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!

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.

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.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 13

Our brains love processed foods, but our bodies do not. These addictive and irresistible junk foods are not very nutritious. They contain far more calories than we need, and they do not contain the essential nutrients and fiber that keep us healthy. When we eat them, we do not feel full or satisfied. Instead, we often feel tired, bloated, have esophageal reflux, and feel achy after we eat them. Sometimes our skin itches, or we feel like we have brain fog.

However, after a while, our brain forgets about its natural stop signals in favor of getting more of that perceived pleasure from foods that impact our reward system. Our hedonic pleasure system starts taking over our normal homeostatic energy balancing system. Over time, if we eat a lot of these foods consistently, we will actually create inflammation and injury to the parts of our brain that help us regulate food intake and energy.

This can become permanent.

Now, it’s not just that our normal hormonal regulators are being disrupted. They’re literally being destroyed. As of right now, we don’t know exactly why this happens, or how it happens, but we know that it does happen. We’re observing it in the health of our industrialized nations. Taking in too much energy from foods seems to create damage to our brains – specifically our neurons or brain cells.

Over time, if we eat a lot of these foods consistently, we will actually create inflammation and injury to the parts of our brain that help us regulate food intake and energy.

This seems to be increased in the hypothalamus, the area that regulates your eating behaviors. Our body has a normal response to injury; it’s called inflammation. It helps us recover. However, chronic inflammation can make us sick. In fact, chronic inflammation is the source of many chronic diseases. These foods directly create inflammation, but worse, chronic brain inflammation can increase your risk of dementia and many other neurodegenerative conditions. Also, chronic inflammation of the hypothalamus can actually destroy the normal regulation of your body weight.

In addition, these foods affect the gut bacteria that are your friends. They allow the ones that create disease to grow and threaten the ones that help you digest foods and be healthy. There’s substantial evidence that suggests your gut microbiome impacts your weight, mood, and health. These processed foods are a wrecking ball to your gut microbiome.

Sad woman lunch processed food

Eventually, your brain becomes resistant to the leptin signals, just like your cells can become resistant to insulin, and then you can become obese and diabetic. It’s a bad situation, and one we should all want to avoid. I’m going to describe this in a little more detail in the next post.

The Doctor’s Conclusion

Again, I want to emphasize that we’re teaching you the truth so that you can be free. We’re not just teaching you what has happened, or what could happen. We’re teaching you about all the great possibilities that await you if you just make a few simple changes in your eating behavior.

These foods directly create inflammation, but worse, chronic brain inflammation can increase your risk of dementia and many other neurodegenerative conditions.

Ultimately, this is meant to be good news, even if some of these posts sound discouraging. Please don’t take them that way. I want you to know the truth so you can begin to choose your healthiest self.

Your body is amazing. It has so much resilience. When you begin to move in the direction of health, it will reward you. It’s amazing what can happen when you just take the smallest step forward. Our teaching is all about baby steps, one small step at a time. But you have to know the truth about what these foods are doing to you, so you can really choose according to your highest desire: to be healthy and to feel good.


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Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 12

So we’ve discussed the reward system, and it’s important to understand that, along with palatability or really good taste, some foods and substances will just give us a bit of a rush. We’ll go out of our way to get those foods.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them. Here’s a couple of examples: black coffee and beer. Most people do not like those the first time they try them. Most people don’t like their first inhale of a cigarette. But coffee has caffeine. Beer has alcohol. Cigarettes have nicotine.

Our brains like caffeine, and alcohol, and nicotine. So even though we didn’t like them when we first tasted them, we learned quickly that they’re “good” things, and we learned to tolerate their taste so we could have more of them. We actually override our aversion to the taste and the experience because we want more of the substance they contain.

What’s interesting is many foods and substances that can give us that rush don’t taste good the first time we encounter them.

Over time, we even believe we cannot live without them. We will go through extensive efforts to get them. We’ll wait in lines, spend our hard earned money, and expose ourselves to unhealthy environments just to get more of them. We’ll even consume more of them than we possibly thought we could even when we’ve had enough. That’s true for drinking, tobacco, and for food.

I’ll tell you, I like caffeine. I enjoy it, but I limit my portions, and I don’t always have it. Caffeine can be healthy for many people, but it does trigger the reward system. Coffees and teas have polyphenols, which are really good nutrients. Again, everything in moderation. But you have to pay attention to the reward system.

Fatty french fries and coffee and meaty sandwich

Know What You’re Up Against

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself. That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to the foods we eat. They’ve been engineered to taste really good and trigger your reward system. And they contain minimal fiber, meaning you can eat a lot of them before you ever know how much you’ve eaten.

I’m going to list one more time the types of foods that are causing this problem, so you can make sure you keep this in your mind. Be wary of foods:

  • High in calories
  • Loaded with fat, sugar, and salt
  • Containing high levels of glutamate or “meaty” flavors (hence bacon being in everything)
  • Made of refined starches that break into sugars very quickly
  • Consisting of a pleasing and specific texture, such as creamy or crunchy
  • Containing drugs, such as caffeine, alcohol, or theobromine, which is found in chocolate
  • Packed with flavor enhancers, or additives, to improve the feel of these foods in your mouth

You do not find this magical mix in nature. It is found in highly processed foods like:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Pies
  • Pizza
  • Chicken fingers
  • Ice cream
  • Fried foods
  • Fast foods

And so on.

The goal is to feel good and be healthy, not to be controlled by a substance. So essentially, when you combine something that tastes really good and creates high reward value, you’re not going to be able to control yourself.

The more of those elements we encounter, the more we cannot control our eating behavior, and the more our body will change its internal regulation and allow us to become overweight and obese and sick. We will spend our money and our time finding these things, and consume them to our own detriment as well as our children’s detriment.

Healthy salad with mixed vegetables

The Doctor’s Conclusion

It’s important to understand that we’re all dealing with this problem now. If you love these foods and feel like you cannot stop eating them, you’re not alone. You’re not bad or weird. You’re just like all of us. All that’s happening is your brain is doing what it was adapted to do. Ultimately, it thinks it’s keeping you alive.

But now, the system has gone awry and it’s time for your higher mind to kick in. It’s time for the real you to step in and take control of the situation. It’s time for you to make the decisions consistent with the life you want to have. You can do that. Today, you can start by eliminating just one of these foods, and replacing it with a real fresh, whole, natural food.

It will work. You will feel better. You will get control of the situation.


For more information about Eating Behaviors and the Brain, read the entire series! Please keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 11

Let’s talk briefly about the reward system and food. The reward system in our brain is meant to promote our survival. It works off of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This neurotransmitter is associated with motivation and desire. In addition, when the reward system triggers, we get a bit of adrenaline, which creates a small rush, a feeling of stress, perhaps positive stress.

Once we are able to access whatever the reward system is motivating us to pursue, we get pleasure from something known as endorphins or endogenous opiate peptides. We actually feel that sensation of pleasure for just a moment.

But our reward systems have been manipulated. We now pursue behaviors and substances that actually work against our survival.

This is meant to call our attention to whatever we just encountered, because generally speaking, it was something that would promote survival. If we encountered it again, we would pursue it. But our reward systems have been manipulated. We now pursue behaviors and substances that actually work against our survival.

How Do We Take Charge?

The marketplace sells us addictions and sickness. However, the same marketplace sells us the opportunity to be healthy and well. Ultimately, we have to take charge of our minds. As long as your reward system is running the show, you’ll have no choice. You’ll do what it tells you to. Again, this is true for me, and it’s true for everyone. Our reward systems respond to different cues, so it’s different for all of us, but if you’re struggling with your eating behavior, then this is what you’re dealing with.

You really don’t have control over your reward system. It has control over you. But you do have control over your higher mind, and you have the ability to foster the desires to be your best self. As you do that, you begin to have some control over your choices, and you can choose to eliminate the foods, substances, and behaviors from your life that actually make you sick, and do not take you where you want to go. You do have this ability, but it takes desire, willpower, support, and accountability. You have to want this for yourself.

Person slicing zucchini on cutting board

The Doctor’s Conclusion

In our series on willpower, we outline a process to deal with urges and cravings. It involves cultivation of mindfulness and your higher mind. We explain this in more detail in that series. I’ve also written a paper that is available on our website, healthshepherds.com, that outlines a 4-step process using mindfulness to overcome urges and craving. I would encourage you to read that paper.

You really don’t have control over your reward system. It has control over you. But you do have control over your higher mind, and you have the ability to foster the desires to be your best self.

Our reward systems are important. They give us pleasure, and they reinforce behaviors that can be good for us. But when they’ve been manipulated by those who want our money and don’t care about our health, then the system is no longer working for us. You have to be aware of this. You have to set yourself free.

I’ll give an example of how strong the reward system is in our next post.


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Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 10

We discussed the characteristics of foods that trigger the reward system and override our control of eating. It’s important to note these foods also allow for a disruption in the hormonal processes that would control our eating. These types of foods appear to interfere with leptin doing its job of regulating our energy balance. They also may contribute to chronic inflammation in our brain which impacts our mental function and can create resistance to the leptin we secrete to naturally regulate our body weight.

These foods do not satisfy you. They do not satiate your desire for nutrients nor give you nourishment. They actually make you sick and sabotage your efforts to feel good…

Ultimately, when we eat these foods, we get a little blip of pleasure, but it doesn’t last long. We actually feel less satisfied and we want to eat more. Then our bodies actually fight us to hold on to the weight we gain, even though it’s making us feel bad.

These foods do not satisfy you. They do not satiate your desire for nutrients nor give you nourishment. They actually make you sick and sabotage your efforts to feel good and maintain a healthy weight by directly working on the physiological controls of your weight and your energy, regardless of how you feel about it.

The Truth About Food

The good news is that natural foods, whole foods, and nourishing foods actually reset the system. It takes time, but they do. If you choose the foods that are high in fiber and nutrients, moderate in palatability—meaning they taste good, but not unnaturally good—and lower in calories, you’ll begin to effortlessly control your own appetite and begin to change the regulation of your energy balance back to the one that you desire.

There’s a truth about food. It serves a purpose for us. It is meant to both nourish us and give us pleasure. When we choose the right foods, they will serve their purpose for us. Ultimately, if we choose the artificial foods, the foods that are making us sick, we actually get no pleasure at all, and we get no nourishment.

We all have to make this choice together, and we have to do it in a way that encourages one another toward our best selves. We can’t wag fingers at each other or promote shame or guilt. This happened while we weren’t looking, while we weren’t aware. No one’s been telling us the truth about this, but it’s out there. This is all based on published and reliable scientific studies.

It makes sense that if we eat the foods that are natural and provide us sustenance, we’ll get back our health. If we try to shortcut that with foods that artificially create pleasure, ultimately there’s a price to pay. The price we’re paying is our health, and our children’s health.

We all have to make this choice together, and we have to do it in a way that encourages one another toward our best selves. We can’t wag fingers at each other or promote shame or guilt.

There are companies profiting off of making us sick, and making us addicted. We never used to think of food this way. We were clear about nicotine, and alcohol, and opiates, and many other substances that we encounter that are clearly addictive and make us sick. But our food wasn’t supposed to do this. It’s been modified.

Doctor’s Conclusion

We know that you have to walk away from the added substances, but you can’t just walk away from food. You have to eat. Therefore, we have to help one another. We can do this together, and we can be set free.

The food industries that sell us our food will honor this. If we insist on foods that give us health, they’ll provide it. In fact, there are numerous companies, farmers, and food producers out there that are bringing nutrient-dense foods to the marketplace that will give us life and give us health. Let’s give them our support. Let’s make new choices together.


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Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 9

We have made it very clear that your conscious control of eating actually has far less power over your eating behavior than you perhaps previously thought. We’ve talked about the underlying physiological influencers of hunger and what these mean for our eating choices. When we find ourselves drawn to foods we know are bad for us, but can’t stop eating, we recognize that we are dealing with addiction-like cravings that are hard to control. We have to wake up to this reality. Our strong attachments to these foods are not due to our true desires.

This post is very important. This is one to absolutely remember.

Thus far, we discussed how:

  1. Your body is designed to signal satiation and satiety;
  2. Leptin can signal to your brain that you have adequate fat storage, i.e. stored energy, and;
  3. This whole process can be disrupted.

Here’s the major point: it’s certain types of foods that actually disrupt the normal regulation of eating behavior.

Yes, we eat too much, and yes, we eat too frequently. But that is not the primary problem. The primary problem is in the foods we choose to eat, and what they do to our brain and body.

When we find ourselves drawn to foods we know are bad for us, but can’t seem to stop eating, we have recognized that we are dealing with addiction-like cravings that are hard to control.

Remember this: foods that are hyper-palatable—meaning they taste unnaturally good—and hyper-rewarding—meaning they activate our reward system in an unnatural fashion—are heavy in calories while containing minimal nutrients and fiber. These foods will override your normal stop signals.

Hands reaching for burgers and frieds

These foods are the processed foods, junk foods, fast foods, and foods we think we all prefer. But we don’t actually prefer them.

Why Do I Eat What I Know to be Unhealthy?

You see, early in our lives, we were exposed to them when our brains were developing. It’s no different than if our brains were exposed to nicotine or alcohol or any other addictive substance. Foods that contain these characteristics will trigger your reward system in such a way that it will override any control of eating you thought you had, as well as your body’s natural regulatory functions.

These foods are unnatural. We are not adapted to them. Our bodies adapted to foods that were high in fiber and nutrients, were lower in calories, and were moderate in palatability. High palatability means something tastes really good. Moderate palatability means it still tastes good, just not in an unnatural way. The food industry figured this out years ago, and they began to concentrate certain flavors in food that will trigger your reward system in such a way that you cannot stop eating them.

Now, not everybody is susceptible to these flavors. Our genetic susceptibility to addiction does vary from individual to individual. However, we know for a fact that foods that contain high quantities of fat, salt, sugar, and glutamate, which is a substitute for proteinaceous flavors, trigger the reward system powerfully.

Our genetic susceptibility to addiction does vary from individual to individual.

There’s a reason for this. Human beings used to deal with food scarcity. Fat was an abundant source of energy. Sugar signified honey and fruit, which was also a good source of energy and nutrients. Salt indicated minerals which are vital for survival. Glutamate flavors indicated protein, which we need. Essentially, we are programmed to binge eat when we encounter these flavors.

Let’s get that clear: we are programmed to binge eat when we encounter these flavors.

Where is My Willpower?

No natural foods contain all of these flavors in a super-concentrated form. Super-concentrated, meaning we have unnaturally concentrated these flavors. Our reward systems cannot manage that input. We are adapted to binge eat those foods. So when you encounter one of those foods, you will inhibit your willpower, literally turn it off. Not only that, but you’ll also override normal satiation function, meaning you can eat far beyond what you normally would.

You don’t have willpower when you encounter these foods because you actually don’t have willpower. The switch was turned off. I’m going to repeat this one more time:

Unnatural foods are concentrated in flavor elements that trigger your reward system in such a way that you cannot control your own eating behavior.

That’s true for me. It’s true for you. You were exposed to them, as I was, before you were at an age where you would even know what your preferences were. Your brain became habituated to these flavors long before you were making conscious choices about what foods you truly like. These have never been your preferences. You were conditioned to crave them, and it benefited the food industry that sells us a lot of these foods.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Ultimately, we have to tell the truth about these foods for ourselves, our children, and our communities, and we have to create a new future. The good news is that we can.

Throughout this series, we remind you that there is a way out. There is a path of freedom, a path that will empower you to gain control of your eating behaviors and choose the foods that give you health. For now, just remember that as long as we’re exposed to the foods that are concentrated in the reward system flavors—foods that lack fiber and nutrients, and are high in calories—we will overeat, and we will struggle with our health, regardless of our weight.


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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.


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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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