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The Truth about BMI: Is the Body Mass Index messing with your Mind?

by Cori Rosenthal, LMFT, Mindful Eating Specialist, Meditation Teacher @ Evenflow

THE BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) is an estimated measure of body fat based on weight in relation to height. The problem with this method is that the BMI formula doesn’t take muscle mass into consideration. That means even if you’re as lean as the chicken breast you dine on daily, but have built up a substantial amount of muscle because #fitlife, you might still be categorized as obese — and that’s neither accurate nor fair.

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Doctors have used this measure to help guide their patients to better health for decades. Mindfulness-based eating disorder expert, Cori Rosenthal, is sharing the other side of the story of our BMI and offers a more emotionally-balanced way to manage body image.

If you’re in LA, be sure to join Cori and a handful of other mind-body experts at an upcoming event hosted by mindfulness app, Evenflow, where we’ll explore ways to reclaim a mindful relationship with food and your body. Scroll down for details!

What’s The Deal With BMI?
When you go to the doctor, you are weighed to determine your body mass index (BMI) and then immediately divided into one of four categories: underweight, healthy, overweight or obese.

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet originally developed the BMI formula in the 1830s. The purpose was to determine obesity in the general population and help the government allocate resources. It was never intended as a measure of individual health. It does not take into account proportions of muscle and fat, nor does it account for bone density, age, body type or ethnicity. Because of this, it’s actually possible to be a celebrity and athlete like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and be labeled as obese.

While I doubt very much Dwayne Johnson is all that bothered by this classification, it can be very different for the general public. This faulty information only feeds into an atmosphere of fatphobia and body shaming that adversely affects us no matter what our size. Even more confusing is that authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Health still support the use of the BMI method despite multiple sources questioning its validity.

Why is BMI Problematic?In light of this, it becomes evident that gauging health by your BMI reinforces the diet culture and can be incredibly misleading. When a patient’s BMI is above normal, they are usually given recommendations for a diet. This would make sense if dieting for the purposes of weight loss were an effective solution.

According to statistics from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) 95% of dieters will regain their weight within one to five years. For most people, dieting is something they must do repeatedly, so much so that January has been declared national diet month. Unfortunately, chronic dieting has many physical and psychological consequences, even if one does not develop an eating disorder.

Psychologically, studies have shown chronic dieting can cause a preoccupation with food, distractibility and irritability and can lead to overeating and even binging. According to Linda Bacon’s book, Body Respect, when we diet, our bodies read this behavior as if we are experiencing a famine. During times of famine, our bodies naturally slow down for survival and store extra fat as soon as possible. Consequently, dieting becomes one of the biggest determinants of long-term weight gain.

What’s A Better Approach?

As a psychotherapist, mindfulness and mindful-eating educator, my preference is to throw away the scale and focus on tuning into internal cues about when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. I work with clients to overcome distressing behaviors around food such as obsessive thoughts and binging. For body-image challenges, it is important to become aware of hypercritical self-talk that can undermine one’s self-confidence and self-esteem and can lead to emotional overeating.

Mindfulness, mindful eating and self-compassion are powerful tools to create a healthy relationship with food and your body. Becoming aware of your emotions and offering yourself compassion in the face of difficult emotions and adhering to your internal cues for hunger and satiety can change your relationship with food, your body and yourself.

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Slow Down To Do More: “Why We Should Hit The ‘Panic’ Button” With Ashley Graber and Fab Giovanetti

Hit the panic button. Every time I feel stressed I consciously take a one minute “emergency” meditation. It helps — It really does.

When we want to build muscles in our body, we go to the gym and work out. If we do this consistently, we will see changes in our physique. Being able to PAUSE (“hit the panic button”) is the same way. If we consistently practice using mindfulness tools to help us slow down, we can more easily grab onto them in challenging times. These practices don’t have to be long or involved. They do, however, have to be consistent.

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As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Fab Giovanetti. Fab is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community. Serial startup founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I mainly did it to create a community that would understand me and share my passion. Little I knew building communities and help them develop would become my whole business model! The drive to help others kept me going really.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

It sounds corny but the online world we live in is seriously impacting the way we live our lives and we go about our days. Most of us, regardless of whether we are millennials or not, are relying on our phones and laptops when it comes to our daily tasks and appointments, our reminders and news updates. No wonder we feel frazzled!

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

It’s pretty simple, if you ask me: multi tasking does not equal being more productive. Single focus is more efficient, not just when it comes to the energy we are putting into something, but also with regards to the way we perform. It can take up to 45 mins to gain full attention after we get distracted by, let’s say, a notification. That says a lot.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Slowing down instantly makes us more aware of what is around us, which also helps us focusing on the good around us. Never underestimate the power of gratitude! Also slowing down means we consciously prioritize, and prioritization is one of the key practices within essentialism.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

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  1. Hit the panic button — every time I feel stressed I consciously take a one minute “emergency” meditation

  2. Write your todo list on paper — if you feel you have a lot to do, transfer all of your tasks on paper, it will help you choose the most important tasks

  3. Set an autoresponder — you are feeling overwhelmed with your emails, autoresponders can help set people’s expectations

  4. Have a day off — have a day where you consciously make sure you do not check emails, and even your phone. I do this every week and truly makes me feel recharged

  5. Start your morning right with half an hour without looking at any screen — I love starting my morning with a cup of tea, meditation and journaling. Starting my day slow really helps me to set the day

  6. Set timers for yourself — a small exercise is to test the Pomodoro technique and set timers for yourself, and every 25 minutes take a five minute break

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness is the capacity to be in the moment when doing a specific activity. My favorite mindfulness example is the washing the dishes one. Have you ever set yourself to wash up the dishes and put a Podcast on in the background? When you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes. When you are eating, just eat.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

With so many meditation apps at our fingertips, I think those are incredibly useful for commuters, or people looking to be more aware in their everyday life. How many time do we walk with the purpose of walking, looking at what’s around us?

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

My notebook really helps me get focused — I find that if I am always flicking through tabs and screens being able to just look at my notebook and draft ideas there centers me and allows me to reset.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

I love the new collaboration between Headspace and Nike Running app. Being able to run whilst having a meditation session really changes the way you experience mindfulness and body and mind feel truly connected. It completely changed the way I run.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Let it go and surrender” Stop controlling everything! Doing more and rushing everywhere shows a tendency to wanting to control everything. Being able to let go and stop wanting to do everything creates more time for what really matters.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Allowing people to reclaim their day off by using techniques to be more efficient and stop feeling guilty about reclaiming be time for themselves. A silent revolution, but one that needs to be talked about!

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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Do “hacks” work when it comes to love?

by Shira Myrow LMFT, psychotherapist  and mindfulness educator

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There are plenty of hacks that help us in life.  Trying to hack love isn’t one of them. Mindfulness is a far more powerful mindset when it comes to forging authentic connection. 

All of us feel besieged sometimes with the complexity of life and the demands for our time and attention. Looking for hacks that can save us time can create more space for the  things that matter.  Part of the appeal of hacks is that they can help us navigate life more efficiently and strategically. But one thing it’s important not to have a hack mentality around — is paying attention to our most precious relationships, especially our primary ones.  Research has shown that having strong, meaningful relationships are central to the satisfaction we feel in life.  

Why wouldn’t we use the same mentality to improve our relationships? Because there aren’t really short cuts to creating intimacy or for creating meaning.  Think about all the great dating and romance  advice online from love experts or the thousands of inspirational quotes circulating on Instagram—from  poets and philosophers to life coaches—meant to inspire you for the day.  As compelling and valuable as the advice is, why doesn’t it stick?

Part of it has to do with the sheer saturation of information we’re exposed to on a daily basis. But the other piece is how we integrate what we’re reading.  What is the quality of our attention we’re bringing towards the imperative to improve our intimate relationships? If we’re unconsciously spending more of our attention complaining, avoiding or even distracting ourselves,  those intentions to improve won’t have any staying power.

This is where mindfulness can make a profound difference.  Mindfulness practice enables us to witness our thoughts, emotions and sensations—from a non-judgmental position—without getting overly-emotionally attached to our experience.  Creating a practice of compassionate awareness gives us the capacity to hold thoughts and feelings in a different way, in a gentler way.  Why does that matter? 
Often times when we are triggered by our loved one, we mistake an emotional experience that we’re having in the moment as an objective truth.

Mindfulness can give us the breathing space to push the “pause” button on our emotional reactivity, that’s fueled by our amygdala (the reptilian brain) that wants to go in to a fight, flight or freeze response.  If we can take a moment and consider what’s happening from a compassionate position, we can learn to become more responsive to our partners as opposed to lash out in emotional reactivity.

Let’s say your partner texts you to say they have to stay late at work and the dinner you had to shop at three stores to make is sitting on the table and getting cold— you might feel a flood of negative thoughts and emotions around why you’re not a priority in the relationship.  With mindful awareness, you can gently allow for whatever is arising in your experience—-take a few moments to breathe, and then figure out how you can consciously respond. Here is how the process of inquiry might unfold:

-How can you compassionately take care of yourself and self soothe in the moment?

-How can you accept what is happening without a negative attribution of meaning to your partner?

-Can you acknowledge and communicate your disappointment?

-Can you honor and share  your intention to create a ritual of connection and meaning even if it didn’t go the way you planned? 

No “hack”  here can successfully supplant this intricate process of sorting through your emotions. The truth is, successful relationships not only require good intentions and commitment, but they involve a process.  Like anything else that is worthwhile, the process boils down to a daily practice— sustaining intimacy with rituals of connection, staying open and curious about your partner’s inner world, repairing and building trust after ruptures, but most importantly it is the quality of attention you bring to the practice of attuning with your partner. It is your presence, not the volume of time you put in.

There’s an old zen truism that says:  “Before enlightenment,  chopping wood and carrying water.  After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water, only it feels different.”

It is the presence and attention you bring to even the smallest, daily things—like bringing your partner a cup of coffee in the morning that have the capacity to imbue it with meaning or not. That’s how rituals either stay alive or become empty gestures over time. Bringing mindful awareness to your relationship can foster and even illuminate the attention, authentic presence and attunement that makes love feel like a dynamic and truly meaningful  practice.



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