7 Tips To Decrease Sugar Cravings

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Food cravings can mean the death of many of your nutrition goals. Even the most dedicated can find themselves slipping and giving into the gnarling voice of their cravings.

Sugar and salt seem to be the most craved, with sugar in particular, being so addictive that willpower and intellect alone have little to do with pushing it away. You can only willpower your way through a sugar craving so many times until you eventually give in and throw all caution to the wind.

There are many reasons of why sugar can feel like it has a stranglehold on you — stress, nutrient deficiencies, imbalanced blood sugar, food memories, poor relationship with food, not enough sleep, and not being mindful of what you are eating. This is only naming a few of the reasons.

There is a belly-mind connection and it is much stronger than your willpower in the long run. 

And because of this belly-mind connection, it is super important to address a layer of reasons of why you may be struggling with your cravings. Some of those layers may feel very challenging to move through, while other may feel a bit easier and more direct. 

When starting a successful habit change, you want to focus on those low hanging fruit layers — those easy to grasp and where you can see quick results. Not only does it help to get the ball rolling, but it is also super motivating to see quick results.

Changing your relationship with food and the memories associated with your cravings can prove to be a little bit more challenging and typically demand deeper mental and emotional work. You can start here, but it might be easier to make some simple nutritional changes. This will help to decrease the physical and nutritional issues that may not be associated directly with your relationship with food.

Here are 7 easy tips that can begin to ward off cravings and balance your blood sugar:

  1. Drink more water. Let’s start with a simple one. The more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for the body to metabolize glycogen (stored glucose) for energy, so our bodies crave sugar to provide us with a quick source of energy when we actually just need to drink a little more water. 
  2. Add in cinnamon. This spice helps your body control the amount of sugar in your blood, evening out the highs and lows that lead to cravings. One study found those who took 3g of cinnamon a day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose-tolerance test than those who did not take the cinnamon. And, your sugar cravings can drop immediately after consuming something with cinnamon!
  3. Eat your bitter foods. Research has found that consuming bitter foods shuts down the receptors in your brain that drive you to desire and consume more sugar. Bitter foods and plants can help slow the absorption of sugar and regulate blood sugar levels. You can eat foods such as dandelion, citrus peel, artichoke leaf, licorice root, and even burdock root. Or, you can make it super simple and use a tincture of bitters either before or after your meals (this helps with digestion too!). My favorite bitter tincture is by Urban Moonshine.
  4. Try spinach extract. Spinach extract, also known as Appethyl, is actually a weight loss supplement. It contains thylakoids, which consist mostly of proteins, antioxidants, and chlorophyll. Spinach extract has been shown to delay fat absorption (but not total inhibit it) and increase the activity of the hormones that reduce appetite and hunger. 
  5. Say no to the small bites. Feel a craving coming on? Don’t eat the small bites here and the small bites there. Those first few bites are inevitably the most tasty and your brain is going to be triggered by indulging in just a few bites. Not to mention, this creates a mindset of deprivation and can actually make you crave harder and jeopardize your relationship with food.
  6. Avoid getting too hungry. Make sure to eat regularly and not allow yourself to get too hungry. Fasting is all the rage and everyone seems to be either doing it or wondering if they should do it. Fasting can be super beneficial to help with cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells (autophagy) but when you fast for too long, it can create a great imbalance in your blood sugar, causing hunger and cravings. If you are choosing to fast regularly, keep your time frames on the shorter side, aiming between 12-16 hours. If you are a woman, keep those time frames in the 12-14 hour range. 
  7. Make it hard to get. This is technically a behavior change, but it falls right in line with nutritional behavior changes. One of the first line of defenses when making a habit change is to make what you want hard to get. That could be by placing it out of sight and out of mind, placing it in the highest cupboard of the kitchen (needing a step stool every time you want to get it), or even not buying it at all and only being able to get it by going to the grocery store. When you create a challenge or obstacle and it is not so easy, this delays the food to mouth time AND it also gives you more time to think about the choice that you are making. Sometimes simply creating space and time can be enough to allow you to decide that the craving is just not worth it!

Getting rid of cravings can be super complex and has many layers attached to it. Often, you have to dig and uncover those layers to get to the root cause of what is causing your cravings in the first place. This is where a coach and support system can help guide you on your journey. Are you ready to finally uncover your layers? Click here to learn more about my signature “Break Your Plateau” health coaching program!

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Starches That Help You Lose Weight

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When I first starting learning about carbohydrates, I knew what I knew by what I would read in the mainstream health info. 

Said in my best newscaster voice…

Carbs are bad, unless they are whole grain.

Carbs make you fat. Go Keto.

Carbs give you energy, but don’t eat too many.

Make sure to count your carbs and cut out the sugar.

Carbs, aka carbohydrates or starches, get such a bad reputation. They have been labeled as bad, unless they have fiber, then they might be good. But is this the truth?

Let’s use the term starches (you will understand in a minute) to make this easier…

The reality is that starches are neither good nor bad. Some starches are more life giving and others are more life depleting. You probably have heard the basics of what are better than others, but today, I am going to talk about a specific kind of starch that can help you lose weight and get your blood sugar under control. 

These starches are quite life-giving!

Why do starches get such a bad reputation? When starches are digested they typically break down into glucose. When that happens, that spikes your blood glucose and causes the plethora of issues that go hand in hand with imbalanced blood sugar. 

Let’s dive deeper and get a tad sciency…

What Is Resistant Starch? 

Resistant starch is a kind of starch that is not digested in the small intestine, hence its name. It is a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine. As it ferments, it becomes a yummy food for the good bacteria in the gut, helping to increase the health of your gut. This yummy food is called a prebiotic. 

There are many kind of prebiotics such as inulin from Jerusalem artichokes and chicory. Or soluble fiber from psyllium husks. Or even vegetables such as green bananas (the more ripe they become, the more they turn into a regular starch) and plantains and potatoes. Keep reading for specific foods high in resistant starch and how to use them…

Resistant starch is super helpful in controlling your blood glucose (blood sugar) and helping you to lose weight. This happens because the good bacteria in your gut processes it, creating beneficial molecules that promote balanced blood sugar and healthy gut flora. In layman’s terms? Resistant starch resists digestion and does not spike your insulin or your blood glucose. 

Yay, for resistant starch!

It goes even further than improving your gut health; Resistant starch increases your feeling of being full, helps to relieve constipation, decreases cholesterol, and lowers your risk of colon cancer. 

Food Sources and How To Add More Resistant Starch

The amount of resistant starch changes with heat. Cooking a starch, like potatoes or rice, and then cooling it off and not reheating it, transforms that starch into a resistant starch. For example, cooked rice that has been cooled is higher in resistant starch than rice that was cooked and not cooled. That is one way. Another kind of resistant starch, like those found in oats, green bananas, and plantains lose some of their power when cooked. 

Choose foods such as:

  • Whole grains such as oats
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Plantains and green bananas
  • Cooked and cooled rice and potatoes
  • Other prebiotic foods such as chicory, dandelion leaves, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic and leeks

Here are 5 easy ways to incorporate resistant starch into your diet:

  1. Cool cooked beans and legumes for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator to increase the level of resistant starch. Add them to salads, soups, or as a taco topping. You can also use canned whole beans or refried beans.
  2. Try making overnight oats by soaking them in yogurt, almond milk or another non-dairy milk, or milk.
  3. Cook rice, potatoes, and beans a day in advance and cool in the refrigerator overnight. It’s ok to reheat the starch before eating. Reheating doesn’t decrease the amount of resistant starch. It’s the initial cooling process that is important. 
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of powered potato starch to your yogurt or smoothie
  5. Eat more prebiotic foods as mentioned above by adding them to salads or in soups. Try eating them daily if you can. 

Just remember, when increasing your fiber intake, especially resistant starch, start slowly. Resistant starch can change the bugs in your gut and cause gas, known as the die-off affect. As the good bugs come in, they have a little war with the bad bugs and this can cause gas and bloating. As your gut adjusts to this, so will you and that should occur much less.  Remember all types of fiber have health benefits so eat a variety of fiber-containing foods.

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7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System

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Life can feel super scary.

It is filled with times and periods where it feels like you need to wear a suit of armor to make it through in one piece — illnesses, stress, environmental toxins, global pandemics — it can be a shock to your system.

At any given moment, you could find yourself in the middle of a stress-ridden situation. If you are not prepared and taking care of yourself, you can easily find yourself coming down with the sniffles or caught up in bed quicker than you can say the word Kleenex. 

It all comes down to that one little system within you that can make or break how you physically respond to these life invaders. Well, it’s not so little…

The immune system. 

Your immune system is a beautiful array of complexities and intertwining functions. And as miraculous as the innate functioning of your immune system is, it can be tricky to fully understand if you are keeping it strong. 

Lucky for you, you are an amazing being just like your immune system — Physical barriers such as your skin, mucous membranes, nasal cavities, and lungs work with an internal army that determines how strong, or not your immune system is. Working together, they keep us safe. 

When you were a little baby, you entered this world with an immature immune system. As you were provided the means to build up that immune system, you began to encounter natural bacterias and viruses, gradually maturing and strengthening your response. Super cool, right? It’s like a workout for your immunity. 

And as you were getting stronger, a complex range of immune cells put on their little army hats and stand guard, waiting to attack foreign organisms and allowing antibodies to create an immune response. This builds up your immunity and protects you — just in case you encounter the same virus in the future. 

With all this building and strengthening going on, you got your own little internal immune highway being built, creating hubs of activity at your lymph nodes and glands, such as the thymus, spleen, and tonsils. 

You are probably wondering what you can do to boost your immune system and keep you at your healthiest. Here are 7 ways you can protect and support this amazing system:

1. Get a little dirty. Our immune system develops when when we are exposed to bugs and bacterias. Play in the dirt, get your hands into the garden, or allow yourself to get a little grubby outside. And, if you pull a vegetable straight out of your garden, don’t freak out totally if there is a little dirt on it when you bite into it. 

2. Strengthen your gut flora. About 70% of your immune cells live in your gut. The stronger the gut bacteria that you have built up, the more it can crowd out the unhealthy bacteria and not allow it to hang out on your gut lining and populate. That is crowd control at it’s finest. To encourage good bacteria in your gut, you need a balance between prebiotic and probiotic foods. Eat plenty of fibrous and prebiotic foods such as bananas, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, and flax seeds. Make sure to have fermented foods in your diet to help build up the good bacteria — sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc. You can also take a high quality, live probiotic to help repopulate the gut flora. 

3. Put down the sugar. It has been connected that sugar can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy pathogens. Not only does this greatly impair your immune system functioning, but glucose also is so structurally similar to vitamin C that it can compete with vitamin C uptake in the body. Bad news for your immune system! 

4. Stay strong in immune boosting nutrients. 

  • Vitamin A enhances white blood cell function, antibody response, and thymus function. It is also essential for the health of the skin and mucosal barriers. Try foods such as eggs, cod liver oil, orange and yellow veggies and fruits, broccoli, spinach, dark leafy greens.
  • B6, B12, and folic acid helps to decrease stress response and they help to boost immune function and immune response. Try foods such as peas, bananas, nuts, whole grains, liver, eggs, beef, legumes, salmon, leafy greens.
  • Vitamin C enhances white blood cell response. Try foods such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts.
  • Vitamin E is important for cell-mediated and antibody related immunity. Try foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli. 
  • Zinc helps to destroy foreign particles. Try foods such as oysters, red meat, nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds, legumes, eggs, shellfish. 

5. Enjoy some moderate exercise. Moving your body is awesome for the lymphatic system, but too much can actually depress your immunity. Don’t overdo it and allow your body to balance out play and rest. 

6. Look at your medications. Medications for autoimmune disorders, cancer, HIV or disorders with chronic inflammation like asthma, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can also depress the immune system and weaken the body’s ability to fight against invaders.

7. Laugh it up (and other stress relieving activities). There is something called natural killer cells that live within you. Don’t worry — they are a good thing! There has been much connection between laughter and the activation of the natural killer cells. Stress depresses the immune system. Engaging in laughter or any other stress relieving activity will help to strength your immune system and keep those sniffles away. 

Your immune system is like your home — when you keep it clean and you fix the problems that could cause a breakdown in the foundation and walls of your home, you are better protected from the outdoor exposure. 

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5 Ways To Instantly Lower Your Stress

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Life’s chaos are like ribbons.

They wave and dance in and out of your life but, when some of those ribbons brush up against your skin? WHAM! 

A sting of pain — Some of those ribbons have thorns and others may feel like sandpaper and others get wrapped around you, holding your down and not letting you walk forward in life.

Another word for life’s chaos? Stress.

As my friend, Katie, and I sat and talked, I brought up the word “harmony” and how harmony resonates with me when talking about stress, rather than referring to stress as balanced or managed. Katie’s face softened, a smile emerged, and a glimmer of resonance filled her face as she sunk into the concept of stress harmony. 

Here is the real deal — life is chaotic. It is never truly balanced and nor should it be. We need to have stress to fuel our drive to be great. 

We need to have stress to inspire us to create. 

We need to have stress to persevere. But the question is, where is your line in the sand? 

Stress only truly becomes toxic and burdensome when it is either heavy and negative or when it becomes chronic. When life hands us lemons and we decide to suck on the lemon instead of turning it into lemonade, that’s when harmony flies right out the window.

That’s when we feel overwhelmed and frustrated and out of control. 

We all know that too much chronic stress is unhealthy for us. Every Tom, Mary, and Joe tells us so. But on a deeper level, stress can set up us for future pains and aches and major health issues. Immediately, you might experience:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Food cravings
  • Depression and other mood imbalances
  • Blood sugar imbalances

But, in the long term, you may experience:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Skin irritation
  • Respiratory infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Insomnia
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
  • Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Stress is not just physical or mental/emotional, there is so much more that can cause stress in your life. Stressful situations are energy and how you perceive those situations directly affect your own personal energy — good or bad.  The key to bringing it into harmony is to address it in real time — not just when you get a chance or when your schedule allows for it. It is easy to forget and push it aside, downplaying the effect that it has on you. This is the first step of letting it get out of control.

Here are 5 easy ways you can get back into harmony from a mind, body, and soul perspective:

  1. Get grounded. Grounding, aka Earthing, has gotten much attention. Research has shown that grounding neutralizes free radicals, improves sleep, decreases pain, decreases stress, improves inflammation, strengthens the immune system, just to name a few benefits. And it is easy to do — all you have to do is get your bare feet or hands in dirt or on a natural surface to reap the benefits. Getting grounded is essential to start healing your stress. Check out my blog on grounding to get all the details.
  2. Explore nature. Nature has a calming effect that can instantly decrease our stress levels. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it — forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature. Take a bike ride around your neighborhood or check out local trails to go hiking. Simply sit out on your porch or in your yard. Or you can…
  3. Go for a walk. It is well known that moving the body improves your health, but being strategic in how you use exercise to manage your stress levels is key. When the body is stressed, it is already in a very heightened state. Engaging in exercise that is too aggressive or that will raise the stress levels even more (yes, exercise does place stress on the body) may not be what your body needs when trying to calm down. Going for a walk is a great way to move the body, loosen the muscles, increase feel-good endorphins to the brain, and give you thinking time to work through your stressful problems. Start with 15 minutes and increase it as you can.
  4. Practice gratitude. Being grateful and being stressed can not co-exist. They simply can not happen at the same time because they are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. When you are feeling stressed, take a moment to breathe and then practice gratitude for the things that are good in your life. Stress is all perspective and when you actively and consciously make an effort to change your perspective towards gratitude, you begin to break the chain of negative thinking, opening your thoughts and your brain to being able to figure out how to work through your stressful situation. Practicing gratitude is super easy! You can simply start saying out loud what you are grateful for and why or you can pull out your journal and write it down. Need more ideas of how to practice gratitude? Check out my infographic here. 
  5. Breathe and reframe. The breath is powerful. A shallow, tight breath increases the body’s stress and an open, deeper breath can instantly calm the body. Learning how to expand the breath to come from the entire torso rather than just the chest is a great tool to use in the moment of stress. How do you do it? Take 5-10 deep breaths allowing your torso to expand in all directions (like you are trying to create a barrel shape). Breath in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. But it doesn’t stop there. Since stress is about a person’s perspective on the situation, it is even more powerful to couple breathing and reframing the mindset in real time. I like doing this with power statements. For example, Perform the breath described above and immediately say a power statement such as “I am in control.” Repeat the process until you have completed all the breaths. You can use the same power statement or a different one, it really is about what you need in that moment. 

Learning how to take back control of your stress is possible. Living in a chaotic world does not have to be. Stress is all about perspective — when you can learn how to calm down your body and reframe your perspective, life starts to open up!

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I love inspiration through story-telling! If you liked this article, then you will love my other blogs.

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