A Map of the Road to Obesity.

In every age group, obese adults consumed the highest percentage of calories from fast food, a vivid picture of the role fast food plays in obesity. From 1990 to 2010, there was a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States, the fattest country in the world. The report’s overall finding, that we are eating a little less fast food than we used to, may be behind the recent finding that obesity rates have stopped rising for the first time in years.

People aged 20 to 39 consumed more than 15 percent of daily calories from fast food; however, the percentage tended to decrease with age.

According to the latest statistics, nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are obese. Although the consumption of fast food appears to be slowing a bit, the correlation shown in this report between heavier weight and the amount of fast food eaten is a concern.

Those who eat the most fast food, according to the report, are people in their 20s and 30s. This puts them at risk for obesity-related medical problems later in life. Some of the leading causes of preventable death are obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The lower rate of fast food consumption among those 60 and up may be due to the fact that those medical problems have begun to show up.

This is not clear from the evidence, however. Putting a dent in our consumption of burgers, fries, and sugar-sweetened soda just can’t be bad. And in fact, it may be the beginning of something very good.

The report is published in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief.


A Shift Away from Fast Food.

Finally, a glimmer of good health news. If you are a regular consumer of health news, you know about increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, the overturn of the law banning large servings of sugar-sweetened beverages in New York, and an “anti-soda ban” bill in Mississippi.

So is it really possible, despite all of the above, that we are beginning to put the brakes on our fast food habit?

The answer is a qualified, “yes.”

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that Americans are eating a little less fast food than they were a few years ago.

A Small Change for the Better

It is a small drop, but using data from the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the CDC found that adults consumed an average of 11.3 percent of their total daily calories from fast food, down from the 12.8 percent recorded in the 2003-2006 survey.

Over one-third of Americans are obese and the frequent consumption of fast food has been cited as a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

Because the findings are the result of in-person interviews in which people are asked to recall what they’ve eaten during the past 24 hours, they are believed to be accurate. But with fast food’s bad press lately, there is a chance that some participants experienced selective amnesia when it came to a quick trip to the drive-through.

Eating less fast food hasn’t had an effect on the obesity rate, at least not yet. Fast-paced lifestyles, eating on the run, and high fat, high sodium, nutrient-poor fast food go hand in hand for many people. Over one-third of Americans are obese and the frequent consumption of fast food has been cited as a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

The CDC’s new report looked at differences in fast food consumption by demographic characteristics and weight status. Men and women both eat fast food at pretty much the same rate. So did non-Hispanic white and Hispanic adults.

Older and Wiser? Or Sicker?

Aging baby boomers appear to be one reason for the dip in fast food consumption. As age goes up, time at fast food outlets goes down. People aged 20 to 39 consumed more than 15 percent of daily calories from fast food; however, the percentage tended to decrease with age. This drops to 10 to 13 percent of daily calories among those aged 40 to 59. Older and perhaps wiser adults, age 60 and above, consumed only 6 percent of their daily calories from fast food.

The craving for fast food knows no economic boundaries. Income did not affect the amount of fast food people ate, according to the report. There was one exception: young adults in the 20 to 39 age group with the highest incomes tended to consume less fast food. Non-Hispanic black adults in the same age group consumed over 20 percent of their calories from fast food.

Living Longer With Obesity Increases Heart Risk.

We all know that carrying around extra weight increases the risk of heart disease, but the length of time a person has been toting that weight appears to be a factor as well. Children and adolescents who are obese — about 18% of the adolescent population right now — are in far more danger of developing heart disease than anyone ever considered.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the US, accounting for 600,000 deaths per year. Coronary heart disease, the most common form, develops when the arteries that supply the heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients become damaged or diseased.

The usual cause is plaque, a combination of calcium, fat, cholesterol, and other substances. The accumulation of plaque, called atherosclerosis, is often the precursor to a heart attack or stroke.

Among those who were obese for over 20 years, 38 percent had calcification in the coronary arteries compared to 25 percent of those who never were obese. Higher rates of type 2 diabetes were also present in those who had been obese the longest.

Twenty-five years ago, at what we now know was the start of the obesity epidemic, researchers enrolled nearly 3,300 white and African-American adults between the ages of 18 and 30 in a study designed to look at the development of coronary artery disease in young adults. The participants were examined by a physician every two to five years and had CT scans at 15, 20, and 25 years into the study to detect calcification (hardening) in the coronary arteries.

The information collected on each participant included their body mass index, whether they smoked or not, cholesterol, blood pressure, physical activity level, and whether or not they developed type 2 diabetes.

How long a person had been overweight or obese was linked to accelerated atherosclerosis. Coronary artery calcification was discovered in nearly 28 percent of the participants. The length of time each person was obese, based on their physical exams over the years, correlated with the presence and the extent of blockage in the arteries. Among those who were obese for over 20 years, 38 percent had calcification in the coronary arteries compared to 25 percent of those who never were obese.

The risk of developing plaque increased by two to four percent for every year the young adults were obese, independent of all other factors measured on the participants. Those who had been obese the longest and who had abdominal obesity had increased odds of developing high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol and were more likely to be onmedications to control those conditions. Higher rates of type 2 diabetes were also present in those who had been obese the longest.

Overall, the study implies that the earlier one becomes obese, the more likely it is that major heart problems will develop by middle age. Given the fact that over the past thirty years the rate of obesity has doubled among children and tripled among adolescents, more of today’s children and teens are likely to experience coronary events as they reach mid-life.

People are becoming obese at younger ages than previous generations. The results of this study make clear that this will likely have significant implications on the incidence of heart disease in the future and underscore the need for programs aimed at tackling obesity among our children and teens.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association.


The Rising Threat of West Nile Virus.

Mosquito bites are the scourge of everyone’s summer. The rising risk of West Nile virus that comes with the bites just makes them that much worse.

The last few years have seen outbreaks of West Nile in different locations around the country, so researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Public Health Service recently did a review of the scientific literature on the mosquito-borne virus.

“I did a similar literature review ten years ago in JAMA,” Lyle Petersen, corresponding author on the study, told TheDoctor. Since that time, he went on to say, researchers have learned a lot more about the virus and how it behaves in the U.S..

The virus is able to establish itself in a wide variety of ecosystems, leaving the whole continental U.S. basically at risk.

A lot of people have been infected, and most likely, more than 1 million people have been made ill from West Nile virus, the scientists found. This is quite a high rate of transmission for an imported mosquito-borne virus coming into the country for the first time, Petersen, who is the director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases at the CDC, said. Mosquitoes are the most common, but not only, way the virus is transmitted.


According to Petersen, even though about 3 million people have been infected, 98 percent or 99 percent of the population is still susceptible to infection with the virus, so prevention methods are just as important as ever.

About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash.

The CDC estimates that most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues). Severe neurological symptoms can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness. Recovery from severe forms of the disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent. About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus die.

Location, Location

The researchers found that the virus has become widespread, and is now circulating every year across almost the entire continental U.S.. That West Nile has managed to cause outbreaks in places like Phoenix, a city in the middle of the desert and also in cities with completely different climates, like Chicago or New Orleans, is “pretty remarkable,” Petersen said. The virus is able to establish itself in a wide variety of ecosystems, leaving the whole continental U.S. basically at risk.

We expect that the number of cases, based on historical precedence, will begin to increase over the next several weeks.

Certain areas of the U.S., such as California and the Midwest, seem to be at higher risk for having sporadic outbreaks; however, outbreaks have occurred in many different places across the country, and some of them, such as Phoenix, are quite surprising. It is still very difficult to predict where outbreaks will occur, and they can happen anywhere.

The timing of outbreaks is amazingly consistent from year to year. They begin to increase at the end of July, peak somewhere around the beginning to middle of August, and then taper off into September. And they occur a little earlier in the southern U.S. than the northern region of the country. “This means that we expect that the number of cases, based on historical precedence, will begin to increase over the next several weeks, which means that people need to take precautions right now.” according to Petersen .

Some of the emergency control efforts that cities have taken, such as widespread pesticide spraying, are effective in stopping outbreaks when they do occur, says Petersen. Several studies have looked at the health effects of pesticide spraying, and found that there have been no short-term health effects from spraying to control West Nile outbreaks.

Don’t Be Bug Bait

Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus are most active around dawn and dusk, although they can be out all night. If you go outside where mosquitoes are present, wear insect repellent. That is the single most important thing someone can do.

“We recommend products that contain N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, commonly called DEET,” says Petersen. “A lot of misinformation exists about DEET. People think it is dangerous. The reality of DEET, though, is that is actually one of the safest chemicals that people apply to themselves.”

If you go outside where mosquitoes are present, wear insect repellent. That is the single most important thing someone can do.

DEET-containing products are also much more user-friendly than they used to be, says Petersen. People think of them as oily and bad-smelling. But newer products are much more pleasant to use.

Petersen says that the higher the concentration of DEET, the longer it lasts, until the concentration gets up to about 40 percent. “I wouldn’t advise products that are 100 percent DEET, because they really do not work any better. You should look for products that contain 10 percent DEET if you are only going to be out for a short time, and 30 to 40 percent DEET if you will be out for longer periods.”

“We also recommend products that contain picaridinoil of lemon eucalyptus, orIR3535,” says Petersen. These products are registered with the EPA and are known to be effective. It is easiest to remember DEET, though, and physicians and public health officials have the most experience with DEET.

Source: JAMA

Social media has given businesses a new due diligence method.

What’s the social world teaching us these days?

Social media has had an impact on both business and people’s personal and private life. The impact on business is not as massive as many people assume, but this does not mean that many businesses have not adopted social media, as it is a free resource after all. Here are a few things that social media has taught us all.

The most immediate effects on a person’s private life

It has lowered phone bills. People are using social media instead of texting and calling. Staying in touch is simply a case of logging onto social media these days. On the other hand, it has also lowered the amount of physical social interaction. People are simply using social media as a substitution for seeing people in real life. There appears to be a casual payoff, as people tend to stay predominantly more in touch than top UK writers, whilst seeing each other less frequently.

Online conflicts are at an all time high and rising

It is teaching people how to fall out. There are thousands of online conflicts per day, which is probably due to the increased social interaction that is happening online. If the same people were seeing each other in person on a daily basis, then they would probably fall out just as much.

People are not yet finding jobs only by social media

People may not be being hired solely via social media, but social media does give people a decided advantage when applying and taking interviews. People can learn things in social media such as the names of HR directors, their most recent UK essays review, or insider information about the business. In addition, during an interview when the applicant is asked what they know about the company, they can give a detailed description of the company, including any pertinent details they have pulled from social media.

Social media has become an important discovery tool for job opportunities, be it a search of LinkedIn’s jobs database, or a tweet from an individual you follow with a career opportunity.

Businesses are using social media as a free online tool

Many companies are learning that they can market their company for free using social media. This has lead to a massive transfer of marketing efforts, where companies are piling lots of money into social media marketing and forsaking other marketing methods in return, such as banner ads, billboards, and direct mail marketing. The results of this have been very varied, but interesting. Almost all companies have a very small conversion rate via their social media campaigns, but audience reach can be astronomical. The highest recorded conversion rate is 24%, but most conversion rates hover around the 2-3% mark.

On the other hand, the lack of conversion from social media viewer to website viewer is not a big problem. This is because social media is being used to build an online reputation and it does that quite well. Many people are made aware of new products via social media, and the online buzz about a company will often centre around its social media profiles.

Social media has taught businesses how to lower customer support costs

Social media has taught companies that they can handle a lot of their support issues with a very small budget. A lot of companies have had great success with their social media profiles by turning them into support systems. Instead of people emailing their website in order to find the solution to a problem, they check the social media profile of the company. The company offers to answer any questions that are submitted, and then publishes them and the solution on their social media profile. This lowers the amount of support emails that the company gets because customers consult the social media pages first to see if their problem has been answered. It also gives the business something new and fresh to post on their social media page every few days.


HR departments are not going online solely to social media to find employees. However, many companies have a due diligence protocol, and checking a person’s social media is often classified as ticking a certain due diligence box. Other due diligence boxes may include checking references, checking addresses, checking criminal records, checking qualifications, etc. A social media profile of an applicant may cast a poor light on an otherwise promising applicant, which may give rise to certain suspicions about the applicants honesty. Alternately, a social media that cast the applicant in a good light — perhaps their social media is focused on a professional topic or is well-written and produced — may actually increase the applicants chance of being hired.

Social media is definitely teaching us some interesting things about ourselves, the brands we interact with, and the relationships we have between us. It can be a powerful tool to manage support, online reputation development, and personal relationships, or, if used incorrectly, it can be the kill-stroke on a job application or deal you may be pursuing.

Source: scoop.it


Gardasil and Cervarix don’t work, are dangerous, and weren’t tested.

Dr. Diane Harper was the lead researcher in the development of the human papilloma virus vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix. She is the latest to come forward and question the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. She made the surprising announcement at the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination, which took place in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 2nd through 4th, 2009. Her speech was supposed to promote the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines, but she instead turned on her corporate bosses in a very public way. When questioned about the presentation, audience members remarked that they came away feeling that the vaccines should not be used.

“I came away from the talk with the perception that the risk of adverse side effects is so much greater than the risk of cervical cancer, I couldn’t help but question why we need the vaccine at all.”  – Joan Robinson

Dr. Harper explained in her presentation that the cervical cancer risk in the U.S. is already extremely low, and that vaccinations are unlikely to have any effect upon the rate of cervical cancer in the United States. In fact, 70% of all H.P.V. infections resolve themselves without treatment in a year, and the number rises to well over 90% in two years. Harper also mentioned the safety angle. All trials of the vaccines were done on children aged 15 and above, despite them currently being marketed for 9-year-olds. So far, 15,037 girls have reported adverse side effects from Gardasil alone to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (V.A.E.R.S.), and this number only reflects parents who underwent the hurdles required for reporting adverse reactions. At the time of writing, 44 girls are officially known to have died from these vaccines. The reported side effects include Guillian Barré Syndrome (paralysis lasting for years, or permanently — sometimes eventually causing suffocation), lupus, seizures, blood clots, and brain inflammation. Parents are usually not made aware of these risks. Dr. Harper, the vaccine developer, claimed that she was speaking out, so that she might finally be able to sleep at night.

“About eight in every ten women who have been sexually active will have H.P.V. at some stage of their life. Normally there are no symptoms, and in 98 per cent of cases it clears itself. But in those cases where it doesn’t, and isn’t treated, it can lead to pre-cancerous cells which may develop into cervical cancer.”  – Dr. Diane Harper

One must understand how the establishment’s word games are played to truly understand the meaning of the above quote, and one needs to understand its unique version of “science”. When they report that untreated cases “can” lead to something that “may” lead to cervical cancer, it really means that the relationship is merely a hypothetical conjecture that is profitable if people actually believe it. In other words, there is no demonstrated relationship between the condition being vaccinated for and the rare cancers that the vaccine might prevent, but it is marketed to do that nonetheless. In fact, there is no actual evidence that the vaccine can prevent any cancer. From the manufacturers own admissions, the vaccine only works on 4 strains out of 40 for a specific venereal disease that dies on its own in a relatively short period, so the chance of it actually helping an individual is about about the same as the chance of him being struck by a meteorite. Why do nine-year-old girls need vaccinations for extremely rare and symptom-less venereal diseases that the immune system usually kills anyway?

Sources: RealFarmacy.com


Magic Mushrooms Repair Brain Damage From Extreme Trauma.

A new study by The University of South Florida has found that low doses of the active ingredient in magic mushrooms repairs brain damage caused by extreme trauma, offering renewed hope to millions of sufferers of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The study confirms previous research by Imperial College London, that psilocybin, a naturally occurring compound present in “shrooms”, stimulates new brain cell growth and erases frightening memories. Mice conditioned to fear electric shock when hearing a noise associated with the shock “simply lost their fear”, says Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, who co-authored the study. A low dose of psilocybin led them to overcome “fear conditioning” and the freeze response associated with it faster than the group of mice on Ketanserin (a drug that counteracts the receptor that binds psilocybin in the brain) and a control group on saline.

An estimated 5 percent of Americans – more than 13 million people – have PTSD at any given time, according to the PTSD Alliance. The condition more often associated with combat veterans, is twice as likely to develop in women because they tend to experience interpersonal violence (such as domestic violence, rape and abuse) more often than men.

PTSD is not just psychological
Common symptoms, such as hyper-vigilance, memory fragmentation, flashbacks, dissociation, nightmares and fight or flight responses to ‘triggers’, are generally thought to be psychological and therefore treatable by learning to change thought processes. But new research suggests that they may in fact be the result of long term physiological mutations to the brain.

In the South Florida University study, the mice treated with low doses of psilocybin grew healthy new brain cells and their overactive medial prefrontal cortex regions (common in PTSD sufferers) were restored to normal functionality.

Further independent studies  have shown that the hippocampus part of the brain is damaged by extreme stress and that this is specific to PTSD and not associated with anxiety or panic disorders.

Dr. Sanchez-Ramos acknowledged that there was no way of knowing whether the mice in the experiment experienced altered states of consciousness or hallucinations – commonly experienced with magic mushrooms, but he believed the doses were too low to cause psychoactive effects.

Decriminalisation of psilocybin could help millions
Previous studies have shown that low doses of psilocybin produce no consciousness state altering effects. Administered in the correct amount, psilocybin could therefore be assumed to safely treat PTSD with minimal risk of adverse side effects. Magic mushrooms could help millions recover from the debilitating cycles of fight and flight and other conditioned biological responses caused by extreme trauma, if only they weren’t listed as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug with no medical benefits.

Meanwhile, doctors are authorised to dispense powerful, side-effect laden pharmaceutical drugs to army vets and others suffering from the symptoms of PTSD without any evidence that these treatments actually work, according to a major review by the committee of the Institute of Medicine on the topic.

The situation is so bad that an average of 18 American veterans commits suicide every day linked to the sharp rise in prescription drugs, depression, and other psychological conditions. Safe, natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals such as homeopathic and herbal remedies have been found to alleviate symptoms. Meditation has also been shown to reduce high activity levels in the amygdala (the brain’s emotional centre) experienced in PTSD sufferers as anxiety, stress and phobias.

FDA Approves New Treatment for Chest Pain.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today the approval of Ranexa (ranolazine), a new drug for the treatment of chronic angina. Ranexa, a new molecular entity (NME), is the first drug approved to treat chronic angina in over ten years. Although several pharmacological activities of ranolazine have been described, the precise way the drug works is not fully understood. Because Ranexa affects electrical conduction in the heart (prolong the QT interval), it should only be used by patients who have not responded to other anti-anginal (long-acting nitrates, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers) drugs.

Chronic angina is characterized by episodes of chest pain, pressure, or discomfort that occur during exercise because the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen. The most common cause of angina is coronary heart disease, in which the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen–rich blood become blocked with plaque deposits. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 6.8 million Americans are diagnosed with angina every year. While many of these patients respond to other treatments, including surgery and other approved drugs, some remain with angina despite receiving these treatments. Acute attacks of angina are treated with nitroglycerin placed under the tongue whereas treatments for chronic angina are given to increase the amount of exercise a person can do before angina occurs. This is usually tested by showing that people with angina can exercise longer on a treadmill or bicycle when they take the drug.

“Chronic angina limits people’s activities,” said Dr. Steven Galson, MD, Director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The approval of Ranexa provides a new treatment option for Americans who continue to suffer symptoms of angina despite using other angina drugs.”

Ranexa was studied in patients with chronic angina who still had symptoms despite being treated with other anti-anginal drugs. Two clinical trials, ERICA (Efficacy of Ranolazine in Chronic Angina) and CARISA (Combination Assessment of Ranolazine In Stable Angina) were conducted. In ERICA, 565 patients who were experiencing about 4.5 angina attacks per week while taking a full dose of a calcium channel blocker were randomized to Ranexa or placebo for 6 weeks. Patients receiving Ranexa had a reduction in angina attacks of about 1 attack per week, compared with those in the placebo group.

In CARISA, 823 patients on either a calcium channel blocker or beta blocker (atenolol) were randomized to Ranexa or placebo and followed for 12 weeks using a formal exercise treadmill test. Patients in the Ranexa group had a mean exercise improvement similar to that seen with other anti-anginal therapies.

In both studies, Ranexa appeared to be less effective in women than in men.

In clinical studies, common side effects included dizziness, headache, constipation and nausea.

Source: FDA 2006

Singing Happy Birthday Makes Cake Taste Better.

Story at-a-glance

  • Performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable – and it works whether the food is chocolate or carrots
  • Rituals may enhance enjoyment because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand
  • Being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience
  • Rituals can be useful in other areas of your life too, such as before bedtime or helping you to de-stress after work

If you want to make your food taste better, and more thoroughly enjoy the experience of a meal, it may be as simple as performing a ritual first, according to new research from the University of Minnesota.

Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ before eating birthday cake is one example, but the beauty of this finding is that it works for healthy food too, giving simple strategies you can implement today to get more enjoyment out of your food.


Ritualistic Behavior Enhances the Enjoyment of Eating, Improves Flavors of Food

If you’ve ever wolfed down a meal while working, driving or engaging in another task, you probably didn’t feel too satisfied afterward, and this is partly because you didn’t take the time to sit and savor your food.

Along these lines, researchers conducted a series of experiments to test whether performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable, and in each case, the answer was ‘yes.’

  • Participants who broke an unwrapped piece of chocolate in half and ate one half before unwrapping and eating the other half rated the chocolate more highly, savored it more, and were willing to pay more for it than those who ate it however they wanted
  • Those who waited to eat carrots after performing a small ritual enjoyed them more than those who had no delay
  • Simply watching someone perform a ritual, such as making lemonade, was not effective at improving its taste, which suggests personal involvement in the ritual process is key

How You Can Harness the Power of Rituals

The researchers concluded that rituals may have such an impact because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand:

“Rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience that they prompt.”

Rather than simply eating a bar of chocolate, for instance, stopping to feel the texture in your hands, breaking it into smaller pieces and waiting to savor each bite slowly is likely to enhance your enjoyment, even allowing you to feel moresatisfied by eating less chocolate.

Of course, this should work for other foods, too, like a bowl of steamed broccoli or a handful of nuts or berries. It’s not so much the food that matters, it’s the ritual beforehand. So you could try shaking the nuts in your hand before eating them, or placing your berries in an attractive dish first to make them taste even better.

This might also mean that as you take steps to prepare your food, such as makinghomemade fermented vegetables, the preparation ‘ritual’ will enhance your enjoyment of them, providing extra incentive to spend more time in the kitchen (a major benefit for your health!).

This also helps explain why certain foods seem to taste so much better at certain times of the year, such as on Thanksgiving or other holidays that involve long-held traditions. This can backfire, too, though, if you’ve become accustomed to watching TV while you snack on chips, for instance. In this case, breaking the ritual may help you to break your reliance on an unhealthy food.

Giving Thanks Before Eating

One of the most rewarding rituals you can do before a meal is to stop and give thanks for your food. Not only might this make your food taste better, but also people who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals.

People who give thanks before they eat also tend to eat more slowly and savor the meal more so than those who do not, lending a natural transition to mindful eating, as described below.

It can bring your family together too, and it’s even been shown by visionary researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto that human thoughts and emotions can alter the molecular structure of water, with positive emotions, such as gratitude, leading tobeautiful crystalline structures within the water. Your food, of course, contains water, so giving thanks before you eat may actually be able to transform your food in beneficial ways that are only beginning to be understood.

Being Mindful When You Eat

Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. In terms of eating, this means you’re focused on your food and you’re really taking the time to chew, taste and savor each bite that goes into your mouth. Mindless eating would be the opposite. Similar to engaging in a ritual beforehand, being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience. There are other ‘side effects’ too, as when you eat slower you give your brain time to register that you’re full, so you’ll likely eat less.

Taking the time to thoroughly chew your food also allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps you maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion, and leads to fewer digestive issues like gas and bloating, all while allowing you to actually taste your food before you swallow… a novel concept if you’re used to eating on the run.

Using Rituals to Establish Healthier Habits

Rituals can be extremely powerful in all facets of your life, especially if you use them to help create healthful habits. For instance, if you want to start getting to bed earlier, washing your face and brushing your teeth can be the ritual you use to trigger your earlier bedtime. Another example would be to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea or even changing into loungewear when you come home from work as a ‘ritual’ to de-stress from your day and switch gears into relaxation mode.

Getting back to eating, a simple ritual like lighting a candle or two and setting your table can signal to your family that it’s time for a meal together. Saying grace or giving thanks before you eat, as mentioned, is another ritualistic way to enhance the enjoyment as you eat.

The opportunities to harness the power of rituals are truly endless, and only you can determine which rituals will be the most meaningful and productive in your own life. Chances are you have quite a few rituals already, and taking a few moments to create more is a simple way to live better.