Tag Archives: health

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?

Zero.

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.

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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).

Afraid to get excited?

3 Aug

“Everything has been going so well, I’m afraid to get excited,” my client stated emphatically. “What if it doesn’t last?”

“Guess what…” I said, “It won’t!”

I know what you’re thinking. Dang, Kori; way to burst her bubble! You always talk about how powerful our thoughts are and how important being positive is!

Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do. And I’m also a realist! Positive thinking is beneficial, if we’re still operating in reality– objective reality.

“It won’t last,” I confirmed. “And that’s the entire reason I need you to relish in the excitement you’re feeling right now. I hear it in your voice, I see it in your face. Your entire body relaxed when you were describing for me what you’ve noticed lately, how well you’ve been eating, the different ways in which you’re taking care of yourself, and how motivated you’ve been during your training sessions!”

Life- ScrabbleLife.

I can go from feeling blissfully grateful to depressingly disappointed in the span of 60 seconds!

Emotion.

Memories are created by emotion. Events that  stand out for us have feelings, driven by hormones, attached to them. You could be sitting in the middle of a movie theater and recall something you were involved in years ago because of a similarly felt emotion evoked from the movie you’re watching currently.

My client has disappointment, discouragement, frustration, hurt, and anger entangled around her previous weight loss attempts. Happiness– if that’s felt for her, it’s like traveling to a foreign land where she stands among throngs of people unable to speak the language. What? Huh? Where am I? What is this? Yet she knows what it feels like because she has experienced it in other areas of her life.

Unable to make sense of it in this context, however, with it being such a rare occurrence, not only was she uncomfortable about acknowledging it but she began attributing it to some magical phenomenon.

She said, “Everything that’s happening has to be pure coincidence….or magic…or luck.”

Self-determinationTo which I replied, “You’re right. It couldn’t be that you’re taking proactive steps toward planning ahead, thinking through your actions, defining for yourself how you’d like to feel at the end of the day, playing your behaviors forward, and moving away from the belief that you need to be perfect in order to be successful…..no. It can’t be that stuff.” I winked. “You’re developing a sense of competence through engaging in meaningful behaviors,” I said. “Roll around in that!”

When was the shoe going to drop? Who knew. But what I did know was that eventually it would, whether big or small, but it was the sense of mastery and competence she was developing that I needed her to feel and take advantage of while it was there, that she could draw on when the shoe did drop. She needed to sink into the gratefulness for her successes and the excitement she was feeling. With that would come more happiness and optimism and importantly, a new narrative that she could write to explain where she was headed.

The self-handicapping, a term coined by Knee and Zuckerman (1998) needed to erode away into an objective level of responsibility-taking when the negative would pop up and setbacks would occur. In other words, I wanted her to understand that she didn’t need to defensively prepare herself for possible failure by not attributing her success to personal efforts.  If we could acknowledge that there would be failures along the way, and expect them, she wouldn’t need to make excuses “just in case.”I write...

Her new narrative, her story, that she would write about herself, or explain to others, when they would eventually ask, “How’d you do it? You lost so much weight!” would be an amalgamation of the events in her life that she would craft and connect in ways that would define her identity as a persistent, determined, competent woman who set her sights on health, and put one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again; rather than a victim of circumstance, untoward events, and the cosmos colluding in creating a fate that has her resigned to believing “I guess I was just meant to be fat.”

Dan Abrams, a Northwestern University psychologist, explains how stories give our lives coherence and meaning. Simply, they put the events we’ve experienced into perspective and help us create patterns. I wanted my client to begin rewriting the story she had been living for so long– that she was broken, unsuccessful, and a failure– and put herself in the role of a self-determined, cunning, clever, intelligent protagonist that could navigate even the toughest stuff and come out the other side. I wanted her to write a new story that had her as the hero!

Often the stories we’ve written are unconscious– think of all the times you’ve wondered why you act a certain way and have such trouble doing something different. We begin writing our stories at a very young age, and oftentimes we’re the main character in a story that is no longer true or valid for our present selves. Even if an event happened when we were a child, the meaning we spun around it then is often irrelevant for us as adults and keeps us stuck and frustrated. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we keep reliving the same events again and again and again.

Great stories happen to those who can tell them...So think positive. But think realistically positive.

Proofread your stories and proofread them well.

Demand excellence from yourself, but not perfection.

Don’t wait for the shoe to drop– expect that it will. Then go put it on and tie the laces tightly.

And finally, get excited. Go experience and take risks so you can write new stories in which you’re thrilled to be the main character!

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.”

Where has Personal Responsibility Gone?

10 May

Okay, I’m angry. I was on the treadmill this morning reading the NPR Health headlines, and every page had an article related to nutrition.

  • Food deserts and the impact of low availability of and access to nutritious foods in low income neighborhoods
  • the continuing rise in obesity (big surprise) and its influence on soaring health care costs
  • a rant by an author about how some states are banning bake sales because of how unhealthy they can be (I love this, but the author was not happy about it. Oh the places I could go with this.)
  • an article about how mothers of infants who are obese (yes, you read that correctly– INFANTS) misinterpret how fat their babies are, oftentimes rating them as normal or underweight
  • a description of the rising tide of childhood type 2 diabetes and how the typical meds given to adults are ineffective, in addition to how apparently lifestyle interventions don’t work either to relieve the condition

Am I the only one who is freaking livid about how people are choosing not to take care of themselves, much less their freaking children?!

As I was running I thought, “You know what? My health insurance premium is going to go up again. Each year I see it rise. Each year I take better and better care of myself. I’m not paying for MY health care! I’m paying for everyone else’s! I’m paying for the hospital visits of people who have a heart attach because they are among the fastest growing members of the obesity population– the people who are 100 lbs or more overweight! Are you kidding me?!”

At what point do you look down and recognize that you have a responsibility to do something different. It’s not just individual lives that are influenced by each of our decisions. It’s society! It’s time to wake up and look around. Just because 70% of people are overweight doesn’t make it OKAY! What happened to hard work, effort, and responsibility for our own health being the norm? I grew up poor. One parent. One amazing mother who sure, could have done some things different (we call can look back and say, “Wow, I messed that one up!” and we SHOULD!), but who also worked her fingers to the bone, didn’t sleep many nights, but put food on the table (and yes, made sure the meals were as balanced as possible, even if the vegetables came from a freaking can), and showed me what it meant to be self-determined and to not expect things to be handed to me.

Personal Responsibility- how has it disappeared? How do we get it back? Are you implementing a level of accountability in your own life? Getting support from trusted individuals who can help you develop this if it’s lacking?

Up a creek without a paddle….

16 Jan

Too good to ignore, I wanted to share with you what a client of mine recently contacted me about regarding her lack of progress. The image she created for me with her “creek without a paddle” statements was vivid and gave me some useful tools from which to help draw her out and begin thinking in a new direction. At least she didn’t say she was drowning!

Question:

Kori,

You are probaly wondering what happened to me. I am in a big rut. I have been so busy with this school schedule and the kids that I have not had a bit of time to set aside for my new Wellness program. I really do not know what to do. I think my husband is getting little perturbed at me but he does understand because he is having to help me a bunch especially with the kids. This quarter I have 4 classes that are absolutely awful. Next  quarter I only have 1. I should have waited to start the program then. Do you have any suggestions? I have maintained my weight through the Holidays at 143. I do feel really good about that. It could have been a lot worse.

Any thoughts, or am I up the creek ….. without a paddle…..????

 

Answer:

A few things:
1. Fantastic that you maintained your weight through the holidays. That didn’t happen by accident, you know. I want you to think about what contributed to that success, b/c you can capitalize on it and build from it NOW as you move forward.

2. You’re in the boat, and you always have the paddle, but you have to decide whether you’re going to sit there holding it and doing nothing or put it in the water and start paddling! You’re making choices each and every day to move forward or just rest in the water. That “resting” isn’t necessarily negative- look what it did for you over the holidays! Despite not tracking or being “active” about losing, you maintained! But I know you want to lose, and so yes, you have to make a choice to start taking some steps toward that endeavor.

3. If you open the door for things to “get in your way”, things will come through the door. Don’t crack it open. It’s like having kids– is there a “best time”? No way. You prioritize the things that are important to you in your life. I could have said the same thing about my PhD. I’m too busy. There’s too much going on. I don’t have time to devote to it. You don’t wait for time to find you. You MAKE the time for what you decide is necessary in your life. Is this necessary and meaningful for you?

My pep talk to you, my dear. I know you can do it. If you want to. Re-engage your brain. It’s your mind that’s holding you back- not time. 🙂

 

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