Movement & Exercise Resources

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 5

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

Hormones and Eating

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

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

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

Doctor’s Conclusion

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

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


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

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 17

Almost everyone has some self-control. It’s just a matter of where they’ve applied it. When the brain’s reward system is strongly activated, we lose self-control. That system is designed to override your self-control and keep you engaging in behaviors that enhance your chance of survival. Unfortunately, eating sugary cereals while watching television does not enhance your survival. It’s working against it.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it. We have to get this balance back by focusing on well-being. When you have well-being, willpower naturally comes more easily. So we’re going to focus on the activities that enhance focus and improve awareness and higher brain function, such as:

Willpower happens when you’re fully aware. Willpower happens when you’re able to make choices consistent with your highest desire. I want you to revisit the whole concept of desire and what you really want for yourself.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it.

Generally speaking, you’re choosing according to your desires. If your area of struggle involves food, then think about what’s happening when you experience the craving for food. Just pay attention to the feelings and observe them, and then begin to think about what you really want for yourself. You have to be aware in the moment to even make choices. Otherwise, it’s just too challenging.woman sitting writing in journal with awareness

So this week, we’re focusing on our awareness. We’re focusing on the experience of craving, the areas where we seem to lack willpower. But we’re also focusing on the areas where we do have willpower, the parts of our life where we’re always able to take care of things in a way that serves our best interests or the interests of our family.

Next week in the series we’ll dive even deeper into willpower, bringing you more insight into how you can apply it to your daily life.


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

Eating Behaviors and the Brain: Part 2

Obesity rates have been rising in our country, and other industrialized nations, for the past several decades. It’s no secret that we eat more than we used to. In spite of reduced-fat foods, fad diets, and exercise crazes, we’ve increased our daily calorie intake by more than 400 calories per day since the 1980s. But why if we have all this knowledge of our overeating tendencies and the damage it does to our health, do we continue to succumb to this behavior?

The Problem

The standard approach to this problem is to suggest it’s primarily an issue of overeating and not enough exercising. As you know from our teachings on how our body weight is managed, there are more influences on our weight than these two variables.

If it were an issue of eating too much and not being physically active, the problem could be blamed on those who’d been gaining the weight.

It could be suggested that they just lack willpower and that they need to push away from the table.

Large English breakfast with eggs, sausage, baked beans, and potatoes

 

For decades, people have been confounded by this issue, and it’s caused many to feel bad about themselves. The confusion has resulted in the same solutions: reduced calorie diets and increased physical activity.

We’ve also offered all kinds of fad interventions, such as picking one particular food group as the primary cause of our issue. It was because we ate too much fat, and now it’s because we eat too much sugar. Some would have you believe it’s because we don’t eat enough whole grains, or whatever other macronutrient has become the sensation of the year.

But why if we have all this knowledge of our overeating tendencies and the damage it does to our health, do we continue to succumb to this behavior?

Pointing fingers at the people who struggle with this problem doesn’t help.

The Inquiry

These are the questions we should be asking:

  • Why do I eat so much food?
  • When certain foods make me sick, why do I still eat them?
  • Once I start eating, why can’t I stop?

The answer to these questions actually lies in how your central nervous system regulates eating behavior. It does it primarily through non-conscious mechanisms. You’ve always had far less control over your eating behavior than you thought.

The Solution

The good news is, once you know the truth, there’s a path out of this. There is a way of eating that restores normal appetite control, healthy weight, and health. I’m going to teach you the solution in this blog series. This is a fundamental, time-tested truth. It applies to all paradigms of eating. I’m not going to teach you that you have to eliminate one primary food group from your diet or suggest you go on a significant calorie-restricted diet on a consistent basis.

Light lunch with seared salmon and lime

I’m going to teach you that centering your diet around a particular category of foods will provide you with energy and health, begin to reverse many diseases, and naturally control your eating behaviors in a satisfying manner. You will no longer have to fight with yourself over food choices. These foods give you back control of your eating behavior.

I’m not going to teach you that you have to eliminate one primary food group from your diet or suggest you go on a significant calorie-restricted diet on a consistent basis.

The challenge will be accepting that these foods are the ones that you have to eat…

More on that next in our next post.

Are you interested in learning more about healthy eating? Read our Precision Nutrition documents and follow along on this important and informative blog series!

Nutritional agnosticism is the philosophy that different people have different nutritional needs. Not only that, but that specific nutritional needs change from season to season and year to year. This makes sense when you consider the span of human ancestry and the development of our minds and bodies.

We should listen to our internal wisdom and let our bodies dictate the nourishment and diet we deliver it.

There is no one best diet for everybody all of the time. There are a few basic principles that undergird all healthy nutritional approaches, but otherwise, there are many different approaches that provide the health we are seeking. Everyone has innumerable variables that influence the best diet for them at any given time. However, despite the many variables, the process of identifying your best diet is not that hard. Your body will teach you if you are able to interpret the signals it provides you. We should listen to our internal wisdom and let our bodies dictate the nourishment and diet we deliver it.

Bowl of rice and Asian vegetables.

Precision Nutrition

You’ll notice if you review our nutritional resources on the Health Shepherds website, that we have a lot of documents produced by a company called Precision Nutrition. There’s a reason why we have so many of their resources. As a student of theirs, I have participated in their nutritional coaching classes, used their textbook, and employed their research.

I believe they are one of the most evidence-based nutritional institutes in existence today. Precision Nutrition considers the evidence without pre-existing biases. Their whole focus is on what approaches to nutrition help people become their healthiest selves.

They study concepts such as ketogenic diets, fasting approaches, portion control, genetics, gut microbiome, and energy balance. Precision Nutrition presents their data in an agnostic manner.

Their overall approach to reshaping individual nutrition habits for the purposes of maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most logical and well-articulated approaches. It’s very consistent with the core components of my specific teaching in which we look at the role of nutrition in the following ways:

  • Provides us with energy
  • Is comprehensive and eliminates nutritional deficiencies
  • Catalyzes physical activity
  • Supports healthy weight and healthy energy balance
  • Promotes stewardship of the planet, animals, and one another

Various types of healthy toasts with hummus cucumber avocado radishes

Individual Approach to Eating

I am a nutritional agnostic. I do not have an emotional attachment to any one method of eating. I’m only attached to what works best for each individual. I frequently stress that your approach must be individualized. It must take into account the individual variables that impact you—genetics, gut microbiome, personal finances, and access to resources. Your social environment and cultural and spiritual beliefs also must be taken into account.

All of these things impact your best nutritional approach, but your best nutritional approach will provide adequate nutrients and energy, support healthy weight, support overall health, and hopefully involve consideration of the environment, animals, and of your fellow human beings.

I stress certain aspects of nutrition, such as balancing feeding and fasting because I have witnessed how effective this is. But I can use whatever approach works, whether that’s a gradual reshaping of overall nutritional approach or a complete overhaul of someone’s dietary habits.

Healthy breakfast with orange juice and fruit

When you’re looking for evidence, studies, and analytical approaches to big topics, I recommend the Precision Nutrition documents. I believe that their research and conclusions are solid, and I agree with the vast majority of their teaching. When I am working with a client, I may have some occasional nuanced differences from the basic Precision Nutrition approach, but that primarily involves smaller details based on specific goals for that individual. Precision Nutrition focuses on effective population-based approaches and their approach is excellent. When it comes to individuals, we still have to customize their diet to their situation and goals.

Takeaway

I think it’s important that we remain agnostic about nutrition, and that we remain open and objective about what approach works best for us. So consider that as you review our materials, and as you experiment with different approaches to nutrition that allow you to enjoy eating while supporting your health and your healthiest weight.

If you’d like to know more about nutrition agnosticism, please contact us. There is a simple and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds.

Today we are going to focus on water and an important habit of health—hydration. Being adequately hydrated is foundational to good health. Our bodies are primarily made from water. Without enough of it, we experience dehydration and cannot thrive.

The symptoms of dehydration can be mild (such as dry mouth and lethargy), to serious (dizziness and confusion), to severe (a sharp drop in blood pressure that can result in seizures or shock).

“How can you tell if you’re getting enough water in a day? There’s a simple and useful calculation.”

Thankfully, proper hydration just takes a bit of mindfulness. Historically, access to adequate fluids and minerals was not always guaranteed. However, now that we generally have access to liquids, we sometimes forget to honor our fundamental need for hydration. How can you tell if you’re getting enough water in a day? There’s a simple and useful calculation.

What is the Formula for H2O Intake?

All you need to know is your weight in pounds. It’s reasonable that the amount of water a one-hundred-and-twenty-pound woman would require is different than the amount a man of two hundred and twenty pounds would require. Thankfully, the formula is simple.

Weight (in lbs) x .67 = ounces of water required to drink

For a 150 lb woman, she should drink 101 ounces of water in a day. For a 200 lb man, he should consume 134 ounces of H2O per day.

Adding Exercise into the Equation

Dehydrated and thirsty young men playing basketball on schoolyard.
photo by Reuben Mcfeeters

But what about when you sweat?

Sweat is water lost during exercise or heat exposure to help the body maintain a stable temperature. When focusing on adequate hydration, you need to account for water lost due to sweating. We also deplete our bodies of minerals when we sweat.

For every 30 minutes of exercise, add an additional 12 ounces of water to your total from the above equation. To add back important minerals, consider adding a small pinch of Himalayan Pink Salts or a few drops of a trace mineral supplement to the additional water you drink.

Example: 150 lbs x .67 = 101 ounces. 45 minutes of exercise requires the addition of 18 ounces of water. 101 + 18 = 119 total ounces of water to drink that day.

“When we’re craving an afternoon snack, sometimes that’s our body trying to say we need more water.”

That’s a Lot of Water

Drinking more than 100 ounces of anything can seem daunting. That’s a lot of water, and to be frank, water can be quite boring. But remember, water is in nearly everything we consume, in our food and in our beverages. Not all sources of water are created equal—soda is a less ideal option than iced tea or lemonade, which are less ideal than water itself. Here are some tips to keep you properly hydrated, and make your water a tastier option:

Reusable water bottle with measuring guide.

photo by Alan Carrillo

  1. Have a 16-ounce glass of water after you wake up. You can also drink an additional 8 ounces before bedtime, but if you have issues waking at night due to a full bladder, you can skip the evening portion. Beginning and ending your day with this habit adds an easy 16-24 ounces to your total without even having to think about it. Keep a glass or container at your bedside to make this step as easy as possible. Also, add a pinch of Himalayan Pink Salts to your morning water intake.
  2. Drink two 16 ounce glasses of water before you eat. The body sometimes confuses which signals are hunger and which are thirst. When we’re craving an afternoon snack, sometimes that’s our body trying to say we need more water. Drinking before a meal is a good way to ensure the thirst is out of the way so we can recognize true hunger before we begin to eat, and stop when we’ve reached satiety. Plus, that’s another 32 ounces in your water bank for the day.
  3. Use a reusable bottle with measurements on the side. It’s sometimes easier to remember to refill your bottle four times than it is to track how many ounces you’ve had.
  4. Give your H2O pizzazz with added flavor. Squeeze a lemon slice into your glass, or place a sprig of mint in it to refresh the flavor and fight the afternoon doldrums. There are some flavoring powders as well that can add some zing without added sugars or calories. Check the labels to ensure you know what you’re adding, but giving a little pep to a glass of water makes it that much easier to get your daily intake.

Dehydration can interfere with metabolism as well as weight loss, so it’s always best to be mindful of your hydration and get your daily allowance as regularly as you can. Your skin will be grateful, too.

Do you have questions about implementing other healthy habits into your life? Read about Key Habits of Authentic Health. You also can contact uslike us, and follow us

I saw Mrs. C. last week. She’s a long-standing patient in her 60s who has proactively approached her complicated health issues which include:

Mrs. C experienced a period of depression after her husband left her. During that time, she didn’t focus on her health. Since then, she’s been well disciplined about exercising, eating nutritious food, and getting her blood pressure and blood sugar under control.

To help regulate her blood sugar, we used medication. Through trial and error, we moved from a prescription that had a significant side effect to one that appropriately managed Mrs. C.’s condition.

Should Your Employer Health Plan Dictate Your Health?

The medication regimen that has been effective for her was going to be disrupted, and this could affect her ability to control her risk factors.

Mrs. C’s employer recently started using a chronic disease management clinic to monitor the use of expensive prescriptions. However, the employer also changed their formulary, and the medication that she has positively responded to was no longer covered. Understandably, Mrs. C was distraught. The medication regimen that has been effective for her was going to be disrupted, and this could affect her ability to control her risk factors.

In addition, Mrs. C’s blood sugar has been creeping up. She admits that she hasn’t been eating well. It’s possible that even with her prescription, she would continue to have elevated blood sugars. It’s also possible that her diabetes has progressed to where she has become partially insulin dependent. In this case, we may have to use insulin to control her blood sugars. However, we would prefer not to for several reasons:

  1. Insulin can cause weight gain and more than likely, Mrs. C has too much insulin in her system because of her insulin resistance. Given her stage of diabetes, once we place her on insulin, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to take her back off of it.
  2. She probably would not only need a once-a-day insulin pen but also likely need mealtime insulin as well. The cost of insulin pens is significant. Monthly it can range 400-$600, and if you have two different types you’re using, then you could be looking at nearly $1,000 a month.
  3. The effective medication she has been taking is nearly $300 a month. If she is forced to use insulin, we’ll be increasing her total medication costs, plus placing her on medication that may negatively impact her ability to continue to maintain her weight and follow the nutrition program that has worked for her.

We agreed that the best course of action was 1) keep her on her current medical regimen, and 2) resume a nutritious diet. If this approach is not useful, then we can reevaluate her regimen and make changes.  

healthy green salad in white bowl with shaved cheese and beets

Who Should Tell You What Medication Is Best For You?

Unfortunately, it appears that her employer-based health plan is going to be inflexible. Remember I mentioned a medication that caused a detrimental side effect? They would like her to switch to that same drug. When she explained that she had a side effect that required a treatment intervention, they asked for supporting medical documents.

It’s frustrating that the manager of the health plan doesn’t trust my patient and me enough to believe that this side effect occurred. In actuality, the way we managed her side effect saved her employer health plan a significant amount of money in the cost of visits.

Remember I mentioned a medication that caused a detrimental side effect? They would like her to switch to that same drug.

When I suggested to Mrs. C. that based on complicating factors, perhaps the chronic disease management clinic should help manage her diabetes for her, she indicated they wanted me to handle it. This is a frustrating dilemma. We have a clinic trying to control access to medications on behalf of the provider that’s unwilling to manage the conditions of the patient. In fact, they are making it difficult to provide the patient with the best care possible by creating boundaries for me as her physician.

healthy senior attractive woman portrait

Health Care Should Be Team Effort

Sometimes, those managing the health care dollars, step into the way of those entrusted to provide the health care. I understand the need to scrutinize the use of expensive medications, but our first priority is the patient. It’s an all too common example of the difficulties your primary care physician faces when trying to provide you with the best possible care.

We all should insist on a more integrated and transparent system: one where the payers, meaning the individuals and businesses who pay all the cost, have more influence on their individual treatment plans.

At Health Shepherds, we understand the importance of integrated healthcare. If you have questions about a more personalized approach to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Science has long proven the link between elevated mood and exercise. Physical exertion releases endorphins, which give the body and brain a natural high that can’t help but improve one’s overall mood and focus. Here are 6 simple mood-boosting exercises that don’t require a lot of time, space, or fancy equipment to accomplish.

mindfulness and brain cognitive function

Yoga

All you need is some floor space, nonrestrictive clothing, and a little time. The combination of balance, stretching, and breathing increases oxygen to all parts of your body, including your brain. Studies have long shown yoga practitioners have reduced stress and anxiety levels and improved overall focus. Whether you’re trying to boost flexibility, lose weight, or calm frazzled nerves, yoga has many styles to practice to fit your needs.

Exercise

Walking or Running

Taking a simple walk or jog around your neighborhood or at a nearby park is a great way to get the blood pumping. Cardiovascular movement increases the flow of oxygen and releases endorphins, often called “runner’s high,” which can elevate your mood for hours afterward. Proximity to nature adds the chance to absorb Vitamin D, another mood enhancer, and all that fresh air and beauty of the outdoors can make a simple trek a magnificent experience.

Dancing

Not only does dancing not feel like exercise, with the variety of dancing styles, there’s no end to the amount of fun one can have. Taking a class with a partner or alone can provide a sense of accomplishment and learning, as well as getting a chance to socialize. Because dancing is also a form of self expression, it increases the connection between mind and body, fostering a sense of purpose and self confidence in just being yourself.

Tai Chi

A blend of martial arts and meditative moves, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that requires balance, muscle relaxation, mental concentration, and relaxed breathing. It doesn’t require a great deal of space to perform, and the increased strength, balance, and flexibility one achieves can be very empowering. Performing the moves can improve mindfulness and centering yourself in your body to show what it is capable of.

Bounce

While this one does require a piece of equipment—a trampoline—bouncing around works the legs and core of a body in ways many other exercises don’t. It’s fun, can be done alone or with others, and it doesn’t take much before the laughter kicks in. There are even trampoline dodge ball games to be had at places like Sky Zone.

Meditating is important for your health. Learn the benefits of meditation.

Stretching

Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good stretch, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for exercise. A simple hamstring stretch, runner’s pose, or touching your toes gets the blood flowing, relaxes your muscles, and increases oxygen. Find a wall, put your toes on the baseboard, and lean toward the wall with a slight bend to your knee for a great calf stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and put one ankle on the opposite knee, then twist to the side until the sole of the foot resting against your knee touches the floor. Leave your arms spread to the sides, and repeat for the other leg. You’ll feel the pull from your hamstrings to your shoulders, and all you need is a bit of floor space. Taking a few minutes to stretch each muscle group limbers your body, increases blood flow, deepens your breathing, and resets your mind so you can focus on the rest of your day.

 

Whatever your mood-boosting exercise of choice, even a few minutes a day of movement and breathing can help physically and mentally to soothe nerves and improve brain function. People who move more, regardless of how, achieve better sleep, cope better with stress, and overall have a more positive mood than those who don’t.


Combine these mood-boosting movement tips with our free 9-week nutrition program to help you lose weight, feel better inside and out, and change your mindset for long-term health.