Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 8

Your brain regulates your energy balance and your body weight over a span of time. How this is done is complex, but a major influencer of weight and energy balance is an area of your brain called the lipostat, located in the hypothalamus. This is a non-conscious regulator of body weight and energy balance. That means you do not consciously control how this part of your brain regulates your weight. You cannot just change the setting and get a response the way you do with your thermostat in your home.

Lipostat, Hormones, and Regulation

The job of this area is to make sure you maintain a stable energy balance, and stable weight, over time regardless of external circumstances. This area of the brain will allow you to use stored energy when necessary, and allow you to regain stored energy when circumstances allow this to occur. Generally speaking, your genetics determine this set point for your weight. But it can be changed over time.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms.

One of the influencers is the hormone leptin, which we discussed earlier. Leptin is released by your fat cells, and its job is to tell the brain how much energy we’ve just consumed, and how much excess energy we have stored up as fat. The more body fat we have, the more leptin will be in our blood.

The brain makes decisions based on leptin levels about:

  • Your hunger
  • Daily calorie intake
  • How much nutrients to absorb
  • How much energy to use and store

Then, it cycles back to regulate leptin production in a loop that will help keep your energy and body weight balanced over time. Your brain can increase energy expenditure by making you fidget and sweat. It can also decrease energy expenditure by lowering your metabolic rate. I talk about this in my book, Authentic Health.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms. You think you have low thyroid, and in a way, you do. Your brain has downregulated thyroid function because it’s downregulating your metabolism to save energy. This is a situation we want to avoid. This is why we don’t recommend daily reduced calorie diets over a longer period of time.

Healthy salad with olive oil

Remember, when I say reduced calorie diet, I’m talking about for those who are eating appropriate calories. If you are consuming excess calories daily, you will need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight. I’m talking about eating in accordance with your energy demands. Long-term low-calorie diets will fail. Your body does not like this. It will regulate against it.

But right eating will restore healthy body weight over time in a natural way.

So if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin remain stable over time, then you’re going to be more easily satisfied during and between meals. You’ll be less hungry. You’ll naturally eat the proper amounts of food, and not eat again until an appropriate time interval. Also, your metabolic rate will stay high, and you’ll have good energy.

If stored energy and leptin drop over time, it’ll send a message to the area of the brain we discussed earlier that the body needs to start preventing starvation. The brain will use several strategies to do this.

It will make you hungry.

Like, really hungry.

Like you can’t control this level of hunger.

Willpower has nothing to do with it. It’s hormonal hunger.

Also, you’ll move around less. You’ll find yourself wanting to just sit around. You’ll think you’re lazy, but you’re not. In addition, your metabolic rate will slow down, as I just discussed.

Person balancing on rock in sunset

So you would think that if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin went up over time, you’d want to eat less. Well, that’s supposed to be true, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way. How much your leptin goes up when you eat will vary from person to person. How your brain responds to leptin also varies from person to person. Our physiologies vary a lot, as do our genetics. In some people, when the leptin rises, their brain will decrease their appetite, and it will increase their energy output. In others, it doesn’t seem to work the same way.

But for most people, most of the time, the leptin feedback loop works well to naturally regulate our energy expenditure and our consumption. Unless we disrupt it.

Doctor’s Conclusion

We’re going to discuss how we disrupt it in the next post. The point of this post was to give you a basic lesson in how your body is regulating its fat storage, and to let you know it’s not directly under your conscious control. Ultimately, your consistent habits over time will influence it, but today, you don’t get to choose. However, the choices you make today will make a difference a week from now, or a month from now. That’s good news.

As I emphasized, you do get to choose to choose. But you have to be willing to wake up and truly choose. Otherwise, your brain is going to continue to run the show, and as you’ll see in our next post, you will continue to struggle because the specific foods you choose to eat can actually change how the brain controls your eating behavior.


Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 22

We’ve covered a lot of ground, including mindset, desire, habits, basic brain science, cravings, willpower, and pleasure versus well-being. If you’ve stuck with this, and thought through all of these posts, and have begun to apply the teachings, you’ll have made considerable progress in controlling your own mind and directing your thoughts.

It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to continue to practice this. This has to become your daily habit. You have to start your day with it and finish your day with it. It’s totally doable. I’ve experienced this myself, and I’ve watched others experience it.

Once you have this, health won’t be an issue, because you’ll be strongly attached to your good health and your energy. You won’t give it away again.

Once you have this, health won’t be an issue, because you’ll be strongly attached to your good health and your energy. You won’t give it away again. You’ll see through the charades that our modern marketplace has developed to keep us stuck in the matrix of their products and services and false comforts, and not experiencing our best health in real life. You’ll begin to see it for what it is and have the power to choose according to your desires.

You can live your best life with your best health, regardless of the context you find yourself in.

On this journey, it’s very important to continue all the tools you’ve learned, such as:

All of these are very important. All of these will result in you arriving at a healthier state of being.

Young man with hat looking up at sky

Doctor’s Conclusion

I hope this series of posts has been helpful. If it has, consider watching our upcoming video series on this topic. It will go into far more depth and give many illustrations and case studies. Also consider visiting us at healthshepherds.com, on Instagram, and on our Facebook page. Join our healthy and vibrant community. Come on board with the cause of your personal, and our collective, best health. It’s so important.

Finally, do this: Remember, knowledge is not power. Only applied knowledge is power. This will not become powerful for you unless you actually begin to apply it. You must do this in the end, and if you do, the reward is well worth it.

Thank you for your consideration of these teachings. May you experience your best health.


If you’re interested in personalized healthcare, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Please enjoy the free resources available to you. For those deeply curious about their most authentic health, I also recommend my book, Authentic Health

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 7

Your non-conscious brain influences your eating behaviors over sustained periods of time. What really makes a difference to your weight and your overall health is what you do on a consistent basis—what, and how much, you typically eat day after day. Brief variations in this pattern do not make much of a difference. Your body can quickly adjust to a short period of not receiving enough calories or a short period of receiving too many calories. Generally speaking, it’ll maintain stable health and weight for variations such as these. It’s the consistency over time that matters.

That’s why I often have people apply the 80/20 rule, meaning that if they can adopt the behaviors I’m suggesting 80% of the time, they’ll get most of the results they need. However, for some individuals, their current health situation dictates that they need to apply them more like 90% or even 100% of the time. When you become desperate, sometimes you have to take appropriate measures, so we’d prefer not to get to the point of desperation. Generally, the 80/20 rule will work.

Don’t underestimate how empowering this freedom is, to be completely free to eat in a way that supports your best health and your best life.

What Happens When You Transform Your Eating?

When people correct their eating behaviors and begin to eat the foods that give them health, energy, and appetite control, they eventually will only eat these foods. The reason for this is obvious. As they transform their eating, they begin to feel so good that they don’t want to go back. When they finally have a “cheat day,” and eat all the foods that they used to love, it actually can cause:

They begin to recognize that their cheat days just made them sick, so ultimately they end up choosing nutritious foods all the time.

That will happen to you, too, if you stick with this series. You will get to a place of complete freedom in your eating behavior where you always choose foods that nourish you and help you to feel good. The great news is these foods also taste good. You’ll still enjoy really good food, and you won’t have to count calories. Don’t underestimate how empowering this freedom is, to be completely free to eat in a way that supports your best health and your best life.

Doctor’s Conclusion

So as you begin to understand how the brain regulates this, and you start to take control of your brain, the process will become self-reinforcing. You will no longer have to fight yourself. This will just become who you are. That’s good news because who you are will become a very healthy and energized human being.

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Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 21

This is our last post on willpower in the series, “Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health.” We’ve focused heavily on this skill because it’s fundamental to you making the choices that support your best health.

I want you to understand the concept of self-forgiveness. Because, in this journey, we’re going to have setbacks. We’re going to have challenges that sometimes overwhelm us. There will be times when we want to give in to our old behavioral patterns. When we do, the faster we forgive ourselves, the faster we will exit that unhealthy behavior loop. Then we can restart the behaviors that we truly desire and that support our good health.

You cannot beat up on yourself or succumb to guilt and shame. These negative feelings and emotions will deplete your willpower, make you more restless, and increase the desire to do whatever makes you feel good in the moment. Instead, you forgive yourself, accept that this is just part of the challenge, and then you move forward with a new determination.

Happy healthy couple average size embracing on a walk

It’s very important to practice self-forgiveness. Forgiveness of yourself and others. This is one of the most important characteristics that we can cultivate. When we begin to forgive everyone else of everything that’s ever happened, and we forgive ourselves, we enter into a type of freedom that’s remarkable. It’s a wonderful experience.

Practicing gratitude and forgiveness is so powerful. I want you to apply this to yourself. Feel grateful and forgive yourself. Don’t judge yourself. It’s okay. You will continue this journey. You will continue to become the healthiest version of you.

We’ll see you in the next post.


Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 6

Chew on this: Once you’re eating, what helps you know when it’s time to stop? How does your body know when you’ve consumed sufficient energy and nutrients?

Satiation and Satiety Signaling

There’s a concept called satiation, which is the feeling of fullness you get during a meal that tells you it’s time to stop eating. It’s the feeling that you’ve had enough. There’s also the concept of satiety which describes the process of maintaining a sense of satisfaction, or fullness, between meals. When you have normal satiety, you have a reduced interest in food until you truly become hungry again. Satiety allows you to enter into all of your productive activities without being distracted by food. Good satiety promotes health and gives you freedom from unhealthy eating behaviors. Many factors promote normal satiety.

High fiber, nutrient-dense foods that are lower in overall calories create more volume-signaling, allowing you to be naturally satisfied.

Satiation is mediated by two primary factors: volume and nutrients. Your stomach is actually small, but it can stretch to a very large size. As your stomach stretches, your body detects this and sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to stop eating. This signal travels the vagus nerve that communicates to your brain stem, which is where your satiation center exists. This area of the brain functions in a non-conscious manner.

Avocado toast on whole wheat bread and soft boiled egg

That’s why we emphasize fiber and nutrient dense foods as part of your eating routine. High fiber, nutrient-dense foods that are lower in overall calories create more volume-signaling, allowing you to be naturally satisfied. In fact, many studies on obesity have demonstrated that when individuals only have the option to eat high-fiber, nutrient-dense, low-calorie, moderate-palatability foods, they’ll naturally control their appetite. I’m talking about people who have chronic binge eating issues suddenly having no issue with their normal satiation function.

Hormonal Signaling

However, volume is not the only signal that regulates when to stop eating. There’s also hormonal satiation. While you’re eating, your gastrointestinal tract, and other related organs like the pancreas, send signals to the brain that nutrients and energy are incoming. There are many different hormones involved in this signaling. I will not go into the details of them all here.

It’s important to know that insulin is one of these hormones. I teach about insulin extensively, and I like to remind people that insulin is an important hormone, and it’s not our enemy. It’s just that too much insulin all the time can lead to issues such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and chronic obesity. Insulin is actually a signal to tell you to stop eating, so high insulin doesn’t cause hunger.

In fact, many studies on obesity have demonstrated that when individuals only have the option to eat high-fiber, nutrient-dense, low-calorie, moderate-palatability foods, they’ll naturally control their appetite.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone and is necessary to move nutrients into the cells that require them. But again, insulin was supposed to be released, and then clear the scene. You have a small amount of insulin all the time. But generally speaking, your insulin should only spike 2-3 times a day, when you eat, and should otherwise be at a relatively low level. Part of the problem with our modern eating paradigm is that we keep insulin at high levels all the time. Our body doesn’t like to receive a constant message from just one hormonal signaler. This leads to imbalances, and then the body has to make adjustments to compensate.

Shifting Perspective

Some of the hormones that are released in response to nutrients stick around for a while. They actually help us eat less at future meals if we had plenty of nutrient intake at an earlier meal. This is why you need to think about food from a perspective of a full day, or even a week, as opposed to just one meal. If you understand the principles of eating that naturally control appetite and give you good energy, you plan your meals in such a way that you have control over them.

Insoluble fiber oatmeal with honey and pears.

An example of this would be, for someone who struggles with satiation, eating more protein and fiber earlier in the day, so they’ll naturally create a stronger satiety signal for a longer period of time.

So we’ve discussed that you have initiators of eating behavior, which we don’t fully understand, and that you also have terminators of eating behavior, which we understand a little better, but the picture’s not yet complete. We still haven’t got into the most powerful determinant of eating behaviors, which is your brain. We’ll discuss that in the next post.


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Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 20

Now we are making some progress! We’ve recognized our cravings. We understand that they’re not personal, that they developed over time, and that we have a strong desire to create new pathways that result in the behaviors we want. The process to achieve this is based on a relatively simple concept. In fact, it’s so simple, people often won’t try it. They just don’t believe it’ll work. I discuss it in my book, Authentic Health.

Essentially, when you experience a craving, regardless of what it is, whether it’s to smoke, eat, drink, watch television, or any other behavior that’s not supporting your best health, you will pause and observe it. You’ll remind yourself of what you want for yourself, meaning you’ll use the power of desire and future continuity. You will not beat up on yourself for having this issue, as you actually have strong desires to be the best version of you. And you will then pick an activity that provides well-being. Pick from the list we described in our post, “Is Well-being Something I Have or Something I Feel”? Perhaps it’s gardening, or taking a walk with your dog, or meditating, or turning on some music. But you will pick a new activity that promotes higher mind activation and well-being.

Couple walking hiking boots in woods fall

Give yourself at least 10 minutes in the new activity before reexamining the craving. You should take that 10 minutes and engage in whatever the new activity was, whether it’s taking a walk or some other activity. You’re allowed to consider giving into the craving after that 10 minutes. But you don’t have to. You’re not fighting it. You’re just accepting it for what it is and creating a new pattern.

Essentially, when you experience a craving, regardless of what it is, whether it’s to smoke, eat, drink, watch television, or any other behavior that’s not supporting your best health, you will pause and observe it.

As you do this, you’ll begin to create a new pathway in your brain in response to the craving that results in you doing something good for you.

Ten minutes later, after you’ve been working in your garden, you’ll probably find the craving has diminished significantly. It has far less power over you. So then you should just continue the activity that’s giving you true well-being. I want you to pick something and practice this.

You can try different activities and journal about it, figuring out which ones are the most powerful and effective for you. With regular application, strong future continuity can change this pattern for you. I promise you, you can do this. This is based on a mindfulness process that has solid science to support why it works. You can trust this process. But you do have to actually do it.


Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 19

Another important aspect of willpower is recognizing that whatever cravings you experience, they are just neurological pathways based on prior conditioning and habits. You want to depersonalize them. You no longer want to feel bad about yourself because you struggle with them. The neural networks that trigger these behaviors were established long ago and probably in a non-conscious way.

You should stop feeling bad about yourself for this. You should accept it for what it is, that you have these neural networks that are associated with powerful emotions and feelings. But you also have a strong desire to create new networks that will create new behaviors, and you will be able to do this by focusing your energy in the direction of what you truly want for yourself. You will no longer react to the cravings in an emotional way. You’ll begin to reduce the power of the old neural networks that aren’t supporting your good health and increase the power to the new neural networks that you are building that will automate the behaviors that support your best health.

Four Step Mindfulness Process

I’ve written a paper that describes a four-step process based on a model developed at UCLA of how to use mindfulness to create new brain pathways to support your behavior. I recommend you read that article, as it explains it very clearly, and outlines the four steps. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to provide all of the details because it’s a fairly lengthy article. But if you’re interested in this topic, it will teach you how to implement the process. I promise you, if you apply it regularly, you will establish a new habit pattern, and the old one will slowly disappear.

woman alone sitting on a rock being present

So we want to acknowledge that we experience craving and that when it occurs it’s powerful. We also need to recognize that it’s based on prior conditioning patterns and we just want to observe it. We don’t want to try and fight it or suppress it; trying not to think about it will not work. Instead, we want to see craving for what it is and move into a new behavioral pattern. Essentially, we want the old pattern to trigger a new behavioral routine.

We will use a pattern of substitution to achieve this. That’s what I discuss in the paper I recommend you read, and what we’ll cover in the next blog in this series. We have a wealth of information on willpower and the other key habits to your authentic health.  


If you’re interested in personalized healthcare, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Please enjoy the free resources available to you. For those deeply curious about their most authentic health, I also recommend my book, Authentic Health

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 5

How do we decide what we’re going to eat? There are two primary driving forces behind eating. 1) There is homeostatic eating, which is where we eat so we can get the energy and nutrients our body needs to maintain homeostasis or a normal internal environment. 2) Then, there is hedonic eating, which is where we eat for pleasure or to manage our emotional states.

Hormones and Eating

Almost all of our meals are a mix of both homeostatic and hedonic eating. There are many hormones that influence our appetite. One of them is known as ghrelin. It’s often called the hunger hormone. It will stimulate our appetite. It peaks before meals and falls to lower levels during and immediately after eating, as our body knows we’re now getting the energy and nutrients we need. But this is not the only hormone that influences our eating.

There’s also a hormone involved in satiety, or a feeling of satisfaction, called leptin. Leptin is secreted by our fat cells and helps regulate energy balance. What’s supposed to happen as we gain weight is that leptin levels will rise and tell an area of our brain that we should not eat as much, that we have adequately stored energy in our body. However, for many people, as they continue to gain weight, their leptin levels proceed to rise, but they continue to be very hungry. The brain stops listening to the leptin. This is thought to be due to leptin resistance and is one of the challenges of losing weight if you’ve had chronic obesity.

This is a hormonal issue, and not under your conscious control.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your hunger and eating are shaped by many factors, including your genetics, social cues, learned behaviors, environmental factors, your circadian rhythms, hormones, stress and emotional states, getting enough sleep, and your physical activity. So you see, it’s very complicated. Science still does not have the secret to hunger and eating, although we’re getting closer. We don’t really understand everything that makes us start eating.

But we’ve learned a lot about what causes us to stop eating. There’s more on that in our next post in the series.


There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds, follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook.