Monday, December 1, 2008

Do Sugar Cravings Have You by the Neck?

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

It’s that time of year again when it seems like sugar is everywhere. For some of us the push-and-pull of holiday sweets starts at Halloween and lasts all the way through until New Year’s Day — and it can feel like a wild rollercoaster ride. My patients often tell me they can’t wait to get off, but many aren’t quite sure how. Most women I talk with at the clinic and in my personal life have experienced sugar cravings, no matter what time of year — or time of the month. Whether it’s having a taste for something sweet after dinner each night or speeding to your local supermarket for the biggest bag of Swedish Fish you can buy, I know craving sugar can be a powerful urge. And the disappointing truth is that once we start to include sugar into our daily routine, it becomes more and more difficult to stop.

As humans we’ve evolved to appreciate the instant energy sugar provides us, but food is a highly emotional topic, especially when it comes to sweets. We often associate sweet foods with love and acceptance, and scientists have looked at our brain chemistry to understand how food can directly affect our “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. There are many other physical causes for sugar cravings, too, like hormonal fluctuations, intestinal yeast, and stress, to name a few.

Sadly, we’ve been told for far too long that indulging in sweets is connected with a lack of self-will or some other character flaw. This is just not true! Craving sugar is not simply about willpower, nor is it simply about emotions. There may be several underlying physiologic causes feeding your desire for sugar, and it may take some perspective and investigation to get to the bottom of it. Let’s take a closer look at what might be behind your sugar cravings and how you can develop a healthy, loving relationship with sweets.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cravings, stress and exercise

by Dr. William Dunn

Many good and useful tips are known to help stave off cravings. We know what they are, and what they can do for us. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that cravings can make you end up eating the wrong things.

Typically, for overweight people, the cravings of concern aren’t those that make us hungrier for nutrient or fiber-rich foods. It’s the cravings for high-calorie-dense foods that seem to tear down every effort we make to keep the pounds off. It seems every time we start a diet, no matter what it is, we feel even hungrier for those high calorie foods.

Although conventional strategies to overcome cravings definitely help, unfortunately, for the majority of dieters, they eventually fail.

We hear it again and again: eat a big breakfast, avoid snacks, eat smart, exercise ... easier said than done! It makes so much sense, so why is it so hard?

Let’s look at each one:
  1. Eat a big breakfast? The alarm goes off. ”Just 10 more minutes”, you think, and you hit the snooze button. Your 10 minutes are gone in what feels like 10 seconds. You force yourself out of bed, you get your kids up, make their lunches, shower, dress, rush through traffic, arrive barely on time, and that leaves you time enough for coffee and a donut. Sometimes you’re not hungry at all. “Big breakfast? Shall I have my maid prepare that for me?”, is probably your first impression.
  2. Avoid Snacks? What is a snack? Are “good foods” a meal and bad foods snacks? If you eat an apple at 2:00 pm, is that a snack? If you have potato chips with your sandwich at noon, that’s considered lunch. If you skip lunch and eat potato chips at 2:00, is that lunch? For those desperate to lose weight, all meals and snacks become potential sources of guilt. We try to skip “snacks” and pay for it by eating bigger meals. We try to have lighter lunches, and feel tremendous cravings about 3 o’clock to have a “snack.” In short, snacks are what we perceive as extra food between traditional meals, but, especially after breakfast, at the end of the day your calorie intake is all that matters.When we were children, snacks may have been less important to us. It seemed recess or play activities were more important than food, and our parents even worried if we didn’t finish our plates. But as we get older, stress and work replace play. In a very recent publication, Maastricht University confirmed what we probably guessed: stress can make us eat even when we’re not hungry! Cravings only intensify this hunger-less baseline urge to eat.
  3. Eat Smart? “I’m smart, I already know I have to eat fiber and vegetables and everything that tastes bad.” We know what’s good for us. If only we could crave carrots and spinach! But when we’re faced with stress, we don’t want extra work, extra sacrifices. “I have so much to do — carrots and broccoli in plastic bags are my reward? Are you kidding?”
  4. Exercise? Nobody has to tell you that exercise isn’t comfortable and fun. Some who tend to be “showoffs” in their size zero dresses will tell you how thoroughly they enjoy aerobics. It’s true, stress levels decrease with exercise, which in turn leads to less baseline desire to eat. But for you, it’s squash and broccoli all over again. You know it’s good for you. But with stress, at the end of the day, with screaming kids, flashes of your angry boss
    crossing your mind, co-workers who drive you crazy, dinner to prepare, phone calls from telemarketers, bills … and a warm cozy bed and television just a few steps away, is exercise something you perceive to be the logical thing? Of course not!
    Self-inflicted pain for your reward? You’re smarter than you think.
Cravings are natural
They alert our system of certain needs, especially in energy deficiency. However, cravings increase in proportion to our weight and degree of insulin resistance to the degree of imbalance. There are several tricks to reduce them to a manageable level. But you’re fighting the war on two fronts, with stress on one side, cravings on the other. Not only does stress increase your involuntary food intake,it also makes it difficult to apply the several tips we can use to curb our cravings.

Managing stress is a whole topic in itself. If you can manage stress, then cravings will be much easier to handle. However, for most, that’s a lifelong challenge. That leaves us with only one choice: to push out of our mind that food is there to comfort our stresses. Again, easier said than done.

Recognizing stress as an important problem, and knowing how difficult and sometimes impossible it is to keep it out of our lives, now you can place the tricks you’ve heard in perspective.

They aren’t just cute tips. They’re your lifesavers. You have more control of this than the often random factors that lead to stress, so play it smart. You have a lot more choices than you think with all the tips available to you. But recognizing how important it is, you will dedicate the extra time you need to tend to your day’s food. You’ll make it a habit to pack your snacks. That way, you are in control, you are the master. But it takes a little work.

For example, you don’t have to eat raw broccoli for your snack. For those moments you really must have a quick stress break, tell yourself: “I promise, on Wednesday, I’ll have that brownie, but for now, I’ll have peanuts and seltzer.” Again, you have endless possibilities. But why peanuts for example? Because they have a very low glycemic index (GI). That means your insulin isn’t going to spike, leading to hunger right afterwards. A prepackaged ounce of peanuts should do the trick — but don’t open four or five. Plan ahead and only take one to work. Don’t eat it for lunch! This is your snack! Take one for lunch if you will, but it’s important you save something for stack time.

What about breakfast?
If breakfast has never been a part of your life, give it a week or two. Wake up a little earlier. Eat with your kids for a change. Start slowly. Keep adding a little more. There are so many studies showing the benefit of a big breakfast — this is the time you don’t have to feel guilty about eating a lot (just don’t go to breakfast buffets daily.) Eat your fill. Try to get protein and fiber in there one way or another — strawberries and yogurt is a good choice.

If 7:00 am breakfast still isn’t you, don’t substitute it for a 10:00 bagel. It’s all for nothing. You’ll eat and feel hungry again anyway for lunch. If that’s your habit, change the bagel again for a prepackaged low GI snack like almonds. Make the extra time to reward yourself with mozzarella cheese and fruit slices. It’s worth it.

What about eating smart?
“Do I have to eat tree bark and hay for lunch?” The answer is no. You can eat your fill. The trick is to know the good tasting foods that will dot this, and at the same time cut the cravings to a manageable level until dinner. There are two concepts to be aware of for lunch:
  1. Make your entire meal a low GI meal. Does that mean eating whole-grain bread alone? No way. But know this: meat has no GI, neither does fat. That means getting them in the right balance. If you’re a vegetarian, there are high-protein foods, especially legumes, eggs and even bread. But mixing these foods will bring the average GI of any carbs you eat down. Also, bumping up the protein component will curb your afternoon craving. So slow down on the dinner rolls and desserts — both high GI sources. There many choices for low GI starches — e.g. whole wheat bread or pastas. There are even low GI desserts. But don’t look for them in restaurants. Again, you’ll have to make time for them by preparing them (e.g. example, banana bread made with whole wheat flour and a natural sugar substitute or apple sauce).
  2. Want more for less? A lower energy density in your foods will increase the amount you can eat with fewer calories. A full stomach takes longer to digest, meaning better chances for you to make it to dinner without major cravings. One significant way to do this is to decrease the fat component of your lunch. Typical sources of high fat include sauces and toppings like mayon-naise. There are low-calorie alternatives readily available. Don’t kill your efforts to eat a healthy salad only to top it with oily or fatty toppings. Look for low-cal dressings instead.
What about exercise?
Yes, some have made it to the age of 100 without it. Probably they weren’t running marathons though. Chances are, especially in the days of walking to the corner grocery store or to church, it was easier to meet the minimum equivalent of 30 minutes of walking a day. If you walk on the job, you’re there already. If you don’t, you’ll have to squeeze it in one way or the other. That means parking a little further from every place you go to. Think of the fewer dents your car will have. In my neighborhood, in warmer months everyone is walking about a half hour nightly — it’s a new trend.

But what about exercise in winter? It’ll get old to walk the mall every day. So start by estimating how many minutes you are walking at work. Subtract from 30. Let’s say that leaves 20. That means two 10-minute walks. If you really are snowed in, you can briskly walk in place
while you watch TV for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Add hand weights for better tone. (If your joints or muscles hurt, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.) You may think that exercise would make you hungrier. Of course, long, vigorous exercising will in fact make you hungry to replace some of energy you burned. But it’s not likely you’ll be hungrier from the nice short walks we’re talking about.

In fact, researchers found that brisk walking curbs chocolate cravings, as well as cigarette cravings. Another group of scientists demonstrated that exercise improves short term appetite control as well.

Finally, it’s old news that exercise helps our stress levels too, which in turn will help you to follow your snack and meal routines more easily. In short, there’s no magic way to curb your appetite. It’s going to take work and some experimenting. Accept that stress is part of the problem that may never go away completely, but that you can do your part with some planning and choices to eat the best foods. Give it the time it deserves — your health is so important—you’ll keep not only the pounds away, but cancer, diabetes and heart disease as well.

Dr. William Dunn is a cancer doctor dedicated to disease prevention through weight loss. He can be contacted through his website,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Food Cravings: Tips and Strategies for Success!

By Sally Byrd, N.D.

Food cravings are a sign of an unhealthy, unbalanced body. Many times they are a symptom of chemical addiction from our diet, mental stresses, our environment, and hectic lifestyle. Liking or wanting a certain food compared to ‘craving a food’ is entirely different. When your body is not receiving the nutrients it needs to operate well, it will increase your desire for more food until your body gets the nutrients it needs to function.

Depending on your willpower, what you have in your pantry or if you are eating out, the choices for healthy foods are limited so junk foods usually win. This is why so many American are overweight, nutrient depleted, emotionally challenged stressed out and why they have difficulty managing their eating behavior.

Many nutritional deficiencies for essential fatty acids, minerals, amino acids and chlorophyll will cause constant craving for unhealthy foods especially carbohydrates-all types of sugar, potatoes, breads, pastas, pizzas and the traditional comfort food of our society.

The popular higher protein, lower carbohydrate diets will work to some extent but adding the extra nutrients are essential for long term dietary effectiveness and positive lifestyle changes.

Keys to Curbing Carb Addictions:

1. Get on your Blood type diet at least 75%. Change at least 5 of the most damaging foods for each type.
2. Go to http://www.dadamo.comand scroll down to food values. Check the foods that you eat daily (pick 5: protein & carbs are more important in the first phases) and if they are on the avoid list – stop eating them –get up to at least 5 foods that you will avoid. Get in a habit of this first phase food elimination for 3-4 weeks and check the list again and start on 5 more foods that you frequently eat. Most people can handle this and it is as overwhelming as a complete ‘cold turkey’ change. There are so many healthy substitutions that even frequent travelers have options.
3. Keep your fluid level high. Drink healthy teas: green, white tea, rooibus, mint, chamomile, ginger, dandelion root, rose hips, & licorice root teas. Spring water w/lemon or lime essence, some juices –beneficial to your blood type (dilute them) to equal 1/2 your weight in oz. (i.e.: a 150 lb. person should consume 75 oz of healthy fluids).
4. Ditch the java, energy drinks (like red bull) ALL SODA …..Coffee, guarana sodas increase insulin levels in the body which will increase carb cravings. They also create an acidic environment in all the wrong places. This leads to disease and unhealthy food choices and could lead to serious diseases like diabetes and arthritis
5. Get a urine or blood test to see what minerals or amino deficiencies you may have. Also check for heavy metal toxicity.
6. Add the nutrients that you may be lacking in supplement from and check your food list for compatible foods that are rich in these nutrients. Many people will find that they are low in Taurine, L-Glutamine, Chromium and Chlorophyll.
7. For low energy & mid-afternoon cravings; try a Green super food drink or bar (Greens+ ) with 1,000-2,000 of L-Glutamine and other key nutrients like a sugar balance type supplement to stay alert and focused for the rest of the day . Most women are so deficient that a common magnesium supplement & amino acids will subdue most cravings.
8. Start taking essential fatty acids like Evening Primrose, Sesame, Pumpkin Seed, Flax or Borage seed oils to repair the cellular wall and reduce the constant hunger that many people experience. I find Evening Primrose oil in the dose of 2-3 grams daily can impact most women in a positive way – cravings, skin, hormones and weight control.
9. Get a series of colonics. This speeds up the cleansing process and starts internal tissue repair. Add Glyine -1,000 mg to your nutrient regime.
10. Keep Moving: we all know about exercising. If this is a challenge, find something that you like to do. It does not have to be in a gym or fitness center. Dancing, gardening, walking, yard work even house work helps your bodies’ immune system stronger. For weight loss you may have put in more time but do something for at least 30 minutes every day!
11. Use an infra-red sauna and sweat out poisons, to regain cellular strength.
12. Depending on your budget try a form of bodywork like reflexology, massage, chiropractic or acupuncture to further strengthen the way your system functions.
13. Eliminate any silver fillings that contain mercury. These will reduce you immune support and cause an unbalanced system.
14. Write out a goal list and stick to it: use a before picture on your mirror, appointment book or refrigerator.
15. Pray or mediate for emotional strength.

Key nutrients to consider are:
1. Green Superfoods: Greens+, Perfect Food, Green Vibrance, Amazing Grass, Chlorella, Spirulina, Wheat grass
2. Amino Acids: Glycine, L-Glutamine, Taurine , Combo of all 22
3. Minerals: Magnesium, potassium, chromium, selenium
4. B-Complex with extra Folic Acid & B-12 (methyl form)
5. Water Enhancers: Cell Food, Trace Mineral drops, Willard Water
6. Anti-Aging3 Collagen (reduces sweet cravings)
7. Sugar Balance (Dr Ven has one but there are others too)
8. Egg White Protein: Jay Robb, Major Egg, Amerifit
9. Healthy fats: Evening Primrose, Borage, Black Currant, Sesame, Flax, Chia, Salba, Pumpkin Seed Oil and marine source DHA.
10. Cleansing: Renew Life, Zand herbals, Dr. Venessa Liverclean, Jarrow Artichoke & Curcumin
11. Healthy raw Salt: Himalayan, Celtic, Real salt, Lima Salt

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

7 Simple Strategies to Kill Carb Cravings

By Dr. Leslie Van Romer

1. Satisfy Your Hunger Drive 
A cultural myth that many people believe is that you must control your hunger drive to lose and maintain ideal weight. Delete that myth from your brain! Your hunger drive cannot be controlled. It is a natural instinct, and like all human instincts, it keeps you alive.

When you’re thirsty, you drink. When you’re sleepy, you sleep. When you’re hungry, guess what? You should eat. Simply fill up on the right foods that satisfy your hunger drive.

Cravings, triggered by hunger, can be crushed, if you stop waging war with your hunger drive and start satisfying it by filling up on the best-for-you foods.

2. Fill Up on Good-Guy Carbs
For all the carbohydrate confusion, there is one glaring fact. All carbs are not created equal. The good-guy carbohydrates, sourced by whole, fresh fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains (brown rice, not breads) and legumes, satisfy your hunger drive, thereby calming cravings. When a bad carb craving hits, fill up on nature’s best-for-you foods first and the craving will fade.

Hint: For cravings to disappear, you must eat enough of the best-for-you foods to really and truly fill you up.

3. Ditch Bad-Boy Carbs
Bad boy carbs incite cravings so steer clear of them. The more refined sugar, desserts, baked goods, breads, salty snacks, and chocolate you eat, the more hooked you get. If they are out of sight, they are much easier to avoid.

The natural sugars and sodium in fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes, are your biggest allies to successfully fight and conquer carbohydrate cravings. When cravings call, be sure to first load up on these foods, especially whole fruits and vegetables, to render those sabotaging urges powerless.

4. Graze on Fruit for Breakfast
Fresh fruit expedites your freedom from cravings. The challenge is eating enough fruit when traditional food faves demand attention. Rather than feasting on the typical bad-boy carbs which trigger cravings (dry cereal from a box, quick oats, brown-colored white toast, pancakes, pastries), fat-laden bacon and eggs, or just a cup of coffee, why not fill your morning with nature’s best craving crushers – fresh fruits?

Pay attention to your hunger drive and eat enough whole fruits, approximately four to ten, to fill you up and satisfy you. Grazing on whole, fresh fruits until noon helps shut the gate before the cravings get out, gain momentum and sneak attack later in the day. Try it. See how many whole fresh fruits fill you up and behold your incredible shrinking cravings!

5. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
Whether at home, work, or on the go, think ahead and keep healthy snacks with you at all times – cut-up veggies, fruit, and raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. That way, when cravings start, your fortifications will stop them dead in their tracks.

6. Stop the Diet-go-Round – Forever
Sure diets work, for a while – until they don’t. But they are excellent at one thing – adding red-hot fuel to your cravings.

First, diets deprive you of your food faves - until you can’t stand it, give in, and sneak them back into your life. Second, diets restrict calories and portions, leaving you hungry, making you crave more, and building that food frenzy to a height that consumes your thoughts and your life until … you give in. Third, diets often limit the major nutrient, carbohydrates. With a shortage of good-guy carbs, cravings take control and you grab the first bad-guy carb in sight. The result: you feel like a hopeless failure one more time.

7. Add and Wiggle!
Okay. Let’s face it right now. You’re not perfect. You will never be perfect. Nor do you have to be perfect to finally be free from food cravings. So give yourself some wiggle room. Instead of proclaiming that you’re never ever going to be seduced by one of your food friends again, try a new strategy.

Think addition, not subtraction. In other words, instead of trapping yourself in a restrictive food-box of “can’t haves,” think about which foods you “get to” add to your day that will give you the most nutrition for your calorie buck. These are the very same foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – that will stop those cravings.

Then, follow the 80/20 Rule. Eighty percent of the time when meals and snacks are routine without holidays, birthdays or get-togethers, add and fill up first on those best-for-you foods. The other twenty percent of the time, don’t worry about it and wiggle! Just beware you don’t wiggle too much.

No matter how diligent you are at incorporating these strategies in your daily life, if you are a mere mortal, there will be times when things go awry. No worries, with persistent mindfulness, time, and patience, you can free yourself from cravings and build your body-dream-come-true.

With years of experience, and a thriving private prac-tice, Dr. Leslie Van Romer helps her clients with the prevention of diabetes, breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, fatigue and premature aging through healthy and conscious lifestyle and diet choices. Her new book, Getting Into Your Pants, empowers readers to lose weight and boost self-esteem, energy and health with do-able food and life-style choices. For more information, visit or call 1-888-375-3754.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Healing Compulsions

By Mary O’Malley, author of The Gift of Our Compulsions

My life is a testimony to what can happen when you change your relationship to your compulsions.

At one time I gained 97 pounds in a year. At the same time I was drinking and using drugs! And I tried every diet, therapy and medical plan that promised to get rid of these so called obnoxious behaviors.

I thought none of this worked because I wasn’t committed enough. I also thought that everybody could do it but me. So I would try even harder only to spiral down into self-hate, confusion, and despair. In the depths of my despair, I finally had to admit that controlling my compulsions didn’t bring me the peace I so desperately longed for.

And thankfully so, for as I learned how to cultivate a new type of relationship with them I not only healed my compulsions; I also experienced the deep and lasting healing I was longing for.

It is important to realize that there was a time when you absolutely loved being you!

When you were an infant you were wide open to life, at home inside of yourself, comfortable in your own skin. You may have no mental memories of this time, but your body does. It remembers when there was no part of you that wasn’t okay. You hadn’t yet bought into the belief that you needed to be any different than what you are.

Then slowly, as you experienced moments when life scared you, overwhelmed you and disappointed you, you learned how to pull back, tightening your body, holding in your breath and containing your feelings. You began to live an inner conversation that said you needed to be better or different in order to be okay.

Rather than accepting yourself as you were, you began to hide all of the unacceptable parts of yourself deep inside, hoping they would go away and leave you alone.

But the feelings that we are afraid of don’t just dissolve when we ignore them. In fact, they influence our lives from underneath our everyday awareness.

For all of us, there came a time in our lives when holding in our life energy and distracting ourselves wasn’t enough to keep these feelings at bay, so we learned how to take care of ourselves through some form of compulsion.

By compulsion I mean any recurring activity we use to manage our feelings and around which we have little or no control. We can get compulsive about almost anything – overspending, overeating, overworking, overplanning, overworrying, overexercising, overdrinking, overcomputerizing, etc. Many people are compulsive without even knowing it.

It isn’t until the computer crashes or the credit card is canceled or the doctor says you can’t eat a high-fat diet that it becomes clear just how much a particular activity controls your life. To make matters worse, our whole story around compulsions is that they must be gotten rid of. So we try to control these urges, only to have them control us and this is where many of us are caught.

The old style of working with compulsions is to try manage them, but managing keeps us on the surface of our experience. If we aren’t aware of what is going on inside of ourselves whenever we are compulsive, we will live in reaction.

Reaction creates contractions in our minds, bodies and hearts, and these contractions, if left unattended, fuel our compulsions because it is what we choose not to observe in our lives that controls us.

There is strong evidence that managing compulsions doesn’t work. Take overeating for example. It has been widely reported that 95-98% of every pound that is lost in the United States is gained back, plus some, within a year and a half.

The tricky thing is that management does appear to work initially, but eventually it gives diminishing returns for compulsions don’t heal the feelings that are fueling them. They just numb us out. And even though they promise us that they will take away our pain, they actually do the opposite, leaving us caught in a seemingly endless cycle of trying to control our compulsions only to find ourselves being controlled by them. And if we do manage to control one compulsion, another one usually pops up to take its place.

Rather than managing our compulsions, a more effective way is to engage with them. The two qualities that make up the art of engagement are curiosity and compassion.

Curiosity is an alert acceptance coupled with a passionate interest about whatever is happening right now. Moments of pure curiosity are powerful beyond our wildest imagining.

The second quality of engagement is compassion. The power of compassion is that it dissolves problems rather than trying to solve them. This dissolving comes from compassion’s ability to meet ourselves as we are. Compassion understands that no amount of becoming ‘better’ will ever bring us the healing we long for.

All lasting healing happens when we can be compassionately present for whatever we are experiencing in this moment, for the quickest way to the healing that we long for is to stop striving for results and start meeting things as they are.

I call the ability to be present for our experience ‘treasure hunting,’ for hidden in everything we have turned away from inside of ourselves is a treasure that contains the lasting healing we long for.

Whenever we are compulsive, instead of turning away, this is the perfect time to turn toward our experience. The more we bring our compassionate attention to our compulsion, the more we can unravel the ball of struggle that made compulsion enticing in the first place. As we do so, we literally transform the feelings we hid inside of ourselves that are fueling our compulsions. When we meet whatever is there with curiosity and compassion, our old patterns and feelings finally lose their power over us.

Management gives us short-term results; engagement brings us the lasting healing we long for. Management keeps us caught in a cycle of controlling, only to be controlled. Engagement brings us to a place where we trust ourselves again, knowing we are okay, life is okay and everything will be okay.

As you become interested in engagement, know that patience is an important ingredient on the journey. It took a long time to weave the web of compulsion. It will take a while to unravel it, but the invitation is to begin right now.

For just this moment, let go of any judgment you have for being compulsive and instead, respect yourself for taking on the great teacher of compulsion. And know that as you learn how to listen to your compulsions, they will become your guide back into a life of true satisfaction and fulfillment.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What to do when you can't lose the weight

By Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.

Some of you are finding that despite proper eating and exercise you simply cannot lose the extra weight. Our research has shown that there are a number of things contributing to this and that when you treat them the weight will often begin to disappear.

This is discussed at length in my book From Fatigued to Fantastic!, which teaches people how to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and goes into detail about how to effectively treat the problems discussed below. In these illnesses, which are characterized by fatigue, insomnia, "brain fog" and often widespread pain there is an average 32 lb. weight gain.

The good news is that our research shows that effective treatment is available for 91% of these patients and a fringe benefit is that not just do they feel great but they also lose their excess weight.

These are the most common ones:

1. Hypothyroidism. Over 26 million Americans suffer with hypothyroidism, and less than one third of them are being properly diagnosed or treated! This is the case despite most of them having what their doctors mistakenly consider to be normal blood tests. As long as your thyroid function is inadequate, it will be nearly impossible for you to keep your weight down.

One patient that I treated had lost 50 lbs. by her 4 month follow-up visit, in addition to having no pain and having great energy. She was understandably thrilled. Many of the factors contributing to weight gain in these syndromes also affect the rest of us.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance with low body temperature (under 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), achiness and poor mental function. You don't have to have all of these. Having even a few of these symptoms is enough to justify a therapeutic trial of thyroid hormone. It should be adjusted to the dose that FEELS best while keeping the free T4 blood test in the normal range.

2. Nutritional deficiencies. When you are deficient in vitamins or minerals your body will crave more food than you need and your metabolism will be sluggish. To keep it simple and avoid the need to take tablets all day, I recommend that you use a high-quality, premium multi-vitamin/multi-mineral with energizing nutrients.

3. Poor sleep. The expression "getting your beauty sleep" actually has a basis in fact. Deep sleep is a major trigger for growth hormone production. Growth hormone stimulates production of muscle (which burns fat) and improves insulin sensitivity (which decreases the tendency to make fat). 100 years ago, the average American got 9 hours of sleep a night. Because it raises growth hormone, getting the 8-9 hours of sleep a night that the human body is meant to have can powerfully contribute to your staying young and trim! If you have insomnia, eating some turkey before bedtime can help as it contains high levels of tryptophan. Herbals can also help.

4. Yeast overgrowth.
Clinical experience has shown that fungal overgrowth (also known as Candida albicans) contributes powerfully to both sugar cravings and weight gain. Although we do not know the mechanism for this, we have repeatedly seen excess weight drops off once this overgrowth is treated and eliminated. The main causes of fungal overgrowth are excess sugar intake and antibiotic use. Common problems caused by yeast overgrowth include chronic sinusitis and/or spastic colon (gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation). If you have either of these, you probably have fungal overgrowth. The good news is that treating this will not just help you to lose weight but can also eliminate your spastic colon and sinusitis! My book or the treatment protocol on my web site (see will teach you how to effectively treat this.

5. Carnitine deficiency, which is present in most people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is another major problem. Unfortunately, this deficiency forces your body to turn calories into fat and makes it almost impossible to lose fat. Simply taking carnitine does not help adequately however, as it does not get into cells optimally. I recommend that people take acetyl-L-carnitine 1000 mg daily (which does get into the cells more effectively) for four months, as this can help both energy and weight loss.

6. Adrenal stress support. Start by making an attitude change. Whenever you notice that you're getting anxious or worried ask yourself the simple question "Am I in imminent danger?" The answer is almost always no, and you'll find that your adrenal glands relax as you realize this. If you have problems with relaxing or letting go of worry, my book, Three Steps to Happiness: Healing through Joy, can help you get from where you are to a life that you love! If you are experiencing hypoglycemic episodes, consider taking an adrenal glandular that includes DGL licorice.

To summarize, several factors contribute to persistent weight gain. These include inadequate thyroid function, poor sleep, nutritional deficiencies and yeast overgrowth. Treating these problems can result in marked weight loss.

It is no longer necessary to be on extreme, unsustainable or unhealthy diets to lose weight and keep it off. The recommendations above will not just help you stay trim, but they will leave you healthy and full of vitality as well!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Neil Levin on the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Response

What is the level of consumer understanding of glycemic index and the glycemic response?
The Atkins and other low carb diets have certainly improved the awareness of the glycemic index, as have low-carb sports products, including bars. The awareness is probably fairly superficial, though, amounting mostly to alternative sweeteners and a general avoidance of grain products. And a lot of manufacturers used unapproved label claims, such as net carbs, that were not really well defined and probably confused a lot of people. I believe that the low carb category has quite properly morphed into the low glycemic category, something that Dr. Atkins foresaw and wrote about before his death and wrote about.

Who is the target consumer for low-GI foods: diabetics, dieters, health conscious?
While diabetics are the classic market for low glycemic products, and rightly so, the market has some other notable segments. Dieters, of course. People under a lot of stress where excess levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol is a problem, contributing to insulin resistance, which is a situation where cells become resistant to insulin, leaving the insulin and sugar in the bloodstream and resulting in low energy and high levels of blood sugar. This is potentially a pre-diabetic condition, and anyone suffering from chronic stress could be at risk. Yet another target market is people who follow the Blood Type Diet, especially those with the O blood type.

How do low-GI foods fit an overall healthy lifestyle?
While people need a certain amount of carbs for energy and brain fuel, the overabundance in the American diet is cause for concern. But look carefully at how the form of foods affects their glycemic index numbers. Foods containing fiber are lower on the scale than refined foods. Whole grains are lower on the index than even the same grain ground into flour, because the rate of digestion and passage through the digestive tract depends on the fineness of the food particle size and the presence of fibers that slow this passage, making the sugars from the food become, in effect, time released. Slower release of sugars into the bloodstream helps to control blood sugar levels and maintain a more desirable glycemic balance.

Avoiding high sugar food is only part of the solution, as many vegetable starches also convert to sugars. That is why the presence or absence of fiber and the physical form of the food are also important factors in glycemic control.

What type(s) of foods are available in the low-GI category, and what sets them apart from existing offerings?
It is important to note that this category should not be viewed simply as packaged products expressly created to be low GI, but rather that many of the staples health food stores have promoted for decades are, and always have been, low GI.

These include several forms of fiber, such as guar gum, oat bran, rice bran, wheat bran, apple pectin, glucomannan, grapefruit pectin, and psyllium. These are not only low glycemic, but help other foods to become low glycemic by slowing digestive and transit times in the stomach and upper intestine. (Fibers also speed transit time through the large intestine.) Stores also sell gluten flour, containing far more protein and less starch (carbs) than ordinary wheat flour. We have soy powder and some of the smaller grains (for example, amaranth, flax, quinoa) that have a higher proportion of protein and fiber than larger grains.

Textured soy protein can be added to foods to increase their protein content without adding carbs, a plus for many vegetarians who lack un-starchy protein sources. There is also dry roasted soybeans, too (soy nuts).

Use a good variety of natural and organic nuts and seeds, which are good sources of protein and healthy fats, including almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame and sunflower seeds, walnuts.

Nutritional oils are all low glycemic, containing no carbs. These include organic virgin coconut oil, organic virgin macadamia nut oil, extra virgin olive oil, almond oil and rice bran oil.

In the alternative sweetener category are included low glycemic choices such as erythritol (substitutes for sugar in recipes, but not quite as sweet; non-laxative), sorbitol (one of the original sugar substitutes, can be laxative in servings over 20 grams), and xylitol (substitutes for sugar in both bulk and sweetness, but can be laxative at 30-50 grams).

Stevia is a dietary supplement containing terpenes, which are compounds that are not technically classified as sweeteners. You cannot sell stevia as a sweetener, because the FDA approved it as a dietary supplement but denied a petition to approve it as a sweetener. Manufacturers do not offer substitution suggestions for using stevia in place of sugar, but several cookbooks do offer stevia recipes. Other plants containing terpenes are Lo Han and Licorice. Stevia is available in a variety of forms, including powdered, packets, tablets, liquids, etc.

How are formulators using cutting-edge ingredients to increase fiber levels and balance glycemic load?
There are more concentrated fibers on the market now for use as ingredients in bars or supplements, though they are also more costly than plain fiber sources, such as various brans from grains. Beta glucans are perhaps the best known, and also have an approved FDA health claim.

How do you suggest retailers promote these products to best effect?
I suggest that retailers be aware of their low carb/low glycemic products in order to successfully market them. A store section is appropriate for packaged goods, though some products may be better sellers in other sections, such as sweeteners. The market for products dealing with diet/stress/blood sugar should continue to grow, making this an important category for us. The key is education; an educated retailer will be able to stock and sell the products, meeting an unfulfilled need in uneducated consumers, who may be ignorant of that need without some outreach by retailers. Classes, lectures, copies of articles, in-store magazines and promotions targeting the need for controlling blood sugar are all viable options for retail merchants who want to contribute to both their customers’ health and their own bottom lines. This is also an ideal topic for retailers to write an article for a local paper educating readers about the issue and showcasing the expertise available in their store.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cravings don't mean you have no willpower

Many women crave sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol. In most cases, these food cravings are not true eating disorders, but instead are signs of hormonal imbalance caused by a non-optimal diet.

Your own issue may be the afternoon snack, candy, too many potato chips, an extra glass of wine after dinner, and so forth. But the underlying mechanism, and the way to curb cravings, is the same. And it may not have that much to do with willpower, as such, and more to do with metabolism and biocehmistry.

Food cravings tells us that the body is confused. When we are exhausted or blue, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body informs the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving.

Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone; if serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. Hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin. We feel fine for a moment but soon go back to our low-serotonin state, again craving more sugar and simple carbs.

If you eat a low-fat diet in the hope of losing weight, you unintentionally make the problem worse. If, like millions of women, you have eaten a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for many years, or followed fad diets, the odds are good that you have become at least partially insulin resistant.

Insulin is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels by telling the body’s cells when to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Being insulin resistant means your body stops responding to insulin, and instead grabs every calorie it can and deposits it as fat. In this case, no matter how little you eat, you will gradually gain weight.

Meanwhile your cells cannot absorb the glucose they need, so they signal your brain that you need more carbohydrates or sugars. The result is: persistent food cravings.

What's even worse: insulin resistance leads directly to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Many experts believe it is the root cause of the epidemic of those diseases in America today.

A low-fat diet makes it far more likely you will suffer from this condition. Millions of American women have tried the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet. While these diets are an improvement over the conventional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, they can worsen your metabolic problems, because dieting itself is stressful to the body. Many women need to reset their metabolism, first, before even considering weight loss.

Another cause of food cravings is adrenal fatigue. If you are under a great deal of stress, or suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation, you are likely exhausted much of the time. This leads to adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion which, in turn, signals the body it needs a pick-me-up. You may resort to sugar or carbohydrate snacks or coffee during the day and carbohydrates or alcohol at night, all of which exacerbate the problem.

How to curb cravings
Women who blame themselves for their food cravings only worsen their mood and increase their need for serotonin. That’s when a pattern of emotional eating can develop. Keep in mind that there are biological causes of sugar cravings, and your carbohydrate craving is rarely just a behavioral problem. The root problem is more likely inadequate nutrition.

How do we break this vicious cycle?

To reduce food cravings, the body needs help. We have seen that eating healthy foods, nutritional supplements and moderate exercise can effectively curb cravings.

Your metabolism will repair itself when given with the necessary nutritional support. If it has been damaged, the process can take some time, but it will happen. The good news is — you don’t have to give up dark chocolate!

Cravings 101

Cravings for foods, often for fatty foods or carbs, can easily sabotage our body composition and weight-loss efforts. So it's really important that we know how to cope with (and overcome) them.

Scientists don't agree about exactly why we have cravings. Some experts suggest they're physiological, that our bodies are craving certain nutrients when we want specific foods or that we are subconsciously desiring a result the food might bring (e.g. a candy bar providing a "sugar rush"). Many people who feel cravings are also depressed.

Others believe that cravings are simply force of habit or even a form of food addiction. Many of us crave foods that brought us pleasure growing up, known as comfort foods, which may have more to do with emotional security than a desire for food.