Thanksgiving

My online fasting support group is mostly Canadians and they don’t get the Thanksgiving thing. It is uniquely American. I have always felt it brings the country closer together, at least for one day; before we all go out shopping.

As a child Thanksgiving meant food, glorious food!

For many years I thought Thanksgiving = the food.

Now I think of Thanksgiving as all the other things outside of food preparation.

For me that is family and friends and reminding myself how grateful I am to be on the planet.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration this week. I am very thankful for my work family and my nursing career. Both have brought so much into my life!

Enjoy the celebration by eating to satisfied. Have a plan for the day and commit to it. Eat what you really like and don’t eat the things that are just there.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Getting Off a Plateau

I grew up out west where plateaus and mesas are everywhere. Some are called table mountains and go on for miles; you can’t see where they begin or end. And that is how weight loss plateaus appear if you haven’t been tracking your food intake.

Without this data you don’t know how to correct your diet. You will be lost out on that plateau because there is no way to answer questions like:

  • How often did I overeat?
  • Am I drinking water every day?
  • How many desserts did I eat this week?
  • Am I eating more starchy veggies with the cold weather?
  • Was that 3 days in a row of having a beer with dinner?
  • Am I just mindlessly eating cheese every day?
  • Did I do extra grocery shopping this week?
  • Did I eat processed foods because I didn’t meal plan?

Hitting a weight loss plateau happens for two reasons. Your primitive brain is making too many food choices AND your body has adapted to the amount and type of food you are giving it.

So, it’s not all our fault, Yay!

The Mayo Clinic defines a plateau as adaptation homeostasis. Basically our metabolism slows as we lose weight. This is a survival mechanism.

Living at a lower weight requires fewer calories. Wait, What? This isn’t what my primitive brain wants to hear, it wants to party like I’m still 22!

To get our bodies out of adaptation homeostasis and off a weight loss plateau we can do any or all of the following:

  1. Track what we actually eat, the bald facts.
  2. Eliminate processed carbs and replace them with vegetables (non-starchy).
  3. Hold off on sugar, even fruit, until you’re back on track losing weight again.
  4. Change up an exercise routine; time of day, intensity, duration.
  5. Reduce sedentary activities by increasing NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. As we lose weight our NEAT slows as part of the body’s adaptation homeostasis so we need to consciously keep NEAT up. I can do this by taking the stairs at work, parking on the edge of the parking lot and eliminating the 2 hours in a chair watching TV after supper. Personal trainer Jared Covarrubias has more good ideas to increase NEAT and includes the math to show how much of a difference it makes!
  6. Track what you eat.
  7. Increase protein intake while decreasing carbs and fats on non-fasting days. The mechanism is unclear but protein does seem to increase thermogenesis which is the process of heat production in organic beings like us. Protein can also provide satiety.
  8. Decrease stress. That’s a big one! Stress stimulates glucocorticoid excretion and has been shown to INCREASE palatable food intake (that would be sweet and savory treats) which INCREASES insulin production and fat storage.
  9. Try intermittent fasting.
  10. Reduce alcohol. Alcohol decreases inhibition, increases appetite and promotes abdominal fat storage aka beer belly.
  11. Increase fiber. Look at labels to see how much fiber is in a product. All whole foods naturally have fiber. Fiber increases the feeling of fullness after a meal, slows food absorption in the GI tract and decreases calorie absorption. So, eat more whole foods!
  12. Drink water, coffee and green tea which increases your basal metabolic rate.
  13. Get plenty of sleep. Fat burns during sleep. When we are tired we make poorer food choices during the day. The primitive brain thinks food relieves fatigue!
  14. Don’t rely on the scale alone. How your clothes fit and measuring body parts can show improvements the scale may be missing.
  15. Did I mention to journal your food?

Plan your trip, pack your food and you will get off the plateau:)

 

Chunking Habits

This week I came across an instagram article by The New Yorker about a habit formation term called “chunking”. Chunking sounds like a  verb made up out of a noun. The article goes on to say our brain uses “chunking” to make living in our environment easy.

For example, our brain “chunks” all the following actions into one habit GET IN CAR AND GO:

unlocking car, opening door, sitting down, putting on seat belt, starting car, looking out rearview mirror, backing up, shifting gears, using break and gas pedals, steering car, checking traffic.

We become aware these unconscious actions exist as a habit when some of the actions need to be updated. Like having to use a key fob instead of an actual key for the new car. We keep trying to put our key in the lock until our primitive brain adds the key fob action to the GET IN CAR AND GO “chunked” habit.

Our unconscious primitive brain is sublimely elegant at “chunking” habit feedback loops. These loops are wonderfully described by Charles Duhigg in “The Power of Habit” as cue – action – reward. The brain builds habits so repetitive actions become easy and are rewarded each time!

Biology uses easy to survive. Our brain is designed to transform effort into easy. This saves us energy, increasing our survivability. We live because of persistent, robust feedback loops in our cells. Feedback loops are free of friction and happen over and over until we die. Essential processes like oxygenation, nutrition, and hydration are comprised of grouping or “chunking” feedback loops throughout our body to keep every cell alive and well.

Messing with our oxygenation, hydration and nutritional feedback loops can lead to organ damage or death. Smoking habits lead to COPD and cancer.  Alcoholism habits damage the liver and kidneys. We are now learning that poor nutritional habits can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, mental illness, neurological disorders, immune diseases and overall poor quality of life.

I have screwed up my nutritional feedback loops by layering bad habits over biologically constructed feedback loops which tell me when I am in need of nutrition, when to stop eating, and how much fat I need to store or burn. 

I have practiced my bad nutritional habits so much they are now persistent, robust and frictionless. They override my body’s normal feedback loops and keep extra fat on my body.

So, if I want to undo my habits?

I need to create new habits to override my bad

  • shopping habits
  • cooking habits
  • dining out habits
  • food storage habits
  •  meal eating habits

This week I picked apart my food shopping habits.

My habit has been to stop by a grocery store 3-4 times a week giving my primitive brain lots of chances to habitually buy food I do not need. Now I only shop once a week with my shopping buddy, a shopping list, so I do not buy chips, dessert, and bread.

But that little voice in my head still screams to stop every time I pass a grocery store after work and basically every time I am in the car outside of my house!

See that little green me in the car? She will get bigger every time I drive by without stopping:) Because it IS easier to not stop! Stopping to shop costs me money, time, effort, and helps me gain weight.

By the way I need to mention how happy and warm inside it makes me to see all the people at work eating healthier and even losing weight! I’m not sure this blog is making a difference but leveling up everyone’s awareness about the fact that we are what we eat is! Way to go everyone:)

 

 

Am I fooling myself?

A dangerous thought has been rolling around inside my head and popped up into my consciousness today.

Am I just fooling myself by thinking I can lose weight and keep it off?

Because I haven’t done it in the past.

Because it really won’t make a difference in my life.

Because it is hard to do.

Because it really doesn’t matter.

Because no one else cares.

Man, I need to get out the violins now that my thoughts are on this negative roll.

I understand all the neurophysiology that is going on as I am producing these thoughts that consequently direct my actions to give me the result I do not want: weight gain.

So, instead of believing these thoughts which are full of negative crap I went back and read some of my previous blog posts.

I am very grateful to the part of my past self that was thoughtful and gives me a much more positive bunch of thoughts to work with. She lives quietly in my blog words.

If my past built the negative thinking part of my primitive brain it also built the positive thinking part of my primitive brain. And this positive part is documented for me in my blog, thank the stars!

The negative bully is so much louder and drowns out the positive thinker gal all the time!

Today I remind myself the negative bully can go in another room, sit in the corner and I can shut the door on her.

Today, me and Miss Positive Thinking are having a nice cup of coffee together and enjoying the morning.