The Mental Mind Shift is the focus of part 3 in the series of How to Overcome Emotional Eating. So far, we have discussed simple ways to incorporate moderate exercise, simple dietary modifications, and meditation to help empower you to overcome emotional eating. The potential benefits of nutritional supplementation along with 3 specific categories of supplements were laid out in part 2 of How to Overcome Emotional Eating. On to Part 3 – The Mental Mind Shift, and how to further strengthen the power of your “Thinking Brain.”
Until now in your quest to prevent Emotional Overeating, you’ve seen some changes in your eating patterns because you’ve adopted a healthy diet, you’re exercising regularly and meditating, and you may even be taking the suggested supplements, but then WHAM, you’re hit with stress and your Emotional Brain goes berserk. It has become the most single-minded, block-everything-else-out, monster and it is in PAIN. It has one and only one goal in mind, to relieve the pain, it must eat.
This is a habit you have created over the years, and someway, somehow it is serving your immediate needs, but the long term effects are without a doubt failing health and lower self-esteem.
All habits have three components: 1) triggers 2) routines 3) rewards.
Your Emotional Overeating habit has the same three components. 1)Trigger=stress 2) routine=overeat 3) reward=feel good.
Repeated over and over again this pattern becomes ingrained. Ironically, the least productive way of overcoming this urge is by resisting it. Once your trigger has been sparked, your Emotional Brain will go on autopilot until the reward has been achieved. That’s right; resistance is futile, resistance creates more stress.
A better strategy is to create a new habit. It is your Thinking Brain that will create the new habit. If you have read this far, you are to be congratulated and encouraged. It means your Thinking Brain can focus and learn. You have the potential to change your habit!
Step 1– Identify the triggers. When you have the urge to overeat ask yourself, “Is there a common person, place, time of day, or event that sparks the urge?” What emotions were you feeling when this happens? It is important to link the answer to the first question with the identified emotion. It may take a few overeating binges but keep observing; the answerers will come to you.
Step 2– As you are playing out/succumbing to overeating, ask yourself “Is the act of overeating satisfying the emotionally triggered urge?”
Step 3– Substitute a different activity and test if the new activity satisfies the emotionally triggered urge. Here are a few examples: walk outside, watch a short comedy, smile in the mirror, or my favorite, a five-minute meditation. Keep on testing different activities until you find the one that satisfies the emotionally triggered urge.
Step 4– Once you’ve identified the emotion you are trying to satisfy, and you have discovered an activity that satisfies the emotion, you need to write out and prepare before the next triggered happens. For example, “When I get home from work (time trigger), and I feel lonely (the emotion of woe is me), I will write out what I am grateful for (feeling that I have a lot of joy in my life).” Another example-“When my Dad (person trigger )calls to “talk”(triggering the emotion of I’m not good enough) I will look at pictures of my kids because that gives me the feeling of “I am good enough.” In both of these examples, the previous habit of overeating satisfied an emotional need. By planning before the event, you have the ability to create a more empowering habit.
As you have just read, Overcoming Emotional Eating, at best takes a multi-faceted approach that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. There are many factors that come into play. Please let me know how these strategies work for you, or of any other strategies you have found helpful in dealing with Emotional Eating.
How to Overcome Emotional Eating (part 2
Welcome to part 2 of How to Overcome Emotional Eating. You are either very curious by nature and felt compelled to read each of the segments in this 3 part series, or you need a little more assistance to overcome emotional eating. Part 1 in the series discussed why emotional eating happens and gave three strategies to get you started. Here we will talk about flexing the power of your “Thinking Brain” over your “Emotional Brain” and the positive boost supplementation may have on this process.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there is a third portion of the brain we need to bring into this discussion to fully understand the challenges your Thinking Brain must overcome to help you beat Emotional Eating.
The “Primitive Brain” is the oldest and most domineering part of the brain. Located in the brain stem, the Primitive Brain’s job is survival; after all, it controls heart rate and breathing. It controls you. You may be thinking, “there is no way an old part of my brain is more powerful than “me.” By the way, the concept of “me” exists in your “Thinking Brain,” located in your frontal lobe. Okay, lets put this to the test. If you were given a choice of having a million dollars or taking your next breath, it wouldn’t matter if “You” chose the million dollars, you will, without thinking, take your next breath.
This illustrates the influence of each area of your brain. From most to least influential-Primitive Brain, Emotional Brain then Thinking Brain. Your actions and reactions are driven by the needs of each of these brain areas.
The Primitive Brain is wired instinctually for immediate protection from the environment and keeping you alive. The “Emotional Brain” dictates how we interact with others and responds to our desire for social acceptance. The newest part of the brain, the Thinking Brain is keeping you involved in the thought process of reading this blog and figuring out how its concepts apply to your life. Your Thinking Brain can influence both the Emotional and Primitive Brain, but it takes understanding and training. Let me illustrate. I said before if I gave you a choice between a million dollars and your next breath, regardless of what you think or feel, your primitive brain would kick in and force you to take that breath. But if I changed the scenario a little and had the million dollars at the end of a 100-yard pool and you had to swim underwater to get to it, your thinking brain might have a chance to override the Primitive Brain and get both the bucks and breath.
I am often asked, and would imagine most doctors are asked, “What can I take to help?” My answer is always the same. The two biggest influences on your mental function are the foods you eat and how frequently you move your body. If these are not addressed, no number of supplements will have any lasting effect. So, assuming you are eating well and regularly moving or exercising, there are supplements that have been shown to be quite beneficial when dealing with Emotional Overeating.
1) Adaptogens: Adaptogens are a category of supplements that have the unique characteristic of “smoothing a stress response”. Adaptogens will support either an exaggerated or insufficient stress response. The word Adaptogen means creating an ability to adapt. The adaptogens I recommend are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Ginseng.
2) 5-HTTP: Serotonin is the chemical produced in your brain that makes you feel happy. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin. That means the body uses 5-HTP to make serotonin. The most researched and safest way to raise serotonin is by taking a supplement called 5-HTP. Other effects besides making you feel happy are a positive effect on sleep, mood, and anxiety.
MCT OIL or Healthy Bran Fat: The third recommended category of supplements is those that increase healthy fat to the brain; after all your brain is composed of 60% fat. Fat is vital for nerves to fire; therefore, your thoughts and emotions need healthy fats. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), particularly from coconut oil, is very beneficial for the brain and body. Use caution when purchasing MCT Oil. It should only be derived from coconuts and, although Lauric Acid has other benefits, improving brain health isn’t among them.
Do the recommendation in these first two post and you will be prepared for next week’s part 3 of “How to Overcome Emotional Eating”.
How to Overcome Emotional Eating (part 1)
In this 3 part series, we’ll examine why we are prone to eating our emotions, how to outsmart yourself out of emotional eating, and when necessary, what it means to call in the reserves to successfully reach your goals instead of a bag of potato chips.
A patient, we’ll call Mary, recently came to see me. Three years ago, she successfully completed a metabolic makeover; she looked great, felt 20 years younger and couldn’t believe how mentally aware and alive she acted. Not to mention her glee over her 30lb. weight loss. Her biggest fear she related to me back then was “when I get emotional, I eat junk food.” She managed to keep her healthy lifestyle for two years then major stressors entered her life and she started eating junk food again. She gained all the weight back and developed severe joint pain and brain fog, both of which she was now on medication to manage. Then she reentered my office.
Most people who enter my office with chronic conditions have success after fully understanding all the factors affecting their condition and following a protocol that eliminates the causes one by one. However; the most challenging complication to overcoming chronic problems is “Emotional Eating.”
Why do I crave junk food when I’m stressed?
People eat junk food when stressed because sugary and fatty foods raise serotonin and dopamine. When these feel-good chemicals in your brain increase, you will temporarily experience a spike in happiness and motivation. But these foods also create obesity, inflammation, and diabetes. Despite knowing Emotional Eating is only providing a short-term boost and giving in to it will be harmful, your “Emotional Brain” easily overpowers your “Thinking Brain.”
Is your brain thinking or doing?
Here is a huge clue to overcoming Emotional Eating: Your thinking brain needs to understand the why of this occurring and then be able to identify when your emotional brain takes over and you dive into chocolate covered sugar bombs. Since your Emotional Brain directs your moment to moment reactions, you need to strengthen your Thinking Brain. This is not an easy task, but it is doable. Here are your first steps:
1) Exercise-I know, if you don’t like to exercise your first thought is probably “ugh.” That should tell you which part of your brain is in charge. Your emotional brain is saying “nope, I’m not going to exercise,” but your thinking brain is saying, “get off your butt.” Perhaps you would be willing to start walking for ten minutes a day? Try not to think of it as exercise – think of it as increasing your brain power. Walking just 10 minutes per day will strengthen your “Thinking Brain’s” muscle to flex over your “Emotional Brain.” And, you’ll burn a few calories.
2) Diet-Did I hear you “ugh” again? In my book “The Whole Body Cure” I try to give very specific nutritional protocols for health related issues. But since we are discussing Emotional Eating try the simplest diet I know: If you can’t read it don’t eat it. Yes, it is that simple.
3) Meditation-Relax, it’s not all ohmmm stuff. If you already meditate then you have felt the benefits. If you haven’t, what do you have to lose? Research is 100% clear; meditation is one of the best and safest ways to improve “Thinking Brain” function. If you have never meditated, I suggest you try any 7-minute meditation for seven days and see if you feel just a little bit calmer or less anxious. Apps like Calm or Headspace can help you start your meditation journey.
You’ve heard it over and over again, “exercise and eat right and you’ll be on the path to good health.” It can be true for some but not easy for most, especially if you fall victim to emotional eating. Decreasing the time and intensity of exercise to a 10-minute walk is not as daunting as committing to a gym membership and tugging on Lycra pants. Eating foods that don’t even need a label, like an apple or orange is a great way to shift your eating habits. Meditation, as little as seven minutes has been shown to improve your Thinking Brain’s influence over your Emotional Brain. If these strategies are all it takes for you to overcome emotional eating, congratulations, keep up the good work. Need some more help? Read part 2 of “How to Overcome Emotional Eating.”
Could your anxiety be genetic?
There is a simple to challenge to find out.
There are many known factors that contribute to anxiety, but one that is rarely discussed is a genetic variant that can inhibit traditional care. You may wonder, “how can I make a change if my problem is genetic?” In fact knowing your anxiety stems from a genetic variant will empower you to possibly find a more appropriate path to feeling better.
Let me explain:
Your brain is influenced by a number of chemicals called neurotransmitters, chemicals which pass messages from one nerve cell to another.Two of the most influential neurotransmitters are Glutamate and GABA.
• Glutamate excites the brain
• GABA slows the brain
As you may have guessed, an imbalance between glutamate and GABA may have an adverse effect on your mental state. Too much glutamate may equal more anxiety.
Glutamate turns into GABA in the brain. A number of things influence this process, including your genes. If you happen to have the gene variant that inhibits the process, you may be expressing it in the form of anxiety.
Take the Alpha-ketoglutaric acid challenge
When taken as a supplement, the body should turn Alpha-Ketoglutaric Acid(AKG) into glutamate and then GABA. If you have this genetic variant, the body can’t convert glutamate into GABA, in essence temporarily creating too much glutamate and the resulting symptoms.
The test: Take 1000 to 1500 mg of Alpha-Ketoglutaric Acid. You will be symptom-free if your body successfully converts it to GABA. But if you have the genetic variant your body will have a problem completing the conversion, and you may notice excitability, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, or gut disturbances. You might have to do this challenge for a few days to notice any changes.
What to do if the result is positive?
If this is positive you will want to develop a strategy to increase GABA through supplementation. You can also add supplements that support GABA, such as l-theanine, l-taurine, vitamin b-6, Valerian, and lithium orotate.
What else can you do?
• With your prescribing doctor, you may want to readdress some of your medications. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, may be difficult to withdraw from because of the resistance you build up over time.
• Avoid MSG. This is one of the largest contributing factors on raising unnatural Glutamate levels in the body and brain. This may cause what is called the Chinese food syndrome. MSG raises glutamate and if your body can’t convert it to GABA, it may lead to hyper-excitable symptoms like a racing heart rate, headaches, stomach problems, among others. By the way, MSG goes by many different names. Get educated on other names MSG goes by.
• Exercise has also been shown to restore neurotransmitters to a healthy level.
• Organic Acid Tests and genetic tests can zero in on a cellular and genetic level to see what influençable markers you have and to develop more powerful strategies to overcome your anxieties.
If you experience thoughts of doing harm to yourself or others, seek help from a mental health professional.
Anxiety may be expressed in many ways, and there are many causes. If there is an influenceable cause, wouldn’t you want to know? I hope this article helps.
The holiday season can be a real test to eating healthy for all of us. You do not have to completely sabotage your healthy routine. Yes, you may be tempted and you should be able to enjoy yourself without feeling all the guilt. Still take the time to nourish your body with the following tips to help you navigate through all the holiday temptation.
Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. Savor all the wonderful foods that you will have and don’t feel too guilty about it. This holiday eat well and be merry!
The “Keto” in Ketogenic comes from “Ketones,” the small fuel molecules produced when you eat very few carbs and only moderate amounts of proteins.
The goal of a Ketogenic diet is for your body to switch its fuel supply to run entirely on fat.
Before making dietary changes be sure to check with your physician or health care provider.
We are constantly being barraged with plates and pyramids dictating what makes up a healthy diet. Low-fat, moderate fat, only a little protein or a protein portion the size of your palm; lots of fruits and vegetables or lots of grains; none is the perfect answer for everyone. As a matter of fact, some of those guidelines may actually cause your IBS symptoms to flare up. There is no one size fits all answer when it comes to relieving IBS symptoms, but we will say that over the years we have found some common threads with our patients.
Fiber – Yeah we know it should be good for you. Fiber is the thing that adds healthy bulk to your diet. Buzz words like “whole grains” may be appealing, but they may not always be a good choice. Fiber can aggravate your symptoms, especially your diarrhea. Your best bet is to look for soluble fibers like vegetables and fruits. For those with a more sensitive system we often recommend cooking vegetables for easier digestion.
Grains – As discussed above, grains are known to aggravate IBS symptoms. Because of their inflammatory nature we often have patients steer clear of ALL grains, at least until symptoms calm down. Some patients are able to reintroduce grains successfully over time; however, patients with Celiac Disease or non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity are often limited to grains that do not contain rye, wheat, barley, or other grains known to induce a cross-sensitive reaction.
Foods that are Fried – We all love french fries, but fried foods are really hard on your gut, especially for those struggling with IBS.
Beans and Coffee – IBS can appear as diarrhea or constipation, or alternate between the two. Either way it’s unpleasant. We often hear about things like beans and coffee “helping things along” but we also hear how they can overshoot the mark and have a bad result. Your best bet: if you already know a food bothers you, don’t eat it.
Milk – Like grains, dairy products are known to be inflammatory. For you, this may mean typical IBS symptoms like constipation or diarrhea, in others it may cause joint pain, bloating, or skin problems. Like grains, we often have patients eliminate all dairy until symptoms go away, then we add it back into your diet, one product at a time for a fews day to see how you feel.
There is no cookie cutter solution for each person suffering from IBS even though we often see identical symptoms in those suffering with it. Everyone has a different underlying cause. Keep a journal and list what you eat and when you have problems. These suggestions should be a good starting point for relieving your pain.
Come to one of our FREE Workshops where Dr. Kirshner will answer all your questions about your IBS.
Listen To Your Mother, She Knows What She’s Talking About.
Remember when you were a kid rushing out the door and your mother’s voice would float through the air encouraging you: “Take a jacket; it’s going to be cold outside.” Maybe you paused for a second to consider her suggestion or, like most of us, without skipping a beat; you went on your merry way only to be cold later. Of course you never admitted that once again your mother was right!
When it comes to living a long, healthy, vibrant life three pieces of mom’s advice are continually supported by science, not just her uncanny intuition:
Number 1 – Eat your vegetables! Yes, it is really that simple. Although mom may not have had a degree in nutrition, she instinctively knew vegetables are a secret health weapon. Add a variety of vegetables that are rich in color to every meal. Spice up those boring scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach and salsa. At lunchtime, ditch the bread and wrap your grilled chicken and veggies in a dark green lettuce leaf. Dinner is a great time to try a vegetable you have been shying away from. Roasting Brussels Sprouts brings out their natural sweetness and tames the bitter cabbage flavor. Snacking on celery filled with peanut butter satisfies the desire for “crunch” while providing fiber and protein to keep you full until the next meal.
Number 2 – “Turn off that darn machine.” The old adage “move it or lose” is true. It doesn’t take long to lose muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Physical prowess is not the only thing sacrificed by being a couch potato – your emotional wellbeing and brain health will also be challenged. After dinner, go for a walk around the block. Ride your bike to the store. If you must watch Dancing with the Stars get up and test your moves.
Number 3- Learn something new. Studies have shown one of the key components to maintaining brain health is to learn a new skill. Planning a trip abroad? Learn the native language, what better way is there to find the best local sites? Have you been thinking about picking up some knitting needles? Many charities appreciate knitted blankets and caps for newborns in need? Want to make mom really proud? Fulfill all three of her favorite suggestions by planting a vegetable garden, learn about soil and sunlight, and maintain rows of proliferating vines then sit down to a meal of freshly grown vegetables.
This Mother’s Day before you rush out the door to brunch or the kid’s soccer game, take a moment and connect with mom, maybe say thanks for her wisdom, and don’t forget your sweater. Listen to your mother, you may be suprised.
Admit it, you want to look your best but sometimes no matter what you do you’re just not happy when you look in the mirror. Let’s put away the pretense of not being shallow and get to work on looking good.
You’re after strong nails that won’t split and flake with the slightest bump. Thick, radiant hair and luminous skin round out the picture. But how do you make this happen?
First you owe it to yourself to read the labels on the products you are using. Can you pronounce the ingredients without having a master’s degree in chemistry? Find a knowledgeable professional who uses high quality ingredients that don’t create more of a toxic load to stress your system.
About that toxic load: why isn’t your body able to eliminate it without your hair, skin and nails suffering? Innately all your body was created to do was survive, so it will prioritize which organs get fed first in order to achieve that goal. Highest on the priority list are you brain and heart. Guess what is at the bottom? That’s right, your hair, skin and nails; these will be robbed of nutrients for more essential body functions.
Your skin, the largest external elimination organ of the body is susceptible to a barrage of invaders, from free radical damage to oxidative stress, your skin doesn’t stand a chance if it’s not given the proper support. Free radical damage can be reduced by eliminating smoking, excess sugar and chemicals found in processed foods. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, including berries, dark leafy greens, bell peppers and more will help protect against oxidative stress.
imagesYour liver is your largest internal elimination organ, and as you may have guessed it works hand in hand with your skin. Don’t believe it? Try this experiment: cut an onion then massage the exposed portion into the bottom of your foot, wait a few minutes then see what you taste in your mouth. What you put on your body affects what happens in your body! Treat you liver kindly with cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli and your skin and hair will thank you.
Healthy protein from whole eggs, free range and cage free animal sources are also essential to health inside and out. Healthy oils like coconut and olive will feed your brain and hair, skin and nails. You can also find healthy oils in avocados and raw nuts. You have probably been told these foods are high in calories, and that is true but they are also high in essential nutrients. Besides, if you are counting calories you are probably eating the wrong ones.
Try these tips for a few weeks and see if it helps. If you continue to have skin issues or if you want to have a more in depth evaluation please feel free to call the office at 610-435-1777.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Hearing the words unrecognized pandemic can elicit fear in the most even tempered person. However; learning that you may have control over your exposure to this so called pandemic should come as some relief. To protect yourself you don’t need to get a shot, have your home debugged, or limit your travel. You probably don’t even need any special lotions or potions, you just need to have a simple understanding of why vitamin D is important.
Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has a receptor site on every cell in your body, which means every cell in your body needs vitamin D for some function. A healthy level of vitamin D is needed to “maintain bone health throughout life, but also plays an important role in reducing risk of many chronic diseases including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, deadly cancers, heart disease and infectious diseases.” 1
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:
Would you take action if protecting yourself from this global scourge required having fun and eating foods you like?
After having a breakfast containing whole eggs (yolks are a significant source of dietary vitamin D), go play outside for 15 or 20 minutes and you will be well on your way to satisfying your body’s daily need for vitamin D, and you will have done your part to protect yourself from a pandemic.
In truth, maintaining a healthy vitamin D level may be that simple. Because of a concern about skin cancer many people have done themselves a disservice by shying away from daily sun exposure by not going into the sun at all, using excessive amounts of sunscreen, or completely covering their skin when they are outside, thus becoming part of the pandemic. Although some vitamin D is found in food, it is not enough to maintain a healthy level. Moderate sun exposure is still the most effective way to ward off the ill effects of vitamin D deficiency.
Evaluation by a qualified professional is an important step in determining if you have a vitamin D deficiency, if it is the cause of your health concerns or the effect.
To learn more about why vitamin D is important, what is considered an optimal level, and the risks of not maintaining healthy levels click the links below:
1 The vitamin D deficiency pandemic and consequences for nonskeletal health: mechanisms of action.
Holick, MF-Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.