Jessica Else, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe it’s not a lack of willpower that’s causing you to reach for that unhealthy food day after day. Maybe it’s bacteria.
Food addiction, elevated stress and a culture of unworthiness go hand in hand with many failures on the road to wellness, according to Kapaa man Benjahmin Koenigsberg, who will be presenting on the topic at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sun Village Clubhouse in Lihue.
“We’re superorganisms, less human that microorganisms,” Koenigsberg said, citing the scientific conversation about the abundance of bacteria versus human cells in the body.
Recent research out of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel shows an average man of 70 kilograms is made up of about 40 trillion bacteria and 30 trillion human cells, giving humans an average ratio of 1.3 bacteria to every human cell.
Many of those bacteria live in the human gut, and it is Koenigsberg’s understanding, and that of some nutritionists and medical professionals worldwide, that the bacteria’s demand for certain foods cause cravings.
“People are ruled by their gut bacteria to crave things like alcohol and unhealthy foods,” Koenigsberg said. “We can’t fight cravings. Using willpower won’t work. You have to change the makeup of the bacteria in your gut.”
Fruits and vegetables encourage the growth of different bacteria than processed foods, animal products and alcohol, scientists explain, and these little organisms can affect mood, too.
That’s according to a 2014 study published in BioEssays by the University of Mexico, which showed some bacteria are aligned with the dietary needs of humans and some aren’t.
So, the trick is to encourage growth of bacteria that are harmonious with the human body, scientists, and Koenigsberg say.
“I believe we can populate good bacteria,” he said.
But Koenigsberg’s theory on wellness is about more than just macrobiotics, throughout his journey implementing veganism, fruitarianism, and raw trends into his diet for years, he’s found what he calls a key wellness: starches.
He eats a vegan diet, heavy in potatoes, yams, corn, legumes, rice and beans, which helps keep him full longer and provide essential fiber and other nutrients.
“By incorporating more starch, we fill up the tummy and it’s more satiating,” he said. “Plus, coming from a diet that’s restrictive, it’s liberating to find that those are health foods.”
Much of his research on starch comes from the book The Starch Solution by John McDougall, which explains the theory that the human diet is naturally built on starches. He recommends a diet that consists of 70 percent starch, 10 percent fruit and 20 percent vegetables, while avoiding fats and processed foods.
“I’ll steam a yam and wrap it in tin foil, or make a pot of oatmeal and it’s satiating,” he said. “It’s so freeing.”
Life used to be made up of thinking about food for him, Koenigsberg said, and constantly deciding what to eat, and that obsession was something he’s working on letting go.
“I’m just looking for an accessible fuel source so I can be in personal relationships,” he said. “Now it’s about how I want to show up and serve the world. Relationships are the cornerstone of health and well-being.”
Trends of unworthiness extend beyond nutrition, Koenigsberg explained, and his passion is also focused on the unachievable standards men face in society, and how to break free from unrealistic expectations.
“What is masculinity and how has culture pushed men to believe masculinity is all about hypermuscularity,” he said. “There’s an extra stigma on men not to discuss these issues.”
In a culture “with terrorism occurring by white men dealing with anger management issues,” Koenigsberg said he thinks the conversation about social isolation and unachievable standards needs to be happening.
“I talk about, there’s a lot of stresses on the nervous system — chemical, physical and emotional stresses, and the body is reacting. Most of our functioning is subconscious,” he said.
“Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience.”
― Norman Doidge, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity
Contrary to the old saying, which implies that adults or elderly are set in their ways and unable to learn new skills, Brain researchers have found that the brain and many parts of the nervous system are malleable, adaptable and receptive at any point in life, not just during childhood. This concept is known as Neuroplasticity, referring to a plasticity, or mold-ability of the quality of the tissues in the nervous system.
Change does not always come easy, but because of nueroplasticity, those of us, regardless of age are very encouraged to know that with work to grow, we can learn new skills and replace long lasting habits with brand new healthier ones.
The science of this aspect of human biology couldnʼt be more timely. In this time of rapid change, so many of us can benefit from reshaping our brains and perceptions. From workers needing to learn new skills, people needing to learn new languages, and those just wanting to improve their confidence and mental wellbeing.....the possibilities are endless for anyone!
One of my favorite studies highlighting neuroplasticity is when NASA mandated a group of astounds to wear special convex goggles 24/7 that literately flipped their world upside down. They wanted to test how spatial distortions would effect their brain. At first the astronauts were ill, but soon adjusted. But between the 26th and 30th day of the experiment, each one of the astronauts began to see the world normal again with the convex goggles still on! The pathways in their brains had flipped the images.
This study proves that in order for a new habit to become easier, we need to stick with it for at least 30 days continuously. After 90 days of continuous action it becomes more “second nature”.
1. Comprehensive Intake
I prompt my clients at the very beginning of the session, to start them on the process of thinking about how their body feels and what it may be wanting for treatment. I always reflect back to the client what I've heard them say, to be as clear as possible regarding their session preferences and related issues. I explain to clients how important is for me to trust them, knowing that they speak up about discomforts anytime during the session.
2. Asking for feedback
Even after I have explained the client's responsibility to speak up , I still check in with them many times throughout the session. This gives the client a chance to micro-adjust ,which make the difference between a good and great massage. It is also a way for me to gain feedback and change treatments plan immediately if necessary.
3. Get Massage!
Its sad how common it is for massage therapist, myself included, get massage relatively infrequently. Receiving massage as a massage therapist has the added benefits of (hopefully) learning something that informs your practice. Receiving massage from professionals is one of the best ways for me to learn about my body and new techniques to use with my clients.
4. Incorporate Stretches and Breath Awareness
Thai massage is one of my favorite forms of massage because of the deep tissue mixed with stretching. I always incorporate at least one stretch or traction move in every session. I believe it feels very good for the client, gives them different sensory input to relax the nervous system and is a distinguished experience. Try learning and incorporating at least one stretch safely into your practice. I also am constantly reminding myself to breath. How can I expect the client to breath deeply and soften their tissues, when I am holding or restricting my breath? I also ask my clients to breath and give them verbal and tactile directions to guide them in doing so.
5. Increase your self care
We are holistic health care professionals, which in my understanding implies that we are role models for healthy living. Personally every ounce of sweat that I put into my workouts, my food prep or going to bed early have paid off significantly in my practice. I've have increased stamina while working and have noticed more client bookings. Ultimately health is largely about self acceptance, self love and honoring our perfection as long as we don't give up reaching for our ideals or optimization.
6. Step up your game
If you are not feeling passionate about providing massage for people, please take responsibility at least by asking for support. I recommend continuing education either formally or informally, to boost your inspiration and fulfillment levels. It can be fun to incorporate new things you've learned to experiment with clients and see results. A few last ideas to spruce up your practice are: getting new play lists that you love, fresh flowers for the treatment room and a supply of healthy snack to give to your clients.
7. Join a professional organization!
Being affiliated with a professional massage organization can have many benefits. A renewed sense of
contribution may result from joining and contributing to a professional organization. Often the monthly publications are full of educational and inspiring articles. National massage conventions are great opportunities to meet a lot of massage therapists from diverse places and backgrounds, which can also be inspiring.
8. Stop Talking
We all need empathy of course, but this is your clients' time to receive. The client does not want to hear about your personal life. Many people will pretend to be interested, adding another challenge to getting totally relaxed. It seems natural to use our own experience as a reference to connect with someone else's, However I feel this is an internal process because when we interrupt share our own version of of similar experience, we steal attention from the speaker. Massage is not a time for small talk. Try encouraging the client to bring more awareness to the physical experience. Answering clients' questions and talking about the treatments at hand is entirely different of course.