When you hear the word "diet" what’s the first thought that comes to your mind? For many, thoughts such as restrictive, hard and suffering are what pop up first. Interestingly, the word diet comes from the Greek language and actually means “a manner of living” or "way of life." The Latin root of the word means “a day’s journey.” Nothing like how many associate the word today. How did we get so detached from the word's original meaning and instead interpret it in such a negative way? One word and it’s SAD. Not sad the adjective but SAD the acronym, the Standard American Diet.
Most individuals have become completely accustomed to SAD which consists of being overfed and undernourished, half of our meals coming from restaurants or take-out and more than half of our calories from poor quality, and nutrient poor foods.
Our current “days journey” is characterized by convenience, processed, chemicalized and preservative laden food. With that kind of description, who would even wish to think about their “way of life” in those terms? No one, hence, why the word "diet" is so foreign AND scary to many. How can you change your meaning of "diet" and incorporate it into your way of life the way it was originally meant to be?
One way is to eat a rainbow.
Eating as many colorful whole foods as you can, also known as eating a rainbow, is a wonderful way to nourish your body the way that was intended by nature. You’ll replace the processed, nutrient poor food with whole nutritionally dense food. All of the macro and micro nutrients, antioxidants and polyphenols needed by your body for optimal health will be provided AND eating the rainbow will also add some color back into your "manner of living."
Photo Credit: Google Images
By Eating the rainbow at least once a day, you can begin to incorporate the word "diet" back into your vocabulary in the way it was originally meant to be. Just make sure your rainbow looks like this:
Photo Credit: Google Images
And NOT like this.
Photo Credit: Google Images
How has your day's journey been so far?
Picture this: Its late at night, the house is quiet and you find yourself craving a late night snack. You open your fridge and realize that you can either eat whatever sugary junk you have OR an apple. You decide to eat the apple since it’s a “cleaner” “healthier” snack. You eat the apple and thoroughly enjoy it. But, wait… a few minutes later your TOTALLY craving the sugary junk food snack even MORE than what you were before eating the apple!
Surprisingly, there’s a physiological explanation for this. A recent study (see here) found that apples and some fruit in general seem to trigger the “feel good” area of the brain, the hypothalamus, and its surrounding areas. The key word here is trigger, not satisfy. In other words, fruit just teases this area of the brain looking for immediate satisfaction, so once eaten you’re actually left with an even stronger craving then before!
How does this happen?
It’s all about the sugar. The fructose in fruit, while all natural, actually makes you more vulnerable to severe cravings for what your brain really wants, glucose. Glucose is what feeds and lights up that feel good happy brain area and satisfies us, temporarily at least. It’s worth mentioning that this is the same area that lights up when a drug addict gets their fix…eeek!
Why does this matter?
When were in a craving state we tend to NOT make the healthiest of food choices and instead, just focus on IMMEDIATELY satisfying the craving. This is why you may actually grab that piece of sugary junk after snacking on apple, whereas if you hadn’t eaten that apple beforehand, you may have not eaten the junk.
Should you stop eating fruit then if it will just make you more vulnerable to eating junk?
No. Not necessarily. The nutritional benefits of fruit far outweigh any negatives (always in moderation of course). If you want to satisfy that initial mild craving with a clean snack option and stick with fruit, you can snack on a fruit that is naturally high in glucose. This way, you can continue to maintain your healthy eating habits, and nourish your body in a more nutritionally dense manner without the added inflammation from the processed junk.*
What fruits will effectively satisfy glucose cravings?
Grapes, bananas, cherries, and figs are just a few examples of fruits that are high in glucose.
Regardless, fruit IS better for you than a piece a cake or bowl of ice cream.
Keep in mind that if you’re craving something sweet and you find that you’ve eaten a whole bulk container of grapes from Costco, there is most likely more to your craving then just a physiological brain response and definitely worth exploring in depth with your health coach.
Remember to always pay attention to your body before and after eating. So... if you do find your face in a plate of cake after eating an apple late at night, well, now you know why.
*Always remember to check with your healthcare practitioner when eating high sugar fruits if you have insulin issues.
*Some of the fruits mentioned above have both high fructose AND high glucose. The glucose is what will most likely satisfy your craving. BOTH in excess are bad for the body.
This blog is by no means a clinical, scientific and or a scholarly explanation of the physiology of the brain and or science of sugars. It is just a presentation of my interpretation of info available based off of my own research and experience in regards to eating an apple as a late night snack.
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/20/6509.abstract Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards
Are you chronically stressed? Do you even know if you’re chronically stressed?
Sit in a chair, back straight, feet planted on the ground. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your nose. Remain still. Did you feel a slight shift in your perception? Did your shoulders relax ever so slightly? Slowly look around? Do your surroundings seem more “real,” more vibrant?
Do you get a second wind, late at night when you should be winding down? Do you stay up to late and wake up tired? Do you feel tired and wired throughout the day?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you most likely ARE chronically stressed. As a result, your cortisol levels are chronically elevated.
What IS cortisol? It’s a hormone that surges through us when we're stressed out. We need this surge in times of emergency. Its role is beneficial, protective but ideally infrequent. For many of us, this cortisol surge never turns off! So our hunger cravings, digestion and initial ability to cope with stress are ALL hindered. In addition, but not limited to, we may experience adrenal fatigue (adrenals help to regulate hormones) high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened immune system and advanced aging.
Of course stress is everywhere. Just reading this may be stressful for some. Everything, ranging from losing a job or the death of a loved one, to what to wear, and what to pack the kids for lunch; ALL of it is stress. If it’s not kept in check, even the most simple, mundane routines become stressful.
Check out some of the ways of how chronic stress (elevated cortisol) specifically affects your weight:
So how DO you lower cortisol levels?
Trying to find time to actually do commonly known stress relieving activities (i.e. yoga class, exercising, long walks) in itself is stressful for a lot of people! The good news is that all it takes is a little awareness, slight discipline, and a few minutes every day.
1. Deep breathing:
While ideally it would be nice to be able to meditate for 20 minutes a day, for many it’s not realistic and also lack the discipline to do so. We just don’t have an extra 20 minutes a day. Thankfully, all you need is just 1 minute, every hour. Spend 1 minute inhaling and exhaling deeply through you nose. This will allow your cortisol levels to drop. Practice this while you’re waiting for a glass of water to fill at the fridge, pumping gas, at a red light or waiting in line. Hormones are constantly fluctuating, so while a minute might not seem like a lot, it is.
According to Sarah Gottfried, MD, The Hormone Cure, you can reduce your cortisol levels by simply chanting. Worried what others might think while yourdoing this? Doesn’t matter, because your momentarily stress free self won’t care what others think! Try chanting OM, pronounced ah-ohhh-ummm. Start with a deep inhalation, and chant on the exhale. Repeat slowly, synched with your breath.
3. Pay attention to the little miracles:
Practicing gratitude throughout the day is a great way to manage stress. Consciously letting go of the thoughts of what you don’t have or what is not, and instead switching them to what you DO have is an excellent way to manage stress. Keep this practice in the fore front of your mind by paying attention to ALL the little miracles around you. When we think of miracles we tend to think of them as a huge event, when in fact it's the little miracles that happen every day that matter.
Photo credit Google Images
4. Love yourself:
Make a conscious effort to visualize "hugging" yourself through the day, regardless of how you’re feeling! Loving yourself is one of the best ways to immediately relieve stress. Not only are you more likely to do all of the above if you’re actively “loving yourself” but you will also immediately lower cortisol.
Photo credit Google Images
Inevitably we will find ourselves in stressful situations. However, the above listed, are just a few small steps that if implemented throughout your day, on a daily basis, will make room for big changes. These changes will allow you to be the healthiest and happiest that you can be, in turn allowing you to achieve your weight loss goals.
The Hormone Cure: Sara Gottfried, MD.