“Chicken Kills”: Bad Conclusions from Seemingly Good Research

I was recently having a conversation with someone who sells health supplements regarding the veracity of clinical research. I was telling him that the conclusions reached by many applied researchers are often erroneous or at the very least incomplete due to methodology errors. It’s difficult to get a good picture of what’s happening in a human sample when one can only control several of the almost infinite number of variables that may influence the conclusions of the study. But that doesn’t stop researchers, then doctors and the press, from running with those erroneous conclusions and providing bad or incomplete information to patients and the public at large and reducing laypeople’s confidence in scientific studies.

A perfect example of this came into my inbox this morning, thanks to Mark Sisson, of Mark’s Daily Apple fame, who sends out musings on Sundays. He was unpacking a recent study that’s been talked about a lot lately from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was actually well done, as clinical trials go, but the conclusions leave us with many big questions – or should leave us with questions. The press has left us with the conclusions, “White Meat No Better Than Red Meat”, “Whether White or Red, You’ll Still Be Dead”, and “There’s No Escape: Even Chicken Kills”.

The researchers looked at the type of protein people were eating, either beef, chicken or plant protein, as well as the amount of saturated fat. Their aim was finding what was most risky for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but their measures constitute their first big flaws in the study. The biggest risk factors for CVD are now known to be triglyceride level (you make triglycerides from eating carbohydrates, which were not controlled in this study – everyone was eating a high-carb diet) and HDL level. The beef and chicken eaters had higher levels of large LDL particles, which have not been shown to impact CVD, but not higher levels of small, dense LDL, which are known to be problematic. So what can we conclude from this study? Not much, and nothing impactful.

Why would the researchers not control for carbohydrate intake, knowing the role triglycerides play in CVD? Because they went into the study thinking about how eating more meat or more saturated fat must cause CVD, and they set out to see if they were right. They set up the study to ignore the most important factor, carbohydrate intake. Anyone who is research-savvy and knowledgeable in this area, including the authors of this study, should see this huge confounding variable and not draw any conclusions until they do more research to test this. But, alas, they did not do that. So we are left with more questions at best and potentially fatal nutritional advice at worst.

From previous research in this area, we know that the effects of meat and saturated fat are dependent on the amount of carbohydrate one eats. Those on low-carb diets who eat plenty of meat and saturated fat don’t have the CVD risk factors that high-carb eaters do who also eat meat and saturated fat. Reducing the saturated fat in a high-carb eater’s diet improves some of their markers for CVD risk (e.g., cholesterol, which is no longer considered to be a risk factor, though most doctors aren’t aware of this because they don’t keep up on the latest), though some are made worse (e.g., triglycerides, HDL – now considered the most important ones). Additionally, high-carb diets are known to increase risk for (or flat-out cause) diabetes, obesity, and all related issues (joint problems, hormone imbalances, etc.), and increase symptoms of autoimmune and neurological diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, among many others. Why take these risks with a high-carb, low-fat diet? Why increase triglycerides and lower HDL, giving you the highest risk for CVD, by eating a high-carb, low-fat diet? Why not just lower the carbs and lower your risk for all of these conditions?

This has been a methodological issue in many similar studies, but the medical and nutrition communities are not correcting it, so the research into these significant questions is done in fields such as bioenergetics, or the science of metabolism, which is more controlled research that gives us much more solid conclusions. And when you add in the political influence for a high-carb diet (think corn and soybean farming – if they were to fail our economy would fail), you can see how there might be a blind spot in the more publicized clinical trials. There are career-related strings attached to those trials.

We turn to science for the correct information about the way the world works. The problem is that laypeople don’t understand how science works. Not every study is proving something unequivocally, but rather is providing evidence for a theory, which may be correct or incorrect. A lot of different good studies from good labs give us the best picture of that is real and what we just want to see to get another publication or sell a product. We must pick apart the issues in our own and our peers’ studies to see what questions still must be answered to know what’s true. This isn’t always done well in one branch of research, so other researchers in other branches keep them honest. Replication of research is the name of the game, and basic and clinical research should be moving in that direction. In the field of nutrition, however, they are worlds apart and the clinical questions being raised are not being tested by the clinical research community; they are ignored. They seem more interested in finding evidence for their current low-fat, high-carb, plant-based dogma than answering the questions that are coming out of their research. Politics infests everything, including science. Thankfully, science has checks and balances, so we’ll eventually get to the truth. Until then we have to take what we hear with a grain of salt until we analyze the actual studies or look to people we trust to do that for us.


Should you focus on eating a more plant-based diet?

We’re hearing this a lot lately, that we should increase the plants in our diets and decrease the animal products, so I wanted to add my two cents. There is some correlational (relationship based, not causation) and some clinical (applied with many variables, not basic science) research that supports this idea. These studies tend to lump Big Macs (bun included) in with 100% grass-fed steaks, so there are big problems with this research. There are also studies that support the opposite. Like any other fad dietary change, the notion has taken off as gospel truth throughout all industries, and there are now many products to help us incorporate more plants into our diets or to decrease the effects of eating too many animals. It’s an incredibly lucrative industry, and it seems like everywhere I go I encounter people trying to sell me on the idea that their product or service can help me and my clients with the problems of eating too much meat and not enough plants.

First let me say that anyone eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) has to get off of the processed foods (including any fast or prepared foods) and eat real food of any kind, preferably cooked at home, and any move in this direction is a move in the direction of health. I don’t care what diet you’re following, if it is composed of real food your health will improve.

What are the effects on our bodies of moving to a more plant-heavy diet? The first thing people think of is getting more fiber to help with smoother elimination. I have clients come in all the time saying they are trying to eat more fiber to be healthier. I’ll talk more about fiber and gut health later, but one thing is becoming more and more clear: not everyone responds positively to a heavy-fiber diet. Fiber can actually have the opposite effect, gunking up the works, making elimination more difficult and uncomfortable. Plants are very hard to digest, which is why herbivores (plant-eaters) have very long intestines (and sometimes multiple stomachs) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have short intestines (human intestines, by the way, are somewhere in the middle, as we are omnivores, eating both meat and veg). You know all of those scary ads for colonics and whatnot that say that we have undigested meat in our bowels? Yeah, that doesn’t happen. Ask any nurse. The only undigested food found in bowels is plant matter. So why are doctors pushing fiber on us? Because with our SAD diet we don’t get enough to move all of the junk food through our bodies at a decent rate. Stop eating SAD foods and you won’t have this problem and won’t need to bump up the fiber.

Because meat is much more easily digested than plants, backing off of the amount of fibrous plants eaten can help normalize digestion and elimination. One of my clients had been eating a very plant-heavy diet her whole life with no processed foods and had gas and constipation that kept getting worse. What did her doctor do? Put her on Metamucil to add more fiber to her already extremely high-fiber diet. I encouraged her to reduce the plants and ease her way into eating more and more meat. She’s feeling better now for the first time. Increasing the fiber in one’s diet is not necessarily a good thing.

Another thing we know is that a plant-heavy diet drastically reduces the amount of protein that we consume. Consider that the best and only complete source of protein (that has all essential amino acids, or protein building blocks that we have to get from our diets) is quinoa. It takes 6 cups of quinoa to equal the protein we can get in a small steak or a bit larger piece of fish. Who eats that much quinoa? Nobody. Nor should they, just on the basis of carbohydrate toxicity, if nothing else. Even if someone does, they must go on an isagenix 30 day cleanse to clean out the excess quinoa.

There is debate in the clinical research community concerning how much protein we really need. The plant-promoting folks say we should eat less protein than we’re typically told we need, and there are some clinical studies to support this idea. The big scare about eating too much protein has to do with the metabolic pathway that is related to cancer growth. That is the same pathway (mTOR) that allows us to build muscle. It relies on our sugar-burning metabolic system rather than our fat-burning system, so proponents of ketogenic, or fat-burning, diets try not to eat much protein so they can stay in ketosis all the time. That’s why almost all ketogenic diet plans you’ll see have pretty low percentages of protein in their macronutrient allotments.

There are some problems with this approach, however. Dr. Ben Bikman on the basic science end and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon on the clinical end have been doing a fantastic job shining light on the importance of eating more protein, not less. On the basic science end, Bikman has shown in a series of wonderful studies that just because our liver can engage in gluconeogenesis to make sugars from proteins, it won’t do so unless it has a need to do so. So keto dieters need not limit the protein they ingest, because it won’t throw them out of ketosis. The evidence for this assertion keeps piling up. Likewise, those worried about feeding cancers and pre-cancers, which eat sugar almost exclusively, need not worry, either, as engaging the mTOR pathway won’t increase risk of cancer growth.

Dr. Lyon is a former figure competitor with extensive experience and expertise in the health of elite athletes and older populations. She is a muscle-centric physician who keeps up with both basic and clinical research. Muscle is the largest organ in the body, and it is metabolically active. Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, is seen as a normal thing in our society, but it isn’t normal in the history of humans. Many chronic illnesses can be argued to start with sarcopenia, which changes our biochemistry to perpetuate those illnesses. Early in life, our hormones dictate the amount of muscle we have on our bodies. As we get into our 30s, however, muscle tissue is supported not as much by hormones as by protein intake, specifically complete proteins containing branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). We need a certain amount of them to stimulate that mTOR pathway for muscle growth and maintenance. This may kick us out of ketosis briefly, but that’s normal. We shouldn’t be chasing ketones, anyway, but drifting in and out of ketosis as we shift from one metabolic pathway to another throughout the day. Our bodies evolved to use both pathways for metabolism, or they wouldn’t both be there. We should not be trying to shut one down completely. Dr. Lyon recommends eating at least 30 grams of complete protein (not including collagen) three times per day – more if you’re older or out of shape. There is really no practical way to get anywhere near that much protein from plants, unless we supplement with processed vegetable proteins (not a natural thing for humans to do). The bottom line is that the jury is still out when it comes to the amount of protein we need, but it’s looking like we may need more than we thought.

And that’s just muscle-supporting protein. We also need collagen for healthy hair, skin, nails, connective tissue and joints, which we make less of as we age and which we can only get from animals. There are no plant sources of collagen. We get it from eating the skin with our chicken, the membrane on the back of a rack of ribs – all animal protein has collagen packaged with it. It also has the healthiest, most easily digested fats packaged with it (no, animal fat does not cause heart disease or clogged arteries). Those fats are the necessary raw materials to make all of our cell membranes, hormones, nerves, etc. Going meat-free clearly does not constitute a diet for optimal human health.

Another argument for a plant-heavy diet is that an animal-heavy diet makes our bodies too acidic, which they say causes all kinds of chronic diseases. Plants alkalinize our bodies, which is healthier, they say. This scare also turns out not to have any basic research behind it. Our ancestors ate varying amounts of plants and animals, sometimes almost exclusively one or the other, depending on what food sources were available, and no chronic illness existed. None. Different parts of our bodies need to be kept at different pH levels or we die, so our bodies have mechanisms to keep our pH levels right where they need to be for optimal body functioning, regardless of the amount of plants or animals we’re eating. If eating a meat-heavy diet made any part of our bodies so acidic that we wound up with a chronic illness, humans likely would have died out many, many years ago. What we know precipitates chronic illness is stress coupled with toxins, including high carbohydrate intake, or infection. This acidity argument, in short, makes no sense.

Then there’s the gut microbiome argument. Now here’s something to consider! We are only 10% human genes – the other 90% are bacterial. We are walking bags of bugs and would not survive otherwise. We have to feed those beneficial bugs so that we stay healthy, and they really, really like probiotics, or fiber, from plants. If we do not feed them, they die and other, not-so-beneficial and potentially harmful bugs take their place. These bad bugs like Big Macs and fries. They also like sugar and chemical-laden Frankenfoods, like honey buns and Snickers bars. What we feed ourselves in part determines what bugs are there, and we want more of the helpful ones and less of the bad ones. This probably also greatly impacts chronic disease, though the science on this is very new. But here again, some of our ancestors didn’t eat lots of plants to feed their good bugs and had no chronic illness. Today, there are many people with autoimmune conditions who cannot eat some plants or any plants at all if they wish to stay symptom-free. There is no research on carnivore (all meat) diets, yet, but there are too many people benefitting from this way of eating to make the bug argument air-tight – unless those bugs also really like a good 100% grass-fed steak.

So where does that leave us? Eating the greatest variety of plants and animals – real food, raised naturally, not by corporate farms that deplete the nutrition in the soil and in the food – logically gives us the most nutrients to feed our good bugs and give us the protein we need. When we get rid of the Frankenfood and the grains and beans that we never really evolved to digest effectively, we might feel great with all of the meat and veg/fruit we want. We may need to back off of the fruit due to the extreme and unnatural sugar content of modern fruits. Some of us may still not feel optimal, though, so we may need to back off of nightshade and/or FODMAP veggies or even stop eating all plants entirely. Or if you feel better eating less meat and more plants, do that. A very cool thing happens when we eat real food: we are more tuned in to what our bodies tell us they like or don’t like. Eat everything that your body tells you it likes and don’t eat what makes it feel uncomfortable in any way. Your body should be the final authority that you listen to, not anyone else.


Celebrating Menopause – Together

For the last 5 years I’ve been going through perimenopause, which means my honey has been going through it with me. In that time I’ve learned a lot about how my body works, what I’ve done to it that has resulted in issues I’m having now and what to do to bring it back to what is normal for a human female at this time in her life. It has been a long, hard road, but I’m the kind of person who has to keep digging until I know the full story – in this case, the story of me.

There are all sorts of negative perceptions that come along with this time in a woman’s life, so we may go into this period of our lives with dread, which just sets us (and those close to us) up for a rough ride. Those of us who have thought we’ve been taking care of ourselves by doing what turned out to be many of the wrong things have a rude awakening as our bodies rebel and we seemingly overnight physically turn into everything we don’t want to be. We might gain body fat, lose muscle, have difficulty sleeping, have hot flashes, have emotional issues, have trouble remembering anything, lose our sex drive, and go through many other undesirable changes. It’s different for each individual, of course, but almost all of us have to deal with a few things that we don’t want to have to deal with, unfortunately.

The question I and many others have had is, “Is this normal?” It turns out that there’s good reason to think it is not normal, but that because we’ve spent decades living lives our bodies are not geared for, we have issues when this natural transitional period arrives. In my case, I’ve done too much dieting and chronic exercise trying to be optimally healthy. When this change in body chemistry came for me, my body was not ready for it. I’ve had a few symptoms, but not as many as most other women I know. The increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue, brought on by a combination of hormonal changes and a simultaneous injury (which I unknowingly dealt with in the wrong way), have been my biggest challenges. For someone who has always been focused on health, this has been really disheartening.

Eventually, through much education and self-experimentation, I’ve gained a great understanding of what’s going on in my body. I can tell now that I’ve healed my gut and am still in the process of healing my insulin and leptin resistance. I’m supporting my adrenals and sleeping better. I’m also seeing more healing of my injury that has hobbled me for years now, thanks to the practitioners helping me (my doctor, unfortunately, is not one of them) as well as, I believe, healing systemic inflammation from decades of body mismanagement – stress, eating the wrong stuff, insomnia, etc. It’s wonderful to see progress and feel so much better! And it’s so comforting to finally understand what my body wants – to work with my body, not against it.

I was telling my honey this today, and he said he felt the same happiness and relief for me. He wants the same understanding that I have about what I’m going through. When one of us goes through some change in life, we both do – this is the nature of loving relationships. He proclaimed that this change is something to be celebrated, like any other major stage in life, like having a baby. It is a milestone that a couple goes through together. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say this, and it made me love him even more, if that’s possible! It can be a rather lonely and depressing time for a woman, especially if her significant other doesn’t understand what she’s going through. So I wanted to share that amazing sentiment with everyone and encourage you to get a good understanding of the changes you or your loved one is experiencing so you can go through it together in a good way that brings you closer together for this next chapter in your journey through life.

I did not know where to go to get the information I needed when I started noticing the changes in my body. I went to several doctors with different orientations, but they were of little help. An endocrinologist pointed me in the right direction, but I had a LOT to figure out. I therefore decided to take it on as a personal challenge, and boy was it ever! It took years of sifting through and evaluating research and testing various theories on myself to find out the particulars of what my body wanted. As a former researcher, I was at home doing this, but it really tried my patience. I don’t want anyone else to have to go at it alone, so anyone who would like help understanding how your body and mind have changed and your body’s unique needs, feel free to book a free consultation so we – your honey included, if you like – can chat about celebrating this time in your life together.


Extract Your Sweet Tooth to Curb Chronic Illness

I just listened to an interview with Dr. Benjamin Bikman, a PhD in Bioenergetics whose research specialization includes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when we eat too much carbohydrate (sugars and starches), and it produces systemic inflammation, which is our body’s healing response to damage. Yes, excess carbohydrate consumption damages our bodies. In fact, according to Dr. Bikman, all non infectious chronic illnesses are ultimately the result of insulin resistance. Think about that for a second. We can avoid or even reverse chronic illnesses of all kinds just by adopting a low-carbohydrate diet and reversing insulin resistance.

It actually makes a lot of sense. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who lived from 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, lived with no chronic illness at all. They had great health and then dropped dead one day. They may have fallen off a cliff or been eaten by a tiger, but they didn’t die of cancer or dementia. In fact, they had a potential lifespan of 94 years – and that’s 94 years of great health, then dropping dead! By contrast, in our modern society we see a steady decline into death from the moment we’re born. Our quality of life gets worse and worse, for which we take more medications and anything else that will help us postpone our inevitable demise. When the time comes, we eventually have to mourn a loved ones death by having a cremation and then a funeral service.

Why the change? Our diet changed. We now eat as much carbohydrate in a day in America as our ancestors ate in a year. We are literally poisoning ourselves with carbs. And yet, when I talk to people about reducing their dietary carbs, they act like I’m asking them to cut off a limb. They think it would be painful and that they would no longer be able to enjoy life if they can’t eat their favorite chocolate glazed donuts anymore.

Well I’m here to tell you that you can recover from insulin resistance and have your donuts – the best of both worlds. There are so many great recipes for decadent desserts online and in fabulous cookbooks, like my good friend Jo’s new cookbook “Cut the Carbs Keep the Flavor” (available HERE) that you’ll never have to go without your favorite sweet treat. You’ll just be making it a little differently. The donuts I made in the picture above are sweetened with stevia and erythritol instead of sugar, and I used almond flour instead of grains. The result? A truly delicious chocolate donut with very little carbohydrate in it. And because it doesn’t spike insulin, all you want is one, not several. You’re also full for a long time rather than wanting to eat more food shortly afterwards because of the insulin spike and resistance.

When you think about improving your health and the health of your family, think about changing how you’re making your food rather than about depriving yourself of something you love but you know isn’t good for you. Get out of the dieting mindset and into a longevity one. Have your chocolate donuts – just make them part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Never tell yourself you can’t have something to eat, because your brain will look at you and say, “Hold my beer.” Next thing you know you’re chowing down on exactly what you don’t want to be eating.

Instead, if you want to have a donut, or make a yummy cake for your daughter’s birthday, or make a rich, delicious pasta dish for company coming over this weekend, find a recipe that is low-carb (searching “keto” will get you some great options). Forget what you’ve been told you should or should not eat, don’t worry about how many carbs or other macronutrients you’re eating or how many calories are in it, just make it low carb. Use your favorite family recipes and substitute for the sugars, grains and beans (which become sugars after we eat them) and you’ll be amazed how no one will miss what isn’t there!

I’ve lost weight and a ton of inches by doing this, but I don’t even focus on that anymore and don’t want you to, either. Stop thinking about slimming down and think about increasing the quality and length of your life instead. You’ll be so much happier, and the fat falling off will be an awesome extra. It’s about health, not weight loss. If you’re older (like me), you may find that you’ve suffered silently with insulin resistance for so long – decades, probably – that it may take a few years to fully recover, but recover you will. I have been low-carb for about six months now, and I still notice some cravings and other physical effects of carbs once in awhile, though they are fewer and farther between and lower intensity than they used to be. Before I know it I may not want chocolate donuts anymore at all, but until then I’ll make healthy ones once in awhile to allow myself to thoroughly enjoy life while healing my insulin resistance completely.

A problem many people have with reducing the amount of carbohydrates in their diets is that they make too big of a change too fast, which is physically and psychologically painful. It’s also totally avoidable. Take it easy, baby steps, continually reducing the carbs as it feels good. You should be feeling better every day, not worse. Eventually, you’ll likely reduce or eliminate any meds you may be taking, as well. You’ll be thinking more clearly and have more energy. Taking an extreme approach to making this change often results in people feeling bad, weak, and off in many ways, which tends to make them think it’s not a good change for them to make. This is unfortunate, because this is a change we all need to make, whether we’re carrying around too much body fat or not, or whether we’re taking medication or not – it doesn’t matter, we all need to seriously reduce our carb intake. Do it in a way that feels good! I’ve seen my clients reverse labs and other objective medical indicators of health just by starting down this road in a very comfortable way, and they have more energy and feel better every time I see them for the next baby step.

If you would like help getting a plan together to make changes in your recipes or lifestyle to heal your insulin resistance and reclaim the awesome health your ancestors had, just let me know. We can get you moving in the right direction and making easy changes over time specific to your body to feel more and more amazing, the way your body is genetically programmed to feel. Work with your body, not against it, and as you get used to the gradual changes you make in your life you’ll be amazed how easy it really is.


Salad for Non Salad Eaters

I’ve never been good about eating leafy green vegetables, which are such an important part of a healthy diet. Even when I was a strict vegan I didn’t eat enough of them. I’m just not a big fan of salads. Eating salad is like punishing myself for something. Cold, fibrous punishment. I pretty much have to find ways to sneak greens into my food, like I’m five. To this day my father doesn’t believe that I was ever a vegan, because he claims that as a kid the only green thing I would eat was an M&M.

Well, Dad, you probably won’t believe this, either, but I have a leafy green salad almost every day for lunch. Happily. This is because I found a way to make salad that doesn’t taste like salad. I make it with my all-time favorite food group: casserole! I don’t think I would have happened upon this idea had it not been for the influence of my college roommate who ate nothing but salad. She loved it so much she just piled even cooked veggies on top and ditched the dressing. I remember following her lead in the dining hall one day (and quite a few days after, because I liked it) by dumping stewed tomatoes on top of a green salad. I liked the fact that it wasn’t all cold, fibrous punishment. It tasted more like real food to me.

Every weekend now I make some new casserole, like the nacho chicken one in the picture here. It’s cauliflower based, actually, with onions and tomatoes and green chiles, as well as chicken, cheeses, sour cream and spices. I started with a recipe, but now I have a quick and easy way of making whatever casserole I feel like on the fly. I take a bag of cauliflower or broccoli pearls (or rice a head of cauliflower) and cook it in a large pan with some meat and my cooking fat of choice (when I use ground beef or bacon I just use the fat from the meat; otherwise, it’s usually olive oil or good-quality butter) and any other veggies I want that need to be cooked. When that’s all done, I add any seasonings, cheese, other veggies or meats that don’t need cooking – whatever I feel like adding – and make sure it’s all melted and mixed up completely. Then I put it in a casserole dish and bake it until it’s light brown and bubbly on top (usually about 15-20 minutes).

To make my idea of salad, I put a big handful (about 2 cups) of leafy greens in a bowl and top it with a serving of warmed-up casserole (I usually get about 6 servings per casserole). Then I add some healthy fat to it, like guacamole or parmesan cheese – or even salad dressing! It looks like a mess, but it tastes delicious and more like comfort food than salad, even though it’s more veg than anything else.

I hear so many people say they don’t cook much of their own food because they don’t know what to make or don’t have time to check out recipes or don’t want to go to the store for the one ingredient they’re missing. Well, now you folks have no excuse. This is the easiest kitchen-sink dish I know. Use whatever ingredients you have. Cook until veggies are soft and meat is not raw and cheese is melted. That’s the only cooking skill you need. Any greens will work and you can top it with whatever healthy, yummy fat tickles your fancy. Change it up every time, if you want to, so you never get bored. And because I’ll eat it and love it, you can bet your kids will, too. Enjoy, and if you come up with any epic ingredient combinations, let me know!


Become a Fat Burning Machine

Many of my clients come to me wanting to lose body fat, whether to help with a medical condition, increase their energy and quality of life or for aesthetic reasons. It can be a difficult and even painful process, especially for women and especially as we get older. We want to stop making and storing fat and burn it instead. But how do we do that? It can be confusing to know what to do with so much misinformation out there, including “expert advice” and FDA guidelines that are often not supported by research.

We have to stop eating foods that increase our insulin secretion. The job of insulin is to shuttle glucose into the adipose cells to be made into fat. Every time we eat foods that stimulate insulin secretion, we put ourselves in fat-storing mode. When we don’t eat or when we eat foods that do not increase insulin, our bodies can start burning fat. But as soon as we eat something that jacks up our insulin, we’re kicked out of fat-burning mode.

There are two simple concepts that can keep you in fat-burning mode longer and, in time, make your body more metabolically flexible (happy burning both sugar and fat – whatever’s available), thereby reducing appetite and cravings and comfortably giving you all of the energy you need when you need it. In other words, you don’t need to suffer to lose body fat. You just need to change up your routine a bit. 

The first concept is intermittent fasting. We all fast for about 10-12 hours or so throughout the night, which is about the amount of time it takes our bodies to run through our sugar stores and be hungry to break our fast (breakfast). Go longer than that without eating, and your body will have to burn the fat it has on board for energy. Research shows that the more you allow yourself to go a little longer (say, 16-20 hours) without eating anything that will stimulate insulin, the more metabolically flexible you will become. If you’d like to try this, I’d recommend that you ease into it and make your eating window during times that you’re most likely to want to eat. I usually fast for 16-20 hours each day and just skip eating in the morning because my body has never felt good when I’ve fed it in the morning. I just have some coffee with a little heavy whipping cream in it, then I do my workout fasted and wait a few more hours to break my fast.

Doing a workout fasted works for me because I feel better working out without anything in my stomach. I burn more body fat that way, too. Waiting a few hours after working out to start stimulating insulin secretion also helps me burn more body fat. Again, this is something you can work up to if you want to try it. As always, listen to your body and do what makes it feel good. 

I typically break my fast between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. with a bowlful of raw greens and some kind of casserole on top. I love casseroles and make vegetable-based ones with some meat and lots of healthy fats, which makes it the perfect stack of natural nootropics to me. Then I throw some more healthy fat on top. A couple favorites are arugula topped with steak and mushrooms in a balsamic cream sauce, with brie on top (see my previous blog post for the recipe) and nacho chicken casserole over baby spinach with guacamole. I mix it up so I don’t get bored and get lots of different nutrients. You’ll notice that I don’t eat any high-carbohydrate foods.

This is the second big concept of becoming a fat-burner: eat fewer carbs. When you eat high-carb foods, like grains, beans and fruit, you make a lot of insulin and increase ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while decreasing leptin, the hormone that tells us we’re full and don’t want to eat anything. Obviously, it is easier to start burning fat when you don’t eat as much carb, and it’s also easier not to overeat because eating low-carb decreases ghrelin and increases leptin. If you want to transition to this way of becoming a fat-burner, I’d recommend you do so gradually so your body doesn’t freak out that you’re no longer giving it jet fuel every 2-3 hours and are going to start burning body fat instead. That freak out happens when your body thinks it’s starving because you’ve made such a big change so fast. Ease into it and be comfortable. Find foods you love and make them low-carb while increasing your consumption of healthy fats.

I’ve recently had a significant amount of body fat to lose following a series of injuries that vastly decreased my ability to exercise – and then going into perimenopause at the same time. Double-whammy! After many failed attempts to reduce body fat long-term, an endocrinologist suggested I transition to a ketogenic diet. She’s on it and she prescribes it to her patients for a host of medical issues relating to insulin. There is a great deal of good research backing up this position (and a recent huge study from the Lancet that contradicts it, but this study is fatally flawed in multiple ways and should not be given an iota of credence, in my professional opinion as a researcher). In the several months that I’ve been focusing on reducing my insulin response, I’ve only lost 12 pounds, but that’s because I’ve been able to exercise more and have put on heavy, lean muscle (muscle outweighs fat 5:1) and lost a lot of fat! I know this because I’ve lost an inch off of each arm and each leg, 4 inches off of my chest and waist, and 3 inches off of my hips. Whenever I eat something that bumps me out of fat-burning mode, I’m back into it remarkably fast. My body has adapted to using fat for fuel and absolutely loves it! When I eat high-carb foods now I wake up the next morning feeling hung-over. When you clean up your eating, your body tells you what it doesn’t want.

Want to find out more? I’m happy to help you with a plan to ease into becoming a fat-burner in a way that makes your body comfortable and energized. Just make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure that it won’t complicate any conditions you may have. Leaning out doesn’t have to be painful, with feelings of deprivation and suffering. It shouldn’t be anything but comfortable and rewarding, in my opinion. You should feel better, happier and more energetic every day, because, when you do it right, you’re giving your body what it naturally wants. Concerned about not being able to give up your favorite high-carb foods? No worries – the hypno and NLP that I do can make that easy, too! Feel free to schedule a free consultation if you’d like to learn more.


You’re Not Unmotivated, You’re Just Not Listening

Woke up this morning and stood for awhile looking out my bedroom window where the jogging trail is, contemplating the concept of motivation and how useless it is. I was wishy-washy about going for a run, but I kinda wanted to and it was a beautiful morning and I knew the dogs would love it, so I stopped thinking about it and asked the dogs if they wanted to go for walkies – then I’m committed because they’re so excited and I can’t disappoint them by not following through! I knew I’d be getting some kind of exercise this morning, it was just a matter of what. I’ve gotten myself in the habit of working out one way or another at the same time every morning save one (rest is just as important!). I don’t give myself the choice of not doing it, so it’s easy.

I hear so many people talk about wanting to be more motivated to do something they think would be good for themselves, and I’m often asked if I can do something hypnosis-wise to help motivate them. To me this is the wrong question. I remember my mentor coach telling us that there wasn’t a single one of his high-achieving clients who wanted to do everything that was good for them every day. The difference between them and the rest of us is that they didn’t give themselves a choice. They made it part of their job.

If there is something you want to do regularly but are having trouble doing it, it isn’t a matter of motivation. Where does the notion come from – does the real you want to do it or did someone tell you you should do it? If it’s truly important to you, you’ll do it. When you give yourself a choice and excuse your lack of follow-through by telling yourself you’re not motivated enough, there’s something blocking you from really wanting to do it. Your brain is blocking it to protect you somehow, and reprogramming that can allow you to make the positive activity part of your job of being a healthy, happy human being – no motivation required.

So next time you criticize yourself as not motivated enough, I’d encourage you to get to the real issue by listening to the real you (you can hear it when you’re quiet and not talking to yourself ). How important is it to you, really? When you tell yourself you should do it, it is your voice or someone else’s? Your lack of follow-through is not a weakness, it’s your brain doing its job – you’re just not listening to what it’s trying to tell you. See yourself as not following through with it because it’s wrong somehow. Either you don’t really want it, or you need to remove a protective block that your clever brain put in place that may have served you once but perhaps isn’t anymore and can be reprogrammed. You’re not unmotivated, you’re protecting yourself. Find out why, let go of what isn’t serving you and move on with your life unencumbered by the self-criticism. And send love to your brain for looking out for you.



Art, Nature and Spirituality May Prevent Disease

A walk through the woods. Getting lost in a great painting. Feeling a sense of spiritual connection. Taking time for these activities that produce strong positive emotions have powerful health benefits and may prevent illness.

Yet another new study finds that the mindfulness and sense of awe that we get from art, nature and spirituality are vital for the health of our minds and bodies and should be considered necessities for living healthy lives.

“The UC Berkeley study’s findings join a growing body of research suggesting that positive emotions play an important role in promoting physical health. Studies have linked positive emotions with improved heart health and longevity, and some research has suggested that mindfulness practices — which are known to improve emotional well-being — can reduce inflammation.

“‘Rather than seeing a walk through the park or a trip to the museum as an indulgence, we hope people will view these kind of experiences as important ways to promote a healthy body in addition to a healthy mind,” Stellar said. “Folding these kinds of positive experiences into your daily routine may be more important for health than we previously realized.'”

Read more about it HERE!


The Power of Introspection

How long can you feel comfortable being alone with your thoughts? I mean really alone – no Facebook, no TV, no smartphone – just you. Odds are you’d rather not be alone with your thoughts for more than a few minutes. This is what a recent study at the University of Virginia has found. This study, involving over 700 participants, shows that we don’t like having to entertain ourselves for as few as 6 minutes. I guess that’s why we always see each other reaching for our mobile devices wherever we are.

Even more disturbing, the study found that 64 percent of men and 15 percent of women self-administered electric shocks rather than spending time alone with their thoughts – and these are people who said that they would be willing to pay money to avoid being shocked!

Why would anyone be so resistant to being alone with their thoughts? Some research suggests that we naturally tend to reflect on negative events or information when we have a chance. There may also be a difference in people who are good at introspection and those who aren’t.

So we appear to have a couple of choices:

1. Do anything we can to avoid listening to ourselves
The problem with this is that we are often affected by the negative thoughts that we have shoved into our closets. If we don’t acknowledge and do something about these thoughts, they will make themselves known in one way or another – usually in a way that we don’t like, such as waking up scared in the middle of the night, high blood pressure, weight gain or bouts of ugly behavior. Evidence also suggests that the less we self-reflect, the less we are able to empathize with others. The only way to get our baggage to the curb is to take it out of the closet and haul it there. That means making those negative thoughts conscious and letting them go (e.g., reprogramming them).

2. Learn to introspect well
Being mindful when we relax and let our minds wander is all about accepting the thoughts that come to us. Once we accept the thoughts we have, we can investigate where they came from, how we can change our perspective, behavior, etc., to change the negative ones and how we can promote and explore the positive, creative ones. We can only be innovative when we allow our minds to wander and are accepting of what comes to us. We don’t have to buy whatever thoughts we have, but they come from some issue that, once resolved or at least addressed, may completely change our thinking and give us more control.

We often fear that our negative thoughts are indicative of monster issues that will change our lives if we let them our of the closet. Sometimes they are, but far more often than not, in my experience with my clients, our negative thoughts are merely indicators of a perspective change that we need to make or a limiting belief that used to protect us but that is no longer serving us. Once we acknowledge the negative thought, we can review the situation relative to it and are almost always amazed how quickly and easily we can change it. The changes we make in perspective and behavior to eliminate our negative thoughts give us more power and control over them and often produce small but wide-reaching changes in our beliefs and behavior that change our lives for the better.

Embracing introspection may sometimes entail embracing some fear, anger, frustration, sadness or grief, but by doing so we are able to release those feelings and take more control over our emotions and behavior, and therefore get better results in our lives. We can also use time alone with ourselves to focus on what we want in our lives – and what we focus on, we get. The key is being mindful and accepting of ourselves to actively rewrite our life stories and feel however we want to feel. Our brains are set up to let us do that – we just have to realize it, accept that we have control and believe in ourselves.


Get More Done and Enjoy More of Your Life

How many people do you know who are running around nonstop all day, every day, trying to get work done? They’re too busy to stop for a non working lunch, too busy to read that book they’re always talking about reading, and too busy to grab a beer after work. Are you one of these people?

Some people enjoy being identified as this kind of person, thinking they receive respect or admiration or even sympathy for being crazy-busy. These are the people who constantly talk about how late they were at the office the night before, how many meetings they were in that day, or how they’re just too busy to take vacation time. They find this lifestyle rewarding and are unlikely to take any advice or opportunities to work smarter, not harder, no matter how much they complain. This is a martyr complex. Ever notice that these people don’t get as much work done as some others who go home on time every night and are actually happy?

Many busy people, however, would really like to get more work done and have more time to enjoy life. They want to be those people eating dinner with their families every night and having fun on the weekends. Happily, there are some surprisingly pleasant and effective ways to realize this dream.

I’m targeting you folks stuck in the office this summer rather than taking fun trips or having barbeques with friends and family. I’m hoping you’ll read this and be able to implement some of my recommendations, which are based on psychology and neuroscience research:

1. Spend as little time as possible in the office.
Research shows that an overwhelming majority of people are most productive in places other than their offices. Think about where you get most of your work done, where you get into “the zone” or find your “flow” and are really productive. Wherever that is, go there to get some real work done! The frequent interruptions we have at our offices (minimize these however you can) greatly decrease our productivity by reducing the amount of time we have to work, as well as distracting us and increasing our stress, both of which change our brain processes to ones that are not optimal for productivity, no matter how well we think we deal with them. Additionally, and contrary to popular belief, multitasking greatly decreases productivity, so don’t go there.

2. Change the way you view business meetings.
How many meetings do you attend that really benefit you? Meetings tend to be huge time-wasters for everyone involved. If you don’t have to be physically present at a meeting, don’t be. Get notes later from the meeting organizer and peruse them when it’s convenient for you and it won’t interrupt your work. Have to have a face-to-face with someone? Take it outside! We think, reason and solve problems more effectively when we’re relaxed, and being out in nature is a wonderful way to relax. Can’t be outside? Be in a room with a window looking out to a natural scene.

3. Take time to do the things you love and appreciate life.
Don’t put your fun activities on the back burner, thinking they’re luxuries for which you cannot afford the time. Think of them instead as means to increasing your creative abilities and reducing your stress. The different experiences you have, whether taking a vacation or something as seemingly mundane as looking at your garden in a new way, increases your ability to innovate in other settings. Getting your head involved in completely different thoughts and activities helps the thinking you do at work. Such experiences also decrease stress and elevate mood and physical health, which also lead to more productive work – and a happier and longer life.

So do your thing your way and make it enjoyable. You’ll benefit in so many ways, and so will those around you.

Enjoy your summer!