we prance around, kidding ourselves about free will, the “microscopic thugs” (so named by Billi Gordon, Ph.D.) are in charge.

The notion that they might run the show is gaining traction. This is from a 2013 study:

New studies show that bacteria, including commensal, probiotic, and pathogenic bacteria, in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can activate neural pathways and central nervous system (CNS) signaling systems.

Three years later, evidence is piling up that tiny creatures can readjust our taste receptors, mess with our hormones, and tweak our reward systems. By regulating bile acids, they influence fat absorption. They affect the uptake of other nutrients too, and strengthen or weaken the integrity of the intestine’s lining. Lab work has shown that the microbiome regulates glucose and energy homeostasis. A lot happens down there.

After leaving the stomach, partly digested food travels approximately 20 feet through the three parts of the small intestine. Pancreatic enzymes and bile from the gallbladder flow into the duodenum. The jejunum is mainly about absorbing nutrients, and the ileum absorbs bile acids to be recycled. Throughout its length, “the small intestine activates sensing mechanisms that affect both glucose production and food intake.”

When food intake is affected, we’re back to talking about appetite and cravings, and obesity. Here is an interesting observation:

Duodenal nutrient sensing acts as a protective mechanism… [H]owever, this mechanism appears to be impaired after excess caloric intake.

Definitive demonstrations of the exact relationship between the microbiota and the intestine’s nutrient-sensing mechanisms have yet to appear, but it seems clear that a relationship exists. For instance, despite many remaining questions,

[…] recent advances in our understanding of the pathways regulating gut nutrient sensing provide compelling support for potential new therapeutic targets to restore glucose homeostasis in diabetes… [I]t is believed that the progression of obesity/diabetes can be attributed to the intestinal microbiota–host relationship.

It almost seems like too much to hope for — but what if millions of diabetics no longer had to stick themselves with needles? What if their lives could be normalized by reconfiguring their gut microbiota? That is a dream worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, it appears that the bugs can also influence enteroendocrine cells, and if they can, this is also worth knowing about.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression,” Cell.com, 2013
Source: “Nutrient-Sensing Mechanisms in the Gut as Therapeutic Targets for Diabetes…,” DiabetesJournals.org, September 2013
Photo credit: Skley via VisualHunt/CC BY-ND

Who Is “We”?

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From 1949 to 1957, a TV series called “The Lone Ranger” chronicled the fictional adventures of a crime-fighting cowboy and his Native American sidekick, Tonto. They inspired many versions of a basic joke, of which this is one example:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by hundreds of hostile Indians.

The Lone Ranger says, “Well, Tonto old friend, it looks like we’re done for.”

Tonto replies, “Who is ‘we,’ white man?”

The trope became entrenched in America’s lexicon and imagination. According to pop culture historian Brian Cronin:

It has become very popular in recent years as a rhetorical device for essay writers who wish to write about situations where someone takes for granted that someone is his/her ally.

There is an entity who does this all over the world — who preemptively commandeers a person into “we”-ness without consent. The creature is the Addiction Monster, who apparently lives inside almost everybody, lodging in the oldest part of the brain. That is the connection to obesity — more specifically, to obesity that stems from addiction to eating.

Since all addictions are basically the same, parallels drawn from the world of alcoholism fit here too. Childhood Obesity News previously mentioned the first drinking experience of comedian Jayson Thibault, who heard a voice say, “This is who we are.” Explaining the seemingly multiple personality, Thibault said, “It’s me and this disease, this other thing, that addicts just naturally live with all the time.”

We have also quoted another recovering alcoholic, John McC, also known as A. Orange, who is very familiar with the relentless voice that will rationalize, cajole, or nag, in the attempt to persuade, seduce, and outwit a person into having a cocktail (or a slab of chocolate-covered bacon.) He writes:

Old lizard brain will scream at you, and order you to eat, smoke, drug, or drink… It doesn’t even understand anything like morality, or that it might be wrong to lie to you. All it knows is that it wants a drink or a smoke, or dope, or sex, or food, or something… And it will say or do anything to get it.

Note how the Addiction Monster often uses the word “WE” as in, “We should just have a little one.”… Who is “we”?

John McC describes how the lizard brain often functions as a separate being that relates to the higher brain with strained politeness. Cooperation is needed from the smart, civilized part of us, to drive to the liquor store or ice cream shop and get hold of some addictor. Philosophically, the base brain has little tolerance for us, and would actually prefer autonomy.

The lizard brain can’t sue for divorce, but why does it so badly want to? If a person has only the minimal life functions provided by the base brain, she or he is in a hospital bed. In those circumstances, not many hedonic desires are likely to be indulged. But the base brain is too stupid to realize that.

On the other hand, it is smart enough to recognize how easily it can be vetoed and rejected by the higher brain. John McC suggests that the Addiction Monster can be not only outwitted but out-waited. Once you assert dominance over the addictive voice, it starts to weaken. The longer you resist, he says, the easier it gets:

Fortunately for you, the higher you who is reading this, you are more powerful and more intelligent than base brain. You can over-rule base brain, and make it obey your orders. You can dispute the addictive voice that is alternately begging you and ordering you to drink or smoke or take drugs.

You are not powerless over alcohol, or your addictions, or any of that stuff.

And that goes for food and eating addictions, too. Success has a lot to do with learning to identify the sneaky, undermining voice in order to challenge it: “Who is ‘we,’ Addiction Monster?”

Reactions?

Source: “Comic Book Legends Revealed #329,” Comicbookresources.com, 08/26/11
Source: “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” orange-papers.org, undated
Photo credit: sheldonschwartz via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

Meet the Addiction Monster

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In line with the notion that all addictions are essentially one, John McC elaborates on the proposition that the particular substance or behavior are really a secondary issue. It all boils down to addiction to feeling good, because the primitive “lizard brain” has a one-track mind about that. He writes:

Food is our first addiction… If we don’t get our fix, we start to experience withdrawal symptoms like stomach aches and headaches, and then we develop a snappy short temper, and feel weak and shaky. Then we will start feeling desperate, and start thinking about stealing or mugging someone to get money for a fix. And the longer we go without a food fix, the worse it gets. That sure sounds like a strung-out junkie to me.

Addiction to some other drug is just confusing the base brain about what food we need to eat now. Notice that, after you have quit your addictions, your cravings are always at their worst when you are hungry. The old A.A. warning about being in danger when you are “HALT — hungry, angry, lonely, tired” is true.

The author quotes Gary Zukav’s idea that, if we are not conscious of all our different parts, the part that is strongest will win. So, we need to identify the urgings of the monomaniacal lizard brain, whose mantra is “I want it all and I want it now.”

How do we differentiate between the voice that Jack Trimpey calls “The Beast,” and messages from higher brain centers? In other words, how do we become conscious?

Trimpey’s book Rational Recovery, endorsed by many former addicts, recommends “Addictive Voice Recognition Therapy.” Here is a tip that can save a life. If the voice says this, it’s the voice of “The Beast”:

We’ve been off of it long enough; we have it under control now. It will be okay to just have one now.

Remember John McC’s story of how one drink at a friend’s birthday party turned into a nine-year alcohol binge? Such reminiscences can be heard by the hundreds in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings throughout the country, any day of the week. There are, on the other hand, very few stories of recovering addicts who are able to take “just one” of anything. It’s simply not a chance worth taking.

Remember the children who write to Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, saying things like, “If I have that one slice of cake, next thing I know I’m having another one, and another one and yet another one”? As Childhood Obesity News has repeatedly mentioned, people with eating issues have to be especially vigilant at holiday dinners and other festive occasions when a well-meaning “just one bite” pusher is likely to come out of the woodwork.

What appears to be a friend full of celebratory cheer might actually be what John McC has visualized as an Addiction Monster:

[…] seven feet tall, a dark-faced ghoul like the Grim Reaper, dressed in a hooded robe, with burning eyes and a spirit of pure hateful anger, saying, “I don’t care what the cost is, or who dies, I want my fix.”

For a recovering addict, there is no “just one drink” or “just one bite.” If potato chips are a person’s nemesis, potato chips will always present the same hazard. This is why the W8Loss2Go program helps children to become unhooked from their particular problem foods, and create a better life without them.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” orange-papers.org, undated
Photo credit: JD Hancock via VisualHunt/CC BY

Obesity Villain — the Lizard Brain

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Not surprisingly, Dr. Pretlow is interested in which methods and programs lead to successful outcomes for addicts of all kinds. Childhood Obesity News has often discussed the question of whether obesity is generally caused by a substance addiction, or a behavioral addiction, in which case the addictor would be the act of eating, rather than the food itself.

Hedonic eating is a quick, cheap fix. Hyperpalatable food is almost universally available, certainly in America, and now in most of the world, even where plumbing and other amenities haven’t arrived. Just to complicate matters, a person could have both kinds of addiction at once; or start out with an ungovernable passion for certain foods, which then morphs into an inability to stop eating no matter what the food is.

In “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” secular, grassroots recovery specialist (and former addict) John McC, also known as A. Orange, says:

Base brain is the back, lower part of the brain that attaches directly to the spinal cord… the oldest and most primitive part of the brain… “Lizard brain” is a popular slang term for that old brain.

The lizard brain doesn’t seem to differentiate between substance and behavior. It wants what it wants, and right now. To call the primitive lizard brain “unsophisticated” would be a compliment. It has no concept of delayed gratification, or of working toward the greater good of the organism it is part of.

It is widely accepted that all addiction comes from the same place, and indeed, people who banish one addictor from their lives often fall under the spell of another. A person who appears to be in recovery from alcohol might have just switched to gambling, pornography, food, or anything else that temporarily banishes physical discomfort or mental malaise . As John McC says:

The alcoholics and the junkies have no monopoly on the kind of stupidity that makes people continue to feed an addiction even while it is killing them.

The roots of addiction are deep, and one of them is the simple wish to feel good, or even just normal. The author reminds us:

It isn’t bad to want to feel good. It isn’t wrong to want to get high. We need to get high. We have a real genuine need to get high, just as real as our need for food. If we don’t, or can’t, get high, we go into depression. It is, sadly, just very harmful to our bodies to use chemicals to change how we feel, to get high… And it is sad to keep trying the same old thing, again and again, like playing some old worn-out broken record, when it isn’t getting us high any more.

If only it worked, many people would be willing to pay the price. But eventually, a person develops a tolerance to any painkiller. Because the lizard brain is a really slow learner, and stubborn once it gets its claws on an idea. It holds onto a notion, like “Oxygen is good,” so hard that it even keeps us breathing while we are asleep and not thinking about oxygen at all. We are lucky that it does those automatic functions so well.

But we can’t let it forge ahead with automatically doing everything it likes. Sometimes we have to overrule the lizard brain, like when it convinces us to crave things that don’t even make us feel good any more. At most, continued use can help avoid the pain of withdrawal. The lizard brain tricks us into paying the many prices of obesity without even getting the alleged rewards. What a con game!

John McC gives an insight into the “rock bottom” theory of quitting addiction:

The only time that base brain is a big help in breaking habits and escaping from addictions is when strong negative feelings have built up, like from getting really sick, being seriously ill and in great pain, nearly dying… Otherwise, base brain is all too likely to forget the pain, and just remember the pleasure.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Lizard Brain Addiction Monster,” orange-papers.org, undated
Image by Berit Watkin

Secrets of Former Addicts

old-videocassette
John McC’s “What Works” is a a thoroughly imposing resource, a comprehensive page with categories and subcategories. It begins with by linking to a list of what the author calls “sane, evidence-based methods and support groups.”

This branches off into information on an astonishing number of programs that are not Alcoholics Anonymous, and several online forums for proponents of the various alternatives. One link leads to the compiler’s list of nearly 30 informative books about addiction and 12-step programs. Another leads to a letter describing some of the author’s answers to questions from the public about what worked for him.

Some of the tools he used were absolute determination, realistic thinking, and refusal to compromise or settle for halfway measures. He also lays down hard and fast rules:

Just don’t take that first drink, not ever, no matter what.

That is the answer to all questions about drinking, or “just having one”.

Play the tape to the end.

Don’t just think about the next hour or two, and how much fun a little drinking may be. Play the tape all the way to the end, and see the full-blown relapse and re-addiction and sickness and shame and poverty, and how disappointed you will feel with yourself, and how hard it will be to quit again…

Failure is not an option!

Conceivably, “Play the tape to the end” might work for some teenagers, but most kids that age simply don’t have enough horsepower under the hood to envision a terrible future. One symptom of youth is the inability to believe that disability or death wait on the horizon. There are no doubt other valid psychological reasons to avoid this one, where kids are concerned.

What convinced John McC to quit drinking is described in another of his letters to people looking for help. During his homeless period, a doctor told him to stop or die.

“And somehow,” he says,”that convinced me to quit drinking.” After three sober months he felt worse, but only because his mind cleared up enough to realize how sick he was. That epiphany pushed him into resolving to stay sober for three years, and see how that felt. (Turns out, good enough to want it forever.)

Again, the “You’re going to die” method is probably inappropriate for adolescents. But this information is useful, about how recovery seems to happen in two phases:

In phase one, you just fight to get unaddicted, to go through the pain and discomfort and disorientation of withdrawal, and to get out of the habit and lifestyle of routine consumption of something addicting.

In phase two, the mind games start. That little voice in your head starts whispering, “Oh, it’s been so long since we’ve had one. We’ve got a handle on it now. We’ve got it under control. Just one will be okay now.”

If you believe that addictive voice for a minute you are screwed.

Also available are essays on “The magic moment of quitting,” “How to avoid relapsing,” “Learn to set your intention,” “Dealing with recovery depression,” “Managing anger,” and more.

The ideas that John McC shares are not just his own. There are more than 30 links to the experiences, suggestions and advice shared by others. It would take a great deal of study to conceptualize how most of this great information could translate into help for children and teenagers. One recommendation is to follow Louise Hay’s “Ten Steps to Loving Yourself,” which is quite suitable for teens and even bright children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What Works,” orange-papers.org, undated
Source: “Sensible Evidence-based Recovery and Support Groups,” Orange-papers.org, undated
Source: “Letters, We Get Mail, CXCI,” orange-papers.org, 2010
Photo credit: matsuyuki via Visualhunt.com/CC BY-SA.

Addiction — What Works?

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Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News summarized John McC’s account of his half-hearted participation in a recovery regime about which he had ethical doubts. He left the program, and achieved 14 sober years up to the moment when he wrote his autobiographical memoir.

On the one hand, there is his less-than-glowing opinion of the traditional 12-step philosophy. But as the saying goes, “The program works if you work the program,” and he didn’t commit, and may not be the most qualified person to judge it.

But somehow John McC abandoned two addictors, alcohol and nicotine, and got better on his own. This illustrates again that all addictions are one, bound by their own kind of synergy. Although pathological dependency is like a big tangled ball of twine, there is more than one place to grab hold and start the untangling.

Another advantage is that if a person overcomes the most obvious addiction, and straightens out that area, there is a breathing space in which anything is possible, including the impetus to attack another addiction. The demonstrated reality of getting over one addiction is a signpost to the idea that it might be possible to overcome the root problem that enables all addictions; it might be possible to disarm that demon and neutralize its potency.

John McC published a web page, with the elegantly expressive title “What Works,” that we will review in the near future.

Radical Pride

The following words are from Kelvin Burnett, whose specific advice for other obese people can be found in an earlier post, “How One Man Lost 266 Pounds.” His story went like this:

By sophomore year, my relationship with food had likely reached the point of addiction… From what I’ve seen, the definition of an addiction is when your desire for something begins to interfere with the functioning of other parts of your life… I think I became addicted to the feeling of being full. So I ate, and I ate, and I ate. Food became my drug.

… And 484 pounds became his weight. To be accepted, Burnett adopted the identity of a “fat kid.” His normally mild-mannered grandmother issued a vigorous scolding and reminded him of how blessed he was to have recovered from a nearly-fatal childhood illness.

The shock jolted him right off his self-destructive track and into changing every lifestyle aspect. He studied nutrition and applied what he learned. Gym workouts became his favorite thing. As a grownup, he chose to adopt “losing weight” as his identity, and lost 266 pounds. He did it on his own, he told a reporter, with no tricks or gimmicks:

I was on fire. I accepted no excuses from myself…. It’s who I was. It’s what made me feel important. For the first time in my life, something gave me pride and confidence in myself. And I wasn’t about to give that up for anything, especially not for a bag of Oreos… I didn’t use any fancy exercise regimen, no crazy diets, expensive trainers or classes. I didn’t get surgery or join some crazy fitness cult…

As we recall from yesterday’s post about John McC, Burnett is not the only person to reference cults. As for his dedication, it seems he became what today might be called “woke”:

The way I did it is a method you probably don’t hear of very often. I got my mind straight.

We, as a society, can’t supply everyone with a loving grandmother who dishes out just the right amount of strictness. But we can make sure that gyms exist for those who want and need them. We can make education and therapy available to those who want it, and who will use it for their own betterment and also in the service of others, which is, incidentally, one of the pillars of recovery.

The main point Burnett makes is that before behavior can change, the mind and emotions need to change. This is almost universally accepted by therapists, but here it is confirmed by an actual over-eating addict who recovered.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Autobiography of ‘Orange,’ Author of ‘Orange Papers’,” Orange-papers.org, 2014
Photo credit: Spencer Means via VisualHunt.com/CC BY-SA

A Tale of Two Addictions

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In line with the concept that much obesity in children stems from an addiction to eating, especially of processed foods whose addictive qualities are engineered in, Dr. Pretlow is interested in methods that have been shown to reduce other addictionsChildhood Obesity News is also concerned with such matters as the source of motivation, and whether everybody has to hit “rock bottom” before recovery can take place.

In this post is a brief summary of the autobiographical essay written by a person known online as John McC, who characterizes himself as “an alcoholic or recovered ex-alcoholic, or critic of cults and bad therapy.” Tomorrow’s post will comment on it.

Young John endured a miserable childhood at the hands of a rigidly authoritarian father, and lived for the day when he could leave home. Pursuing higher education at Berkeley, he had a positive psychedelic experience that convinced him to give up suicide as a possible option and left him willing to live, though unsure of how to go about it.

Like so many other young men of that era he entered the armed forces. The Air Force was annoyed by what the military considered as general bad attitude, i.e. pacifism, and by his faked suicide attempts.

Changes

Next came a Taos commune, followed by marriage and a very responsible job that required a security clearance. The drinking started. John McC switched careers and moved to another city, but the drinking “just slowly increased.” Now divorced, he was threatened with loss of child visitation rights if he didn’t quit, at least for the summer.

He went to his first A.A. meeting. On the second evening of abstinence, he suffered an attack of what he believed to be delirium tremens. Afraid even to sleep, he went to a few more A.A. meetings. Now living in a rural area, he stayed sober on his own for three years, as McC reports:

After the first few weeks off of alcohol, I didn’t even have any cravings.

He developed the bravado that comes with denial. At a friend’s birthday party, one beer turned into a nine-year bender that “just slowly got worse.” After relocating to the Pacific Northwest, he figured he had about three years to live. Then came eviction, and John McC found that life on the streets provided “the opportunity to see that the drinking routine just wasn’t working out very well.”

After gaining a place in a homeless veterans’ shelter, he joined the waiting list for an outpatient alcoholism treatment program. A friend took him out for pizza, and he automatically, robotically ordered a beer. Then, an amazing thing happened:

I changed that order for a beer to a lemonade. And that was it.

When this memoir was written, John McC’s last drink was 14 years in the past, and so was his last cigarette. Two addictions became dormant and slunk back into the shadows. But how?

The program McC describes as “another education” involved at least three Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings per week, and three group therapy sessions, along with acupuncture for cravings reduction, and mandatory urinalysis to keep the participants on the straight and narrow path.

But this addict experienced ethical discomfort about people becoming indoctrinated into what seemed to him very much like a religious cult, at government expense. This is John McC’a personal experience, which Childhood Obesity News neither endorses nor refutes:

I had a slowly dawning realization that something was wrong with the whole thing. Now personally, I think that using or relapsing is a choice, but that rules out the idea that alcoholism is a disease, and the poor alcoholic just can’t help it. So the whole idea that they are “treating” a “disease” needs some rethinking.

Tomorrow: a bit of unpacking and some interpretation.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Autobiography of ‘Orange,’ Author of ‘Orange Papers’,” Orange-papers.org, 2014
Image by Derek Gavey.

Happy Independence Day!

Let’s celebrate our freedom to take control of our own destiny and resist holiday binge eating!

Let’s allow people to say “no” if they don’t want another helping of barbecued ribs or cake!

Let’s bring plenty of nice water to the picnic instead of soda!

Let’s celebrate the abundance that puts good, fresh, healthful food within the reach of so many of us!

P.S. Let’s have fun!

Image by jitphoto/123RF Stock Photo.

Hardiness and Mindfulness

bridge-in-the-forest
Yesterday we explored the concept of “hardiness” in the sense of possessing defenses against the stresses of life. This is not the same as defensiveness, the hostile and aggressive quality that usually makes thing worse. In “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” defensiveness is identified as a maladaptive behavior, or one that doesn’t work. Patricia C. Broderick and Patricia A. Jennings write:

Maladaptive behaviors provide transient relief (positive reinforcement) and serve to permit escape from emotional pain (negative reinforcement).

But they are devoid of long-term utility. Because adolescents have so much stress to deal with, they tend to pick up a lot of coping methods that don’t work. Hardiness is a genuine quality that provides true defense in ways that improve the overall situation. The most important thing to know about hardiness is that it can be taught and, more to the point, learned.

Even so, the teaching is not blatantly direct. Hardiness is a byproduct of mindfulness. These authors define mindfulness as…

[…] a particular kind of attention that is characterized by intentionality, present moment focus, and non-evaluative observation of experience… All of these attributes can be developed by the practice of intentionally directing and maintaining attention on targets such as the breath or sensory input, as in meditation or mindful awareness practice. During practice, attention is purposefully directed to phenomena as they occur in the present moment.

The pressures exerted on teenagers by society can be intense, and two prerequisites for dealing with the intensity are emotional competence and social competence. Mindfulness can train and strengthen attention and regulate emotion. It can break the circuit that allows such behavior as robot-like, automatic-pilot “chain-eating.” It can disrupt the pattern of response to “triggers” and help people who struggle with their own poor impulse control.

It even boosts the immune system. The authors say:

Over time, the practice of tolerating experience as it arises without engaging in automatic reactions can strengthen resilience and support affective regulatory self-efficacy and control.

Mindfulness is pretty much the same as meditation, and it reduces stress. Also, in many practitioners, substance abuse falls away. Since food is a frequent substance of choice among the addicted or those who are heading that way, the tendency of mindfulness to alleviate substance abuse is of great interest.

People in the field have developed a program called BREATHE, in which each letter represents an essential tenet: Body, Reflections, Emotions, Attention, “Take it as it is,” Healthy habits of mind, Emotional balance.

HealthFreedoms.org throws an interesting declaration on the table:

There is no food that is neutral. It’s either nurturing your body or robbing your body of nutrients. Make a choice to consume or not, but understand the circumstances.

The site also offers a list of affirmations. Please visit their page for the full list, but here are some hints. The affirmations have to do with nutrition, authenticity, novelty, health, excuses, limitations, and goals. Many people whose lives have changed will affirm that they started the process by changing their thinking.

Reactions?

Source: “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” Learning2Breathe.org, Winter 2012
Source: “Is Your Brain Strategically Working Against Your Waistline?,” HealthFreedoms.org, 06/18/16
Photo credit: joeflintham via VisualHunt.com/CC BY-SA

Mindfulness and Hardiness

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Relevant to the fourth (and current) study of the W8Loss2Go program, Dr. Pretlow mentioned some of the contrary influences that block the children’s progress, many of which we have discussed in the past. Just one of Dr. Pretlow’s sentences, however, is the inspiration for today’s post:

Many more in our 4th study have been able to rise above these forces and lose substantial weight. We still haven’t figured out why some are able to rise above these forces versus those who are not.

Childhood Obesity News is currently exploring mindfulness, and it just so happens that many of the same practitioners who recommend training in mindfulness are also aware of that mysterious quality that allows some people to “rise above” the pitfalls that trap others. It is called “hardiness.”

The course description for a class offered by the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation’s Recovery Education Program begins by noting that “60-90% of all visits to health providers are stress related.” In describing “Developing Spirituality Stress Hardiness,” the syllabus speaks of embracing positive thoughts, connecting with others, and drawing upon the resources of the “inner pharmacy” to promote health, recovery, and a sense of wellbeing.

“Mindfulness Muse” is the website of Laura Schenck, M.A., who discusses psychological resilience, the quality possessed by individuals who survive and even thrive in situations where most people suffer setbacks. This mindset, also called “stress hardiness,” acts as a protective buffer against the generally damaging effects of stress.

Schenck names the three major components of stress hardiness, which are commitment, control, and challenge. These are brief excerpts from longer explanations:

Commitment translates to full involvement with the task at hand. Developing mindfulness in daily life is one way of increasing active engagement with the present moment.

The thoughts you focus on and the behaviors you perform are choices. This translates into a great deal of control over transforming a potentially disastrous situation into a positive and meaningful learning experience.

Instead of reacting to challenges with defensiveness or negativity, people with a strong challenge attitude mindfully respond to challenges.

“Mindfulness for Adolescents” begins by enumerating all the developmental challenges that young people face. Some have existed since the beginning of what we call civilization — friction with parents, disinterest in school, physical self-consciousness, peer pressure, sexual confusion, and career expectations.

As history progressed, media influences became a factor. Because of that, and hormones in the food, and so on, “these kids today” turn into teenagers at the ever-younger ages. They screw up, a proclivity known professionally as engaging in maladaptive behavior.

At the very least, the maladapted adolescent has a tendency to turn up her or his nose at a great many things, experiencing “perceptions of unpleasantness,” for which one of the examples given is boredom. When the W8Loss2Go team ask study participants about the feelings and forces that drive them to overeat, “boredom” is a frequently-heard answer:

Mindfulness practice offers the opportunity to develop hardiness in the face of uncomfortable feelings that otherwise might provoke a behavioral response that may be harmful to self and others.

In short, the bad news is, we still don’t know why some children seem to arrive in the world equipped with a hardiness that others lack. The good news is, hardiness can be acquired.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Syllabus for Developing Spirituality Stress Hardiness,” BU.edu, Fall 2012
Source: “Hardiness: Courage to Thrive in the Face of Adversity,” MindfulnessMuse.com, 05/25/13
Source: “Mindfulness for Adolescents,” Learning2Breathe.org, Winter 2012
Image by Kron Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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