Perfectionism and Certain Thought Patterns Predict Binge Eating

-Neil Petersen

Who is most at risk for engaging in binge eating, or compulsive overeating?

Two articles published in the January edition of the journal Eating Behaviors are shedding light on this question.

The first, by researchers from Canada, homes in on the link between binge eating and perfectionism. Previous research has suggested a connection between the two, but it hasn’t been clear which way the causation goes: does being perfectionistic make people more likely to binge eat, or do people become more perfectionistic in response to binge eating?

If the former sounds more plausible to you, you’re right!

The study, which followed 200 undergraduate women for a month, showed that having more perfectionistic concerns predisposes people to binge eating. However, the opposite is not true – binge eating does not increase people’s perfectionistic concerns.

This result indicates that perfectionism, and in particular “negative” perfectionism – being self-critical, obsessing over mistakes, etc. – can put people at risk for binge eating.

The second study published identified another factor that might make people more susceptible to compulsive overeating: certain patterns in the way people think about food.

One of these patterns has to do with what psychologists call desire thinking. Desire thinking is related to craving. As the name suggests, it involves thinking about and imagining something you want. It has been linked to addiction and compulsive behaviors.

In this case, the researchers found that desire thinking about food is related to binge eating. People who engage in more food desire thinking are more likely to engage in binge eating.

A second thought pattern, food thought suppression, also ups people’s risk. Once again, the name tells most of the story: food thought suppression means intentionally avoiding thoughts about food.

Together, these studies point to several ways people’s thought patterns and attitudes predict compulsive overeating. Some of the patterns that put people at risk (food desire thinking and food thought suppression) have to do with food specifically, while others (perfectionistic concerns) have to do with how people go through life more generally. In all cases, though, understanding these risk factors for binge eating should make it easier for professionals to recognize and treat binge eating.

Stop Overeating by Learning How to Manage Your Energy

-Ann Kearney Cook

You can do it!

Join me in my office as I consult with Sharon (name changed for privacy), a 32-year old unmarried woman with a history of depression and binge eating. When we first met, Sharon reported that while she’d had solid control of her eating habits for five years, over the last several months she experienced a major relapse.

She said:

“I don’t know what has happened to me. When I am eating I feel completely out of control. It’s like I have to continue binge-eating more and more until I experience physical pain. Only then am I able to stop eating.”

When I asked her if there had been any major changes in her life over the last year, she shared that she’d received a promotion at work, which was great, but that, “In this new position I have to act overly happy and positive all the time. It’s not my nature to be ‘Suzy Sunshine,’ so I’m exhausted by the end of each day.”

She also shared that she skipped meals at work and binged in the evening. Then she withdrew from others over the weekend because she was absolutely exhausted.

After empathizing with how out of control she felt and how scary that must be, I shared that managing your energy throughout the day increases willpower — and is essential for overcoming overeating.

Willpower, like a muscle, can be fatigued over the course of the day.

Your capacity to make good decisions decreases when your willpower is depleted. Willpower is limited and whittled away by exhaustion and the everyday demands of life.

Examples of activities that can deplete willpower include:

  • Demanding work projects
  • Excessive chores
  • Trying to act happy when you really are depressed
  • Resisting food present in your environment when you’re not actually hungry
  • Unpleasant tasks
  • Unhealthy relationships

Once willpower is depleted, you are at greater risk for self-destructive behaviors such as binge eating, over drinking, and losing your temper.

Sharon and I then worked together to create five strategies for managing her energy throughout the day.

  1. She decided that every two hours at work she would read something brief and empowering. Then she would stretch, and watch a funny video on YouTube, or perhaps she would meditate or pray.
  2. She agreed to drink lots of water during the day to stay hydrated and energetic.
  3. She selected and paid for a meal service that would bring her three healthy meals a day. She committed to stop skipping meals.
  4. She made plans to get together with friends one night each weekend to do something fun.
  5. She returned to attending church on a regular basis.
  6. She made a concerted effort to get out in nature more.

These strategies replenished her energy throughout the day so her willpower was not depleted in the evening.

Acting in this manner helped her maintain energy all day. With a new capacity to manage her energy, Sharon had more willpower to make healthy choices about food and other areas of her life.

Our ‘Second Brain’ – And Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Mood

-Karen, Hey Sigmund

Hidden in the walls of our digestive system is something extraordinary. Scientists have known about it for a while, but new technology is taking the research to the cutting edge. What is being discovered there will revolutionise the way we think about mental and physical health.

What happens in our head has a lot to do with what’s happening further south, in what scientists affectionately call ‘the brain in our gut’. It has a strong connection to the brain in our head and together, they are key players in mood, and mental health.

The brain in our gut, or the second brain as it is also called, is made up of more 200-600 million neurons, arranged in the intricately folded tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract. With firepower like that, it’s not surprising that the gut does so much more than deal with food and the messier parts of being human.

It plays a critical role in mental and emotional functioning by sending information to the brain and directly influencing things like feelings of stress, anxiety and sadness, as well as memory, decision-making and learning. The brain in our gut is not capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our main brain, playing a critical role in our mental and emotional well-being.

Unhappy mind. Unhappy belly. Which comes first?

It’s no secret that anxiety, stress and depression often bring unhappy bellies with them, by way of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and pain. For decades, doctors thought that stress, anxiety and depression were the cause, but now it seems that it’s actually the other way around. Irritation in the gastrointestinal system seems to send signals to the brain that trigger mood changes. We know that probiotics seem to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression and this might be why.

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Anxiety, Depression and the Surprising Role of Gut Bacteria

The gut is not only important for physical health, it’s also critical for mental health. What’s fascinating is the direction of influence. The longest nerve exiting the brain is called the vagus (actually they are one pair of 12 pairs of nerves that run from the brain). It runs from the brainstem to the belly and touches the heart and most major organs along the way. Here’s the fascinating part. About 90% of the fibres in the vagus, carry information from the internal organs in the chest (such as the heart) and the abdomen to the brain, not the other way around.

Our language holds evidence of this – we were talking about it well before we knew it. If you’ve ever been directed by ‘gut instinct’, ‘gone with your gut’ to make a decision, or ‘listened to your heart’, you’re likely getting signals from this second brain in your belly.

Messages also travel the other way, from the brain to the heart and the gut, also via the vagus nerve but without a doubt, the main direction of information flow is from the gut to the brain.

The Role of Gut Bacteria.

As well as neurons, there is another major player in the gut-brain connection – the 100 trillion bacteria that set up home inside your gut. According to professor of physiology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA, Emeran Mayer, gut bacteria contains phenomenal wisdom that gets sent to the brain. They affect our behaviour every minute of every day from the day we are born, and possibly before.

A Fascinating Study: From Extroversion to Introversion via the Gut

Mayer’s research has shown how the specific combinations of bacteria in the gut might influence the wiring of the brain, and in turn affect such things as temperament, mood and learning. Other researchers have also explored a possible connection between gut bacteria and behaviour, and they’ve made some remarkable discoveries.

In one study, when the gut bacteria of timid mice was transferred into the gut of extroverted mice those extroverted mice became more anxious. It also worked the other way. When the timid mice received the gut bacteria of the bold mice, the timid mice because more bold and extroverted. Aggressive mice calmed down when scientists adjusted the their gut bacteria by giving them probiotics or antibiotics.

Another Study: The Connection Between Gut Bacteria and Temperament

Research has found correlations between temperament and the presence of specific intestinal bacteria in toddlers, particularly boys. The connection was independent of history of breastfeeding, diet and the method of childbirth. Here’s what they found:

  • The children with the most genetically diverse types of gut bacteria were more positive, curious, sociable and impulsive.
  • In boys, extroversion was associated with an abundance of particular types of bacteria (Rikenellaceae and Ruminococcaceae families and Dialister and Parabacteroides genera).
  • In girls, self-restraint, cuddliness and focussed attention were associated with a lower diversity of gut bacteria.
  • Girls with an abundance of a particular family of bacteria (Rikenellaceae) seemed to be more fearful than girls who had a more balanced diversity of microbes.

This research is still in its early days, so we still don’t know what a healthy tummy would look like in terms of the combination of gut bacteria, or what factors would influence this. It is possible that the perfect balance of microbiome will vary for all of us. For this reason, the researchers caution against trying to change a child’s gut microbiome just yet.

The Gut and Depression.

Depression is widely attributed to a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for mood. What’s extraordinary is that only 5% of the body’s serotonin is stored in the brain. The other 95% of the body’s serotonin is stored in the gut.

It’s not surprising then, that the most commonly used antidepressants that work on changing serotonin levels often come with a side of gastrointestinal issues. It’s also not surprising that the gut might play more of a role in depression than we yet realise. Research continues to look down this track for answers.

The Gut and Anxiety.

Researchers have found that young adults who eat more fermented foods (which contain probiotics) have fewer symptoms of social anxiety. As explained by Psychology Professor Matthew Milimire, ‘It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favourably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety … the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind.’

Food and the Comfort Factor.

The need for comfort rarely sees us diving for the celery. Pity. Instead, ‘comfort food’ tends to be high fat, high energy food.

The relationship between food and mood isn’t all in our heads. Yes comfort food tastes delicious, smells delicious and might remind us of times we felt happy and secure, but there’s so much more to it than that, as a team of  Belgian researchers have shown.

The researchers delivered nutrients to the stomachs of participants via a nasogastric tube, with the intention of taking away the smells, tastes and memories that are typically associated with comfort food. The participants were given either ordinary saline solution or an infusion of fatty acids.  Without knowing what they were receiving through the tube, those who received the fatty acids reported half the levels of sadness and hunger compared to those who received the saline. This also showed up in brain scans. Very quickly after fatty acids hit the stomach, scans showed greater activity in the part of the brain that moderates emotions.

Stress and Food

Early research found that stressed-out mice would opt for a higher-fat food (peanut butter) over regular chow. Not surprisingly, they put on more weight than their less stressed friends. In times of stress, the gut amps up the production of ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger to the brain. Research in humans has found similar results. In a recent study, couples were found to have significantly higher amounts of the appetite-triggering hormone following an argument. The researchers stop short of suggesting that unhealthy relationships cause poor food choices, but they acknowledge that the correlation is a strong one.

There seems to be little doubt that one of the ways stress influences behaviour is via the gut, specifically on the production of ghrelin, which sends messages to the brain around appetite and food choices.

Could gut bacteria be behind this?

Mayer points out that the last 50 years has seen a dramatic rise in autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons and obesity. All of these have altered gut bacteria and brain-gut interactions. At the same time, throughout the last fifty years, we have dramatically changed the way our food is produced and processed, and the way we use antibiotics. Has the way we’re doing things lead to the dramatic increases? At this stage, it’s only speculation, but it’s an area of research that is gaining traction.

Where to now?

Mental health is not all in our head. Neither is mental illness. Finally, science is giving us real proof of this. There is little doubt that mental and emotional health is influenced by the state of our gut. The research is exciting and is promising to revolutionise treatments for a range of conditions and the way we take care of our mental health.

The research is constantly evolving, but what we know for sure is the importance of  being attentive to the state of the gut and doing what we can to keep it healthy. It holds our second brain, and quite possibly, one of the vital keys to our mental and emotional well-being.

An Effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Tool to Help You Stop Emotional Eating

-Karina Melvin, MSc, MA

Artful Eating ABC SHEET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are all familiar with the term “emotional eating” and it’s the number one reason why people eat when they are not hungry. I’m going to share an effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tool which will help you address the triggers that lead to emotional eating. 

It’s really important to be able to discern between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and to be able to address the cause of the emotional eating.  While the two sensations feel very similar, it is only as we become attuned to our body that we can differentiate between them.

The biggest problem with emotional eating is that it does not make you feel better, less stressed, whole, or happy. Unfortunately, it has the exact opposite effect, and actually makes you feel worse. After eating something due to an emotional trigger you end up feeling guilty and frustrated with yourself.

Two simple principles to help you distinguish between emotional hunger and actual hunger:

  1. Emotional hunger is a sudden and impulsive feeling.

Whereas actual hunger is gradual and doesn’t become urgent until you are starving. Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some emotional trigger is involved.

  1. Emotional hunger cannot be satiated with food.

When you eat as a result of an emotional trigger, as opposed to a physical trigger, you will find that you can continue eating. You may be familiar indeed with bingeing, which is an extreme form of emotional eating. This is where you can eat the whole packet of biscuits and not feel satisfied. Food cannot fill the emotional deficit that you are experiencing. Physical hunger is easily satiated and once you eat something the feeling of hunger is replaced by a feeling of fullness.

Like anything, the more you practice tuning into your body the easier it will be to identify emotional hunger.

How to overcome emotional eating?

Two simple and extremely effective steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Recognize and address emotional triggers

The most important thing when it comes to addressing emotional eating is awareness.

Put your attention right now into your body.

Put your attention right now in your stomach.

Are you hungry right now for food at this moment?

Every time you’re about to put food in your body, ask yourself, am I hungry right now?

How hungry am I?

What am I hungry for?

Use the huger scale to establish when to eat, this is a powerful tool which you can find out more about here. 

Emotional hunger is different.

Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some emotional trigger is involved. If you trace back your thoughts to the moment before you felt the urge, you’ll discover that there was a dialogue taking place in your mind. So many people turn to food as a way of trying to cope with something else that they are struggling with.

Whenever you feel yourself getting stressed, anxious, sad, bored, upset, or are experiencing pangs of emotional hunger I have a very effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy exercise that I want you to use. It’s called an ABC sheet. My clients absolutely love this tool and find it extremely helpful in addressing emotional hunger, so please use it!

The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help recognize and address the triggers that lead to emotional eating.

Below there is an example of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to address emotional eating. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do.  Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing the pangs of emotional hunger. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings.

 

Artful Eating ABC SHEET

Whenever you notice yourself feeling at that point where you want to eat for emotional reasons, as opposed to feelings of actual hunger, do an ABC Sheet. Whether it be boredom, sadness, emptiness, stress, loneliness, anger…or whatever the feeling is!  To see a filled-in example, click here.

This very simple formula can help you overcome emotional eating:

  1. Differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger
  2. Use the ABC sheet whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger

By now I hope you are clear on how to differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and you have a powerful tool to use whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger.

Over the next week I want you to really start to listen to your body and check in every little while and practice body awareness. If you recognize that you’re not actually hungry, don’t eat!

If you recognize that you are experiencing a craving due to emotional hunger, then I want you to pull out a piece of paper and go through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ABC exercise. It’s really important that you physically write out the exercise as opposed to just thinking it. The idea here is that you are interrupting the feelings, acknowledging, and addressing them. This will help combat the need to fill the feeling with food and will help you overcome emotional eating for good!

Why You Eat Too Much…and What Can Help

Flogging yourself to diet won’t work.

I’m one of those people who eat too much. I’m hoping that writing this will help me as well as you.

1.  Do you rationalize eating fattening things?  For example, when I have spare time and I’m near a favorite restaurant, I rationalize, “Well, I have time to kill and I’m here, so why not take the opportunity to eat here?” Answer: Because I’ll get fatter than if I drive home and eat the healthy stuff.

Another rationalization: “Being moderately overweight won’t hurt me.” Perhaps you focus on that aberrant study that found that being modestly overweight won’t hurt you. Alas, many more studies make clear that even being moderately overweight increases your risk of those lovely diseases: heart attack, cancer, and diabetes.

Or do you rationalize, “One cheat won’t hurt me?” It won’t, but almost no one with a weight problem cheats just occasionally. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be overweight. In fact, each time you cheat reduces the average time between cheats—you unconsciously figure, “I cheated and survived, so I can cheat again.”

Yet another rationalization: “I’m not really hungry now but I’ll eat something now so that later I won’t be ravenous” I know that they tell you to eat lots of small meals but I, at least, find that if I preemptively eat, I end up not eating less later, so the net result is: more calories consumed.

A final rationalization:” If I don’t eat enough now, I’ll be hungry soon.” Ridiculous. Better a small meal. If I’m hungry sooner, I can eat something little then. And chances are I’ll consume less total calories.

How you do rationalize overeating? Write it here: ___________________________

Might being aware of your rationalizations help you more than it’s helped me so far?

2. Do you forget to be “good?” Many people, including me, go into a meal with good intentions but when into it, forget and keep porking long after hunger has subsided.

Possible solution #1: Serve yourself the portion you think is right and put the rest away. If you’re in a restaurant, ask for a takeout container as soon as your entrée is served and put the extra in there before you start stuffing your face. I have never done either. Let’s see writing this makes me.

Possible solution #2: MyFitnessPal.com or LoseIt.com. You enter everything you eat and it calculates the calories consumed. You can also enter your weight lost (or gained),and share your progress with your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter connections. LoseIt.com also keeps track of your exercising. It’s hard for me to imagine entering everything but those sites claim they’ve helped many people lose weight. Then again, lots of sites make lots of claims.  I’ve decided to enter my daily weight gain and loss as comments on this blog post. Perhaps my not wanting to be seen as a hypocrite, not practicing what I preach will motivate me to be good.

3. Do you get enough feedback?

I tried weighing myself every morning but when I was bad the previous day, I couldn’t make myself get on the scale. But if you think a daily weigh-in might work for you, the aforementioned MyFitnessPal.com and LoseIt.com will chart your weight loss…and your weight gain—if you’re disciplined enough to record that.

We may need even shorter-term feedback. For example, remember that you get an attaboy/girl every time you feel hungry. It means your diet is working—you haven’t eaten before you’re hungry. Every time you put on your clothes, they’ll fit a little more comfortably. Every time you walk by someone, if you’re a little thinner, know that–unfortunate but true–many people will think more positively about you.

4. Do you eat so quickly that you’ve eaten too many calories by the time you feel full?

I have no idea how to solve this one. I can’t seem to make myself use such techniques as putting your fork down between each bite and an electronic HapiFork that’s suppposed to buzz and flash when you eat too fast. (Note: Half of Hapifork’s reviewers on Amazon don”t recommend it.)

5. Do you treat food as a reward, even when you’re not hungry?

Yup.

Possible solution #1: Keep a bag of baby carrots or other tolerable low-cal food within easy reach, for example, eye-level in your fridge.That sometimes works for me but, too often, I eat the carrots and then look for something good.

Possible solution #2: Keep a list of non-food rewards on your desk or on a Post-it hung at the base of your computer monitor. My list of non-calorific rewards: garden, play with the dog, take a walk, play on the Internet for a few minutes.

6. Do you suffer from the “finish your plate” syndrome? I will finish what’s on my plate even when I’m quite full. That’s not because my mother told me “People are starving in Africa.” It’s unconsciously because I think of finishing my plate as a task to be completed, and I don’t like to keep tasks uncompleted. Also, I don’t like to waste things. Both reasonings are stupid. For example, it’s better that those extra 500 calories get saved for the next meal or even thrown out than to make myself fatter. But that irrational thinking is alive and well within me and perhaps you.

Possible solution: Perhaps you and I can quell that tendency by staying aware of it.

7. Do you keep dangerous foods at home? Cheese is my enemy. I rarely buy it because if I do, a half-pound will be gone in a day. I have absolutely no willpower. Cheese rules me.

I try to keep mainly low-calorie foods in my house–yes, that means fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

8. Are you aware of your danger times? For example, after you’ve had a glass of wine or a joint? Those lower your inhibitions. Is that one more reason you should reduce or stop using those substances?

9. Do you need others’ support?

Many people are helped by having someone to be accountable to. Can’t find a loving taskmaster? You might try http://www.weightlossbuddy.com You get paired with a fellow loser—you know what I mean.

Others find useful support in a structured program such as Overeaters Anonymous or Weight Watchers, with its added social pressure of live weekly weigh-ins.

10. Do you keep top-of-mind your key reason to lose weight? Looks, health, romance, whatever.

That hasn’t helped me either. I tell myself to use the cognitive-behavioral strategy of saying aloud, with feeling, my prime reason for losing weight: fear of dying, yet I don’t do it.

It’s crazy–I’m terrified of dying yet I overeat. I’m an idiot.

A promise

Let’s try this. As I mentioned above, I’m going to promise you that I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning, note it in the comment section below and then keep reporting back to you. You feel free to do the same.

Update a month later: 5/12/14

I’ve lost only 2 pounds. A reader deemed my effort a failure yesterday, which, paradoxically is motivating me to try harder. It’s scary to accept that I’ll never lose the 20 pounds.

Also, I’ve learned that I must stop rationalizing that I’m not that overweight. I must remember that carrying around 20 extra pounds 24/7 is damn unhealthy, especially when you’re getting older–I’ll be 64 next month.

It may help to gamefy: To see how long I can go without eating and how few calories I can eat (both, of course, within healthy limits such as no eating for six hours and aiming for a total of 1,200 calories a day.

Update 5/14/14

I just wrote these to try to help me lose weight. Some are redundant with the above. But might any help you?

Think about how unhealthy it is to carry 20 extra pounds, 24/7 for life?

Play a game: See if you can delay eating until you have actual hunger pangs.

When you need a break but aren’t really hungry, take a walk or play with the dog.

When hungry, first think coffee or chewing gum?

Then try a bit of deferral: “I’ll eat in 10 min.” Maybe you’ll get involved

When you eat: stay vigilant until you stop eating: Eat only good stuff and only until you’re not hungry, NOT until you’re full.

Update 6/12/14

One other technique that’s helping a BIT: I keep repeating to myself, “Start with veggies.” If I eat veggies first, I get fuller with low-calorie food and so maybe I won’t eat so many calories by the time my meal is over.

It’s still a massive struggle. In the two months, I’ve now lost a total of only 3.8 pounds. I’m at 192.2. And truly, today seemed anomalously low. Tomorrow, I could be 193 or even 194 without having been bad.

Update 10/24/14

I haven’t lost any weight and I’m–pardon the pun–at a loss to explain why. It really speaks to the limitations of advice-giving. I know a lot about how to lose weight but, in the end, cannot often enough muster the discipline.

Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to his articles here on PsychologyToday.com, many more of Marty Nemko’s writings are archived on http://www.martynemko.com. Of Nemko’s seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. His bio is on Wikipedia.

The Surprising Role of Nutrition in Mental Health

If you’ve been reading my blog for a month or more, you know that I have found nutrition to be a powerful force in my recovery from depression. Since 2008, I haven’t responded to medications or have had only a minimal, partial response, so I have been on a mission — for myself and for the millions of other people with treatment-resistant depression — to find other, drug-free ways to lift debilitating depression.

Recently I have been following the research of Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, who conducts compelling studies using micronutrients — vitamins and minerals in small quantities — to treat depression and other serious mood disorders.

You can check out Dr. Rucklidge’s research as part of the work conducted by the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group, and the blog that she writes with Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD, for Mad in America. Rucklidge recently delivered a fascinating TEDx talk about the role of nutrition in treating mental illness. I interview her here so that she can share her research with you.

Therese Borchard: Your research is fascinating. I couldn’t stop reading. If you had to pick two breakthrough studies that you would like everyone who has ever been depressed or has been a loved one of someone depressed read, which studies would you choose?

Julia Rucklidge: The study by Felice Jacka and others published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2010 had a tremendous impact when it was published. The study demonstrated an association between habitual diet quality and the high prevalence of mental disorders.

I conducted a study in 2012 showing a simple intervention of micronutrients following a natural disaster reduced stress and anxiety and improved mood over just a four-week period. The ADHD randomized clinical trial showed that for those who entered the trial depressed, twice as many went into remission in their depression for those taking the micronutrients compared with those taking placebo.

TB: You said something in your TED talk that intrigued me. You said medications work better initially than they do over time, that drugs save lives, but they often fail to work on a long-term basis. Can you say more about that, and point us to the studies that you mentioned as part of your talk?

JR: We all know of people who have benefited from medications and who would swear that the medication saved them. These reports are really important and there are people who benefit in the long-term. I am sure every psychiatrist has patients like that. But if we look at the data and the published literature, the situation is more uncomfortable.

Stimulants. Most people know that Ritalin is a drug prescribed to treat ADHD. It is typically viewed as the most efficacious drug in child psychiatry because it works quickly. Parents and teachers alike often report a dramatic change in a child who begins taking it. It has been used to treat hyperactivity for almost 80 years but surprisingly, only in the last decade are we learning about the long-term outcomes of people treated with it.

In the United States, there is large clinical trial that has followed 579 ADHD children who were initially randomized for 14 months to receiving various treatments, including medications and psychological treatments. In the first 14 months, those on medications did the best and this reinforced the perception that medications should be the primary way to treat ADHD. But at the end of 36 months, medication use was a significant marker not of beneficial outcome, but of deterioration. That is, participants using medication in the 24-to-36 month period following randomization actually showed increased ADHD symptoms during that interval relative to those not taking medication. Medicated children were also slightly smaller and had higher delinquency scores. At the end of six years, medication use was “associated with worse hyperactivity-impulsivity and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms,” and with greater “overall functional impairment.”

Similarly, in Canada, the Quebec Naturalistic Study found that medicated ADHD girls are more likely to be depressed compared with those not medicated, and boys who are medicated are more likely to drop out of school than those unmedicated. In other words, both of these studies show that while kids do well in the short-term on these medications, in the long-term they do worse.

Antidepressants. In 2012, about half a million New Zealanders were taking an antidepressant, a rate 38 percent higher than five years previously. But despite this increasing reliance on these drugs, outcomes for depressed people can be worse than they were before the advent of antidepressants. In 2014, a paper in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry compared the outcomes of people who were depressed prior to the advent of antidepressants with the outcomes of people who were depressed since the widespread use of antidepressants. If the drugs are working, then the recovery rates and relapse rates should be better now than 50 years ago. They aren’t. This review provided no support for the belief that pharmacological treatments have resulted in an improvement in the long-term outcome of patients with mood disorders.

Other research shows that in some cases, antidepressants have altered the course of disease in negative ways. For example, young people prescribed antidepressants are more likely to convert to bipolar illness than those not medicated. A study in 2004 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine showed that those people with anxiety and depression who were treated with antidepressants converted to bipolar illness at a rate of 7.7 percent per year, three times the rate for those not exposed to the drugs, with pre-pubertal children at highest risk for conversion. These means antidepressants are a risk factor for developing another psychiatric illness, bipolar disorder.

Antipsychotics. Similar to prescription trends around the world, prescription rates for antipsychotics more than doubled in this country from 2006 to 2011. But are these medications helping patients in the long-term? Aside from the serious side effects such as weight gain and increased risk for diabetes, a study that came out last year in JAMA Psychiatry should make us seriously consider whether long-term use of these drugs is doing more harm than good. The study was a seven year follow up of a randomized controlled trial and demonstrated that those people with schizophrenia who were randomized to dose reduction or discontinuation of drugs were twice as likely to recover as those who remained at their original dose of medications. Again, we see that medications are increasing relapse rates in the long-term.

TB: You presented at the last American Psychiatric Association conference about using micronutrient to treat depression and said the reception among psychiatrists was better than previous years. Do you think that the more data we have to support the use of micronutrients, the more doctors will introduce this concept? Or will the information not get through because the profit margins aren’t the same as with pharmaceutical medication?

JR: I think there are a lot of challenges to this work becoming mainstream and for physicians to start suggesting it in their mainstream practices. There will be concerns about it not being evidence-based or that they may be liable if something goes wrong. There is also the challenge of which formula to recommend? Which blend of nutrients? However, given that there are quite a few people writing about psychiatry under the influence of drug companies, maybe there will be a change in behavior. Perhaps if there could be independent reviews of whether what we currently do is working people might pay attention to the fact that we have a seriously comprised system for treating people with mental health issues.

TB: What else would you like people to know about treating depression and other mood disorders with micronutrients?

JR: I think it is worth giving it a go first to seriously change diet and if necessary, try a broad spectrum micronutrient supplement, and if that approach doesn’t work, then there is always medication to fall back on.

Schools Out, But the Same Rules Apply!

Tips for preventing summer weight gain in children

Some may blame the school lunch food and lack of recess during the year for the increased rates of overweight and obesity during childhood. With many budget cuts, gym classes are one of the first classes to get the boot. Children end up being sedentary most of the day during school- except when they change classes and go to lunch. Sadly, this sedentary behavior often continues on after school, when many kids go home to play video games or watch TV for most of the night. So now that school is basically out for the summer, kids should not gain excess weight- right? Wrong! Many studies show that kids actually gain more weight in the summer than they do during the school year . So what can be done to prevent excessive weight gain during the summer?

Serve appropriate portions:

Don’t worry- measuring food is not necessary. Measuring food is not realistic in the long term for adults, and it’s definitely not realistic for kids (nor should it be!) and measuring in of it self doesn’t teach kids WHAT foods are healthy. Instead, a good method is to serve children’s food on a 9-inch plate. From there, use the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate as a guide to what a balanced meal should look like. Trying to eat based on the MyPlate guide is an easy way to ensure the intake of adequate nutrients and eating healthfully, without being so concerned with measuring and weighing.

Treat treats like treats:

Although treats like ice cream and frozen fruit bars are delicious in the summer, remember to keep these high calorie foods as “treats” and not an everyday available snack. Since kids are home during the day, their meal pattern will likely be different than when in school, but this doesn’t mean that all rules go out the window. As the parent or caregiver, you decide the “WHAT”. That means WHAT foods are available for your child to eat during the day is up to you. By having mainly nutrient dense foods around the house during the summer months will help establish healthy eating habits all year round. Limit the amount of calorically dense snacks in the house, but be sure to keep healthier snacks on hand as an alternate. Fresh cold fruit is a delicious summer-time snack, as well as raw veggies with different flavorful dips. Don’t purchase sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, powdered ice teas or lemonades- instead try some citrus or watermelon infused waters. Brewing some homemade iced tea on your own is another good idea- this will drastically cut down on the added sugar –because remember- just one already prepared 20 oz. ice tea may have the equivalent of 16 packets of sugar!

Go outside:

stock.tookapic/pexels
Source: stock.tookapic/pexels

The summer months in North America are typically warm and humid. Yes, this weather is great if there is a pool or beach around, but if there’s no source of relief from the heat, staying indoors is appealing for many kids. A decrease in physical activity during the summer months is likely a contributor to weight gain.  Plus, increased screen time- TV, tablet or phones is very common, and often the hobby of choice for many. Although the America Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time for any child under 2, and less than 2 hours per day for kids older than 2, it is quite obvious that many toddlers start watching TV at a young age, and most kids exceed this recommendation. But, physical activity is a recommended for weight maintenance in kids (as well as adults), so make sure you encourage your kids to stay active. Since children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most days, try to have some ideas planned to make kids want to leave their video games behind- swimming, playing tag, jumping rope, soccer and bike riding are fun ways to meet the recommendations. It is also important to lead as an example. If kids see that their caregiver sits around and watches TV all night and rarely engages in exercise, kids will think this is normal. Having activities planned in advance as a family is a great way to get everyone involved- plus it’s an added calorie burner for adults and likely more fun than going to the gym. Adults know that physical activity is associated with many health benefits like lower rates of cancer and improved heart health, but making the benefits clear to kids is also important. Instead of focusing on weight control and heart disease, make the benefits more relevant to them- building strong bones, getting better at sports, increasing self- esteem, improving mood and decreasing stress are just a few!

Breakfast and Sleep- Don’t skimp on them because it’s summer!

Just because it’s summer vacation, doesn’t mean that kids can’t have some type of schedule. Yes, it’s great to relax and enjoy the summer, but it’s also important to make sure they have some type of routine so that meals aren’t skipped, sleep is not erratic and physical activities don’t disappear.

skeeze/pixabay
Source: skeeze/pixabay

Make sure children eat breakfast! Research has shown time and time again that eating breakfast plays a protective role against excessive adiposity in childhood and adolescence. Further, a recent study found that the odds of being obese increase in children who skip breakfast. Besides the relationship between a healthy weight and eating breakfast, eating breakfast is also associated with improved cognition and attention. So, make sure your kids start the day off eating. Some easy and tasty breakfast ideas (besides cereal) include Greek yogurt with sliced seasonal peaches, a whole-wheat waffle with fruit, or reduced fat cream cheese on a whole grain toasted bagel. Busy summer mornings? Make breakfast smoothies the night before with low fat dairy, frozen banana and a scoop of PB for extra protein, or bake eggs in little muffin trays with veggies and cheese- and then just reheat on your way out the door.

In addition to the many benefits of breakfast, adequate sleep is also important. Going to bed very late may be tempting during the summer months, but it does more harm than good. Improving a child’s sleep may also be a strategy employed to mitigate the rise of pediatric obesity. Depending on the age, recommendations for sleep can reach up to 13 hours per day, but most kids don’t reach their recommended amount. Why is sleep so important? Many studies show that the less sleep a child gets, the higher his or her risk is for obesity. Children with less sleep also report increased cravings for calorically dense foods. Further, inadequate sleep is associated with higher consumption of pizza and refined sugars, which we know are not healthy.

In summary, try to stick to a routine and keep a set bedtime schedule. Use MyPlate as a guide for healthy eating and look up local outdoor activities for your child to participate in. These small summer adjustments can help prevent excessive weight gain during these upcoming months!

References:

1.                  Nestle M. School meals: a starting point for countering childhood obesity. JAMA pediatrics. 2013;167(6):584-585.

2.                  Moreno JP, Johnston CA, Chen TA, et al. Seasonal variability in weight change during elementary school. Obesity. 2015;23(2):422-428.

3.                  Hart CN, Cairns A, Jelalian E. Sleep and obesity in children and adolescents. Pediatr. Clin. North Am. 2011;58(3):715-733.

Appreciation is extended to Kristen Criscitelli for drafting this post

Boredom Leads to Unhealthy Food Choices

Bored? Then you are more likely to reach for fatty and sugary foods.

That’s something that we’ve all known for years, but now there is scientific data that proves it.

That data was recently presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society by Dr. Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire in England.

To gather the data, Mann and her colleagues, Faye Ibbitson and Ben Edwards, conducted two studies of boredom and food choices.

In the first study, the researchers asked 52 people to complete a questionnaire on their food preferences before and after completing the boredom-inducing task of repeatedly copying the same group of letters.

The researchers report that people were more likely to express a preference for unhealthy foods like potato chips, sweets and fast food after completing the boring task.

In a second study they divided 45 people into two groups. One watched a boring video, while the other watched a funny video.

At the same time, there were bowls of healthy and unhealthy snacks available for the video watchers to munch on.

The scientists, who weighed each bowl before and after each trial of the experiment to see how much had actually been eaten, found that people who watched the boring video ate significantly more unhealthy food.

“These results are in line with previous research suggesting that we crave fatty and sugary foods when we are bored,” Mann said. “This strengthens the theory that boredom is related to low levels of the stimulating brain chemical dopamine and that people try to boost this by eating fat and sugar if they cannot alleviate their boredom in some other way.”

“People designing health education campaigns to encourage us to make healthier food choices need to take boredom, including boredom in the workplace, into account,” she continued. “Bored people do not eat nuts.”

-Janice Wood

Mistakes Parents Make When Feeding Their Kids

Tried and true ways to avoid common pitfalls at the family table.

Whether your children are overweight, underweight, or perfectly fine, you probably still worry about how they’re eating. Here are 7 common mistakes parents make and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Encouraging Kids to Join the “Clean Plate Club”
For the most part, healthy young children eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. They’re following their natural, internal cues, and you shouldn’t mess around with that by encouraging them to eat past the point of fullness. Teaching your kids to be in tune with their own hunger and fullness cues will allow them to have a comfortable relationship with food and avoid overeating as they grow older.

Recent studies have also shown that all children, regardless of age, eat more when served larger portions. In other words, the more we put on their plates, the more they will eat — regardless of how full they are.

The two takeaways from this?

  1. Do not encourage or bribe your kids to clean their plate.
  2. Provide small to moderate portions at meals (except vegetables — those are unlimited, of course). Encourage them to eat until they are comfortably full, and allow them additional servings if they request them.

Mistake #2: Offering Sweet Rewards
Trying to get children to eat their vegetables can be downright frustrating, and parents often resort to bribery: “Eat your broccoli and you can have ice cream for dessert.” Unfortunately, this technique teaches our kids that broccoli and other vegetables are less appealing (because their consumption requires a reward) and that dessert is the prize, something to be valued over other foods. Multiple studies have shown that, in the long run, preference for foods decreases when kids are given rewards for eating them.

What to do? Keep dessert a separate entity, and don’t make it the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Mistake #3: Depriving Kids of All Sweets
With all the loud, well-deserved messages about pediatric obesity, it’s no surprise that some parents have completely outlawed sweets. But that’s a pretty extreme measure. In order to help our kids have a healthy relationship with food (desserts included), we have to meet somewhere in the middle. While there is nothing wrong with limiting sweets and controlling the amount kids have access to, you certainly don’t want to outlaw them altogether. In fact, studies out of Penn State University have found that when kids are restricted from eating cookies or other snack foods, their desire to eat the snacks increases, and they’re likely to overeat them every chance they get.

Personally, I think it’s perfectly OK to allow school-age kids a fun food snack with their school lunch and some type of dessert after dinner. The key is to control what you can and to let them have reasonable dessert independence when you’re out and about.

  • Limit snacks/desserts to 150 calories (that’s two cookies or an ice-cream pop)
  • Read labels and choose healthy ingredients.
  • If you can sneak in a little nutrition along with the sugar, it’s a bonus. For example, low-fat puddings and ice cream provide calcium; strawberries with whipped cream provide fiber and vitamin C.

The bottom line? Control what you can, and allow your kids some freedom of choice — within reason.

Mistake #4: Letting the Little Kids Eat Like the Big Kids
A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that kids with older siblings are more likely to eat junk foods (soda, potato chips, cookies, cake, and candy) than children without older siblings. Because their older siblings request and have access to these treats, little sisters and brothers tend to be exposed to unhealthy foods much earlier than a firstborn.

Remember how you obsessed over everything your first child did, said, and ate? You probably didn’t let your baby eat junk food! Although it’s easier said than done, try your best to maintain the same age-based food standards for all your kids, not just the first.

The strategy? Allow your older kids to have snacks that aren’t appropriate for toddlers or preschoolers, but try to time them for periods when your youngest ones aren’t around. Put the treats in lunch boxes to take to school, or let your oldest enjoy them when your youngest are in another room, when they’re taking their evening bath, or after they go to bed at night.

And, of course, some foods, like soda, shouldn’t be in the house at all!

Mistake #5: Offering Too Many Snacks
Constant snacking throughout the day can leave kids uninterested in eating a proper lunch or dinner. And if they’re less hungry, they’ll be less willing to try new foods at dinner — like vegetables!

Looking for guidelines? Try these:

  • Try to stick to a consistent meal and snack schedule.
  • Allow at least two hours between snacks and meals.
  • No more than two to three snacks a day, and limit them to about 150 calories apiece.

Mistake #6: Getting Young Kids Started on Liquid Calories
An eye-opening 2008 study in the journal Pediatrics found that today’s youths take in 10 to 15 percent of their total daily calories from sugar-sweetened beverages (like soda, sports drinks, and fruit drinks) and 100-percent fruit juice. Further, kids’ average daily caloric intake from these beverages increased from 242 calories to 270 calories over the past ten years and continues to rise. Most of these drinks contain empty calories, meaning they provide simple sugars but little else in the way of nutrients. What’s more, although highly calorie-dense, beverages do not trigger the same satiety mechanisms as solid foods. This means that your kids are unlikely to feel full from drinking lots of soda or juice and therefore will not innately compensate for the extra liquid calories they slurp up, which can result in weight gain in the long term.

Your best bet? Limit the beverage choices offered in your home to water (including seltzer and sparkling water), nonfat or one-percent milk (after age two), and diluted 100-percent fruit juice on occasion. Don’t start introducing young kids to sugary, calorie-dense flavored waters, juice drinks, or soda at a young age. Set a good example by not drinking them yourself!

Mistake #7: Serving the Same Meals You Did Before Having Kids
Your vision of a healthy, satisfying meal might include plain grilled chicken, fish, salads, and plenty of steamed veggies, but chances are young kids will find these foods bland, unappealing, or downright disgusting.

If you want to persuade your picky kids to try healthier foods, you’re going to have to be a bit more creative in the kitchen. Try jazzing up meals with fun, flavorful marinades and condiments to make bland food more appealing and tasty, or play around with shapes, colors, and textures to liven up your dinner plates.

Need ideas? Try some of these on your brood:

  • Serve cut-up raw veggies with a fun dip, like low-fat ranch dressing or raspberry vinaigrette. If your kids like only one or two veggies, it’s okay to repeat often. Serve fruits with a sweet, low-fat yogurt dip — just like fondue!
  • Top poultry or veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, with your favorite jarred marinara sauce and/or part-skim mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.
  • Cut vegetables or fruits into fun shapes with small cookie cutters. This works really well with red and yellow bell pepper, raw beet (which is actually really sweet!), cucumber, apple, pear, and melon.
  • Take it a step further by using veggies to create fun objects, like celery boats. Fill celery stalks with low-fat cream cheese and top with red pepper “sails.” Cut veggies into strips and other shapes and use to design faces or artwork on whole-wheat mini pitas spread with low-fat cream cheese or ranch dressing.
  • Mix chopped or grated veggies (zucchini and carrot work well) into meatloaf, soups, chili, marinara sauce, casseroles, or other mixed dishes.
  • Dump extra veggies (frozen, bite-sized mixed veggies are ideal for this) into canned soup or frozen dinners at lunchtime. Your kids will hardly notice the extra vegetables!

I realize that food battles with your kids can be incredibly frustrating, which is why it’s important to keep issues like picky eating and veggie avoidance in perspective. Celebrate the small victories (even if it’s just getting your son or daughter to try one bite of a new, healthy food), and continue to model healthy eating behaviors for your children. As your little ones get older, your good habits will begin to rub off (really!), and you’ll reap the rewards of your persistent focus on good nutrition.

Joy Bauer

Guest Post: Making Health a Habit

I’m sure that at some point, someone has reminded you that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. Want to quit biting those nails? Keep them away from your face for three weeks and more than likely you’ll forget all about chewing on your fingers. Want to make drinking more water part of your daily routine? You got it…three weeks. Try to get in half of your body weight in ounces, or just shoot for a gallon. Water is your best friend anyway…so make it a habit to hang out every day!

A habit normally is looked at in a negative light, mainly because we as a people have a ton of bad ones. We willingly inhale poison in the form of cigars and cigarettes, we drink alcohol in excess, and to save time…we wait behind ten other cars for twenty minutes to trade our hard-earned money for things in a bag that someone hands us through a sliding window that wouldn’t even be good to feed to our dogs. We also have a horrible habit of making excuses for why we don’t take care of ourselves. It is so much easier to flop on the couch, shoot a pound of ketchup on tepid, flimsy fries, and mindlessly catch up on a couple hours of reality TV or cable news (the fast food of news) than it is to cook a meal and put in at least 30 minutes of exercise. Or is it?

Since this is a guest post, I guess I should introduce myself…the guest. I’m Ryan, and a few years ago, I was the guy with the bag of soggy ‘food’ and the date with the TV. Netflix and Chill was more like ‘Ancient Aliens and Wendy’s Chili.’ I spent a lot of money on doctor co-pays and trips to the pharmacy to get Crestor. I was also eventually put on allopurinol because something horrible-sounding like ‘hyperuricemia’ manifested itself into a shorter but equally painful word: ‘gout.’ I was 260 lbs and could sweat standing in a cooler. Now, let’s get one thing out of the way, and that’s that weight is merely number. It’s not an indicator of health. There are heavy people based on build that are in great shape, and there are really light folks who don’t weigh a thing that are in equally good health. Me, on the other hand…I was 260 on a 175 frame. I’m 5’-10” on a tall day. I was in bad shape. I agreed to write a post on this topic because in the past 36 months, I’ve done something I never thought I would ever achieve; I broke the 200-lb mark before my 2014 wedding, and now I’m staring at breaking the 180-lb barrier. I’m off all of my medications, and my arteries are no longer made of concrete and there aren’t shards of uric acid-glass in my joints. I now provide motivation, accountability, and coaching to anyone willing to make the changes I did in order to better themselves. My passion now is helping others kick their prescription bottles and cut those doctor bills. I love being a motivator for people. All of this forward progress in my life is due to three things:

1) A commitment to changing how I ate

2) A commitment to exercising

3) Waking up every day with a positive attitude

It was HARD. The first few months, I was impossible for my wife to motivate to even get out of bed. I said things like “I’m not wasting my Saturday morning at the gym…it doesn’t do anything for me anyway.” I had it in my mind that I wasn’t in that bad of shape and that I didn’t *need* to go to a cycling class, or a circuit class, or go for a jog to get in better shape. I could motivate myself. The problem with that was not only was I dead wrong (obviously), but I had gotten in that habit of going to the gym, doing 20 minutes of some sort of cardio, and then doing curls and calling it a day. Did I sweat? Yeah. Was I pushing myself? No. I was also leaving the gym and ‘rewarding’ myself with food. It was a vicious cycle that kept me out of shape and overweight, even if I tried to diet (more on this…keep reading!). It’s the same cycle that I imagine a lot of people experience every single day, and NOTHING is more discouraging than feeling like you are trying for something and never seeing a result. This lack of results is why so many people get gym memberships yet so few actively use them.

So how does the cycle get broken? How does that difficult and seemingly endless cycle of trying to exercise, eating the wrong things, and never taking a step forward get turned into a habit of doing what it takes to make a positive change in your body, mind, and health?

Well…it’s HARD. But only the first step. The first step is a commitment. It takes a willful, conscious choice to make a change and stick to it. “Hey wait a minute…it’s hard?” you might be saying at this point, and yes, honestly breaking out of that mentality that you may currently be feeling is not some magical epiphany that rains down out of the sky and all of a sudden you’re enlightened. It’s a choice. It’s choosing your HARD (don’t giggle). ‘Choosing your hard’ is a theme I visit a lot with people whom I coach. Is it hard for you to wake up early and get in a workout…or get it done when you get home from work? Yeah? OK! Is it hard to eat what you’re supposed to every day? Yeah? OK! But flip the coin…is it hard to get out of bed because your joints hurt? Is it hard to keep paying co-pays and pharmacy bills? Is it going to be hard later in life to travel, or watch your kids play sports, or extend the good years of your life? If you’re on the road I was…your HARD is going to be those later-in- life things…the health issues.

Maybe they won’t come so late though; my gout attacks happened at age 28. I was faced with choosing my hard before age 30. We have a huge issue with diabetes, heart disease, obesity across the board in every age group, stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cancer…and it’s not showing signs of slowing. Choosing to make a change NOW is going to prevent those statistics from rising even further.

After choosing your hard (hint…it’s the one that involves exercise and eating right), you’ve taken that step in the right direction. Realizing that you need to eat better and exercise more, however, is not going to solve your problems immediately. Remember me mentioning trying to diet? Don’t diet. Chicken and brown rice and suddenly increasing your body’s exertion level through exercise is going to have horrible effects. Your body doesn’t need ‘food;’ your body needs ‘nutrition.’ You may notice some weight loss at first, but pretty soon a nutrient-deficient body is going to start slowing the metabolism and relying on what the body has stored. At that point…the brain has an ‘oh crap!’ moment and guess what? You get hungry for a Gordita. You leave the gym and tell yourself you EARNED that stuffed crust hotdog bacon ranch double cheese pizza, and then you’ve blown your diet. Cravings are killer, but they are inevitable when your body is not given the nutrition it needs. Dieting only ‘works’ for so long, and that’s why so many fads have made so much money over the years, because of the cycle of failure and repeat. Failure and repeat. It gets a lot of people nowhere.

Changing your brain to understand how to give your body the proper nutrition and eliminate cravings isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s 80% of the total equation. Don’t fall for front-of-package marketing tools like ‘healthy,’ ‘organic,’ or all-natural.’ George Carlin did a bit about ‘natural.’ Toxic Nuclear Waste…is ‘natural.’ It comes from nature. But that doesn’t mean you should eat it. Eating things that don’t come in packages is a great way to start. Most grocery stores are mazes where people get paid a lot of money in a corporate office to figure out what to put at eye level, and how to lay out the store to keep you wandering around, putting things in your cart. Take note next time you shop; the outer perimeter of the store is usually where the good stuff is. It’s not even hidden! Produce takes up a huge chunk of the real estate in the store. Shop the perimeter, and anything with an ingredient label…READ IT! If it’s full of words that look like the back of the alphabet threw up, put it back. IF it’s got artificial sweeteners or flavors…put it back. If it’s got high fructose corn syrup…YEP! PUT IT BACK! Another hint: after the colon that follows the word ‘Ingredients’ is the ingredient which is the most concentrated in whatever item you’re holding. IF you are holding a plastic bag of Fuji apples, the main ingredient is Fuji apples. If you’re holding a bottle of barbeque sauce, that is probably going to be high fructose corn syrup…or if it’s ‘all natural,’ it’s going to be sugar. Sugar is bad, stay away. Shop the perimeter and buy as many vegetables and un-processed meat as you possibly can.

Once you’ve bought your groceries…go home and cook them. 80% of them. Save 20% for spot meals during the week, but cook 80% of them and portion them out to take for lunch. Eating subway is killing you. Eating McDonalds is killing you. Your portions should be about the size of your fist, and taking your lunch is going to save you a TON of money, and a TON of unnecessary ingredients in overly- processed food. Does it take a bit of practice to train yourself on making meal preparation and controlling your portions a habit? YES! It’s that HARD you chose. But it’s also the realization that food, at its very basic definition, is fuel for your body. Our ancestors ate to stay alive. Today, we can go to an all- you-can- eat-buffet. That’s why we have a health crisis, because we do not view food as a fuel, but as a reward. We love to feel full because it makes us feel good…but we are overly-full all of the time. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have a problem with obesity and heart disease. Your food is your nutrition and your fuel.

The other 20% of this equation is your exercise. You have to train your body. Your body is not meant to be sedentary, and it responds in kind to how you treat it. If you exercise, your muscles and joints respond by staying toned and healthy for a long time. If your lifestyle is sedentary, as so many are, muscle fibers break down and give way to fatty tissue, and joints begin to deteriorate. Blood sugar escalates, arteries harden, triglycerides creep up in number, and pretty soon your body starts to turn on you and the doctor bills rise. Pushing your body to around 80% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes a day can help prevent this. Cardiovascular exercise works the most important muscle: the heart. Cardio is extremely important, but so is resistance training. Resistance and weight training doesn’t have to mean powerlifting. Hitting various muscle groups with resistance exercises, and adding cardiovascular moves and exercises for the heart for 30 minutes a day, paired with fueling your body with healthy, clean nutrition is the key to getting in shape. It’s the HARD that you choose with the most rewarding payoff: your life. You get to live longer with fewer problems.

Pick your HARD. Make that commitment to yourself to put better things into your body, get good things out of your body, and do it with a positive outlook. Know that making the decision to do right by yourself is going to bring you a positive outcome. Maintaining that attitude and that air of positivity is going to keep you motivated and become that good habit. Is it easy at first? No. But nothing worth having comes easy or happens overnight. That’s why ‘fast food’ is fast. It’s not good for you; you don’t have to work for it. That’s why diabetes is essentially free: Do no work to better your body, you get problems. Work to better your body, and you get rewards. Do this with a positive outlook and you’ll end up helping someone else, which is a reward and a feeling unlike any other. Make ALL of those things habits…and you’ve set yourself up for a great future.

I want to thank MegAnne (or Meg, as I’ve known her for over twenty years) for this opportunity to share her blog space and convey this message. I tried to hit as many highlights as I could as to my theory behind getting yourself healthy, without penning the next great American novel in length. My job is to motivate, and I hope I did that for at least one person with this information. I would LOVE to speak more with you if you have a health and fitness goal, or even if you have no idea where to start. I needed a push in the right direction, and you might too. I’m easy to find at www.healthyhammels.com or at ryanhammelfit@gmail.com. I’d love to be your coach; I’d love to talk about your goals with you. Meg has a great platform for health, and I’m thrilled that I get to be a part of it. Thank you for reading!

 

-Ryan Hammel