Why Do We Crave Certain Foods?

It’s a mystery isn’t it? Going from fridge to cabinet to pantry knowing you are hungry but not knowing what you’re hungry for?

Hunger is an umbrella whose spokes branch out in different directions. Sometimes it’s not a food you’re even seeking. Rather it could be comfort, security, to soothe loneliness or a need for increased mental focus.

Occasionally your body simply desires water which is found in all foods and it’s not hunger pangs at all. So drink a glass and see if that helps. If not, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or is it simply a feeling that needs addressing?”

By understanding the reason why behind the loss of control, you’ll recognize the urge when it occurs again.

Certain food cravings have hidden meanings. One should be aware of personal trigger mechanisms. Always ask yourself, what happened just before I craved this type of food and lost control?

Creamy foods like mac and cheese provide comfort. Are you sad, lonely or did you recently suffer a loss?

Hard, crunchy foods is usually an indication you are angry or stressed. Did your boss or mother-in-law tick you off today?  Stress affects the adrenal glands and releases toxins into your system which is dangerous.

Sometimes we simply love to eat! Therefore select wisely:

Craving sweets? Slice up a nutrient-dense apple or banana and dab a teaspoon of peanut butter on a few pieces. For a real treat, melt about 12 semi-sweet chocolate chips and dip some strawberries into the sauce. You’re getting magnesium, potassium, choline, copper, B vitamins, iron and many other essential nutrients. Not bad!

Craving specific nutrient-based foods is the way the brain’s hypothalamus tells someone they are low in a particular nutrient.

For example, low in energy? Lack of chromium or iron could be the cause of an insulin imbalance resulting in low blood sugar and energy. Instead of reaching for a piece of cake or a sixth cup of coffee, reach for raisins or a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses. For lunch create a spinach salad, roast beef sandwich or grill a 93% hamburger.

Another alternative would be to select foods high in Chromium.  This essential micronutrient acts like a doorknob, allowing insulin to be enter your body more slowly. You can find it in walnuts, sliced chicken, red grapes, corn, broccoli or mushrooms. Always try to balance your meals with a combination of lean protein, good omega 3 fatty acids and fibrous carbohydrates for longer lasting energy.

Finding yourself mentally fuzzy-brained and reaching for that energy drink to get you through the day? Rather than consuming that sugary donut or chemically-dangerous beverage, consume nutrients with a bit more beneficial power like green tea, avocado, banana or berries, especially blueberries. Spicy foods like salsa also rejuvenate!

It’s not unusual during the winter season to become depressed as sunshiny days are few and far between. Garlic is a great mood enhancer. Add it to pasta sauces, pork, beef, chicken recipes, grilled vegetables or as a dip with vegetables.

Anything’s fine in moderation!  Indulging in a piece of good quality dark chocolate is absolutely acceptable each day as long as it doesn’t challenge common sense. Make yourself a fruit smoothie or even a chocolate shake with 1% milk and ice. Yum! If chocolate becomes addictive with uncontrollable cravings, don’t bring it into your home.

As the Apostle Paul says: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:27)

By taking control of your cravings you’ll feel as empowered every day!







Nutritional Choices For Increased Mental Performance

 Choose foods wisely! It makes a world of difference in your mental and physical health.

If you consume junk, your body and brain will perform like a sluggish machine! Does any machine work efficiently when it labors to perform?  No.  

We want to keep our arteries clean and pliable so the blood-flow to the brain and heart isn’t clogged and can work efficiently. So if we would like to retain our “smarts” for a little longer, we shouldn’t treat our brain so carelessly either.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, once stated: “Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations.”

I would have agreed except for the fact that he said, “nothing else but . . .” I’m sorry to disagree with the great Hippocrates but I must give proper creditto God for our soul and spirit too.

True Health also comes from the heart: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  (Proverbs 17:22)

Consuming proper whole foods however, does maintain a healthy pH acidic/alkaline balance. When you feel physically and mentally fit you’re happier and from that comes a more joyful countenance.

Here are some foods you should always add routinely to your weekly diet for proper mental and physical health:

Garlic protects our brain neurotransmitters, enhances memory retention and increases blood flow. The Israelites craved this wonderful bulb. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5)  All brain food!

Increase good fats. Too much of the wrong kind, like saturated fat, will harm because the body works harder trying to fulfill its basic mechanics, resulting in higher blood pressure, diminished energy and even less brain power. Rather choose monounsaturated fats such as  olive and canola oil and omega 3’s.

Omega-3′s refer to omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are the ‘building blocks’ of fats just as amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are vital nutrients for the brain.

Omega-3’s are used to regulate blood clotting, build cell membranes, protect the nerve’s myelin sheath and support cell health.

Good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, avocados  will prevent the blood from stickiness, potential blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. What’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

As our brains age, the neurons can’t talk to each other as easily as they once did. Open up the blood-brain barrier with inflammation fighting foods:healthy foods

Vitamin E found in green leafy greens, wheat germ and walnuts lowers cholesterol and provides anti-clogging powers.

Vitamin C:  Not only does this vitamin help create collagen, thus making us look younger, it also neutralizes free radicals and strengthens blood vessel walls. Cantaloupe is one of its best sources.  So are strawberries, sweet red peppers, cabbage, broccoli, lemons, limes, oranges and tomatoes.

Spice up your life with curry or cinnamon which blocks the formation of plaque in the arteries.

Exercise your brain like a muscle with cross word puzzles, brain games or other stimulating activities such as Scripture memorization, reading or card playing. Find active, not passive activities for your brain.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

A grateful attitude and positive nature overcomes a defeated spirit – but a positive spirit maintains mental health too!

Embracing Short Term Goals to Achieve Lasting Ones

You’re on a wonderful journey to become healthier. Recognize it will be a challenge. Don’t allow the thought however, to become overwhelming.

Suppose you were planning a cross-country road trip. The thought  of a 3,000 mile journey might seem overwhelming. Therefore revamp your thinking, Break the trip into smaller milestones. When I reach Memphis I’ll visit Graceland, When I get to Arizona, we’ll see the Grand Canyon – see all of a sudden you are looking forward to it because you’ve broken a burdensome task into short-term goals.

Apply this same strategy to your weight-loss ambition. Create smaller steps for attainable goals.

Remember you are creating life practices not simply losing weight. You want to feel this accomplished everyday! Each time you conquer “self” you reach new heights of disciple.

It is not selfish to desire to be healthy for God!  In fact He commands it.  1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us: “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

Ask yourself: if you require your children to follow godly values which you don’t even follow, why would they? It’s the same with healthy values! Be a positive example.

By striving to become the healthiest individual you can, you demonstrate self-discipline; those inner strengths which makes you a strong, determined person for your children to emulate.

Demonstrate how it’s done by making it fun. Start by creating the common goals known as  “SMART” intentions:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Trackable:

  1. First measure your bone structure by wrapping your thumb and middle finger around your wrist. If your fingers overlap, you’re small boned. If they just touch, medium boned and if they can’t touch at all, you are large-boned. Be realistic about how much weight you can lose based on your body type.
  2. Set your goal at 1-2 lbs lost per week because you’ll keep it off for the long haul. If you want to lose more, you’ll have to exercise more in order to lose fat.
  3. Ask “What is my motivation?” If you set your goal for someone’s approval or a specific event, when that’s over, so is your motivation. It must be your goal because you’re the only one who lives in your body.
  4. Focus on “just for today” goals, like increasing fiber and water until it becomes second nature. Don’t allow too many goals to overwhelm you, just gradually incorporate them into your lifestyle like using smaller plates or “fork down, spoon down” each day.
  5. Don’t add undo pressure for perfection like “I’m going to exercise two hours each day!” If you’re an all or nothing personality, you’ll give up when something interferes. Start with 20-30 minutes when possible or 10 minutes when you’re busy – you’re still going forward.
  6. Being realistic is recognizing that you won’t be perfect. Identify your emotions. Forgive yourself and get back on track. If you were heading to a ski area and took a wrong turn you wouldn’t give up and turn around, you’d keep going forward.
  7. Make gradual changes so your mind can catch up.  It won’t be until weeks later that your brain realizes you’re thinner than you thought. So use something tangible like a belt notch to keep track.
  8. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Realize that if a celebrity lost 45 lbs she had a lot of help behind the scenes with personal trainers, private chefs, massage therapists . . .  Your goals are your own, focus on those.
  9. Educate yourself. Understanding why we do certain things physiologically, keeps us focused.
  10. Track your successes on a graph to establish a sense of accomplishment.

Embrace the fact that you’re becoming a New Creation!

Why Dark Chocolate is the Perfect Valentine Gift!

On a morning show recently, I heard this health professional snidely remark, “Well you wouldn’t eat dark chocolate every day would you???”

Oh my dear lady, Of course I would and usually DO!

Doesn’t she keep up on the latest info available? Oh wait, never mind. I derived mine from God’s instructions 6,000 years ago when God told Adam he could eat from any tree in the Garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Let me assure you: the cocoa bean comes from a tree which isn’t evil.

I know, I could have waited until next week but hopefully husbands are contemplating Valentine’s gifts this week. So I’m passing along this suggestion now.

Sometimes I overhear, “Oh, I was baaaad; I ate chocolate this week.” Giggle, giggle.

Why is chocolate so maligned? Chocolate, in moderation, is one of the finest, nutrient-dense  foods one can consume. The cocoa myth ranks up there with avoiding eggs and shrimp with good HDL cholesterol.

I follow a simple formula, if God says it, I believe it, that settles it. However in case you don’t, let me convince you of the benefits of dark chocolate.

Chocolate is a powerful anti-oxidant, ranking even higher than the acai, pomegranate and blueberry on the protection scale. What do antioxidants do? Let me count the ways:

  1. They act as a natural sunblock, protecting us against ultra violet rays and skin damage.
  2. It protects against ailments like heart disease, vision impairments, hypertension, diabetes and cancers.
  3. It assists in lowering blood pressure because chocolate contains natural nitric oxide which increases oxygen levels and relaxes blood vessels.

Chocolate boosts our mood due to its phenethylamine (PEA) content. This is a 50-cent word which stimulates the brain to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. PEA acts as drug. It stimulates the nervous system and triggers feel good endorphins. (One reason chocolate’s addictive. It’s hard to stop something that makes you feel so emotionally good.)

But a normal serotonin level is important because it improves one’s mood, sleep patterns and increases libido. When one is low in serotonin, they’re usually cranky, impatient and could act erratically. Women who suffer from PMS often find themselves depressed, craving chocolate because serotonin levels are diminished.

Subconsciously you might find yourself searching for chocolate after you’ve had a bad day or are lonely. Remember it’s a treat not a crutch. Bring it into your home only if you can control your behavior around it.

Chocolate is an enigma. It contains theobromine and caffeine which are stimulants and yet  reduces the stress-hormone cortisol, once again increasing serotonin, the pleasure hormone.

The nutrients found in chocolate are incredible: Potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, great fatty acids, good saturated and monounsaturated fat. The cocoa bean also contains valuable flavonoids, polyphenols, fiber and cocoa butter, (a great moisturizer.)

Chocolate even contains powerful probiotics which improve digestion and good bacteria to fight infection. Need another reason to consume chocolate? Believe it or not the antibacterial compounds will fight plague and tooth decay!

One of the best ways to consume dark chocolate is to place 15 semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small container. Eat one at a time, savoring each one. Don’t place another in your mouth until you’re done with the first one.

Another way is to melt those chips and slice fresh berries, bananas or your favorite fruit and use chocolate as a dip.

These are just some of the many ways chocolate benefits the body. Just enjoy God’s bounty without making anything an idol.

“The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us.” (Psalm 67:6)


Striving Toward Victory in the Midst of Challenges

Mohamed Ali didn’t win every boxing match, Tom Brady doesn’t complete every pass attempt, Michael Jordan didn’t score every time he put up the shot. But they are each considered the best in their field. Why? The common denominator is that they never quit!

Don’t quit either!

Have you ever watched an athlete during practice? Each athlete strives for excellence and when they falter, they dig deep, determined to get their rhythm back once again.  I’m sure they never considered quitting because they would have retired defeated. In their eyes that would be a disgrace.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13)

As you strive for a healthier lifestyle this year, I’m sure you’ve faltered a bit in the past three weeks, been sabotaged with tempting food, perhaps had exercise set-backs, maybe even gaining a pound or two. But I hope you haven’t quit!

That would be as heartbreakig as heading on a family ski vacation and if you took a wrong turn, throwing up your hands in defeat, announcing, “Sorry gang, I made a mistake, trip’s over – let’s go home.”

Can you imagine the disappointment on your children’s faces if you actually did that? I’m certain you would take out your map, figure out where you turned wrong. Then you’d get back on the right road and head for your destination once again.

Similarly, when striving for a healthier lifestyle, if you make a mistake, get out your directions again and analyze what you did wrong. Then head toward your destination once again: health!

Most of us will never become world-class athletes, but we can certainly aspire to excel. Often however, discouragement sets in because we expect instant gratification.

Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Mohamed Ali didn’t become “The Greatest” in their field overnight. It was a struggle at times. To each however, the ultimate reward was worth the struggle.

Life itself is a balance of mountain tops  and struggles. It’s a typical daily diet of better choices. Humans need nutrients to have a successfully running metabolism!

We are not meant to consume only one food category. Balance your diet plan with many different types of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and herbs. Vary your protein intake with a variety of lean protein. Consume healthy fat. But if you consume a fattier meal one day, so what? Get right back on the ” better selection” routine and eat more disciplined the next day.

When discouraged, or if you reach a plateau in your weight quest and can’t seem to lose those last few pounds, always reconsider your original instructions:

  1. Are you eating nutrient-dense foods?
  2. Using smaller plates?
  3. Exercising?
  4. Drinking enough water?
  5. Is your routine becoming boring? Change it up. Consume different nutritious foods or create different ways to exercise.
  6. Perhaps you need a short attainable goal?
  7. Talk yourself into continuing to strive for excellence!

No matter what challenges you encounter, learn from them and keep going! I’m praying you wouldn’t think of turning your back on your Christian lifestyle simply because you made a mistake. So please don’t turn your back on a healthy lifestyle.

God, the Ultimate Coach, is forgiving and extremely patient with us. He is our Encourager, motivating us onward toward being our best self and yet gently reprimanding us if we tend to not listen to His counsel:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23) 

Why Is Dietary Balance So Important?

My previous post encouraged you to find supportive friends. Ones who wouldn’t coddle or enable you but rather strengthen you when you needed them.

This is very similar to how our physiological system works.

Our God is a God of order and balance.  He wants our bodies to function in perfect harmony; even in what we should eat! No wonder we feel ‘off kilter’ when we don’t consume the right foods! We feel we have no energy and our brain doesn’t seem to function properly.

 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)

God created everything to work in conjunction for good so we absolutely need physiological balance! It’s  matter of teamwork. Popping one nutrient or vitamin supplement won’t help as much unless they are combined. In other words, it needs supportive nutritional “friends” along the way.

  • Iron needs vitamin C to work efficiently.
  • Calcium, magnesium, potassium also work in conjunction for better health.
  • Vitamins A, E, K need fat to assimilate..

Aim to get most of your nutrients from actual food; fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as fresh as possible. If no Farmer’s Market is available, purchase frozen.  When purchasing,  consider nutrients, not just calories, food groups or fat grams. If I create a banana/orange/milled flaxseed smoothie in the morning, I don’t think of it as a banana smoothie but as a calcium/magnesium/omega 3 shake It’s chucked full of nutrients which, while working together, produce a healthier me!

Synergy is a fancy word which simply means that a combination of nutrients will bond together for a more productive purpose. Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, flavonoids, amino acids all need essential balance for good health.

Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean by food combining to bring out the symbiotic relationship of nutrients, all working together to produce a stronger element.

B vitamins found in most foods, should be consumed along with vitamin C. So slice a few strawberries on your whole grain cereal or drink a glass of orange juice (with pulp) in the morning. Tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple, peppers, cantaloupe, onions, green peas and leafy greens all contain vitamin C. You can’t go wrong by adding these water-soluble vitamins to any meal!

Vitamin C should combine with iron. Have that high quality sirloin with a baked potato and garden salad with berries, or add 93% ground beef in your tomato pasta sauce for maximum absorption. Vitamin C also builds and restores collagen, keeping skin strong and younger looking!

Zinc found in shrimp, egg yolks, lamb, poultry and fish goes perfectly with some B6; spinach, corn, carrots, walnuts and leafy greens. Calcium; cabbage, broccoli, cheese or copper; mushrooms, garlic, avocado.

Your body must have magnesium to process calcium and it must have vitamin D and K to absorb and regulate calcium in the blood. Calcium also helps process zinc and if someone doesn’t have enough zinc, a body can’t process vitamin A.   So complicated!

And some people just believe this complicated system of ours ‘just happened by chance’, unbelievable!!

Don’t haphazardly pop more vitamins either!  If something’s good, it doesn’t necessarily mean more is better.  There’s a limit on fat soluble vitamin intake, don’t overdose!

Eat to honor God, pursuing a godly balance in your life and strive to become a supportive friend.

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.”   (Romans 15:2)

You’re an Individual, Lose Weight as One!

Everyone’s lives are chemically differently with various bone structure and stress levels so there’s really no “one-size-fits-all” diet plan.  Besides you don’t want to rely on a “diet” – you want to change your lifestyle.

An adult’s caloric intake should never drop below 1200 calories or your metabolism will begin shutting down and physiologically you’ll gain when you eat “normally” again. Keep things simple, slow and steady. I suggest reducing 500 “junky” calories per day x 7 days = 3500 calories which equals a pound of fat loss safely per week. Add daily exercise and you’ll lose even more of course.

You must eat!!! Starvation never works.Your body is like an engine. It needs to be kept powered with energy to produce energy; that’s the First Law of Thermodynamics. So strive to consume mini-meals throughout the day.

Keeping it simple, here’s a suggested sensible typical daily eating plan that can be adapted to fit your schedule:

For Breakfast:  Choose 4-8 oz. of good quality yogurt, Dannon Natural or Mountain High are my favorites. Eat yogurt first. Why? Because the good bacteria strengthens your immune system’s digestion track. (Also the natural   liquid whey contains weight loss properties.)

Most nutrients get dispersed out of the small intestine so if it’s clogged up, it can’t function properly. In a hurry? Create a quick smoothie with yogurt, a banana, orange juice, ice and 1% milk.  I call it my “magnesium-potassium” shake.

Then consume 3/4 cup of a high fiber (5 grams +) flavorful cereal like Great Grains, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Grape nuts, Kashi products. If you have high cholesterol, choose soluble fiber which turns into a gel, like oatmeal, reducing bad cholesterol. Insoluble fiber, like bran, push waste through your digestion system so you’ll absorb nutrients efficiently.  Add a banana, raisins or berries for additional fiber. Use almond, soy, 1% milk (2% is 40% fat).

Carbohydrates remain 15 minutes – 3 hours in your digestive system, depending on the amount of fiber contained in the carbs which lasts longer. Then increase water. You’ll feel fuller because fiber expands, which also slows down insulin dispersion.

Mid-morning:  Bring a snack to work like a 1/4 cup of walnuts, an apple, red grapes, banana or other fruit for brain function. Your brain feeds primarily on glucose.

Lunch:  Choose low-sodium or homemade soups, a salad with protein/colorful greens for nutrients, a low-sodium  microwaveble meal, a small  veggie/low-cal sandwich, one brought from home on whole wheat.  You can also bring ‘planned-overs’ from last night’s dinner.

Proteins last in your system from 2-4 hours. We only burn up about 30 grams of protein in 2 1/2 hours so don’t over-indulge!

Afternoon snack: If you won’t arrive home until late, try carrot sticks, 2 thin slices of light cheese on 4 Triscuits. a tablespoon of peanut butter on two low-fat crackers, apple or a cup of herbal tea.

Home now, go for a walk to relieve stress or listen to music, take a short bath and de-stress before eating.

Dinner: Lots of choices!! Consume 3-4 oz. of lean protein, sirloin, pork loin, chicken breast, shrimp, crab, tuna, any white fish.

Eat 5x’s more water-based vegetables than meat, (broccoli, garden salad, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers) a whole grain such as a baked potato, pasta, corn, peas, bread.  Avoid frying your food and enjoy the taste of grilled, broasted or baked choices.  Add olive oil or canola oil to your salads and use real butter sparingly.

Desserts?  Indulge in one individual dark Dove, Ghirardelli or other fine high quality chocolate and savor the taste.

You’re in control now.  Making the right decisions is empowering!!!

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)