Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 16

This will be our last post in this series. We’ve covered a lot of ground and discussed how your brain regulates your eating behavior, and how your body weight is not under your conscious control, but is determined by genetics, hormones, and neurotransmitters in your brain. We’ve also discussed the human reward system, and how it can be manipulated so that we become addicted to certain foods and other substances.

It doesn’t matter how far down the road of a chronic disease you’ve gone, or what circumstances have impacted you that have created medical conditions. These principles work for everyone. Eating nourishing food, and rejecting disease-causing food, will help everyone, regardless of their specific situation.

This is also an issue of economic justice. There are areas of our country where people, especially children, have no access to the foods that would make them well. This affects their metabolism, health, and brain development. We then end up treating these individuals from a medical perspective when all they really need is good nutrition.

Eating nourishing food, and rejecting disease-causing food, will help everyone, regardless of their specific situation.

I really hope we’ll help one another, and that you’ll share these posts if you know anyone struggling with eating behavior. But I also want to make it clear there are things we can do together, and I’ve hinted at it throughout this series, but I’m just going to list them right now. Just think about each of these next steps that you could take, starting today, that could begin to restore your relationship to food, and give you back control of your eating behaviors, to be fully set free to eat according to your highest desires. 

9 Strategies That Will Change Your Health

  1. Recognize that your body is a complex system. You have to think long-term, and you have to think holistically. This is not a short journey. It’s not an overhaul-everything-in-a-few-days-or-a-few-weeks event. This is about experiencing your best health starting today and for the rest of your life. What you eat today affects the next day. What you eat in the morning can impact what you eat in the evening. If you begin to just restrict calorie intake starting with a fad diet on a Monday, by Friday, your body will already be finding ways to get back that energy.

You have to be in it for the long haul, and you have to be about the consistent effort. Remember the 80/20 rule. Be patient. Forgive yourself. If you feel like you backtrack, do not look at this through the lens of success or failure, only a journey you’re on, because you’re attached to your best health.

2. Eat whole foods that have been minimally processed, and are as close to their natural environment as possible. Remember, these foods are not hyper-rewarding, or hyper-palatable, but they still taste good. It’s much harder to overeat these or binge on them. They do not create leptin resistance or inflammation in your hypothalamus that adds to this problem. They can actually help the whole system reset so you have normal regulation of appetite.

This is the path of freedom, to reject the nutritional stressors and begin to embrace whole, natural foods that we’ve listed both in prior posts and in our resources. You don’t have to follow a low-carb or a low-fat diet, you just have to eat real food, and then let your body teach you what’s best for you. You’ll get the nutrients you need to improve performance and you’ll get the fiber you need to help feed your gut microbiome and restore normal bowel function. You’ll feel better. Try to do this most of the time. Even when you’re tempted to eat a food that’s not good for you, start by snacking on some organic nuts, or non-starchy vegetables, chew it thoroughly, drink some water, take a walk, meditate. I guarantee you the urge or craving will pass. 

3. Eat healthy portions of protein. Protein is an all-star at promoting satiety. However, remember that glutamate or proteinaceous flavors can trigger binge eating. The glutamate flavor is found in certain foods like bacon as well as cheeseburgers. I’m not picking on those foods. I’m just suggesting that it’s easier to overeat them. But if you eat lean protein from healthy animals or plant-based sources, it will promote satiety. It delays gastric emptying. It increases metabolism to digest it properly, and it provides important building blocks.

Salmon, lemon, spinach

I want to stop for a moment and honor the complexity of diets. Many of my patients who are trying to reverse insulin resistance, or have other health issues, will actually follow a lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet that’s moderate in protein. We do this for specific reasons. High protein diets can end up creating increased insulin, and also protein can be converted to sugar in the body. This is beyond the scope of this series to teach this specific issue, but it’s just important to understand diets must be individualized. I do talk about this more in my book, Authentic Health, plus the additional resources we have on ketogenic diets and fasting.

For now, know that if you’re trying to naturally control your appetite and restore normal eating behavior, protein is your friend. It can be from a plant-based or an animal-based source, but it must come from a healthy source. You must chew it thoroughly and let it naturally satiate you.

4. Eat plenty of vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables, especially the deeply colored ones, are very healthy. They provide volume and fiber, and they’re dense in nutrients and have very little calories. They minimally trigger insulin responses, and they have fun textures, such as crunchiness. Almost all of us undereat vegetables. Vegetables, as much as possible, should be vine-ripened, as local as possible, and organic. We have a list of those that really need to be organic in the book, Authentic Health, and on our website.

Vegetables will become your friend. Learn to like them. You can graze on them, eat them throughout the day, learn to cook them, and season them with different spices. You will learn to love them, and love the nutrients they provide for you. Many times, when people begin to follow a ketogenic or a fasting style of eating, one of the number one mistakes they make is not to include enough vegetables. They focus on fats and proteins and do not add the healthy vegetables that would actually make that type of diet much more nourishing for them.

Everybody should increase their intake of vegetables, especially our children.

Learn to like them. Learn to appreciate the nutrient value.

5. Get healthy fats, and healthy sources of carbohydrates from whole, non-processed foods. If you’re going to follow a diet that contains carbohydrates, you want to look for non-GMO true whole grains, often called ancestral grains because they’re what our ancestors would have eaten. These include legumes that have been properly prepared, and tubers, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and other healthy sources of carbohydrates. You want to keep these organic, and you want to keep your portions appropriate. Eating a lot of carbohydrates can, in fact, trigger insulin responses. They can work against you if you’re trying to reverse diabetes. However, most individuals, if they’re eating healthy, fibrous, nutrient-dense carbohydrates, they’ll find their bodies do just fine. There is no evidence that eating a diet in natural, non-processed carbohydrates contributes to weight gain. There’s ample evidence that processed carbohydrates trigger weight gain, through the direct hormonal response of eating.

White bowl of straweberries

Also, consider fruit a source of carbohydrate. It’s a source of sugar. You should eat healthy, organic fruits, especially berries. However, you should limit your portions to 1-2 a day. If you’re trying to reverse a blood sugar issue, you may need to reduce it further. You should also think about fruit as something to be eaten in season, when it’s local. I have a list of super-foods available on my website. These are the fruits that contain such high levels of flavonoids that they can help with arthritis and systemic inflammation.

6. Regarding fats, it’s incredibly important that you get the sources of your fat right. Highly processed, industrialized oils such as canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, and others are a major source of disease in our population. These fats are processed in such a way that they deteriorate and become rancid, and they’re essentially trans fats. They create systemic inflammation, and they’re terrible for us. There’s good evidence they may be one of the number one contributors to chronic inflammation and chronic diseases. They are in 60% of the calories of the average American diet. These fats must go. And they’re in most processed foods, restaurant foods, and salad dressings.

You need to replace them with healthy, properly delivered fats such as pure extra virgin cold-pressed olive oils, avocado oils, coconut oils, grass-fed butter, flax oil, and walnut oil. I have a list of these fats available on our website. This is one of the most important things you can do. Try to eat healthy portions of avocados, nuts, and seeds, and fatty fish that can give you the healthy Omega-3s and 6s you need to function at your best. For more information, see my book, or our other resources.

7. Be mindful of how you eat. Work on eating slowly. Pay attention to your internal satiety cues. Eat without your smartphone, tablet, or television in front of you, so you can pay attention to what nourishment is for you. Use smaller plates. Create an environment in your home and workspace that makes it difficult to overeat or be tempted with the highly processed, highly rewarding foods. Keep them out of your environment.

Remember this: if a food is in your house or possession, you, someone you love, or a friend will eventually eat it. You don’t want them eating food that makes them sick. Only keep nourishing foods. If a healthy food is in your house, you, someone you love, or a friend will eventually eat it. Keep healthy foods at home. Be mindful about eating. Chew thoroughly. Let food serve you. Don’t become a slave to your food.

8. Be flexible. It’s okay to take your time changing your diet and occasionally eat high reward foods. It’s okay to enjoy ice cream and pizza on a Saturday afternoon. You don’t have to become paranoid about your eating behaviors. If you completely demonize these foods, then you end up giving in, and you’ll often feel guilty or ashamed. There’s no point in doing this. I know I’ve used strong language throughout these posts suggesting these foods are like cigarettes and disease-causing agents, and I do feel that way. However, almost all of us are going to get exposed to these foods at some point because they’re so highly available. It’s okay to eat them occasionally.

However, I have learned the skill of fasting, and that has helped me to really focus my eating behaviors on what nourishes me, and just choose to not eat when I don’t have the options I truly desire. But I don’t judge others when I see them choosing these foods. I enjoy being with people that are my friends and family, and eating and feasting together. The last thing I’m going to do is stare at people’s plates and wonder about what they’re eating. I’m just going to enjoy the fellowship that eating together provides. But if you can combine that with eating truly nourishing foods, you will appreciate what nutrition is for you. So follow the 80/20 rule, and be patient with yourself.

9. Finally, be aware. Start to pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after you eat. Pay attention to your emotional states. Are you eating because of emotional issues, stress, or boredom? Do you eat because the clock says it’s a certain time, and you think you’re supposed to eat, even if you’re not hungry? 

Cracker plate and olive oil

Pay attention to these things. Become intuitive about your eating. Let your body teach you. It will. Do you often feel completely full after a meal, to the point of discomfort, and then actually find yourself looking in the fridge a couple hours later? Pay attention to this. Where does your food come from? Consider possibly keeping a food journal for a couple weeks, noting what you eat and how you feel. You can also think about your emotions, your stress, and other factors that could influence this. If you invest this time, it will pay you back. You will become in charge of your eating behavior. Awareness and mindfulness is the path of freedom. It activates your higher mind, which is unique to you, and allows you to be who you’re supposed to be.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Join us at Health Shepherds. Share these blogs with others you love. This is the pathway for all of us. It is the truth. We all need to embrace it together and help one another.

I hope this series has helped you. It absolutely helps me every time I think about this, and it helps me help my own family as well. Follow me on Instagram, like me on Facebook, and keep in touch!

Physical Activity and Movement Part 7

I’m a fan of endurance training. I incorporate it as part of my physical activity profile and I like knowing I have the cardiovascular ability to run 5 miles or climb a mountain. I think most people would benefit from some form of endurance activity.

It’s important to understand that picking only one endurance activity and doing that all the time as your sole source of exercise can actually sometimes create negative physical responses.

What’s Wrong with Endurance Training?

If you’re only using particular muscle groups and movement patterns on a consistent, sustained basis, you may be creating imbalances in your body’s functional abilities. In addition, running 15 miles a day is not necessarily associated with a longer, healthier lifespan. The studies are mixed. I’m not here to criticize that habit. I’m suggesting that’s not what you have to do to experience good health. If it’s something you do because of all the benefits for you specifically, then keep doing it. Just recognize that your body might need periods or rest, recovery, and cross-training with different exercises.

Your body will adapt to any form of chronic, repetitive stress. Eventually, the gains you get from this will be minimized. You’ll maximize your physical capabilities and your aerobic capabilities to that specific exercise. Your body will make its adjustments, and from that point forward, it’s doubtful it does a whole lot more for you. Again, it can help you feel better mentally and provide a sense of accomplishment. I’m not suggesting you stop. I’m just letting you know that if you’re embracing physical activity for the first time, you don’t have to set the goal of completing your first marathon. You can, but it’s not necessary. It may actually have some negative consequences for you.

If you’re only using particular muscle groups and movement patterns on a consistent, sustained basis, you may be creating imbalances in your body’s functional abilities.

Physical Activity for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to use physical activity for weight loss, then burning calories on a daily basis is helpful. But eventually, your body will adjust to this metabolically. There’s a point to where the sustained exposure to the same activity on the same basis will not really change the energy balance of your body and help you to lose further weight.

In order to better understand what causes weight loss, you’ll need to see our series on the true causes of weight gain, and how to lose weight successfully. It’s far more complicated than just eating less and exercising.

Endurance training and jumping

However, if the thought of engaging in an endurance activity such as a triathlon, running, cycling, or swimming is appealing to you, then go for it. Enjoy it. But try to balance it out with other exercises, and try to give your body periods of appropriate rest. Also, incorporate these overall foundational principles into your exercise pattern. You can certainly do intervals while swimming, running, and cycling. Then settle into your longer periods of sustained exertion levels.

There’s no doubt that participation in endurance activities can improve mental wellbeing, improve mood, and give a strong sense of accomplishment. Our next blog will briefly discuss physical activity for weight loss.


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Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 15

In our recent posts, we have emphasized what happens to our body when we’re exposed to these unnatural foods that trigger our reward system. Now comes the even more challenging news: these foods are everywhere.

These hyper-palatable, highly rewarding foods are the most readily available to all of us. They’re the least expensive and most convenient. There are many communities where they’re the only foods available. These communities are becoming generationally sick because they have no access to the foods that could make them well. This is a real problem.

You have to change what you eat, so you can change your brain in order for it to work for you.

Our public policymakers should be addressing it, but unfortunately, it’s not happening, and it doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. The thought leaders that I follow and respect that study this issue from a public policy standpoint suggest that it is going to be up to us to help ourselves. Perhaps our policymakers will eventually see this issue for what it is, and we will begin to get reasonable policies that allow all of us access to the foods that give us health. But for now, we have to do this ourselves.

Box of processed cookies

The food industry has given way too much money to our politicians to untangle this right now. Eventually, it may happen, but not any time soon. The advertisements are everywhere: on television, radio, social media, and billboards. They show the foods that trigger our reward system and advertise them in very seductive ways. They show them to our children with cartoon characters and toys and to adults with highly suggestive images.

We have to know what we’re dealing with. We have to know what we’re about, and we’re about health. Right now, the top 6 sources of calories in the United States are:

  1. Grain-based desserts, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, cobblers, and granola bars. Many energy bars fall into this category.
  2. Yeast-based breads.
  3. Chicken, and chicken mix dishes, such as chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, and all the other ways in which we eat chicken.
  4. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade.
  5. Pizza. It’s a category of its own.
  6. Alcoholic beverages.

Also, consider this: fast food now makes up 11% of the average American’s energy intake. We now drink 350% more soft drinks than we did 50 years ago. Soybean oil, which is largely used in highly processed foods, accounts for 8% of all calories that Americans consume. These types of oils directly create inflammation and disease in the body.

This all makes perfect sense. If you sell food, you want people to eat your food. How can you do that?

  1. Engineer the food to be extra rewarding, and hard to stop eating.
  2. Make it cheap and convenient.
  3. Influence public policymakers to allow your foods to be present in the school cafeterias of our education system.
  4. Pay off the health organizations that should be telling the truth about these foods.

Then, if you’re good at marketing, you create all kinds of new opportunities for people to eat. You get them to eat while they watch a movie, or you get them to eat at snack time, both before and after school. You get them to eat in front of the TV, and at sporting events, before and after workouts, and late at night.

Essentially, food cues are everywhere, so we have to be aware, highly awake, and tuned in. We have to choose the foods that naturally satisfy us so we’ll no longer be susceptible to those that make us sick. You have to exercise that choice. If you’re exposed to the foods that directly trigger your reward system, you’ll have no choice. But if you begin to surround yourself with whole foods, and nutritious foods, you will gain control of your eating behavior.

So what’s the answer to this then? You have to change what you eat, so you can change your brain in order for it to work for you. You’re not able to control your genetics, or your past history of eating behaviors, or the physiological adaptations that have taken place. But you can begin to control your future behaviors, and your behavior right now.

Essentially, food cues are everywhere, so we have to be aware, highly awake, and tuned in.

Here are three simple, but challenging, steps you can take right now to get control of your natural appetite regulation system and begin to make your own healthy choices.

Step one is to eat more whole, fresh, minimally processed foods. These include things such as:

  1. Lean meats; poultry; fish; eggs; dairy from healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised cows; and plant sources that can give you lean protein.
  2. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, ideally colorful ones full of nutrients. It’s important that they be organic and grown in healthy soil so you get nutrients and fiber.
  3. Slow-digesting, high-fiber, natural starches such as non-GMO, properly prepared whole grains; organic tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams; and properly prepared non-GMO legumes such as beans and lentils.
  4. Organic nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, fatty fish, and seafood

Sliced avocado with pit

The second step is to be mindful about your eating, as we’ve often discussed. No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your brain and your gastrointestinal tract coordinate their activities and create proper signaling. You’ll feel more in control of choosing what and how to eat if you slow down. You’ll also allow proper satiation signals to get through, so you’ll feel satisfied with less food.

Step three: eliminate the processed, hyper-palatable foods that are making you sick. Now, this is challenging. After all, we’ve just spent a lot of time talking about how appealing these foods are. But this must be done if you want to experience your best health and if you want control of your eating behavior.

Now, tending to steps one and two is going to make step three much easier. If you get a lot of the good stuff, and you stay mindful while you’re eating it, you’re really not going to have the desire, or the capacity, to eat the other stuff. It really makes a difference.

No matter what you eat, slowing down will help your brain and your gastrointestinal tract coordinate their activities and create proper signaling.

If you do these three steps consistently, four things are going to happen:

One, you’re going to notice that you have fewer cravings for the highly processed foods, and you’ll feel like you’re in charge of your food decisions.

Two, you’ll be more satisfied with the food you eat, and you’ll feel fuller longer. You’ll also perhaps influence the resetting of the leptin loop we’ve discussed, although everybody differs with this.

Three, you’ll probably lose body fat if doing so is something your body needs. It may not happen, but there’s a good chance it will, and you won’t have to have followed a low-calorie diet to do so.

Four, you’ll probably find that you feel better, move better, think better, and have fewer aches and pains or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Nutrition is complex. Our underlying physiology plays a major role, but so does psychology, relationships, our larger society and culture,  lifestyles, and our individual knowledge and beliefs about food and eating. What this means is that you’re not controlled by the physiology alone, although it has a strong influence.

Large fresh salad with variety of vegetables

You can use other activities and choices to help your body do its job well:

  • Eat the foods that naturally control appetite and weight.
  • Spend more time with people who honor the need for nutritious foods.
  • Shop at the marketplaces that sell these foods and do not provide the other foods that make you sick.
  • Eliminate the foods that make you sick from your cupboards and your refrigerator, making it harder to get to them.
  • Find activities that reduce hunger and help you to feel better.

Trust me. When you begin to eat healthy foods and enjoy them in the company of those you love, your mind and your body will thank you for it. It’s the fix to everything in regards to your eating behavior and your energy balance.


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

Physical Activity and Movement Part 6

In this post, we’re going to get into a little bit of science. We’re going to discuss the concept of genetics and epigenetics, and understanding your body’s individual design.

Now the first big concept is something I’ve emphasized throughout the entire series:

Our bodies are designed, meaning genetically adapted, to have daily physical activity and movement as a part of our life.

We thrive when we honor our body’s design, and this is foundational. All of us, regardless of differences in our genetics, are designed for physical activity and movement, and we need to honor this. We will maximize positive genetic expression by maximizing our movement potential and honoring our body’s function.

A sedentary lifestyle dishonors the body’s design and leads to negative genetic expression.

Some studies have suggested that a sedentary lifestyle is equivalent to smoking in regards to the harm to our health and lifespans. This makes sense. If our bodies are designed for movement, and we spend most of our time sitting or lying down, then our bodies will deteriorate, which means our health deteriorates, and we will not feel good.

Every one of us knows this. If you sit at a desk all day, hunched over, by the end of the day, you’ve experienced the neck pain, back pain, numbness or tingling in the arms and fingers, headaches, and many other consequences of this unnatural posture sustained over a long period of time.

Couple running across bridge

We know that in modern industrialized countries, many people get out of bed, and after a brief period of getting themselves organized, sit in a car, then sit at a desk, then back to the car again, followed by a sit on the couch, and then go back to bed. This completely dishonors the body’s design. It’s no wonder so many people are experiencing biomechanical breakdown and diseases of the physical body and are riddled with pain.

Allow me to get up on my soapbox for a moment.

If the root cause of your pain and your physical diseases is an unhealthy pattern of movement, then no medication can restore this for you. No medication can solve the problem. All they can do is give you brief symptom relief, but the underlying problem will progress. You’ll not experience the life you want if this continues. You must adopt this habit if you want to experience your best health.

I won’t go into the details of all the negative impact of sedentary postures, but I think you can picture it in your mind. Picture very quickly sitting at a desk, shoulders rolled forward, head forward, staring into a computer screen for hours. Picture sitting in a car, and then sitting on the couch. And then picture a healthy, upright human body, and picture a body that’s in proper posture, and with proper movement. You’ll know these two things don’t go together.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll have to quit your job. But you will have to become intentional about how you engage your body every day. This is very important.

Genetics

So let’s briefly cover the idea of genetics. Epigenetics is the concept that at any given moment, your DNA is expressing a version of you in response to the messages it has received. It can express a healthy you or a sick you, a lean you or a heavy you, a feel-good you or a not-feeling-good you. This is based on the messages it receives. Your body is constantly taking in messages from your environment and your habits.

Your physical body is taking in messages through actual pressure on mechanoreceptors on your cells. This leads to a change in genetic expression. Your body is literally responding to the physical pressures it’s experiencing throughout the day, and changing its function in accordance with this.

If the root cause of your pain and your physical diseases is an unhealthy pattern of movement, then no medication can restore this for you.

So it’s very important to get these inputs right if you want to genetically express the healthy, feel-good version of you. There’s simply no way around this. That’s what this program is designed to teach you.

Individual Genetics

Then there’s individual genetics. Each one of us has variations in our DNA when compared to others. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to go into all the differences, but just know that there are many. Now, some of these differences have to do with our physical capabilities. While we can all optimize our genetic potential, there are some limitations based on our genetic potential.

Some of us are engineered more towards power, and others towards endurance. There can be a balance of these two, but often, one or the other is predominant. Some of us produce a greater inflammatory response after experiencing the stress of physical activity, and it can take longer for us to recover. Some of us have differences in our connective tissues that affect our mobility or our strength capabilities. The list goes on and on.

Mother and child hiking by a creek

Genetic Blueprint

We all have a genetic blueprint for our physical health. You can actually learn about your genetic blueprint using genetic testing through companies like DNAFit. This will help you better understand your blueprint.

I can tell you that I’ve done a DNAFit test, and it basically told me what I already know. I’m geared more towards endurance than power, that it takes me longer to recover from activities that intensely engage my muscle groups, and my mobility is relatively limited.

While we can all optimize our genetic potential, there are some limitations based on our genetic potential.

You don’t have to do these DNA tests to understand yourself. You probably have a good sense of your intrinsic capabilities already. However, this is different from what we were often taught in middle school when we were all pushed into a very similar paradigm of physical fitness, including weight lifting routines and sprinting routines.

You can gear your physical activity program towards your genetic blueprint and optimize your results. It’s important to understand these differences. They are real and they impact you. If you had a profile like mine, and you decided CrossFit was the workout for you, you would definitely struggle. I’m not criticizing CrossFit; I’m just using it as an example. I would never be good at CrossFit. I would be excessively breaking my body down on a daily basis, not having adequate recovery times, and trying to maximize an attribute that I’m just not genetically gifted for. That gives me the freedom to know that CrossFit’s not for me, although it’s great for others.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your genetics will play a major role in determining the best balance of your physical activity program. Think about this and begin to journal a bit about what you think your natural attributes are. This comes from your ancestry. It probably has a lot to do with the lifestyles your ancestors had to live to survive.

I’m Northern European, mostly British Isles. I suspect my Scotch-Irish ancestors spent a lot of time walking up and down hills, digging tubers out of the dirt. I suspect that they spent a lot of time plodding around. And guess what, I’m a good plodder. I can plod up a mountain, and plod many places, but I’m not particularly powerful or fast. I’m just fine with that. I just want to feel good and be healthy. I can be a very healthy plodder.

Your genetics will play a major role in determining the best balance of your physical activity program. Think about this and begin to journal a bit about what you think your natural attributes are.

Think about the areas that are easy for you and the areas that are challenging. Additionally, think about how to honor that. Think about where your ancestors may have come from and how it informs this. It gets you much further down the path of honoring your specific body’s design.

But before we leave this blog, I’ll reiterate that all of us are genetically designed for movement and physical activity. There are just differences in the best programs for each of us.


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Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 14

We’ve spent a good bit of time talking about the reward system, hormonal regulation of body weight, and how unnatural foods disrupt all of these processes and take over our eating behaviors. We’re going to spend another post talking about these hormonal processes.

Many of the patients I see who have metabolic syndrome and excess body weight will have elevated leptin levels when I check their blood work.

I’m sure most of you have heard of insulin resistance. This is a state where we continue to eat foods that trigger high insulin responses, and we eat them in a very frequent manner. We do this in such a way that our insulin responses become unnatural, meaning we’re exposed to high insulin all the time.

When that is the case, our cells begin to stop listening to the insulin, and we become insulin resistant. This causes our pancreas to work overtime to create more insulin, and even when it does this, our blood sugars still rise. This is a significant metabolic condition that creates a lot of diseases, and it’s a product of our modern lifestyles, for the most part.

Busy street with food cart

The Leptin Cascade

When you think about leptin, which is one of the regulators of your energy balance and body fat, the only way you can create more leptin is to create more fat. Fat is the source of the leptin. So in a state of insulin resistance, your pancreas makes more insulin to overcome the resistance. In a situation in which your hypothalamus is resistant to the signals of leptin, you have to create more fat so you can create more leptin. This is a very clear cascade:

  1. If you’re resistant to leptin, your brain thinks it doesn’t have enough leptin.
  2. The brain needs the leptin production from body fat to get bigger so it can produce more leptin.
  3. We begin to build more body fat.
  4. You become hungry. Regular portion sizes are not satisfying to you, and it’s very hard to feel satisfied between meals. You just want to keep eating and eat more often.
  5. You put on extra fat, which accomplishes the goal of increasing your leptin.

Now, that’s a problem. You’re adding fat to make your brain believe that you have enough fat because of the signaling of leptin. That’s what leptin resistance can do to you, and that’s what these foods can do to you.

But the problem doesn’t stop there. The inflammation and leptin resistance will cause our body to actually defend the increased weight, even though it’s making us sick. Essentially the lipostat in your hypothalamus now operates as though this extra fat mass is necessary for survival. In these cases, our bodies will fight even harder than normal to stop us from losing any fat.

Bowls of granola and honey

The Doctor’s Conclusion

This is a challenging situation, and many people find themselves stuck without understanding what is happening. Many of the patients I see who have metabolic syndrome and excess body weight will have elevated leptin levels when I check their blood work.

While we don’t have clear science to support what can reverse leptin resistance, we do know that by eliminating the high palatability, high reward foods, and orienting your diet around natural whole foods, you can begin to change this situation.

This means we have to take a different dietary approach for them. I can’t just place them on a reduced calorie diet and have them exercise, and assume that will work. Their own body will resist this. It will create intense hunger, and downregulate their metabolic rate, making them very tired.

You have to be aware of this. If you have leptin resistance, you’ll have to follow a different path. That sounds like bad news, but there’s also good news. While we don’t have clear science to support what can reverse leptin resistance, we do know that by eliminating the high palatability, high reward foods, and orienting your diet around natural whole foods, you can begin to change this situation. Eventually, research will prove why this works, and it’s not too late for any of us.

Our bodies are waiting for us to give them the right messages to become healthy. Choose to do so today.


If you are looking for a straightforward, easy-to-use roadmap to wellness, please see my book, Authentic Health. In it, I offer a program for addressing the habits and conditions that drive many of our painful chronic conditions.

Physical Activity and Movement Part 5

We’re going to stop and explore some of the myths about physical activity and human health. I’ve already discussed that the physical activity associated with long, healthy lifespans doesn’t necessarily involve heavy conditioning. I’m not opposed to, or criticizing those who engage in, intensive physical exercise regimens for the purposes of accomplishment and achievement. This can be a great thing to do. I periodically engage in training programs to improve my body’s ability to do particular activities. During these periods, my physical activity program is more challenging, but the sense of accomplishment is worth it to me.

Myth #1: Our ancestors never rested.

I offer this program as the foundation for a long, healthy lifespan. I am not suggesting that the more intensive programs are bad for your health. However, this program does not involve sustained intensive physical conditioning if you do not wish it to include such activities.

If you think about it from an ancestral standpoint, it’s doubtful that our distant ancestors would have purposely exhausted themselves on a daily basis. During ancestral times, all energy was applied to survival. Once you had what was needed, you would have rested. In fact, there’s ample evidence that our ancestors from 500 years ago to 2,000 years ago and on back through millennia probably rested a good deal more than we do today. Our ancestors would have moved a lot and then rested a lot.

Certainly, there would have been seasons where they worked hard every day, to the point of physical exhaustion. But these would have been followed by seasons of rest and recovery, and relatively low levels of physical activity. It’s okay to give yourself permission to just focus on these habits in a way that feels good to you, and does not make you hurt or feel bad. You will still get the benefit from this.

Myth #2: You have to exercise every day to be healthy.

That’s not true. Daily movement is very important, and you should take every opportunity to move. We’ll be outlining this in one of our blogs. But you don’t have to go to a gym every day, or engage in intensive exercise every day to maintain good health. You can cycle through different movement patterns on different days.

In fact, exercising too intensely every day can be associated with negative health outcomes. This can increase inflammation, reduce thyroid function, elevate stress responses, suppress immune function, and actually lead to earlier death.

There’s a proper balance of physical activity and rest. While I want you to be intentional on a daily basis about the physical health of your body, you will not have to do intensive exercise every day.

Two women balancing in yoga

Myth #3: You have to exercise a certain amount of time to get the benefit of it.

This is also not true. Any bit of movement will help. If you’ve been sedentary for years, simply taking one 10-minute walk a day will be a step in the right direction. Any amount of time will benefit you.

Yes, the more you move, and the more you engage these habits, the healthier you’ll become, and the better you’ll feel. But there is no minimum amount of time that you must do it for to get the benefits. Simply do what you can, and remember that any amount of time counts.

Myth #4: Exercise is a form of stress reduction.

Now, I have to be careful about this, because absolutely, people who exercise regularly do have reduced stress responses. I already described that when discussing the benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity does reduce mental stress and promotes emotional well-being. It improves resiliency.

However, you have to understand that exercise is an actual form of stress on the body. That’s the point of it. You stress your body in order to create a genetic and hormonal response to repair and restore the body so that it functions better for you. Exercise is actually a form of stress. Positive forms of stress are called eustress. These are different than distress, which are negative stressors.

However, overexposure to eustress without appropriate rest and recovery can actually still lead to disease and breakdown. Once you’ve exposed your body to this stress, you have to give it the time to recover. There are genetic differences on our recovery times. You have to honor your body’s need for recovery to be healthy.

Yes, in the big picture, conceptually, exercise reduces stress. But remember that exercise is actually a form of stress, and has to be managed with all of the other stressors you’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

Myth #5: I have to eat before or after exercise in order to have the benefits of exercise.

This is not true. Now, I’m speaking generally. There are certainly people who have medical hypoglycemia, or other metabolic disorders, or use insulin, who have to be much more regimented in their food consumption.

However, if you’ve reviewed any of our materials on maintaining healthy weight and metabolism, you’ll know that our body is designed to have something called metabolic flexibility. It will use whatever fuel is available to it in the moment. It can use glucose (sugars), fatty acids, or the byproduct of using fatty acids, something called ketone bodies. In addition, it can make its own glucose from amino acids.

Your body is capable of generating the energy you need for physical activity. There is a difference between specific nutritional protocols for elite athletes and how to maintain healthy eating habits and follow a program like the one I’m outlining. For this program, provided that you’re adequately hydrated, you’ll be able to engage in these activities without having to eat beforehand. You don’t have to have a specific shake or protein smoothie after you do this. You simply engage and let your body guide you.

Now, it’s beyond the scope of this blog to teach this in specific detail. That’s why we have other series on human metabolism, energy balance, and how the body works. You can reference those if you want more details. But the main point is you do not have to eat to go take a walk or to have a stretching session, or even do a short, high-intensity interval training session. In fact, there are many metabolic benefits from doing these in a fasted state, which we’ll outline in one of our posts.

The Doctor’s Conclusion

Now there are a lot of other misconceptions about physical activity and exercise that I’ve not gotten into here, but these are some of the big ones. Remember, you don’t have to punish yourself with this, you don’t have a minimum amount you have to do, and you don’t have to do this every single day.

Exercise involves intention and awareness. It is a form of stress and you have to manage that, but it is a positive stressor provided that you manage it properly.

With the type of program I’m outlining, you don’t have to have a specific nutrition program or supplement regimen to engage in it.

This should feel natural and easy to you because it’s how your body is designed. I hope you’ll continue to follow along in this series with me and see where movement can take you. I promise you’ll come to appreciate all of its many benefits.


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