Weight loss vs. health gain

17079-close-up-of-feet-standing-on-a-scale-pvWeight loss is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the US. Hundreds of companies are banking on the fact that most people would like to see a smaller number on the scale, and they’d like to see it quickly, please. Our culture tells us that extra pounds are something to be loathed. Excess weight is a malignancy that must be excised. That number on the scale is the enemy, and if you can just reduce it down to some other arbitrary number then everything will be okay. People will love you. You’ll love yourself. You’ll get that raise, you’ll get that guy or girl, you’ll make everyone at the beach or the gym or your high school reunion green with envy.

But these companies also are betting that once you lose the weight by following their restrictive diet plans and exhausting fitness routines, you’ll gain it back. Why do so many of them offer lifetime memberships? Or repeat customer benefits? Or sell their shakes/pills/powders by the case at warehouse grocery stores?

It’s because they know the truth: that maintaining optimal weight comes as a result of getting healthy — balancing blood sugar and hormones, reducing inflammation, clearing up systemic infections and/or fungal proliferation, bringing the body’s microbiome systems into balance, restoring the integrity of the gut lining and the vascular endothelium, eradicating toxins, and a host of other things that can throw the body out of balance and cause it to hang on to extra weight, or to require medications that have weight gain as a side effect.

But they can’t sell you that. So instead they sell you restriction, deprivation, starvation and exhaustion. All of those things will, indeed, cause you to drop weight in the short term. Over the long term, even if they stick with the program, many people will plateau because the body has had enough. It flips into survival mode and in order to keep you alive, it starts to hang onto all the resources it can, which results in stalled weight loss.

Most people, though, will stop before they get to that point. They’ll realize they just can’t keep up with a restrictive diet and/or exhausting fitness routine. Their bodies will rebel. And they’ll go back to their old way of eating/moving and gain all the weight back (plus a little extra for their trouble). This is the unfortunate result, more often than not, of focusing solely on weight loss without giving attention to health.

What’s the alternative? Focus on gaining health. A functional medicine practitioner can diagnose and treat any underlying issues, and that coupled with a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats and proteins, along with a balance of movement and rest that works for your body, can set you on the path to reaching and maintaining not only your optimal weight, but your optimal health as well. It’s not a quick fix by any measure, but the result is a lifetime of looking and feeling better, and that’s a lifetime membership worth opting into.

Weight loss vs. health gain

What are your cravings trying to tell you?

8224-chocolate-chip-cookies-on-a-plate-pvWe all crave certain foods from time to time. But what do these cravings mean and why do we have them?

Cravings are the body’s way of communicating a need. Figure out the need, and you can give yourself a variety of choices for how to fill that need, including choices that won’t derail you from your health goals! Here are some common food cravings, what they might mean, and how you can tackle them.

Craving: Chocolate

Why you’re craving it: Odd as it may sound, chocolate cravings often stem from mineral deficiencies, particularly magnesium, iron and zinc.

Try this instead: Make sure you’re getting enough minerals in your daily diet. Grass-fed beef, pastured lamb and sustainably caught shellfish are good animal sources of iron, magnesium and zinc. Plant sources include dark leafy greens, legumes, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

If you’ve just gotta have it: When it comes to chocolate, the darker, the better. If your usual drug of choice is a sugary, waxy milk chocolate, it’s time to step up to the good stuff. Gradually wean yourself to the darkest chocolate you can stand (aim for 70% or greater cocoa content). Chocolate that dark not only will feed your chocolate craving, it’ll also help supply the minerals your body is missing without spiking your blood sugar.

My favorites: Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Cacao Bar (available pretty much everywhere, including Walmart), Alter Eco Dark Blackout Organic Chocolate bar (also 85% cocoa content, available at health food stores).

Craving: Cake and cookies

Why you’re craving it: A craving for sweet carbohydrates in baked form usually stems from stress. This can be emotional stress from a difficult work, school, relationship or financial situation, or it can be physical stress from illness (or certain medications used to treat it), lack of sleep, injury or overexertion. No matter how you slice it, if you’re craving cake and cookies, you’re hurting on some level and you need comfort.

Try this instead: The first line of defense for comfort food cravings is to try to fill the need for comfort without food. If you come home from work and immediately end up face-down in a box of Ring Dings, it might be time to switch up your routine. Change into some comfortable clothes, put on some soothing body lotion, cuddle up with a blanket (and/or a pet), put on some relaxing music, light a scented candle or diffuse some essential oil, try a little self-massage. Do some yoga stretches (check videos on YouTube) or meditate for as long as you can stand it (one minute is okay — one breath is okay!). Find a long-term stress relief and self care routine that works for you and watch those comfort food cravings melt away!

If you’ve just gotta have it: Sweet fruits and warming spices are the way to go if your body is screaming for baked goods. Try sauteing apple or banana slices in a skillet with some grass-fed butter or coconut oil, then sprinkling with cinnamon, nutmeg and/or powdered ginger. Unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon, warmed on the stove or in the microwave, is another good choice. And if you really really need a cookie, these power cookies from Abel James are packed full of superfood ingredients.

My favorites: I like to mash a banana with some nut butter, then add cinnamon and other warming spices and heat the whole shebang in the microwave or on the stovetop. It sounds weird, but it’s so comforting and delicious!

Craving: Salty, crunchy snacks

Why you’re craving it: Barring a sodium deficiency in your diet, which is rare, a craving for salty, crunchy snacks usually stems from plain old boredom. People who crave chips, pretzel sticks and crackers on a regular basis tend to need a lot of sensory stimulation and novelty, or they tend to have a lot of nervous energy and need to do something with their hands.

Try this instead: Just like with a comfort-food craving for baked goods, a salty/crunchy craving that stems from boredom often can be met by addressing the boredom directly. So try something new that engages your mind, keeps your hands busy, and gives you a different sensory experience. Knitting, crochet and other forms of needlework, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, adult coloring books, solitaire (with actual cards, not on your phone), getting up and moving around when you usually sit, or even sitting in a different chair or spot on the couch all can twitch your brain out of that boredom groove.

If you’ve just gotta have it: Kale chips and other veggie chips are a health-supporting alternative to potato, tortilla and pita chips provided they’re fried or baked in a non-inflammatory oil (like coconut, avocado or olive oil). Roasted nuts are another great choice — make your own by tossing two cups of raw mixed nuts with a couple of tablespoons of healthy oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then roasting on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.

My favorites: This may sound weird coming from a health coach, but I’m a big fan of pork rinds provided the only ingredients are pork and salt – Baken-Ets Traditional is a pretty widely available brand. I also love Seasnax, which are a good source of iodine for those of us not using iodized table salt. And Inka Chips Original plantain chips have taken the place of tortilla chips in my house — they’re great for scooping up homemade guacamole and salsa.

Craving: Beer and bread

Why you’re craving it: Odds are if you’re craving yeasty foods and drinks, you’ve got a little tummy upset going on and your beneficial gut bacteria are trying to boost their numbers through fermentation.

Try this instead: Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi and other traditional fermented pickles should settle your tummy without adding too many inches to your waistline. If you tolerate dairy, try a fermented full-fat dairy product like yogurt or kefir.

If you’ve just gotta have it: Fermented vegetables and diary not doing the trick? Try a traditional fermented cider or ginger beer, kombucha, or a drinking vinegar or shrub. If the bread bug has got you down and you’ll absolutely die without a little bite, opt for a sprouted whole-grain fermented sourdough bread. Just watch your portions if you have a blood sugar imbalance or weight-loss goal.

My favorites: Buddha’s Brew Hop’d kombucha and Live Soda kombucha in Sparkling Ginger are in my refrigerator at all times to soothe any tummy issues that come along. I’m also a huge fan of Farmhouse Culture‘s raw fermented sauerkraut and kimchi.

What are your cravings trying to tell you?

Love begins with you


“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul

People who feel unlovable will do everything they can to prove that it’s true. Have you ever noticed that? Have you been pushed away in a relationship? Or maybe you’ve been the one doing the pushing, afraid that if the other person only knew what you’ve done, thought, said, believed, etc. — they’d realize you didn’t deserve their love?

Well, I have a couple of truths to lay on you:

  1. Everyone deserves love.
  2. You can’t control how someone else feels about you.
  3. You absolutely can control how you feel about yourself.

Self-love begins with forgiving yourself for past decisions and actions, and that forgiveness begins with the knowledge that you can’t go back and change what happened in the past. What does holding onto it and beating yourself up about it get you? All it gives you is an excuse not to move forward with your life. By holding yourself at the point of transgression and marinating in your own perceived failure, you rob yourself of forward progress toward your goals and of the chance to make new decisions. Maybe you’re afraid those decisions will be “wrong” as well, and that you’ll only make things worse? Ask yourself: how can things be any worse? How can it be worse to try something that might make things better vs. forever encasing yourself in psychological amber at a fixed point in your past that can’t be changed?

You have to forgive yourself. You have to realize that you made the best decision you could with what you had to work with at the time. You have to acknowledge that you can’t move backward and try to fix it — the only way past it is to move forward, to keep making decisions, to keep trying to be better. Every moment is a new chance to change your life. All you have to do is decide you’re ready.

Once you’ve forgiven yourself, you can begin to appreciate how hard you’ve already worked. How much you’ve survived. How incredible you are to have kept going. There’s a spark in you that didn’t quit — as evidenced by the fact that you’re still here — and you can fan that spark into a flame. You’ve survived all that, you’ve earned your place in this world, and there is nothing you can’t do. You keep trying, you want to be better, and you deserve goodness and love.

Loving yourself means being whole within yourself. It means knowing you are a complete and magnificent being. Just because you’re trying to be better and because you want more for yourself, that doesn’t mean anything is missing. It only means you’re becoming fuller and richer. Your light is shining brighter. That little spark has become a warming, nurturing flame. Many spiritual traditions would say that you’re becoming closer to God, clearing out space to become a more open vessel for the light of the Divine.

However you look at it from a spiritual standpoint, self-love and being whole within yourself is a gift not only to yourself, but to the world. When you are complete within yourself, you don’t need another person to complete you. Any relationship you enter into is a choice. Sure, attraction and love go beyond conscious choice, but sharing your life with another person absolutely is a choice. If things aren’t going well, if that relationship makes you feel smaller and dims your light, you have the choice to stay and work on it or to leave. Because you know that in your vastness and in your wholeness, you will survive with or without that relationship. You know you deserve a love that nurtures your growth and that honors all you are and all the incredible work you’ve done.

(And not for nothing, but when you love yourself, you’ll want to treat yourself better, feed yourself better food, move your amazing body in ways that make you feel strong and powerful and brimming with health!)

Just a little something to think about on this St. Valentine’s Day!

Love begins with you

A new approach to old habits


Much of what I do as a nutrition and wellness coach is help people replace old habits that no longer serve them with new habits that are more in line with their current goals. Habits are funny things. We attach so much emotion to them. Sometimes we hate them, are ashamed of or embarrassed by them, and we just want them gone. Other times we find them oddly comforting even when we know they aren’t good for us. Often we feel trapped by them; they’re so deeply ingrained that we feel powerless to break free.

What if we took a less antagonistic approach and attitude toward the habits that no longer serve us? What if we showed them appreciation, thanked them for all the ways they did serve us once, even if in the long term the effects were not overwhelmingly positive and we now feel ready to move in a different direction?

Think about a habit you’d like to change. Odds are it had its genesis in a time of high emotion for you. Maybe that coffee milkshake and double scone on the way to work was the only thing getting you out of bed in the morning to spend your day at a job you hated. Maybe that nightly bag of chips in front of the TV was your way of coping with the stress of a sick parent or child. Maybe that pint of ice cream was a comfort after a brutal breakup that broke your heart. Maybe that bag of candy made you feel less lonely. Maybe that Sunday morning box of donuts made you feel closer to your donut-loving mom. Maybe that weekend booze binge let you feel like you were making one decision for yourself at a time when you felt all of your decisions were being made for you. Maybe that cigarette gave you a feeling of control, calm and ritual at a time when your life felt completely out of control. Maybe that lunchtime soda was a reward for getting through your morning and a bolster to help you get through the afternoon.

At one time, that habit served you. It gave you something you needed. It helped you cope somehow. It helped you survive something intense. And you liked that feeling of calm, control, comfort, reward, or whatever it was, so you kept doing it. Because guess what? You’re human, and that’s how we’re wired. We take an emergency, short-term measure and we turn it into a daily routine because we don’t want to lose the feeling that it gives us. We keep seeking that hit.

Realizing that our habits no longer serve us, that we’re no longer getting that reward from them, or that we’d like to get it in a more health-supporting way is absolutely the first step to changing those habits. But the second step is to reflect on those habits without judgement or shame and to feel gratitude for how they helped us cope. Those habits did us a service, they helped us survive, and they allowed us to get to the point where we are now — ready for change.

Affirmation: “Thank you for your service, old habit, but it’s time for me to put you back in the toolbox and move on to the next phase of my life!”

More about how to do that in future posts and future issues of my newsletter!

A new approach to old habits

Three steps to break through limiting beliefs

9455-a-beautiful-girl-jumping-on-a-beach-pvHow many times a day does the phrase “I can’t … because” cross your mind or your lips? “I can’t stick to a diet because I just don’t have any willpower.” “I can’t run because of my knees.” “I can’t exercise because of my crazy schedule.” “I can’t do anything about my crappy job because I need the money.” Do any of these sound familiar?

Sometimes they come in another form: “I’m terrible at math.” “I hate exercise.” “I’m the worst cook in the world.” “I suck at maintaining friendships.” “I’m trapped in this unfulfilling relationship.” “I’m too old.” “It’s too late to change anything.”

All of these are limiting beliefs, and they are the biggest obstacle to success in any endeavor. If you truly believe you can’t do something, full stop, then you’ll be right about that every single time.

But here’s the thing: these beliefs can be changed! You truly can free yourself from these thoughts, because that’s all they are — just thoughts. They’re only true if you believe they’re true. Are you ready to stop believing all these negative, limiting, not-objectively-true-at-all things about yourself? These tips will help get you started!

1. List your choices

“I can’t stick to a diet…” Okay, well can you drink water instead of soda for a week? Can you eat a salad instead of a burger for lunch every day for a week? What about just drinking water instead of soda or having a salad instead of a burger today? Maybe you can give up your sugary coffee drink. Or replace your afternoon candy bar with some fresh fruit. What can you change about the way you’re eating now?

“I can’t run…” Can you try walking? Riding a bike? Standing to do a task that you’d normally do sitting? Doing some yoga? Sitting in a chair and punching an imaginary punching bag? How can you get moving more than you are now?

“I can’t exercise…” Can you park a little farther from the door at work? Take the stairs? Walk to lunch instead of driving? Go to the restroom that’s a little farther down the hall? Do some squats while on the phone or watching TV? Do some bicep curls with water bottles while waiting for the microwave to finish? How can you work in more movement while doing the things you already do?

“I can’t do anything about my job…” Can you talk to someone at work about any issues you might be having? Can you ask for more training, more pay, a different work location? Can you make sure your resume is up to date? Can you keep an eye on job listings? Can you get your interview suit dry-cleaned and ready to go? How can you make yourself more valuable to current and prospective employers?

You have choices. You absolutely do. There are things you can do to work toward where you want to be. List them out, even if they don’t seem possible right now. No one but you has to see this list.

2. Set yourself up for success

If cookies trigger binge-eating behavior for you, don’t have any cookies in the house! Don’t set a trap for yourself in which you reinforce your limiting belief. If you know cookies are your biggest temptation, and you buy them anyway, and you inevitably eat one (or five or thirty), what’s going to happen? You’ll beat yourself up, you’ll reinforce your limiting belief that you have no willpower or are addicted to cookies or whatever negative thing you believe about yourself, when all along it was a clear case of entrapment.

Don’t set traps for yourself. That’s a form of self-harming, pure and simple. Remove temptations from your environment and replace them with health-supporting options. Out with the cookies, in with the fresh fruit! This is not a test of willpower, it’s an act of self-love. It’s giving yourself the tools you need to succeed.

3. Work toward short-term goals

Instead of vowing to lose 50 pounds in a year, why not aim for losing one or two pounds in a week? Instead of giving up donuts forever, why not give them up just for today? Instead of jumping right in to walking five miles a day, why not walk half a mile today and then make a point of walking just one driveway/doorway further tomorrow? Take one week, one day, one choice at a time. Every single moment is a chance to make a choice. This one particular sugary latte you’re about to order — you can choose to have water and a banana instead.  Just for this one. This one particular bowl of pasta you’re about to eat — you can choose to have a salad instead. Just for this one.

Working to short-term goals lets you experience immediate success. You set a goal, and hey, you achieved it! Maybe you don’t suck at this. Maybe you can do it.

And believing, even a tiny bit, that you can do it is the beginning of the end of those limiting beliefs.

Three steps to break through limiting beliefs

Easy recipe: homemade nut milk


Have you ever read the ingredient label on a carton of nut milk from your local supermarket or health food store? Most of them are full of thickeners, coloring agents and sugars. It’s kind of crazy because nut milk is so easy to make! You don’t even need a recipe, really, but here are the instructions for one quart of homemade nut milk.

For all nut milks: begin by soaking one cup of nuts in water with a pinch of sea salt for 10-12 hours (or overnight). Rinse and drain nuts and dump into a blender with a pinch of sea salt. You also can add a pitted date and/or a bit of pure vanilla extract if you like.

For almond or hazelnut milk: add 4 cups filtered water and blend on high speed until liquefied. This might take a couple of minutes depending on how powerful your blender happens to be. Line a wire mesh strainer with fine cheesecloth (or use a nut milk bag) and strain, then transfer the liquid to a sealed quart-sized bottle or jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

For cashew milk: add 3 cups filtered water and continue as above, but do not strain milk. There’s no need with cashew milk as the cashews will soften and pulverize completely. (The date may not, however, so you may want to substitute a tablespoon of raw honey for the date if you’d like a sightly sweetened cashew milk.)

That’s really all there is to it! If you’re making almond or hazelnut milk, you can take the further step of drying the leftover pulp in the oven or a food dehydrator, then pulsing it for a couple of seconds in a food processor to make nut meal for recipes that call for that ingredient. All for the cost of one cup of raw nuts!

Easy recipe: homemade nut milk