Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 8

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

Lipostat, Hormones, and Regulation

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

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

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

The brain makes decisions based on leptin levels about:

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

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

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

Healthy salad with olive oil

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

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

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

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

It will make you hungry.

Like, really hungry.

Like you can’t control this level of hunger.

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

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

Person balancing on rock in sunset

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

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

Doctor’s Conclusion

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

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

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

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 6

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

Satiation and Satiety Signaling

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

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

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

Avocado toast on whole wheat bread and soft boiled egg

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

Hormonal Signaling

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

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

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

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

Shifting Perspective

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

Insoluble fiber oatmeal with honey and pears.

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

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

Are you searching for a more integrated approach to healthcare? That’s what Health Shepherds delivers. If you have questions about a more personalized path to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

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.

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.


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.

If you follow my teaching, you know that I emphasize nutrients over calories. I want to reverse the way we think about food. Rather than focusing on primarily calories and macronutrients, I concentrate on the micronutrients and phytonutrients that allow our bodies to perform as they were designed. These nutrients help our bodies recover from the stress of living and optimize energy production. Without them, the calories do not do much for us. Because of this, today I want to cover the importance of fiber.

We do not get enough fiber in our diet. Our current minimum recommendation is woefully low because our bodies thrive when we consume a significant amount of this important nutrient.

The Bulk of the Matter

One of the most important components of food that provides innumerable benefits but often is neglected is fiber. If I have any regret from the nutritional chapter in my book, Authentic Health, it’s that I didn’t emphasize it as much as I wish I had. We do not get enough fiber in our diet. Our current minimum recommendation is woefully low because our bodies thrive when we consume a significant amount of this important nutrient.

Fiber is a very important component of our diet as it is a prebiotic, meaning it actually feeds the good bacteria in our gut. It forms bulk in our stool and improves bowel regularity and composition. It binds cholesterol in the gut and helps reduce cholesterol absorption. Fiber also contributes to satiation, the feeling of fullness when we eat, and therefore naturally controls appetite. It also slows down the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream and can help control blood sugars after a meal. It both nourishes and satisfies you.

Healthy meal full of fiber with carrots, broccoli, and noodles.

How Do I Increase My Fiber?

Fiber is found in most foods, but it’s most abundant in non-starchy vegetables and fruits. Fiber is also abundant in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes. However, if you follow my teaching, you’ll know that I emphasize using only non-GMO properly prepared grains and legumes. While some individuals thrive on a whole food, plant-based diet rich in natural grains and legumes, others may have sensitivity to grains and legumes. The primary issue is the source and the preparation.

I recommend eating a lot of natural fiber through consumption of non-starchy vegetables, organic fruits (but watch total amount of fruit intake), and seeds and nuts. I also recommend limiting fruit, as it is higher in sugar.

Some individuals will benefit from using a daily fiber supplement. I personally use one for all of the benefits it provides me. I prefer fiber supplements that come from real food such as organic, high-quality psyllium husk, ground flaxseeds and chia seed, and other natural sources. These will usually contain insoluble fiber, prebiotics, and omega 3s that will nourish your gut and make digestive function easy for you. Once you get used to them, they easily become part of your daily routine.

Man taking fiber supplement.

There are a lot of different versions of fiber. Some will cause bloating and gas for you. In this case, you may need to switch to a different source. A lot of it has to do with the composition of your gut microbiome. But you can find the fibers that work best for you. They are the ones that aid in bowel regularity, promote satiety, and give you a sense of wellbeing.

How Much Fiber is Enough?

You need to get plenty of fiber in your diet if you want to succeed in maintaining a healthy weight. I recommend getting a minimum of 30 grams a day, but preferably 40 to 60 to optimize health. Because our distant ancestors ate a natural whole-food based diet, they likely consumed over 100 grams a day. Our modern foods have been stripped of the fiber that is so nourishing for us. The only way to get to get enough is to eat more produce and consume less processed foods.

Our modern foods have been stripped of the fiber that is so nourishing for us. The only way to get to get enough is to eat more produce and consume less processed foods.

You also want a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. On food labels, the amount is listed and is broken down into soluble and insoluble. So it’s easy to identify how much fiber is in a food you’re consuming. You also can find nutrition tables on multiple different apps or searching the internet. 

Insoluble fiber oatmeal with honey and pears.

My patients have consistently told me that one of the best pieces of advice they followed was to increase their fiber. They never regret honoring their body’s need for this vital nutrient.

Make sure you’re consuming enough fiber in your diet. It’s an important nutrient that maintains regularity and gives our bodies energy. If you have questions about how to eat more fiber or which fiber is best for you, contact us. Health Shepherds wants to see you on a journey to your most authentic health. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to succeed.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 5

You’ve become intentional about your health, and you’re cultivating the right desires.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere…

Have you practiced the positive visualization exercise? Have you written down your heart’s desires? Have you been reminding yourself of these daily to imprint them deep into your mind?

I hope so. If so, congratulations! You’re on your way.

Take A Beat and Breathe

This is permanent, effective, and authentic change. We’re allowing our body and mind to become its healthiest version.

For this post, we’re going to pause and reflect. I’m not trying to stall out your progress. It’s just that this particular stage we’ve reached is important. I want us to stay here briefly.

This is a long-term journey.

This is not the Six Weeks Body Transformation program.

This is not the Retrain Your Brain in 2 Weeks (which can’t be done, by the way).

This is permanent, effective, and authentic change. We’re allowing our body and mind to become its healthiest version. It takes time and patience, so let’s listen to our body’s wisdom and breathe into this new space.

Understanding what you want for yourself, and then imprinting it into your mind, is necessary for it to be effective.

photo by Peter Secan

Things to Remember While You’re on This Journey

Understanding what you want for yourself, and then imprinting it into your mind, is necessary for it to be effective. Remember to:

  • Focus on what you want,
  • Think about your heart’s desires,
  • Practice the positive visualization exercise, and
  • Strengthen your resolve and commitment to good health.

Has Your Journey to Authentic Health Started?

If it hasn’t, then how about starting now? The rest of the “Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health” series is based on you having a strong desire for your best health, for you knowing where you’re trying to go. If you’re coming to the series a little late, simply go back, and start at the beginning. You’ll quickly catch up.

Next we move forward with our understanding of how to transform your health.

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.

We recently wrote about achieving and maintaining adequate hydration. In that blog, we highlighted the importance of drinking water and we discussed how your body thrives when it’s adequately hydrated. Without proper hydration, you may end up feeling unwell and not necessarily knowing why. This week, we’re going to emphasize how it’s not only how much water you consume, but the quality of the water you drink that’s crucial.

Water is Everywhere

We receive hydration from many sources. Any beverage we drink, whether it be coffee, tea, soda, or water will provide hydration. In addition, our food offers the body water.

“Produce grown in healthy soil and free of additives is rich in minerals, nutrients, and water.”

In previous posts, we’ve discussed that food sourcing, meaning that the foods you choose to eat, need to be from healthy sources. As much as possible, produce should be organic, and animal products should come from healthy, ethically-raised animals. Eating a lot of vegetables can improve your hydration, as there is a lot of water in fresh produce. However, if that produce was grown in depleted soil and coated with herbicides and pesticides, you actually may be creating more stress for your body when you consume it. Produce grown in healthy soil and free of additives is rich in minerals, nutrients, and water.

What is Pure Water?

When it comes to your beverages, some are better than others. I recommend people learn to enjoy drinking pure water. What do I mean? Pure water is filtered so that heavy metals, parasites, chlorine and fluoride, and other potentially unhealthy byproducts of water production are eliminated. This can be accomplished through a filtering system, or by purchasing well-sourced spring water.

“Pure water is filtered so that heavy metals, parasites, chlorine and fluoride, and other potentially unhealthy byproducts of water production are eliminated.”

However, if you filter your water, you also will have depleted it of key minerals. Pure water derived from the earth would normally be rich in minerals. These minerals are an important part of your overall hydration as they maintain a proper balance between water distributed to the blood and to the cells. So if you choose to filter, consider adding a pinch of Himalayan pink salt or trace minerals as a way of restoring important bodily resources.

Young woman headphones brunette drinking water from glass water bottle.

How You Store Your Water Matters

We also have to consider how water is stored. At this point, many of us know that plastic containers can have unhealthy chemicals associated with them. In many cases, these chemicals can leach into the liquid held in the container. When we consume that beverage, whatever it may be, we end up putting these chemicals into our bodies, which can create harmful responses. I like to reuse glass bottles for carrying filtered water wherever I go.

What About Coffee and Tea?

Quality coffees and teas are a good source of polyphenol compounds, which are nutrients important for health and fluids. You have to be careful about the caffeine content, and I recommend people consume unsweetened versions of these beverages, but nonetheless, this can be a healthy source of hydration. If someone has to have some sweetness to the flavor of the beverage, then I recommend an organic Stevia drop to provide that sweetness.

Glass of carbonated soda with mixed berries in glass.

Can I Splurge on Soda?

Excess consumption of soda, even diet drinks, is a contributor to obesity and metabolic diseases. I have a process I recommend for people who are trying to kick their cola habit. You can still enjoy the bubbly experience but eliminate the harmful aspects.

Step-down Process to Eliminate That Soda Fix

  1. Use sparkling mineral water and add some flavor. There are healthy, organic Stevia blends on the market. You also can use pure, unsweetened, organic concentrates from blueberry, pomegranate, or cranberry. These fruits are rich in nutrients and provide a refreshing flavor.
  2. Simply add lemon, lime, or squeezes of orange to your sparkling water.

It’s okay that there are days when you decide to drink the soda or the sweet tea or whatever else it is that you enjoy. We like to use the 80/20 rule. Drink h2o 80% of the time to get the vast majority of results. Over time, you’ll see the difference between how you feel when using clean sources of hydration versus unclean. You’ll naturally begin to spend more time exposing yourself to the sources of hydration that support your health and help you feel good.

“Excess consumption of soda, even diet drinks, is a contributor to obesity and metabolic diseases.”

Stay adequately hydrated, but make sure you also focus on quality hydration. Your body will thank you.

Are you interested in learning more about holistic and authentic health? Contact us, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 3

In the last blog, we talked about how your optimal state of health has to be based on your true heart’s desire. First, we have to get our desires in the right order, since ultimately we will always choose what we want. For instance, you have to strongly desire your health, because the forces opposing it are powerful.

You Have to See It to Be It

I’d like to teach you a short visualization exercise that’s based on simple psychological principles. It involves activating both the right and left hemispheres of your brain and using your powerfully creative mind. The goal is to deeply imprint a vision of your best self into your mind so that you can begin to create a subconscious habit of supporting your best health.

Close your eyes and picture yourself in a very serene and peaceful place. This can be any setting you’re familiar with. It can be a beach, or the lake, or a park, or somewhere comfortable in your own home. You want to picture this with as much detail as possible. You want to see the surroundings, smell the smells, and feel the atmosphere.

“The goal is to deeply imprint a vision of your best self into your mind so that you can begin to create a subconscious habit of supporting your best health.”

Then bring into your picture the healthiest version of you. This version of you doesn’t necessarily need to have 6-pack abs or anything. It’s simply a very healthy looking person. Bright eyes. Smiling. The appearance of this person radiates good health, strength, confidence, and happiness. This person holds themselves in a particular way and breathes in a particular way. They appear strong and confident.

I want you to do your best to picture this as vividly as possible. If you’re having trouble, don’t worry. This may be a new exercise for you. Just stick with it. Keep creating the picture. This alone is a very powerful exercise for your mind. You can do this in 5 minutes or less.

meditate visualizephoto by Felix Mittermeier

Once you have that clear picture of you as your healthiest self, you’re going to step into that version of you.

As you do so, in your mind, begin to experience how it feels to be that version of you. Experience how it feels to hold your body in a strong and confident way, how to breathe deeply and effectively, feeling the air moving in and out of your lungs. How you see through eyes that see the world as a beautiful place. How you experience a strong confidence and a sense of joy and contentment. Do everything you can to cultivate that inner state of feeling.

Continue to stay in that state and experience how this feels to you.

After a short period of time, I’m going to want you to hold your fingers tightly together, index finger against thumb or middle finger. You’re going to hold that for about 30 seconds, feeling the pressure in your fingers while holding this image in your mind.

“Experience how it feels to hold your body in a strong and confident way, how to breathe deeply and effectively, feeling the air moving in and out of your lungs.”

Then, once you’ve done that, I want you to open your eyes and begin to step out of this visualization as though you’re still that person you visualized. The result of this is you imprinting into your subconscious a desire to be the healthiest you. Ultimately, you need your subconscious to believe that this is what you want so you can begin to automate your habits to achieve it.

visualize meditatephoto by Ksenia Makagonova

How Do I Keep Visualizing My Health?

When you walk away from this, try to hold the feeling of it as long as possible. Even if this makes you feel self-conscious, don’t worry about it. Do it in the privacy of your own home when no one’s around. Practice.

It will really feel good for you to experience being inside the healthiest version of you, even for just a few minutes.

Throughout your day, as you begin to experience negative feelings, whether it be fatigue, or negative emotions, or a temptation to give into a bad habit, I want you to close your eyes, pinch your fingers strongly together, and recreate this image for yourself. As you do so, you’ll begin to imprint into your subconscious and your consciousness that strong desire to be that person. That can reactivate the positive emotions associated with that state. It also can give you the strength to make a different choice than the choice that sabotages your health.

Remember, your heart’s desire is the rocket fuel for this journey. That’s what will take you there. So we first have to get that right.

We’ll talk about some other helpful tips to cultivate the right desire in the next blog.

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.

Any journey worth taking, including transforming your habits to transform your health, requires a couple of key elements. One is, you have to know where you’re trying to go.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.

So you’ve got to know where you’re going. This has to do with desire and goals.

transforming your habits

photo by Mahkeo

Two, you’ve got to know how to get there. You’ve got to have the right information to get where you’re trying to go. The wrong information will obviously not help you on your quest.

Three, you’ve got to know how to create the changes necessary to get from point A to point B.

In this blog series, my goal is to give you the tools you need to

  • understand the way your mind works when it comes to change
  • implement techniques that help you remap your mind so the choices you gravitate to are in line with your health goals
  • decide on your heart’s desires for your best health
  • determine the steps you need to take to gain your heart’s desires for your best health
  • show you how to navigate challenging moments in that quest for your best health, be they temptation, a faltering of willpower, etc.

Change is hard, but not impossible

Change is resisted both passively and actively. You have your own internal resistance to change. There are many reasons for this. We will outline the reasons why change is so hard, and how to overcome this in this series of posts. I believe you’ll find this incredibly informative and actionable. I also think you’ll find that it’s simpler than you would have thought. You just have to understand how to make it happen. That’s what we’re going to teach you.

transforming your habits

photo by Stefano Pollio

The first point I want to make is that I am speaking to you about how to create the changes to experience your best health, how to build the necessary mindset. This may be how to change your nutritional approach, or how to incorporate more movement into your life, how to reduce stress, or to change your overall thinking so that you can create a habit of thought that automates healthy behaviors for you.

Our goal is to make this easy for you, that adopting the habits of thinking and habits of doing that will become your default system, resulting in you experiencing your best health every single day.

You won’t have to fight yourself, or feel bad about yourself, anymore.

If you’re reading this and you already have a perfect life, and every day you feel like you experience great energy and great health, then this series may still help you, but it’s not primarily written to you. This series is written to people who need to change, who know they need to change, but can’t seem to make it happen. This series will be good news to those of you who’ve always struggled with change. You’ll learn the truth about why it’s so hard, about how you can make it happen, and you’ll be set free to become who you want to be, and experience your best health. I promise this is doable for everyone.

Stay with this series. I believe this teaching is incredibly powerful. In fact, I believe it’s the most powerful thing that we teach, because once you have this, everything else becomes easy. Consider this the Owner’s Manual for your mind.

Check out our resources for more information on mindset and the freedom that can be found in achieving your Authentic Health.

I just saw a patient this past week, and it made me think about the concept of sending our brain the right message for weight loss that I think is really important for you to grasp. The book, Authentic Health, describes this in a little more detail in the chapter on what it takes to keep a body healthy. I would encourage you to read that, and really think about what I communicate there, because it is the truth.

A Case Study

The gentleman I saw was middle aged, and he’s a little overweight, and he doesn’t feel as good as he’d like to. Again, it’s a really common scenario I’ve come across. He was in for a general checkup and we both agreed that losing a little weight would help him feel better. I asked him what plan he thought he may consider for this, and he said, “Well, I’m joining a gym.”

photo by Victor Freitas

Now I get this a lot. People like to join a gym. Gyms love this because they get a lot of memberships and oftentimes people don’t end up following through. If a gym is the best place for you to pursue exercise, then go for it. I’m all for that. I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of the gym industry. My main issue is a consistency of movement for you.

My point is this: his answer to losing weight was to go to the gym.

I want to make it clear that I like the idea of him getting exercise. I have an entire chapter about the importance of physical activity and movement in my book. Strength training is a great message for the body. It strengthens:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Upregulates hormones
  • Improves metabolism
  • Lowers insulin resistance

It really is a great treatment for feeling good. I also think that regular aerobic or interval training, and mobility exercises are all really good for the body. Those are powerful messages that produce responses in your body that give you back physical and mental health. You feel good when you use your body. I’m a big fan of that.

Primary Weight Loss Tool

But that is not the primary way to lose weight. When we’re talking about losing weight, we’re talking about a change in our body composition. We’re talking about reducing the amount of fat stored on our body. If your amount of fat stored is actually at your genetic baseline, your basic genetic profile for your body composition, then losing that fat is going to be very challenging. It’s going to take ongoing maintenance. Unless it is a very specific goal for you to get as lean as you possibly can, I don’t recommend that for people who are at their healthy genetic weight.

In this case, this gentleman is 30 lbs heavier than he ought to be, and we both know it, and his laboratory data shows it. I do agree with his plan to lose weight. I just didn’t agree with his primary mechanism of doing so, which is to go to the gym. I agree with going to the gym, but that’s not going to produce weight loss for him. Yes, he will burn calories, and yes, that’s good. Of course, if you burn more calories than you take in in a given day for a period of time, your body will shed body weight.

photo by Anna Pelzer

However, we stress in our teaching how your body weight and body composition is regulated hormonally, and this is determined by a set point in a region of your brain. Ultimately, the primary messengers about this body fat are hormones. Hormones are messengers that respond to stimuli.

  • How you eat
  • How you move
  • How stressed you are
  • The levels of nutrients in your system

These things evoke a hormonal response. It’s all about what message you send your body so that your internal messages—meaning your hormones, and in your brain, your neurotransmitters—will produce the response you’re looking for. In this case, this gentleman wants to get leaner.

I had to point him back to his approach to nutrition. If he wants to lean out, it’ll come through how he approaches nutrition. The movement is great, but it’s a tiny part of the overall equation.

Nutrition is the primary message for weight loss.

Of course, that’s not what he wanted to do because that’s more challenging for him, as he himself stated. He really enjoys food, he enjoys his current pattern of eating, and he doesn’t really want to change that. It’s uncomfortable. Whereas going to the gym is an actual long-standing, positive habit for him. He falls out of it occasionally, but when he returns to it, he feels good, and it’s very familiar to him. It’s something that’s easy for him to do. He has the circuitry in his brain grooved for going to the gym on a consistent basis for a certain amount of time each year. There’s not much resistance to it, so it’s easy for him. It’s his default mindset.

photo by LUM3N

But changing his eating is a much harder thing. He does not have consistent circuitry in his brain that is grooved to help him achieve that. In the past, he has typically not had success. He could perhaps do a 30-day program, feel a little better, but then he reverts back to his normal eating habits. There are many reasons for this, and we discuss them in our various documents.

Ultimately, the challenge for him is to permanently alter his approach to food if he wants to lean out. I was able to give him that news and keep it positive, and tell him how slow he can go. He doesn’t need to lose 30 lbs in three months like he’d like to. He can lose this 30 lbs over the next year, and it won’t be that hard to do, and he will improve his health and how he feels. But it’s going to involve not just a temporary change in his nutrition, but a consistent change.

Your approach to eating is the primary driver of how your body regulates its stored energy: namely your fat.

What Is Your Approach to Eating?

If you’re trying to get strong, or build muscle, do strength training. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to change your eating behaviors. We have a lot of materials with different ways of accomplishing that, which can help you build a strategic mindset to increase your chances of success. In this case, this gentleman agreed the easiest thing for him was to not think about it, so he agreed to an intermittent fasting protocol that I developed for him. I suspect by following that program, we’re going to see him losing that 30 lbs over about 6 months.

If you want to get stronger, strength train. If you want to lose weight, change your nutrition. Send the right message to your brain, and you’ll get the right response in return.

If you need help with an individualized program, please contact our office, or come to our Facebook page and see how others are doing, or read some of our other materials. The main issue is, you are getting back the version of yourself that you are messaging to your brain. If you need to change that, you need to get the messages right.