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!







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)

Are You Goal-Minded or Wandering Aimlessly?

My husband and I have crossed this country twelve times, as well as lived and traveled extensively in Europe. During my husband’s military career, when it was necessary to transfer to a new duty station, I would always be curious about our next home. I’d research as much as I could about the area, contacting the Chamber of Commerce for information, search for a realtor and so on.

As we traveled, we always had a map and a daily mileage goal. Without an intentionally defined goal we would have wandered aimlessly. We probably wouldn’t have reached our destination without a lot of frustration.

Doesn’t that also sound like many without a clear health goal?

The same principle applies. Before a smart person can accomplish an objective, they lay out a strategy of how to get there. As much as we’d like a “beam me up Scottie” instantaneous weight loss result, it’s not going to happen this side of Heaven. Besides that, the journey is as important as the destination. If we could have instantly arrived in Monterey, California from Washington DC, we would have missed the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Graceland and so much more! What a loss.

With health goals, you’d also be missing out too. Since 0nly you physically live inside your body, only you can develop strategies, overcome challenges, gain confidence and become victorious.

Don’t make goals complicated. Start with only one and build upon it.

Write out realistic goals and track progress.

In spite of advertising claims proclaiming, “you can lose 10 pounds in a week!” it ain’t gonna happen healthily! It takes 3,500 calories less each day to lose one pound of fat. Do you even consume that many daily calories daily? (Probably the only time I did was on a cruise and I was miserable!)

A slow, steady weight loss of 2, maybe even 3 pounds per week will allow your body to adjust and keep the weight off. If you lose too quickly your metabolism slows; believing you are ill, it attempts to hoard calories as protection.

Remember anyone can lose weight on fad diets but as a nutritional counselor for over twenty years, I haven’t met ONE person who kept it off on a crazy diet. Why?

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire”  (James 1:14)

Analyze why you eat as you do, (another blog.)

Eat for nutrients!

If you consume good quality nutrients, your body receives all you need for healthy living, creating an active metabolism. Then you’ll overcome cravings when, for example, your brain’s hypothalamus nags you for magnesium. Of course broccoli contains magnesium, so does chocolate – which one do you think you’ll choose?

Create small, reachable goals and make them fun!

Create a weekly spread-sheet chart. For each pound lost, fill in a block. For every five pounds you lose, reward yourself with a non-food reward. The more lost, the larger the reward: bath salts, body lotion, nail polish, new scarf, a book (maybe mine?) a CD, DVD . . . then a BRAND NEW CAR . . . sorry just kidding.

One important factor in weight loss: the only good diet is one you’ll be able to live on forever. God doesn’t expect you to suffer through rice cakes, sticks and twigs. He provided a bounty of natural, fantastic foods to enjoy. The more your body consumes nutritious choices, the more junk food cravings will disappear. Trust me, it happened to me.

Lastly, establish a close support group of positive, encouraging friends!

“Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.” (Proverbs 11:14)


Controlling Blood Sugar Produces Greater Weight Loss

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.”  (Psalm 139:14)

In order to derive the most benefit from nutrients, food must be broken down by enzymes. Specific ones are absorbed through the small intestine. A clean intestinal system will absorb nutrients quickly to jump-start your metabolism. Thus physiologically we lose weight faster.

But how do we do that? By first consuming fiber!

Fiber is essential in fostering good health and here’s why:

Suppose you had a garbage disposal in your home and nonchalantly threw scraps of food particles into it but never turned it on; what would happen?  It would build up, attract bugs and smell horrible!  And then when you finally did flip the switch, it would start grinding so slowly it might even stop if it’s too clogged.  Then you would have to snake out trapped particles or use something chemically to unclog it.

When one consumes mainly meat, fats, processed and low fiber foods, the intestines get clogged.  It’s harder therefore to move those through the colon. Since your body won’t absorb nutrients which are vital to life, your brain’s hypothalamus nags you to eat more food in search of necessary energy, thus you eat more calories but absorb fewer nutrients.

(Our digestive system is extremely complex so this is a simplified explanation.)

Strive to eat more fiber and keep your entire system working on less! Normally we need 25-35 grams of various fibers daily (approximately 4 grams equal one teaspoon.)

God advised Adam in Genesis 1:29 to consume whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs . . .  all fiber producing elements.  That’s why He placed Adam in a Garden – all our life-sustaining nutrients are available!

There is no fiber in protein or fat. Sorry, no matter how tough that meat was, there’s no fiber in its content.

There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Usually fruits, vegetables and whole grains include combinations of both.

Soluble fiber turns into a gel and helps lower one’s cholesterol.  Think apples, oranges, pears, beans and oats – all excellent sources of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber keeps our blood sugar levels steady so it’s easier to stand up to temptations. It also reduces the treacherous LDL cholesterol! Think of it as Liquid Plumr.

Insoluble fiber stays intact, it doesn’t break up as it travels through our system.  Think corn which basically exits intact. Whole grains such as potatoes, legumes, apple peels, beans and bran cereals are other excellent sources. Insoluble fiber  draws water into the intestines, making stools bulkier and easier to pass. It’s like Roto-Rooter.

Increase daily water content. If you ever dropped a piece of bread into the sink and watched it swell as water touched it, that’s what happens to fiber in your system. Fiber expands, creating a feeling of fullness. Fiber allows insulin to be released more slowly into your system, discouraging uncontrolled cravings.

If you consume a piece of fruit, add a bit of protein along with it such as a touch of peanut butter or piece of cheese. When choosing bread, remember the heavier the bread, the more fiber it contains.

If 60% of your daily calorie intake contains fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you’ll reduce your risk of colon cancer, heart disease, constipation, obesity, hemorrhoids and many other diseases. Remember, a man reaps what he sows, so strive to eat healthier to increase energy and lose weight.

Warning:  Increase fiber gradually. Excessive fiber intake may decrease the absorption of zinc, iron and calcium as well as promoting more gas. Take vitamin and mineral supplements separately from fiber.

Caffeine and the Coffee Balancing Act

Becoming healthy a personal choice. I’ve often stated that I can’t make anyone healthy. Someone must want a healthy lifestyle more than I want it for them. I attempt to encourage, lead in the right direction, explain physiology, warn against nutritional fallacies and set a good example but ultimately it’s a personal decision as to what one’s diet consists of.

It seems something “new” comes out weekly. A recent study stated that coffee was now the panacea to good health. It’s actually good for us! scientists declared.

Well of course it is good for us – it was already in the Garden of Eden when God told Adam:   “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”  (Genesis 1:29)  The coffee bean comes from a seed-bearing plant, (which depending on the type, grows anywhere from 5-18 feet tall.)

Be careful however. Human nature, being what it is, perceives if something’s good, more has to be even better.This pertains to that “new” eye-opening scientific report on coffee too.

What we choose is not always beneficial to or health. He encouraged us to eat in moderation for He would never encourage us to consume something that would harm us. That’s our Choice!

One of my patients drank 30 cups of coffee per day. That’s certainly not “moderation.” To her it became a very unproductive choice. By consuming that much caffeine it depleted her B vitamins. So what you ask? Well the most important function of B vitamins is to convert fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy.

Therefore, no B vitamins, no metabolic function. Caffeine is a natural diuretic and her B vitamins were lost through urination.  She was spinning her wheels, going nowhere and didn’t realize why.

When metabolic nutrients are lost, the body hungers for extra food to regulate and energize its system. Everything she consumed went directly to caloric intake without outgo; therefore she was gaining weight. No diet plan would help until she got her coffee addiction under control.

A quick withdrawal from coffee addiction wasn’t an option.  Caffeine is a drug and with any drug there are side effects. A cold-turkey approach would leave her shaking, jittery, cranky and downright unpleasant to be around. A gradual reduction was the only alternative. It took months to re-establish her metabolic functions to normal; then she could begin to lose weight.

Imbibing caffeine above normal consumption depletes calcium from bones. I happen to be small boned and am very susceptible to osteoporosis. Therefore, based on my size and weight, I usually limit my coffee intake to 2 cups per day.

Then why do experts say it’s good for us? Because it is in moderation.

Coffee contains many beneficial nutrients including some 50 cent words such as tocopherols, (antioxidants which protect against cell damage) chlorogenic acid (which protects against tumor growth.)

Coffee contains two chemicals, kahweol and cafestrol, which seems to provide some cancer protection as well as anti-inflammatory properties.

Anything extracted from the soil contain valuable nutrients. Coffee beans contain magnesium,  calcium, phosphorus and antioxidants.

Coffee invigorates your brain’s cognitive function which is why we prefer this drink as our morning wake-up call.

It’s a safe stimulant for the bowels and assists the digestive system. It’s a natural diuretic removing excess toxins from the kidneys and liver.

But jumping on the bandwagon thinking, “Great, coffee’s good for me so now I can drink all the coffee I want” is ludicrous.

There must be balance!





Fact or Culinary Manipulation?

A patient of mine mistakenly believed in order to lose weight he would have to suffer. He explained he only darkened my office door to please his wife. He promised her he’d listen to me for three weeks and then leave. It reminded me of the old western joke, “We’ll give him a fair trial and then we’ll hang ’em!” I explained contrary to belief, he wouldn’t be eating “sticks and twigs.” Over the next year he and his wife became two of my favorite patients.

Why do some believe the “penance principle?” Anything is fine in moderation!  Remember we are each unique. No specific formula will work for everyone so there is no “one-size fits all” method.

Unfortunately many dieters I’ve counseled have followed diets (some outright dangerous) without thinking. Where are valuable nutrients??? I don’t care if it worked for Oprah or some other famous person; celebrities aren’t always correct. I’ve even seen some well-known health professionals subliminally manipulate results to prove their point.

Take for example a segment I watched on the Dr. Oz show while I waited to see the optometrist. It was on the benefits of chicken skin, long considered to be off-limits.

Okay, I thought, anything is fine in moderation; this will be interesting.

The good doctor chose three women from the audience and asked them which serving plate on the counter looked more appetizing  Displayed were three separate creations of two different recipes. One serving was featured on a paler colored plate and in my estimation looked pretty blah. The other was displayed on a vibrantly colored plate.

Each chose the brightly colored plate every time. To me it seemed the results were skewed to produce a positive result of one over the other. The brightly colored plate made the selection naturally more appealing and you guessed it, the brighter one featured the chicken skin portion.

I was sitting next to a woman who leaned over and quietly revealed, “I’m a nurse; we were required to only take one class in nutrition. I never knew this. Isn’t this amazing?” Then she got called for her appointment. So I continued to watch the program by myself, extolling the benefits of chicken skin.

As I watched, I don’t remember the doctor mentioning portion size, only that chicken skin contained 50 more calories than skinless chicken. So chicken skin only has 5o extra calories? Mmm, I wondered, for how many ounces? I don’t recall hearing that. I’m sure if you purchase chicken breasts, you notice size varies widely.The difference: a 3 ounce breaded, fried chicken breast is around 120 calories.

Nor do I remember him stating or suggesting how the chicken was prepared. That definitely makes a difference! Was the serving floured, breaded,  grilled, deep or battered-fried? Was it prepared in butter, oil, grease, PAM. (FYI: the more natural the better – butter has nutrients, kitchen sprays have artificial chemicals. You make the call.)

Fat will keep us fuller longer, that’s true. Fat remains in our system from 5-7 hours. There are also plenty of vitamins and minerals in chicken skin, including niacin, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium (the feel-good nutrient.)  If I ever consume the skin I prefer it grilled on broasted.

My point is to not condemn Dr. Oz. He has valuable information on his show and a limited time to present it. My intention is to protect against the snare by half-truths. Always question everything and do your research!

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.”  (Proverbs 27: 10,11)