Food addiction: Is it real?

It’s 10 a.m. and you’re itching for a Diet Coke. Maybe you’re holding off, trying to make it until noon to crack open your first can. Maybe you’re on your second or third, or maybe you’re heading down to the convenience store to re-fill your 32-oz. cup you bought on the way to work this morning.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

I’ve written before about my love affair with soda, and even shared tips on beating the habit. But for many people, it’s not as simple as that.

Food addiction is a complicated issue. Many people doubt its existence, saving the word “addiction” for things like cigarettes and hard drugs. But the fact is, food addiction is real, just as real as any other physical addiction, and its consequences can be dire.

Lately I’ve been realizing that I may have more food hangups than I thought. I’m not jonesing for soda like I used to be, but in the past few weeks I’ve caught myself looking for a reason to get fast food. Years ago, hitting up the drive-thru on my way to work used to be a daily occurrence. Thankfully I’ve come a long way from those days, but when I realized I’ve been having the urge just as strongly, even though I haven’t been acting on it, I recognized the fact that this is more than a run-of-the-mill craving. But there’s one more thing that makes this really look like the problem it is: In contrast, even though I love chocolate, I could take it or leave it. Same with soda, potato chips, ice cream, or any other indulgent treat. But with French fries, I can’t stop thinking about them. I plan my son’s preschool drive around which fast food chain I want to go to. I calculate whether I have enough cash on hand to grab some while I’m out on my next errand so my husband won’t know I’ve hit up fast food again. And on and on.

This, my friends, is a problem.

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21 Days to Total Health: Take the Challenge!

What can you accomplish in 21 days?

You could de-clutter every room in your house. You could walk from San Francisco to Seattle. You could write a novel. You could break or start a new habit.

Or, you could transform your body and your life forever.

I’m going to do just that — and I want you to do it with me.

On October 31st, the UC Davis Integrative Medicine 21 Food Day Challenge begins. It’s a three-week journey of 100% whole food, plant-based eating. The best part? Not only do you get a huge network of support, full of people like you who are trying this thing out together, but you’ll get everything you need to plan and prepare your meals for all 21 days. That includes checklists to help you meal plan and shop plus recipes, recipes, and more recipes — plus, the chance to win all your meals delivered to your door for FREE. In fact, the entire challenge is completely, entirely, 100% free. Continue reading

What your body needs this fall (besides pumpkin spice)

Has autumn weather found you yet?

If Instagram is any indication, the entire Western world is blissfully sipping on spiced apple cider while crunching through the leaves in cozy knitted cardigans and knee-high boots, basking in the still-warm-yet-crisp fall sunlight on their way to the farmer’s market or pumpkin patch or even a college football game.

It’s not just the dewy pictures of Instagram and Pinterest that are making me long for the idyllic traditions of fall. Autumn is a transitional season — a season of change, and not just for the natural world but for humans as well. Instinctively our bodies know this and prompt us to prepare for the coming cold months ahead.

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According to Ayurvedic tradition, fall is a time to change our daily routines and our diets to keep in harmony with the environmental changes all around us. Ayurveda is an ancient science based on elemental principles that pertain to life on earth, according to Balance & Bliss Ayurvedic Center in Tampa, Florida. “As the external environment changes during the vata (or fall) season, your internal environment can experience the same type of changes; dry leaves, dry skin; crackly leaves, crackly joints; shorter days, shorter attention span; colder days, colder extremities, windy days, windy bowels. … By observing the processes of Mother Nature, you can better understand the processes of your body, mind and spirit.”

To keep from being overcome by the negative effects of autumn, it’s important to strive for a sense of balance this time of year. This is done “by emphasizing lifestyle and food choices that are grounding, stabilizing, warming, moisturizing and softening,” according to Balance & Bliss. “You can stay calm and connected in this whirlwind season with a consistent practice that includes nourishing and protective measures.”

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8 disgusting things you’re eating on a regular basis

Do you know what really goes into your food?

It’s one thing to read food labels, but it’s quite another to understand what exactly those ingredients mean — and something else entirely to know what’s used in the process of making that food that doesn’t make it to the food label.

The Environmental Working Group is leading the charge on educating consumers about hazardous food additives, regularly publishing “The Dirty Dozen,” a list of 12 additives you should avoid and why. (You can read all about it HERE.)The dangers of such additives include hormone disruptions, developmental delays, behavioral disorders, and a host of tumors and cancers. The EWG points out that although these additives have been given the green light by the United States Food and Drug Administration, the very fact that their hazards are well-known yet allowed to be sold in our food shines a light on “some of the worst failures of the regulatory system.”

All health hazards aside, some of these additives are just plain gross. From beaver butts to bug poop, here are eight disgusting things hidden in the food you eat and the products you buy every day. Continue reading

Why I eat the way I eat

How do you know which diet is right for you?

I’m not using the word “diet” as it’s commonly known, in the way that means “eating less to lose weight.” I’m talking about “diet” in the traditional sense, meaning “habitual nourishment.”

Maybe you read a book or heard about the latest health & diet bestseller. Maybe you had a friend or family member who lost a ton of weight after changing her diet and she convinced you to give it a try. Maybe you watched a documentary or two or started following a few blogs that made you realize it’s time to re-think the way you view food.

Whether you follow a specific diet or not or whether you’ve even stopped to think about how you feed and nourish yourself, there’s one question we all need to ask ourselves: “Is this really the way I should be eating?”

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What do I have to offer?

I have this terrible feeling that I’m not good enough for you.

That I’m not enough of an expert. That I don’t provide enough detailed information, or that I provide information with so much detail that nobody will want to read what I write. That I don’t provide enough insight and tools to actually be helpful. That the message I spend my nights awake thinking about, pondering over, writing and re-writing and re-writing so as to uplift and inspire and change lives — that it actually doesn’t matter to anyone else but me.

Most of all I worry that I’m not thin enough. Or more to the point, I worry that the way I live my life isn’t inspirational enough to get anyone to take notice. Despite what I’ve said about being skinny, and despite really really meaning it, I worry that nobody will bother taking my advice on healthy eating if I’m not a perfectly toned size 2. Because isn’t the thin, sexy, smiling woman on the cookbook cover the reason we buy the book? Sure, we want to be healthy and eat well, but what we really want is to look like that. Because even though I’ve made great progress over the past 11 months, even to the point where I actually bought a bikini and wore it for the first time in public in years, I still am only a size 8-10 and can’t seem to get below 140 lbs.

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Left, July 2014. Right, July 2015.

I really worry about all this stuff because somewhere inside, I feel that if I look like this and not like Giada de Laurentiis — if the way I eat and live my life isn’t as enticing as that teeny little package — then that what I have to offer isn’t valuable. That I’m not good enough to do this thing that I’m so passionate about it makes me skip through the house with glee whenever my daily page views go above 100. Or even 50, if I’m being honest. Because if I can’t offer you that thing that every woman in America wants, what do I have to offer?

Well let me break through the fear and self-pity and tell you what I’m offering.

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Poor nutrition isn’t about fat — it’s about life and death

There are a lot of damaging lies about health and nutrition, but none as physically and emotionally crippling as this: the lie that being fat is the problem we need to solve.

It isn’t. In fact, fat is a sign that your body is out of balance and desperately trying to cope.

The ways and reasons that excess body fat accumulates should be paid urgent attention, much more than the “muffin top” or “saddlebags” we wear. An overloaded liver, unbalanced hormones, excessive stress levels, and nutritional deficiencies are just a few of the reasons our bodies are forced to create and store fat. And all of them have much more serious ramifications than we often believe.

But perhaps the biggest concern of all is that we believe fat is a matter of willpower, or lack thereof. We think that if we just stay off the sugar and carbs and spend our lives at the gym then everything will be in balance and we will be the picture of trim, slim, health and perfection.

This is far from the whole picture — and the whole picture is far more terrifying.

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You have the power to change

Three days ago I read something that made all my hair stand up on end. It wasn’t creepy or unsettling; it was a cosmic sign from the universe. In that very moment I knew that a major shift had occurred, and my purpose in life was suddenly vibrantly clear.

I was working on the materials for my nutrition class, which I currently teach to private groups in Utah (visit my Classes & Parties page for more info). I was searching for a little more hard science to back this claim by Dr. Mark Hyman, a specialist in functional medicine:

“Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair, and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat. What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just one week (or maybe two!)? That is entirely possible.”

Even though I believe this wholeheartedly and have heard this sentiment echoed in nearly all of my food and diet research (and seen it at work in my own life), I wanted to be able to share it with others in a way that would leave no doubt in their minds that food is the key to solving our health and wellness problems.

What I ended up finding astounded me.

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Everything you know about protein is wrong

When you become vegan or vegetarian, suddenly everyone becomes all concerned about your protein intake. With frenetic intensity they ask, “But where do you get your protein?” And though they seem to genuinely want to know, they’re already skeptical of the answer before they’ve even heard it.

That’s because our culture’s beliefs about animal-based proteins are so deeply entrenched that to go against them is nothing short of blasphemy. But the thing is, those beliefs are based on myths, misinformation, and lies.

The myths about protein

Take a look at the most pervasive beliefs about meat and protein:

  • Protein is only found in animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy.
  • You need to eat meat (a lot of it) to build muscle mass, and you need lots of protein to slim down.
  • Protein keeps you fuller longer.
  • The more protein in your diet the better.

And while there is plenty of testimonial and anecdotal evidence to back these claims, the most complete and un-biased research (read: the studies not commissioned by the meat industry) proves them all to be false. Let’s look at the claims one by one, paired with the truth about protein — including the facts about how much you protein you really need.

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Everything you need to know about sugar (the quick version) and the Healthy Little Changes approach

So what’s the deal with sugar? Is it really as addictive as it’s made out to be? What does it do to children other than just rev them up a bit? Can it really be that bad?

These questions and more are answered in this fabulous article “How to teach your kids about sugar” published to the Washington Post by Casey Seidenberg, co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company. Some of the questions she tackles:

  • Why do I like sugar so much?
  • What actually happens to my body when I eat sugar?
  • What short- and long-term effects does it have?
  • Will a little sugar hurt me?
  • How does sugar make me fat?
  • And what can I do about it?

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