Friday, August 30, 2013

Why do we eat like we do?

Here is what I remember eating as a kid:
Starch anyone?
TV dinners were big in my house because both of my parents worked. I remember coming home for lunch one time and my high school friend opened the freezer stocked with TV dinners and said "wow, this is awesome"! Coke was like water to us and Fig Newtons were healthy right?

If I had not developed Celiac disease would I still eat that way?  Probably... but I feel lucky (yes, you heard that right), lucky to have this disease.  There is heart disease on both sides of my family and I could have serious health problems right now if I hadn't changed how I eat. I was forced to look at what I put into my mouth at every meal. I began reading labels.  I started trying new things. I learned how to prepare food correctly. I learned to love kale.

So take some time to think about why you eat the way you do.
  • Were you heavily influenced by your family? 
  •  Did you have a bad experience with a certain vegetable as a kid? 
  • Are you influenced now by your friends or partner? 
  • Just can't resist those mouth watering ads on TV?

Understanding the why is the first step for change. It helps you to step out from behind the "that is just how I am" door.  Why do I always crave something sweet after dinner?  Because that was a tradition in our house.  Ice cream right before bed, which is fine if you have the metabolism of a 12 year old. So when I decided to get healthy and lose some weight, I knew that I'm was up against a tradition but traditions can change. My first step was to have a piece of fruit after dinner.  Once I got used to that I decided to take the next step and have a nice warm mug of tea or take a walk with my dog.  See how I transitioned to a non food activity?

So in a nutshell...  Take inventory of what you want to change. Identify the why behind it. Understand the why behind it.  Then take your first step to change that behavior. Remember it doesn't have to be a giant first step.  It can be a baby step.

Good luck! And remember, you aren't alone. You can always reach out for help. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Let's Talk About Fat Baby...

I will try to keep this simple because it can get complicated.  We need fat. But there are many different types of fat. 


Small amounts of natural trans-fats occur in meat and full fat dairy and that small amount is ok to consume. Note the word natural.  Because it is the artificial trans-fats you want to steer clear of.  Those are found in processed cookies, cakes, pizzas, stick margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods, pre-mixed cake and cookie mixes, frozen dinners, chicken get the idea.  The items in the supermarket where you look at the long list of ingredients and you can't pronounce half of the words. 

Long-Chain Saturated Fat 

Affectionately known as LCSF.  The ever so informative Chris Kesser (Chris Kesser) explains LCSF better than I can:

"These fats are found mostly in the milk and meat of ruminant animals like cattle and sheep. They form the core structural fats in the body, comprising 75-80% of fatty acids in most cells, and they’re the primary storage form of energy for humans. In other words, when the body stores excess energy from food for later use, it stores it primarily as long-chain saturated fat.
Unlike polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and carbohydrates like glucose and fructose, saturated fats have no known toxicity – even at very high doses – presuming insulin levels are in a normal range. Long-chain saturated fats are more easily burned as energy than PUFA. The process of converting saturated fat into energy the body can use leaves no toxic byproducts. In fact, it leaves nothing but carbon dioxide and water.
This means that, assuming you are metabolically healthy, you can eat as much saturated fat as you’d like without adverse consequences. I’m sure this will come as a surprise to many of you, since we’ve been collectively brainwashed for 50 years to believe that saturated fat makes us fat and causes heart disease."

Medium-Chain Triglycerides

MCTs are found in coconut and mother's milk and are a great source of energy.  They do not metabolize like other fats.  Which means they are not broken down in the digestion process, they go directly to the liver via the portal vein.  MCTs are used as a fat source when someone is fed via a feeding tube. Data also supports that this type of fat may help fight Alzheimer's Disease. 

Monounsaturated Fat

MFA for short and also called oleic acid. It is found in beef, olive oil, avocado, lard and certain nuts (macadamias). There is some evidence that eating these foods improves blood cholesterol levels.  You are okay to eat MFAs but nuts do contain omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (see below). 

Polyunsaturated Fat:  Omega 6 and Omega 3

PUFA are chemically unstable and prone to oxidation (think heat). They are found in numerous foods: nuts, oils, vegetables, cereal grains and meat.  There are two types of PUFA.  And we need a 1 to 1 ratio of these fats in our diet for optimal health. Unfortunately the average American has a 10 to 1 or 20 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.

Omega 6
Also called linoleic acid, your body cannot make it so you have to consume it.  You can find linoleic acid in vegetables, cereal grains and meat. But here is the tricky part, Omega 6 is found in large amounts in processed oils like soybean, cottenseed, corn the problem with the 10 to 1 ratio.

Omega 3
Omega 3 can be broken down into short chain (DHA, EPAI)and long chain (alpha-linoleic acid, ALA).  ALA can be found in flax seeds and walnuts.  DHA and EPA are found in fish and small amounts in animal protein (think grass fed beef).  Some research shows that the body has a hard time (in people with nutrient deficiencies or illness) using ALA.  DHA and EPA might be a better choice for Omega 3.  But make sure your fish and meat is from a good source (organic and grass fed).

I hope this will help you make better choices when it comes to fat.  Remember fat is your  friend and not your foe.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

So excited that Danielle Walker from Against All Grain will be here in Austin on Sat August 10th.  Free event, you can buy her cookbook, she will sign it and cooking demos!

Friday, July 19, 2013

How often should you eat?

Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a client about how often they should eat. And not 10 minutes later, one of my favorite bloggers, Balanced Bites posted this from Robb Wolf's blog about Meal Frequency.  You are welcome to read the entire post because it is fascinating but if you don't have time just check this section out:

               "6 meals per day will definitely allow for glucose to be readily available at all times.  This will prevent us from using gluconeogenesis to maintain blood sugar.  However, there are some other issues with this eating frequency.  There are two phases for insulin secretion.  The first phase lasts for approximately 10 minutes.  The pancreas stores insulin in preparation for the next meal.  During phase 1 this stored insulin is released.  In phase 2 the pancreas produces more insulin.  Insulin is present in the bloodstream for 2-3 hours after the meal is consumed. 
                Eating every 2-3 hours puts a strain on the pancreas because it is unable to produce the stored insulin for phase 1 of secretion.  This means that our pancreatic beta cells are working nonstop.  This is a fast track to type 2 diabetes.  In fact, loss of first phase insulin secretion is an independent predictor of type 2 diabetes (  Leptin and insulin work together to control energy consumption and storage.
                There are leptin receptors present on the pancreatic beta cells.  As we eat, leptin levels should rise, increasing satiety as well as communicating with the pancreatic cells to stop producing insulin (   On the other hand, an increase in insulin increases leptin.  If we continually secrete insulin, increasing leptin, we can be on a fast track to leptin resistance and metabolic syndrome.  Once again we have developed leptin and insulin resistance.
                Our body, when functioning properly, has a checks and balances system.  Opposite insulin is a hormone called glucagon.  Glucagon communicates with the liver to release its stored glucose to maintain blood sugar levels.  At this point free fatty acids are stimulated, as well as ketone bodies.  This is the true fat burning time.  Insulin and glucagon cannot be present in the bloodstream at the same time, so this occurs roughly 3 hours after eating a meal.  If we consume a meal every 2-3 hours glucagon is never released and we never enter this fat burning period.  We cannot burn fat while insulin is present!" 
Oh my!
So before going Paleo I would eat about every 2-3 hours thinking I was doing my body a favor plus I had hypoglycemia so I told myself I had to eat every 2-3 hours.  Guess what?  I was hypoglycemic because of how and what I was eating. It turns out that grains throw my blood sugar a curve ball.  I cut them out and it made a huge difference.

Robb Wolf's  article also mentions Intermittent Fasting (IF).  This article from Dr Mercola explains IF.  It discusses how you can either restrict your calorie intake for a period of time (for example to 600 calories for 2 days out of the week) or restrict the time frame of when you eat.  If you click on the link below Dr Mercola will explain how he practices IF.  He limits his food intake to 6-7 hours during the day which means you go about 16 hours without food. Dr Mercola article on IF

Robb Wolf feels that 16 hours is too long to go without food and Dr Mercola's article recommends 16 hours.  Which is right?  You probably need to find out which works best for you.  Because that is what is always comes down to. What works best for you. We are individuals and what works for your neighbor will probably not work for your lovely special body.   

Here is my advice if you are interested in playing with meal frequency and IF: 
  • First clean up your diet.  Take out the "white stuff" - sugar and flours and processed foods. They are just going to mess with your system.  Put real food in that gut.  
  • Second, start to see what meals keep you satiated the longest.  You may need to play around with the amount of protein, add in more vegetables and adjust your carbs or remove those grain carbs.  
  • Third, once you are eating 3 meals a day and feeling good then play around with IF.   
*Please note, if you are not feeling good at any step of the process then something else is going on and you need to seek help from a healthcare professional.

Good luck and now go eat some real food!


Thursday, July 11, 2013


Change...let's say it again....change.  Still with me?  I know, most people cringe at this word. You might be like me.  I'm all for change when it is my idea but I have a hard time getting on board when someone else brings up the idea.

But I want to talk about change in regards to your health.  Most of us have control over some aspect of our lives.  What if you shifted that energy to focus on what you put into your mouth or how you treat your body?  How much of an impact would that make in your life?  I say HUGE!

"If you want something you've never had then you're going to have to do something you've never done."  .....Anonymous

Change can be hard but once you make the decision to make a change you are in control from that point foward. I made the decision a few years ago to give up sodas.  At the time I was dealing with yeast overgrowth in my intestinal tract.  After looking at what was in sodas: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup,caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors and caffeine.  And that one can of coke has 39 grams of sugar I was ready to make the jump.

Here are my 4 steps to change:

#1 Decide what you want to change
What are your goals?  It will probably take you awhile to narrow this down. I'm going to step up on my soap box now.  We live in a society where outer beauty seems to be the only thing that matters.  So our goals tend to revolve around physical traits.  "I want to lose 20lbs before my wedding."I want to fit into that swimsuit by May"  "I want thighs like Giselle Bundchen"....yeah right, that woman is a freak of nature. Okay off my soap box now.

My point is take a good long time to figure out your health goals.  Maybe your mother has an autoimmune thyroid condition. One change might be to try an autoimmune diet.  Or you decide that you want to be fit as a fiddle when you are 70.  So you work on a long term workout plan with your favorite personal trainer that ensures you build muscle, burn fat all while doing exercise that is easy on your joints. You also include a sensible long term eating plan.

#2.  Will this be a forever change or for a set period of time?  
Take the previous goal of wanting to be fit as a fiddle when you are 70..  Deciding the time frame will help you wrap your mind around the change and what it will take.  Your first step might be to ask around and find a good personal trainer.  Or you have a neighbor who is in great shape at 70 so you ask them how they did it and that helps you when you interview personal trainers.

I'm sure you have heard it takes 21 days to make a change.  I personally believe we each have our own time frame and it is up to you to find out what that is. It also depends on the complexity of the goal.  Maybe you decide that you will finally learn to swim because you want to compete in a triathlon. And you haven't been on a bike in years. You would want to give yourself a longer time period to work on this goal.

#3.  Plan your cheats
Really?  Yes!  No one is perfect so you need to know how you will cheat.  When I gave up sodas, I told myself if I was going to cheat, I would do so with a real Coke from Mexico made with cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.  What surprised me is how bad it tasted after I hadn't had a soda in a few weeks.  It was too sweet!  My tastes had changed.  These days if I want to step outside of my beverage box, I'll have sweet tea and I can tell you my sweet tea is probably not near as sweet as a Sweet Leaf Tea Mint and Honey.  Defining how you will "cheat" keeps the control in your hands.  It also helps you from going over board because you have a plan and permission.  Just be careful if your cheats become so regular they are part of the plan. Then it is time to go back to Step1 and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place. 

#4.  Check in with yourself regularly 
This is the final piece of success as it helps you track and evaluate your progress. It also helps you tune into how you are feeling.  Before I talk about checking in I want to speak to the mushy part.  Tuning into your feelings is an essential success factor for change.. How many times have you finished off a whole bag of chips in front of the TV after a bad day at work?  Now you have had a bad day and you are going to feel guilty about that whole bag of chips. Many of use food as a negative coping mechanism.  When I get frustrated or have a bad day, I sit down and put my feelings on paper instead of eating a whole candy bar. It helps me get my feelings out of my head and sort them out.  Or I take a walk with my dog and tell her all about it. She is a great listener. Find what works for you or ask around to see what works for others.

Now back to checking in.  Set aside time for you to look at your progress or at what may be tripping you up.  This is also a good time to bring up another suggestion.  Find a buddy that you can partner with. Then you can have regular check ins with someone who is going through the same thing.  Go shoe shopping or take a walk on Town Lake with your buddy and talk through your successes, failures or coping mechanisms.

"All things are possible to him who believes"   Mark 9:23

I hope this post was helpful.  Please feel free to comment below and tell me when you have had success with change and what helped you. 

I believe in you and what you can be!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Diane Sanfilippo, from Balanced Bites, has a great blog post about Canola Oil.  I no longer use any Canola Oil and only use Olive or Coconut Oil. Check it out:  Canola Oil Maybe Paleo Approved But.....

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sugar – How can something we love, be so bad for us?

Oh how we love sugar!  Birthday cakes with buttercream frosting, smarties that make your salivary glands go into over drive and cotton candy at a fair. We can all name our favorite sugary treat.  

A few years back I read about a study that followed addicts in rehab. They divided them into two groups.  One group could have sugar while in rehab and the second group could not.  The group that did not have sugar had fewer addicts relapse than the group that could have sugar.  The conclusion was that the group who could have sugar just replaced one addiction with another.  More on this in a minute…..

While I was working on my Nutrition Certification we were given a list of 78 ways sugar can ruin your health.  Don’t worry I’m not going to give you all 78 but here are a few. 

  • Sugar can increase the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Sugar interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium.  (a symptom of calcium and magnesium deficiency is sugar cravings – a vicious cycle)
  • Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines
  • Sugar can contribute to hormonal imbalances
  • Sugar can increase the body’s fluid retention
  • Sugar can increase the amount of fat in the liver
If you want to lose weight and reduce body fat, it makes sense to dramatically cut the amount of sugar in your diet. If you want to live a healthy life and reduce your risk for disease, take out the sugar.

What about fruit?  Fruit is a healthy choice because it contains vitamins, minerals and fiber along with the sugar.  And that sugar is naturally occurring.  Very different from what you get in a Twinkie or Skittles.   Here is a list of fruit according to sugar content.  My advice is to watch how you react or feel after eating the high sugar fruits.  If you feel shaky after eating a piece of high sugar fruit as a snack then you probably want to have it with some protein and fat.  An example would be some grapes with a handful of almonds or maybe you only eat that fruit after a meal.  The other choice is to avoid the high sugar fruits and just eat the low sugar fruits. 

Lowest in Sugar
Small Amounts of Lemon and Lime

Low to Medium in Sugar
Casaba Melon
Honeydew Melons

Fairly High in Sugar
Pears Pineapple

Very High in Sugar
Dried Fruit 

  • Dates
  • Raisins
  • Dried Apricots
  • Prunes
So back to sugar and addiction.   Dr. Daniel Amen has written many books on health and diet.  He recently released an ebook titled “Sugar on the Brain:  How to Avoid Psychobetes”.  He explains that all types of sugar, bread, pasta and rice can trigger a release of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in your brain that boosts your mood and makes you feel relaxed.   And guess what?  When that feeling goes away, what do you do?  You seek sugar to get that feeling again. Dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter) comes into play next.   It makes you feel energized and excited.  It’s like Vegas!

This may sound a bit left field but dopamine is what makes you feel high when you use cocaine.  This excerpt from Dr Amen’s ebook explains the cocaine reference: 
“Recent research has shown that eating something sweet can actually be more rewarding than cocaine.  In a study published in the journal PLoS One researchers took two groups of rats and let them choose between water sweetened with saccharine and intravenous cocaine.  The results were stunning.”
“A whopping 94 percent of the animals chose the sweetened water over cocaine.  As if this weren’t enough to blow the researchers away, they decided to repeat the experiment using sucrose – regular old table sugar.  The results were exactly the same.  In fact, the rats continued to choose sweet flavors over cocaine even after they had been injected with the drug and the amounts were escalated in patterns classically seen in addicts.  No matter how much cocaine they gave the rats, the vast majority of them continued to choose sugar.”
Here is what researchers concluded: 
Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and addicted individuals.  We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastants.  In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants.  The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.”

Ok one last thing from Dr Amen’s book:
“Our ancient ancestors ate only about 22 teaspoons of sugar a year.  That’s about 110 grams, which is equivalent to one large apple – per year!  Today, American’s eat between 150-180 pounds of sugar per person per year or about half a pound (454 grams) a day.”

For this next week, pay attention to your sugar consumption.  Dramatically reducing your sugar intake will definitely get you closer to your health goals

To your health,
Anne Allen, NC