Tag Archives: Food

Starving, Stressed, and Stockpiling

1 Sep

We’re involved in a crisis. It’s epic. It’s huge. Just like we are.

We’re starving. Yet we’re fat. Ironic.

We’re suffering from a severe deficiency. As much as we eat, and we’re lacking nourishment.

Our bodies are deprived and I argue it’s because we’ve lost our minds. Literally.

When I hear “Kori, I’m hungry…all the time”, as a nutrition consultant, I go automatically to the structure of the diet. The nuts and bolts– what are you eating, when are you eating it, how  much are you eating when you’re eating. I’m looking at the blood sugar response they are creating based on these components of their intake. This is not a comprehensive list, of course.

The second place I go though, and the fact that I’m a therapist makes this a bit less daunting for them (or it’s the reason they’ve come to me in the first place), is straight to the heart of the matter. The heart, and what I’d argue is the center of our wisdom. What’s in there is what we’re constantly trying to feed, except the nourishment (or what we’re mistaking for nourishment) we’re giving it often leaves us feeling more empty, more deprived, and more hungry.

So we’re starving. But it’s not for lack of food. We’re starving for contentment, we’re starving for authenticity, we’re starving for connection, we’re starving for competence, we’re starving for worth, we’re starving for freedom, we’re starving for the creative capacity to be ourselves in a world that says we’re not good enough as we are, we’re starving for presence, we’re starving for attention. (By the way, as I was typing this my cat jumped on my lap and didn’t stop meowing in my face until I paid attention to him. The second I met his eyes, even without touching him, and spoke softly to him, he stopped crying, laid down, and fell asleep).

Wrapped up in this spiritual starvation (and by this I just mean the “whole” of who we are) is the stress response. When I say we’re starving for attention, I am not referring to the attention we get from others, although this is likely an unfortunate reality in our automated, digital world, which has us developing less genuine relationships with others; I’m speaking to the attention we’re giving the moments of our lives– the awareness with which we approach each situation, event, person, task, meal. The attention we put into this second, right now determines our embodiment– the essence of our being, how in tune I am to what’s occurring around me and inside of me, and how open I am to experiencing this experience. Sound a bit hokey?

Consider the results of a published in Gastroenterology assessing the concept of “dichotomous listening.” (Imagine being at work and trying to listen to the individual on the phone when your boss walks in and starts talking about some new ideas he’s been wanting to share with you– I know you’ve been there). In this study the subjects were given a mineral drink when in a relaxed state, and then again when exposed to the same sort of situation as the one described above. Absorption for sodium and chloride was tested for both conditions. Absorption in the small intestine occurred at a rate of 100% for the relaxed group. Care to guess the rate for the distracted group?


Paying attention to two things at the same time resulted in 0% absorption. (Now think about what happens when you inhale your meal sitting in front of the television with your computer on your lap checking for text messages on your smart phone).

Now back to the stress response. Something similar happens when you’re in fight or flight mode. First, remember how this response came about- it was necessary and useful when we were at risk of being eaten by lions. The threats of the 21st century are far from life-altering. Well, let me rephrase. What we are perceiving as threatening in the activities of our daily lives do not necessitate the kill or be killed reaction. Second, digestion stops when we’re in stress mode. There’s a reason that the opposite mode, governed by the parasympathetic nervous system, promotes “rest and digest”, and aptly, the “feed and breed” activities. When you’re stressed out, all you can think about is sex, right? (I had to go there). Finally, the stress response prompts fat storage through an increase in cortisol production which dumps glycogen, then glucose into the blood stream, causing a subsequent release in insulin, and when insulin is released you cannot burn body fat—it prompts fat storage.

Which brings me to the stockpiling effect. Most of us appear to be living in big bodies, yet we’re not at all operating with big minds. We’re not big thinkers– curious, inquisitive, open, captivated by ourselves and others. No, instead we’re mindless automatons just doing what everyone else is or what everyone else says we should, and eating what others say is best for our bodies with no clue as to the effects. So we’re stockpiling fat and we’re stockpiling meaningless information, and we’re doing it in a less than thoughtful or aware way. Fritz Perls, an 1800’s, astute psychotherapist and father of Gestalt Therapy, said, “awareness cures.” I couldn’t agree more. Particularly when you consider what’s involved with assimilation of the food we eat.

Wrap your brains around this: the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR) relates to the “experience” of eating– the textures, the aromas, the colors, and the satisfaction surrounding a meal. It is,  in essence, a digestive mechanism that originates from the tops of our bodies– cephalic means “of the head.” Recall the last time you were google-eyed over the brownies you saw on your friend’s Pinterest board  or when you drove by Jimmy John’s (their marketing is brilliant) and caught a whiff of their “free smells.” Catching that fresh baked bread aroma wafting through the air and you may have noticed an instant salivary response. That’s the CPDR in action! Just by noticing a food, smelling a food, and then if you actually decide to eat, and are tasting and chewing the food, your body releases increasing amounts of saliva, gastric and digestive juices, pancreatic enzymes, hormones involved in appetite, and so forth. So this is great, right? Our bodies are pretty darn efficient and know what they need to function well. Except, what if we’re not following Fritz’s advice, and we’re operating like we’re living in the Zombie apocalypse?  Oblivious, stressed out, checked out, and maxed out? And what if we’re freaked out about not losing weight quickly enough or the “right” way? And what if we’re obsessed with the Food Network and spend all of our time stockpiling recipes and drooling over pictures in magazines of meals that we “can’t eat” or “won’t fit our macros” or maybe even making them but stockpiling them for later “when we’re not dieting anymore.”

I’ll bring your full circle. Are you paying attention?

You’ve created the optimal metabolic position for fat storage outside of any caloric considerations.

Nourishment travels far beyond food. Our brains and our minds must experience pleasure through the food, by way of awareness and presence to function in a manner that says, “I’m full.” You know what it feels like when you’ve had a heart to heart with your best friend? You feel full. You feel nourished. There is no gnawing hunger ‘for more’.

We can experience the same and cure our deprivation crisis with awareness.


How’s Your Metabolism?

29 Aug

This past Tuesday, Dr. Joe gave a workshop on metabolic positioning. The goal was to explain how we can set ourselves up in a healthy, physiologically sound, science-based way for maximum fat loss. He explained to our viewers and attendees how the body utilizes carbohydrates and described the 3-stage process of energy usage for sustaining the most optimal metabolic position. The concepts he covered are largely misunderstood. The on-again, off-again nature of diets has people losing and gaining “the same 2 or 3 lbs” every week and banging their heads up against the wall wondering what’s wrong with them that they can’t lose weight.

However, once an individual understands and has applied this knowledge, the body kicks into a metabolic firepower mode. It’s no longer a mystery. “OH! Now I get it!” we’ll hear. “So when I overeat I’m storing energy that my body has to  use before it will go back to burning fat again.” Yep. Great, we’ve got that down.

What happens though when this person–who admits to being an emotional eater, to really struggling with food and acknowledges that he uses food under any circumstance that stirs up uncomfortable emotion, whether it be anxiety, boredom, discouragement, anger–has no concept of his emotional metabolism and how IT can be optimally positioned?

Studies show that at the top of the list among individuals who are obese, who have weight issues and struggle with their food relationships, who have dieted over and over and over again, or who have disordered eating lack one crucial skill– the ability to metabolize their emotions. Call it what you like- emotional eating, stress eating, using food to soothe, disordered eating, binge eating. Food is not being used to nourish. No, it’s a mechanism used to numb, forget, disembody, check out, and step out of life.

Emotional metabolism involves learning about how to change your relationship with food and your understanding of its effect on your body, but more importantly, learning how to change your relationship with yourself.

In so much of my work with clients who have lost significant amounts of weight and have kept it off, the overwhelming sentiment that differentiates them from those who continue losing and gaining is the internal shift they experienced and practiced. They learned how to view their bodies in a new way, to create a home within them, and choosing to live instead of die. They chose life. With all the emotions, hurt, ups and down and all-arounds that come with it, they chose experience. They chose to respond versus react. They chose to explore rather than ignore. They chose to ask rather than attack.

In my own personal journey the turning point was a question about life: “You know you’re killing yourself, Kori?” The walk back to my dorm from Student Health is as vivid as if it occurred yesterday-  my feet felt like cement blocks, the vice around my lungs threatened to squeeze them through my throat, and I choked on my tears. It was in that moment that I chose life.

And now I choose to step up instead of out. I choose to be curious instead of catastrophic. I choose to breathe into being me instead of belittling myself. You have the same choice to make–your metabolic position depends on it.

(Check out my series on Changing Your Relationship with Food as part of my podcast program. Parts 1 & 2 are available on our website).

Gain Control by Letting Go of Control- An Approach for Cravings

2 Oct

It’s not a huge surprise to me when the individuals I am working with who initially come in with struggles related to emotional eating, stress binges, and feeling out of control around food report having far less cravings, urges, and impulsive reactions around food after just a week or two of more structured, balanced eating. Small tweaks to what they are consuming at each meal net them big dividends in blood sugar stability, even-keel energy levels, and satiety after meals. The drive to continue eating after a meal is dampened, and that “I have to have something sweet after a meal” thought often begins to feel incongruent with what their bodies are telling them. Relief!

Unconscious incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know
Conscious incompetence – I know what I don’t know
Conscious competence – I know what I know
Unconscious competence – I don’t know what I know
Reflective or enlightened competence – I am aware that I don’t know what I know but I can shift back into conscious competence to teach someone else

“Kori, if I wasn’t working with you  on the consciousness aspect of all this, I’d still be doing what I was doing and just getting more and more frustrated.”  This is a quote from a client call I took just this morning from a woman who started with significant binge eating issues. Her food logs have gotten better and better each day– meals balanced with some protein and some carbs, moderate fat spread out through the day in foods that she really enjoys, 1-2 lbs of fat being lost each week. When asked what she felt was making the biggest difference she said “I’m learning.” Our first phone call as part of her Life Transformation program was all about her being educated about the physiology of nutrition– what actually happens in her body when she eats, how is her blood sugar influence, how come she would feel hungry so quickly after a certain meal. She was getting questions answered that would allow her to start making healthier choices, and she said, “I’ve never felt so empowered!”

There was a lot she didn’t know she didn’t know. There was also a lot she knew but didn’t know she knew! And she knew she needed to continue learning and asking questions and said to me, “I’m teaching others too, Kori!”

YUMMY! implies emotion. Contrast this with the objective response: “It’s just pink frosting with a spongy base made of sugar, butter, flour…”

For her birthday the colleagues in her office teamed together to bring in a batch of decadent, beautifully decorated cupcakes. Without hesitation she gathered them together to thank them profusely for their gesture and then explained that she wanted to share with them something very important to her. She proceeded to describe her goals of better health, fueling her body with whole, nutritious foods, and having better energy. Nowhere in her explanation would you find the words “can’t eat that” or “diet.” “Everyone enjoyed a cupcake for my birthday, and I didn’t have one because I just didn’t want to,” she said to me.
If it were another day, another time, and after assessing the situation she decided she would like to eat it, she would have.

My client is developing a new relationship with food….and with herself. She hit the nail on the head when she said she has never been more conscious. Think about what this means. Alive, awake, alert, paying attention. How many people do you know who really are that focused and attentive to what’s going on around them? Mindfulness is  what she is practicing– seeing her situations in full color, broad spectrum, and approaching them non-judgmentally. The word “seeing” is important here.  Consider seeing the words on a page. You view each letter, each word, and observe the sentences. If you look, you delve into the “meaning” of the words and the sentence they construct, and may be pulled into an emotion from reading the words. It’s the difference between being a copy editor and being the writer wrapped up in each character.  The difference is significant, and it can have a big influence on craving control.

Just today I received a tweet taking me to an article about the spiritual and physical meanings of cravings. A common myth is that cravings mean your body is lacking in some specific nutrients.  A craving implies a desire. Don’t confuse this with low blood sugar telling you that you need glucose for energy. You might have a craving for something sweet and you just ate a full meal. You are not requiring additional carbs at that point. In this case a craving would appear to be about a lack of satisfaction…a feeling of incompleteness. This is where mindfulness comes in handy.

You could get swept away by this craving, immediately begin searching for the chocolate on your co-workers’ desks and impulsively scrambling to find whatever is available to satisfy what feels like an uncomfortable restlessness OR you could recognize your craving (“Hmm…that’s an interesting sensation”); observe it and see it for what it is– “just a craving” with no emotion attached; and remind yourself that cravings are fleeting. They come and go. Just like emotion, the thought of wanting a certain food is transient– it changes. If you just watch it, rather than becoming attached to it and moving with it, you will notice it dissipates. I’ve had plenty of instances where I will think, “Mmm, I really want some frozen yogurt!” and if I get busy with something (distract myself) OR notice the thought and notice by body posture it becomes obvious that it’s not necessarily food that I need– it’s comfort or relaxation or a break from what I’m currently doing. When are the times I find myself most likely to crave something? When I’m anxious or frustrated or not wanting to be engaged in what ‘s right in front of me! When I’m attempting to push away what is here and now, I’m not being mindful. I’m not being present-focused. I’m not giving myself permission to be human and experience emotions and thoughts and realize at the same time, that they aren’t permanent. They’ll roll in like a wave and then roll right back out. Unless I decide to grab my surfboard and attach to one.

The next time you notice a craving, rather than telling yourself, “I can’t have that”, consider another approach. Say “Interesting. There’s that thought again. It’s not a part of me. I’m just going to watch it and see what happens. I don’t need to do or be anything right now but a fly on the wall of my mind.”

My Top Ten Tools for Tempering Temptation

26 Aug

In my last post I agreed to share with you my strategies for maintaining an iron will for goal achievement. Many of you are dieting for health and fitness reasons or you may be gearing up for a competition.  Whether you’re doing so because it’s necessary to prevent illness or the exacerbation of a condition or because you want to look and feel your best, you have hopefully assessed the meaning of your goal and the incentives of accomplishment. If you haven’t I’d stop what you’re doing right now, grab some paper and identify your reasons.

Why is this important to me?

The rest of this post won’t make a bit of difference if you have not at least developed your purpose in goal striving! If you’re asking this question now, look internally for the answer. INTRINSIC goals are those that will propel you forward when the going gets tough. For example, some of my clients have said the following:

1. I want to be able to get on the floor with my future grandchildren.

2. I need to be able to fit in the airplane seat when I go on this missions trip.

3. I want my kids to never struggle the way I did with weight.

4. I no longer want to be at the mercy of food!

Identifying your goals from this perspective is foundational. When you’re setting them is the time to dig deep for these answers. But what do I do when the threat is right in front of me?

My Top Ten Temptation Tempering Thoughts (in no particular order) are as follows:

(I get sarcastic with myself, and yes, as I mentioned before, I talk to myself…out loud. Keep in mind there is a specific reason I use each of these thoughts).

1.  Really? You’re THAT hungry that you would actually compare yourself to a starving child in Africa? (Brings me back to reality and out of emotional reasoning).

2. You do realize that you just ate, right? You consumed ___ protein; ___carbs; and ____ fat. I think you’ll be okay. (This is an objective, just-the-facts assessment of the situation; we can easily get carried away by our emotions and make poor decisions as a result).

3. You have another meal coming up soon. (Another objective statement; no emotion attached).

4. You could have cake anytime. Why is it imperative that you have it RIGHT NOW? (Changes my perception of the situation; when I’m craving something or feel a sense of urgency to eat it, reminding myself that it’s always available takes away the thought that “if I don’t eat it now, I’ll NEVER be able to eat it,” which just isn’t true).

5. They’ve got their goals and you’ve got yours. You’re seriously going to justify eating that because everyone else is? (We are easily swayed by the actions of others. We want to fit in, we sometimes don’t want to explain ourselves, and let’s face it, when everyone else is doing the same thing, it can be more difficult to live above the crowd).

6. It’s not that you can’t have it, Kori. You could have it any time you want. You choose not to. (When we feel limited and caged and like we do not have a say, we want to break out of our box and prove that we have control. Think of the last diet you were on that mandated you eat a certain time, in a certain way, with a certain recipe, etc. How long did it last? Structure is good– we thrive with it. But make it too rigid –“you can never eat that food again”– and you’ll likely want to bend the rules. Get back to reality and recognize that you can have any food you want; yes, you really can. But you are choosing not to have certain foods because you feel better without them, mentally and physically.)

7. You’ve been down this road before. Is it worth it? NOPE. (If your immediate, impulsive, no-pause answer moves you in the direction you desire, great. Impulsivity is a problem for most people here– I want it, so I eat it. Instead, develop some rules or standards for yourself. Rules are appropriate in some situations. For example, “I don’t walk into the break room” or “Cheetos give me a stomach ache. I don’t like them.”

8. You know the negative consequences far outweigh the short-term pleasure. Walk away. (Here I’m thinking of similar situations I’ve been in and where they have led when I make a certain decision. I love pita chips, but I don’t even go down the pita chip aisle. Why test myself? It’s like a recovering alcoholic going into a bar, sitting down, ordering a drink and willing himself not to take a sip. Why risk it?)

9. Is what you are thinking of doing in line with what you’ve said you want to accomplish? (We’ve all been there. We say we want one thing but then we act in a way that is incongruent with those wishes/hopes/desires/goals. Pause for a second and ask yourself if you want to be the broken record. Aren’t you tired of asking, “How come I self-sabotage?” I will answer that for you– because you don’t stop and RESPOND. You are impulsive and act without thinking.)

10. Are you even hungry, Kori? Genuinely, physically hungry?  (If I have to ask myself this question, there is a high probability that I’m not. And in that case, I am not going to tarnish my winning streak of positive decisions!)

And there you have it. I’ve got a lot more where those came from.

I’d love to hear what YOU do to temper temptation. Using both cognitive (thoughts) and behavioral strategies can provide a winning combination for achieving your edge in tempering any temptation and moving closer to your goal!

Illuminate to Eliminate

18 Feb

I tweeted today, “Can life be any more FULL?!?”

The painful, the amazing, the brilliant, the hideous….all of it is valuable and necessary to become who we desire to be.

We’ve got to be willing to go through it all too- not just bear it. We need to milk it, dig at it, peel away the layers of it, and taste it….every single glorious little morsel of it.

It’s easy to make excuses and back away, shut the windows of our souls, or at least allow them to fog up when we’re not paying attention. If we want to eliminate our personally created barriers, however, we’ve got to illuminate what we’re using to  build them.

What are we  blocking our paths with? What are the words we hear that stunt our growth and minimize our talents?

Once you take the time to shed light on these walls, then you can move forward in replacing them with committed and deliberate, intense, and purposeful movement down a well-lit path of resilience and healthy vulnerability.

When do you find that you get most lost in your self? When are those times when you get a real, candid, honest look at who you are and acknowledge that it’s pretty dang ugly sometimes? I want to know! Because we all have those moments. You’re not alone. Maybe sharing them would relieve some of the disgust or fear we have about what we’re assuming no one else experiences.

You don’t have to lack confidence. You don’t have to fear what you assume others might be thinking about you. You don’t have to struggle with overwhelming anxiety. You don’t have to battle food or the scale.  But you have to want something different and be willing to till and water the dirt if you want new seeds to grow.

A Gulp and some Spirit– You Ready?

15 Feb

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “But Kori, I know what to do” or “Kori, I really should know how to do this on my own” or “Kori, I have the information– I just can’t “do” it.”

And to each of these comments, I usually nod, smile, and respond with a “Yep,” a “Not exactly”, and “You hit the nail on the head.”

The brain is a wonderful thing.Without the brain we’d not be functioning human beings who can breathe, move, think, sense, experience, learn, creating meaning, much less digest our food. Each of the statements above referenced ‘knowing.’ The brain is involved in ‘knowing’, gathering information, assimilating that information, creating understanding of that information, and establishing meaning of that information. But let me back up.

Knowledge stops at knowledge unless it is followed by experience. Semantic memory are those tidbits of knowledge that we’ve stored to possibly access later. Key word: possibly. Through experience we create episodic memories by connecting the known with the unknown. If we desire to make sense of something, to understand what we’ve not previously encountered, we connect it with something that we’ve already stored away.

For example, I ask my weight loss clients to remember a big accomplishment in their lives. The meeting of a goal takes tenacity, determination, the ability to problem-solve, manage time, institute some level of organization, and a mindset of flexibility. We can anticipate that there will be bumps in the road along the way, and navigating them takes a level of skill, right? Losing weight often seems like the most daunting task on the planet when my clients first begin the process, however, when they can use what they already know, associate the same skills they have used in the past on other tasks, with what it will require to lose weight, suddenly the goal seems much easier to reach. In essence, they may “know what to do” (they have read a million diet books, participated in numerous diet programs, and watched Dr. Oz), but without experience, that knowledge remains a philosophy.

We also learn by repetition, and herein lies the problem, especially with chronic dieters. Many of them have been doing the same thing over and over, but what they have been doing has been ineffective.  “I read that carbs make you fat,” (knowledge) the client across from me stated emphatically. “I’ve been doing a low carb diet for years, and I just keep yo-yoing.” (experience).  How can she know what to do if she’s been doing the wrong thing for  years and hasn’t learned any new information that could be more effective for her? At this point her low carb dieting has become automatic. If she gains a few pounds, guess where her brain goes? The neurons that are connected to the “knowledge” about carbs are connected to the neurons that initiate the chemicals connected to the emotion that has created meaning about carbs and the subsequent behavior of ketogenic (no carb) dieting. NO FRUIT FOR YOU!

If she wants to change who she is and what she does, she has to change her brain by learning new things to create new neural circuits. She could get frustrated and say, “I just can’t do it. This is just me,” and resign herself to be overweight, unhappy, and unwilling to learn some new knowledge to start applying for the attainment of new skills.

Are you understanding now that to create change you have to first change your brain by acquiring new knowledge and information, then be willing to embrace novel experiences to create new connections and meaning that will, by association and repetition, become automatic and eventually subconscious?

So here’s the deal: If you’ve got the knowledge, it may be sitting there just waiting to be activated. What you have learned (as information) is what someone else has basically turned into experience and wisdom. So now it’s your turn. But it won’t “just happen.” What’s the next step? You’ve got to assess that knowledge, turn it over and examine it thoroughly, identify how it relates to you, reflect on it. By doing this you’re internalizing it and making it more a part of you. You are creating new synaptic connections in your brain that are now ripe to be influenced by experience (applying what we learn and changing our behavior) and attaching emotion. But we can’t stop here. We have to continue assessing and critiquing along the way, adapting what we’re taking in and experiencing with what we’ve already learned and making decisions about what to keep and continue applying or what to throw away and continue learning about! The woman who succumbs to peer pressure and has pizza and wings when she’s out with friends rather than sticking to her plan of enjoying a healthy grilled chicken salad must go back and ask herself how that event transpired, what got in the way, and create new understanding for herself so she can avoid the same behavior next time. Now she’s becoming wise!

I started with a client yesterday who expressed her trepidation about whether she really needs to work with me. She was of the “I should be able to do this on my own” camp. But she’s been in that camp for a few years, she hasn’t changed, and her knowledge and experience has remained the same. We talked about this new journey she’d be embarking on with me and she said, “With a gulp and some spirit, I’m ready to learn….”

Busting Barriers: Myth #3- It’s more expensive to eat healthy!

5 Jan

BUSTED: Not quite. Go to any fast food restaurant and do an experiment. To feed a family of four, you’re likely getting a value meal or a few items each, right? A New York Times writer recently did some research of his own and found that such an order would amount to approximately $28. That’s a lot of money! Consider What it might cost to cook a chicken, some rice, and throw together a salad or veggies- more like $15.  Potatoes are cheap. Beans are cheap. The veggies or fruits that are in season are cheap!

I remember when I was in college and I’d go from store to store getting the cheapest items (in season fruits/veggies and oh my goodness “off-brand” cereals and canned goods). I spent less than $20 each time I’d go, and it would feed me for two weeks! Yes, things have changed since then, but I’d do a little experiment the next time you’re in the store. Tally up how much you’re eating in fast food AND how much you spend buying junk at the grocery store. Now, troll the store and actually look to see how much the rice, beans, potatoes, canned goods like tomatoes, vegetables and in season fruit/ veggies are!

Why do so many people think or at least complain that it’s so expensive to eat wisely?

1. Yes, it does take a little work and prep to cook. Does it have to be super complicated? Nope. A few ingredients and VOILA! Dinner is served!

2. We don’t plan well.

3. The Chopped Champion on the Food Network gives us the idea that cooking well needs to be super creative and that recipes need to have a 20-item ingredient list to be tasty. Not so.


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