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How to Become a Conscious Eater

How to Become a Conscious Eater

     

    Food-Ology

    For many of the people I’ve mentored, coached and educated over the last two decades (yep, I’m that old), their biggest day-to-day challenge is managing their food intake in a healthy, intelligent and responsible manner. On a practical, emotional and psychological level, it’s also been one of my biggest challenges over the years. If you happen to ‘live’ somewhere on the scale between disordered eating and eating disorder, then today’s post is for you. It might be time to pay attention.

    While I don’t have an eating disorder (as such), it’s fair to say that my eating has been disordered from time to time over my journey. Especially when I was a fat teenager. Who became an obsessive skinny teenager. Who became an obsessive bodybuilder in his late teens and early twenties.

    Knowing Isn’t Doing

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    Sure, I might seem mild-mannered, measured and disciplined from the outside but not too far below the surface lives an eating machine that’s capable of caloric suicide and dietary behaviours which belie my alleged intelligence and knowledge. I keep that guy in check most of the time, but we all understand that knowing isn’t doing, so even somebody like me still has to work at being a conscious eater. Being an exercise scientist and coach doesn’t mean that I don’t have the ability to make stupid, irrational or irresponsible decisions. Or to eat my own bodyweight in cheesecake.

    Nutritional Dysfunction

    Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Reactively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. “If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner”. Awesome parenting! They fantasise about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.

    And then when they’re finished, they hate themselves all over again. Until the next episode. And the cycle continues.

    What is Conscious Eating?

    “Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.”

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    Simple huh? In theory anyway. If only we lived in the theory – we’d all be freakin’ amazing. So, what’s the most conscious and responsible question you and I can ask in relation to our eating habits?

    “Why am I eating this?”

    If our answer is not “because I need it” then we’re eating unconsciously. Irresponsibly. Emotionally. When we eat consciously, our body, mind and emotions are all working in harmony.

       

      Drug of Choice

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      For many people, food has become their drug of choice. Their medication. Their refuge. And don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I use the term drug. Food is indeed mood altering. It can produce high highs and low lows. It can be addictive and destructive. Over time, we might need more of it to produce the same ‘high’ or feeling. It affects our nervous system. And our endocrine system. It (like other drugs) produces biochemical changes. Emotional changes. Psychological changes. It can be both life-enhancing and life-destroying. Sometimes, the distance between ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ is not far at all.

      The Psychology of Overeating

      Many of us were raised in a situation (environment, mindset, group-think) where eating food that we didn’t physically need (that is, consuming excess calories, salt, sugar, fat) was rationalised, explained, justified and even expected. The fact that we weren’t hungry or actually requiring food was irrelevant. We often ate because that’s what the situation, circumstance or moment dictated. And when we didn’t eat (the food we didn’t need) we were criticised. “Don’t you dare leave anything on your plate.”

      No wonder we have issues.

      We were trained to celebrate with excessive eating. That is, disordered eating. We were taught to overeat on certain occasions. It was the rule. Still is. Christmas, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, engagements, New Year and Easter were (are) all legitimate times to abuse our bodies with food. Apparently. We were encouraged to over-ride the ‘full’ signal. To ignore what our body was telling us. To unbutton our pants and keep eating.

      Such an intelligent species.

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      Justifiable Gluttony

      I’m still amazed at how many people become defensive, emotional and even angry (in my presentations), when I suggest that none of us need to overeat on Christmas day (for example). Amazingly, it’s actually possible to have a great day (maybe even a better day) without having to gorge ourselves on food that our body doesn’t need.  Apparently, some people can’t celebrate that way. The date (on the calendar) determines the behaviour. The notion of avoiding excess calories seems almost irrational to them. This is simply another easy-to-understand example of the dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs and expectations that so many of us have around food.

      Conscious eating is about reconnecting with our body. It’s about stopping the abuse. The lies. The excuses. It’s about slowing down. It’s about paying attention. It’s about honouring and respecting the gift that is our body.

      I’m not really an affirmation kinda guy (no shit Sherlock) but when it comes to this issue, I’ll make an exception.

      Here’s something you might want to copy and put on your fridge (pantry, forehead) for a month or ten.

      • I will not eat food I don’t need.
      • I will not reward myself with food.
      • I will not medicate with food.
      • I will not allow situations, circumstances or other people to influence or dictate the way I eat.
      • I will not rationalise poor eating.
      • I will not be a food martyr; I will simply do what I need to.
      • I will not lie to myself or others about my eating behaviours.
      • I will not eat in secret.
      • I will not repeat the mistakes of my past.
      • I will not allow my mind or emotions to sabotage my physical potential.

      I will eat consciously.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on February 13, 2020

      What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

      What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

      Too much to read, too little time! Don’t you wish you could read faster without compromising your knowledge intake? This is where a valuable learning technique comes to the rescue: speed reading.

      Speed reading is the top skill to learn in 2020. Read on to find out all about this amazing technique!

      What Is Speed Reading?

      On average, an adult can read somewhere between 200 to 300 words per minute. With speed reading, you can read around 1500 words per minute.[1] Yes, that sounds impossible, but it is true.

      In order to understand how this skill works, you first need to know how the reading process works inside a human’s brain.

      The Reading Process

      The first step is for the eyes to look at a word. This “fixation” on every word takes around 0.25 seconds.

      Next, the eye moves on to the following word. It takes 0.1 seconds for the brain to move from one word to the next. This is called “saccade.”

      Usually, a person reads 4 to 5 words or a sentence at once. After all the fixations and saccades, the brain goes over the entire phrase again in order to process the meaning. This takes around half a second.

      All in all, this allows the average person to read 200 to 300 words in a minute.

      Speeding up the Process

      The concept of speed reading is to speed up this process at least 5 times. Since the saccade period cannot be shortened any further, speed reading emphasizes quicker fixations.

      To accomplish this, scientists recommend that the reader skips the subvocalization: when the readers actually say the word in their mind, even when reading silently.

      Basically, speed reading is the technique of only seeing the words instead of speaking them silently.

      Do not confuse this with skimming. When a reader skims through a text, they skip the parts that their brain considers to be unnecessary.

      You may skip important information in this process. Moreover, skimming does not allow the brain to retain what has been read.

      Why Speed Read?

      Speed reading is not just quick, but also effective. This skill saves a lot of of time without sacrificing information.

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      Also, it has been proven to improve memory. The brain’s performance improves during speed reading, which allows the reader to remember more information than before.

      Since speed reading stabilizes the brain, the information is processed faster and more efficiently.

      Believe it or not, this technique leads to improved focus, too. As the brain receives a lot of information during speed reading, there is far less chance of distraction. The brain focuses solely on the job at hand.

      Since the brain is, after all, a muscle, the process of speed reading acts as an exercise. Just like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs exercise to grow stronger, too.

      A focused brain means improved logical thinking. As your brain gets used to receiving and organizing so much information so quickly, your thinking process will become faster.

      As soon as a problem is thrown at you, your brain will quickly put two and two together. You will be able to retrieve stored information, figure out correlations, and come up with new solutions, all within seconds!

      Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

      Greater Benefits

      With a healthier brain, you can expect better things in other parts of your life, too. A boost in self-esteem is just one of them.

      As you begin to understand information at a faster pace, you will also begin to figure out more opportunities all around you.

      With the ability to deeply understand information in a shorter period of time, your confidence levels will quickly grow higher.

      Moreover, all the aforementioned benefits will relieve you of stress. You will manage your readings in lesser time, your brain will be healthier, and you will feel so much better about yourself.

      With all these advantages, your emotional well-being will be healthier than ever. You’ll feel less stress since your brain will learn to tackle problems efficiently. Speed reading will lead to a relaxed, tension-free lifestyle!

      How to Learn to Speed Read

      Speed reading is a superpower. Fortunately, unlike other superpowers, this one can be learned!

      There are different techniques that can be used to master this skill. Opt for the one that best suits your learning style.

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      1. The Pointer Method

      The person who is credited for popularizing speed reading, Evelyn Wood, came up with the pointer method. It is a simple technique in which the reader uses their index finger to slide across the text that they’re reading.

      As the finger moves, the brain coherently moves along with it. It is an effective technique to keep the eyes focused where the finger goes without causing any distraction.

      Readers have a tendency to back-skip. The pointer method prevents this from happening, thereby saving at least half the reading time.

      2. The Scanning Method

      In this technique, the reader’s eyes move along one part of the page only. This can be the left or right side of the text but is usually the center since that is the most convenient.

      Instead of pacing through the entire text from left to right, the vision shifts from top to bottom.

      This method involves fixation on keywords such as names, figures, or other specific terms. By doing so, the saccade time is minimized.

      3. Perceptual Expansion

      Generally, a reader focuses on one word at a time. This technique, on the other hand, encourages the brain to read a chunk of words together. In doing so, this method increases the reader’s peripheral vision.

      Here’s the thing: even though the fixation time remains the same with perceptual expansion, the number of words that the eyes fixate on increases.

      So basically, the brain receives 5 times more information within the same amount of time.

      This technique is the hardest to master and takes the most time to learn. You’ll need help from speed reading tools in order to practice the perceptual expansion method.

      However, once you master it, this technique will offer you the fastest reading pace with the maximum knowledge intake.

      The Best Speed Reading Apps

      The easiest tool to aid any process in any part of life these days is your smartphone.

      You can use mobile applications to learn speed reading on the go. It has been proven that regularly practicing speed reading is the fastest way to learn this skill. [2]

      Here are a few great options to look into:

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      1. Reedy

      If you own an Android smartphone, you can download Reedy to your mobile. Otherwise, get the chrome extension on your laptop to enjoy speed reading with Reedy.

      This app trains readers to read faster by displaying words one by one on the screen. Instead of having to go through lines or long texts, Reedy prepares the user to focus on one word at a time.

      Although this isn’t an effective method to learn speed reading long texts, it is a great way to start.

      Once your brain gets used to the idea, you can shift to another app to train speed reading sentences or longer texts.

      2. ReadMe!

      Whether you’re an android or iOS user, you can take advantage of the ReadMe! application. This app even comes with some e-book options to practice speed reading on.

      Start by choosing your desired font size, color, layout, etc. Other than that, there are different reading modes for the user to choose from.

      If you want to practice reading sentence by sentence or in short paragraphs, you can choose the focused reading mode.

      The beeline reader mode changes the color of the text to guide the eye to read from the beginning to the end at a certain pace.

      Lastly, there is the spritz mode in which the app focuses on chunks of words at once. This controls the reader’s peripheral vision. However, this mode is not fully available in the free version of the app.

      3. Spreeder

      Spreeder is available on both iOS and Android. However, users may also gain benefits from Spreeder’s website. This application lets the reader paste in any text that they would like to speed read.

      Starting off at a rather low speed, the app flashes words one by one. Gradually, as the user becomes more comfortable, the speed increases.

      Slowly, the user is trained to speed read without having to skip any words.

      This app is different from the rest because it tracks the user’s reading improvements, recording the overall reading time and speed.

      The progress and improvement are tracked in order to motivate the user to perform even better.

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      Adjustable settings, such as the speed of the text, background color, etc. are in the control of the user.

      The Controversy Surrounding Speed Reading

      Truthfully, speed reading does sound too good to be true. It’s hard to believe that it is humanly possible to attain such a fast pace in reading without compromising the quality of information you receive.

      Perhaps as a result, there are people who do not trust the process of speed reading. They believe that when you read through a text at such a high speed, you cannot comprehend the information successfully.

      According to these people, your brain is unable to process information at the speed that you’re reading, and so, they regard speed reading as problematic.

      It is true that speed reading will be of no use if you do not understand the text you’re reading, no matter how quickly you did it.

      Similarly, if you were to read slowly and still not retain or understand the information you read, that would be useless, too.

      However, there a few factors to consider here. When reading at a normal pace, there is enough time in between every step of the process for the brain to get distracted.

      Conversely, speed reading leaves behind no time for the brain to focus on something else. It is unlike skimming. No part of the text is skipped, which means that the brain receives every single bit of information.

      Conclusion

      Keeping all of this in mind, speed reading cannot be labeled a hoax or a failure. Science has backed up this technique, and numerous readers have been using this skill to improve their learning ability.

      At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to trust this process.

      However, if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities speed reading provides, you will find a world of possibilities opening up to you.

      We live in a fast-paced world. Consuming information faster will help you keep up with that pace and find further success.

      Speed Read Like a Pro!

      Featured photo credit: Blaz Photo via unsplash.com

      Reference

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