weight loss

The Inflammation Wrecking Ball

If you scratch your skin with your nail and it turns red and the skin raises slightly along the lines of the scratch, that is inflammation. Your skin is reacting to something that is abnormal and your body is starting to fight back to prevent infection. This is a normal response and is how our body heals itself. It is acute and temporary and the body recovers quickly and the skin’s color and texture return to normal.

But did you know that inflammation is likely occurring in your body right now? It could be acute, but most people today are experiencing chronic inflammation. We now know that chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. If you are experiencing any of the following you are likely dealing with chronic inflammation:

  1. high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides

  2. abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes or pre-diabetes

  3. IBS or Irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or heartburn

  4. autoimmune disorders

  5. hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism

  6. arthritis or joint pain

  7. headaches or migraines

  8. skin rashes including psoriasis or eczema

  9. brain fog or cognitive slowness

  10. overweight or obesity

  11. cancer

The list can go on, but you get the idea. Inflammation is rampant in our bodies. How do we reduce inflammation in order to prevent chronic disease or reverse chronic disease if we already have it? There is a method to reducing inflammation and it starts in the gut. Here are the ways to reduce inflammation in your body and prevent disease:

  1. Stop eating junk. Limit or avoid processed foods and sugars, especially refined sugar in sweets and sodas, processed and packaged foods as well. Instead choose whole foods. I like to say: “Imagine how this food came from the earth and how many steps did it go through before it ended up on your plate?” The fewer the better.

  2. Choose organic when possible. Some foods are more vulnerable than others and have a higher pesticide or herbicide load. Our bodies are not made to metabolize pesticides and they can build up over time in your system and cause inflammation. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php. Spinach is great, but it’s also loaded with pesticides. You may be doing your body more harm than good by eating a spinach salad. Choose organic.

  3. Limit or avoid gluten. Gluten causes inflammation for many people. One reason may be that the genetically modified seed combined with pesticides and preservatives are a recipe for disaster. I find gluten to be one of the top foods causing inflammation with food sensitivity testing. And if a patient with gastrointestinal distress opts not to do food sensitivity testing, they at least have a significant reduction in symptoms (gas, pain and bloating) when they eliminate gluten from their diet.

  4. Limit dairy. Dairy is another food group that I find (and backed by research) causes inflammation in many patients. Casein is the main protein present in dairy and also causes inflammation. If you do want to keep dairy in your diet, I would recommend a small amount of organic ghee or clarified butter and organic unsweetened kefir or yogurt occasionally. A small amount (1 ounce or a domino-size) of a minimally processed organic cheese such as Cabot should suffice without causing too much inflammation.

  5. De-stress. Easier said than done, but chronic stress and lack of sleep will increase inflammation. Find tools to manage your day-to-day stress such as breathing exercises, moderate exercise, meditation or prayer. A recent study showed that yoga had more benefits than cardiovascular exercise in increasing cognitive function and preventing dementia. Mind-body-spirit connection is proving to be even more beneficial than your spin class or long distance runs.

  6. Supplement your diet. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. If you don’t know if your vitamin D level is within normal limits, that means you need to get yours checked. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level and if it’s low, you may need a prescription dose until it is within the normal range. Low vitamin D levels increase inflammation and your risk for multiple diseases and conditions. Low vitamin D is related to abnormal blood glucose levels and can actually prevent you from losing weight. I recommend taking 2,000mg to 4,000mg of vitamin D3 daily. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend 2,100mg to 2,400mg of fish oil daily to reduce inflammation. I recommend Co-enzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10) if you have a history of heart disease, especially if you are taking statins. I recommend 100mg of CoQ10 per day.

I never recommend a magic food, beverage, herb, spice or oil that will help reduce inflammation. There are great studies that show that turmeric can reduce inflammation, or that cinnamon can reduce inflammation, or blueberries for example. However, after using the Food Inflammation Test to detect for food sensitivities in patients over the past few years, I know that some of these foods, spices, etc. that are known to reduce inflammation can actually increase inflammation for some. For this reason, I refrain from touting some things as anti-inflammatory that other practitioners might recommend. However, if a patient takes the Food Inflammation Test and I see that they do not have an inflammatory reaction to turmeric, for example, then I would recommend that the patient try increasing their intake of that spice in order to reduce their systemic inflammation. However, I could be doing them a disservice if I recommend this without test results*.

If this feels overwhelming to you, start with one step that feels feasible to you and build on your anti-inflammatory plan from there. Reducing inflammation is the key to preventing disease and improving your quality and quantity of life. Annnnd go!

*If you are interested in learning more about the Food Inflammation Test or FIT 132 that I offer within my practice, please check out the link on my website : https://www.rinutritiontherapy.com/shop/food-inflammation-test-132-panel-fit-132

The Hopeless, Worthless, Shameful, "I Don't Give a Sh*t Cycle"

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I always come back to this prevalent theme amongst the human race. And unfortunately, I see it in my office all too often. Mostly in my weight loss patients. The years and years of dieting, losing weight only to gain it all back and then some. It is the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. But because these patients schedule the appointment and even more importantly, because they show up...there it is... a glimmer of hope, a moment of feeling worth it, a nudging thought of actually giving a sh*t. It is their time to break the cycle. And I'm there to help them. But the honest truth is this: it is going to take some work on their part. But the honest truth is also this: that it is absolutely going to be worth it. 

Five steps to break the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle:

 

  1. Start eating food to nourish and heal your body.

    Forget about eating or not eating to lose weight. Forget about calories and fat grams and intermittent fasting and "evil" carbs. Forget about your friend or sister that lost 30 pounds in 3 days by eating food out of tiny plastic containers. This is your path and yours alone. And until you realize that food can be part of your healing and that food was intended for our survival and nourishment, then you will stay in the cycle. If you want to break this cycle, work on changing your thinking about food. A great example of this type of healthy thinking is in the words of Hippocrates, known as the "Father of Medicine" from almost 3,000 years ago: "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food". Perfectly said.

  2. Change your thinking patterns, and rewire your brain.

    The cycle goes like this: Dieting/Restricting > Overeat > Shame/Guilt > Binge/Overeat > Shame/Guilt/What's the point thinking > Weight Gain > Dieting/Restricting.  I will also refer to this cycle as the "destructive cycle" or "unhealthy cycle" throughout this article. The first step to changing the pattern here is to STOP dieting and restricting. This in turn, will naturally result in less of a physiological desire/impulsivity to overeat. However, because this has been a powerful piece of the unhealthy cycle, it will happen again. But this time, when it does happen, you will have to try something different. And this takes practice. You will have to practice letting go of any shame and/or guilt that you may experience after overeating. Carl Jung's quote says it how it is: "Shame is a soul-eating emotion". So instead, after overeating or eating something "not so healthy", stop for a moment and practice saying to yourself, "Okay, so I ate more than I needed" or "I ate something that probably wasn't the healthiest thing for my mind and body". Then pay attention to how you feel. You may feel great after just eating something, or you may feel tired, bloated and/or sick. Then practice saying, "I am not going to beat myself up. Instead I will use it for a lesson. And I will reset at the next meal or snack with something healthy and nourishing for my mind and body". The more you practice stopping yourself and redirecting your thought patterns, you will also start to rewire your brain. Keep practicing. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it creates change and pushes you further away from the destructive cycle. And anyways, you weren't meant to be perfect. You were meant to be human. 

  3. Practice Mindfulness.

    Practicing mindfulness is a big part of this process. If you aren't ready to sit with some uncomfortable emotions and/or don't have the energy to push through the negative thinking and practice a different type of thinking, that's okay. It doesn't mean that you can't break the cycle, but it may take longer and you may not fully get to the root of why you are in the cycle to begin with. But that doesn't mean you can't move forward in breaking the cycle. You most certainly can. But I will pretty much guarantee you that at some point you will have to start practicing some mindfulness if you don't want to continually fight the pull of the destructive cycle. Once you have started nourishing your body, and practiced letting go of the shame and guilt if you go off course, then you may have to face some uncomfortable emotions. Often, we use food to soothe our emotions. It can become a coping mechanism to handle stress in our lives, to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. It can be how we connect with our family members or friends, but maybe on an unhealthy level. It can be the shame and secrecy we feel with binge eating at night when everyone is asleep while presenting a different well-controlled persona on the outside. There are many different emotions that are underlying our patterns of eating. And when we are breaking an unhealthy cycle, these emotions will emerge and they will come full force and will have to be acknowledged and dealt with in order to break the cycle. Often, a therapist is needed to help process these emotions in a healthy way. 

  4. Bring in the troops.

    Not all things were meant to be done alone. And breaking this destructive cycle is definitely one that I would recommend having support lined up for. This may mean friends, spouses/partners, family members, coworkers, doctors, etc. who are supportive of your well being. Maybe not the friend who says, "Aww cmon, lets go get ice cream and you will feel better!" (and you know who I am talking about). You may need a dietitian, therapist, life coach, personal trainer. Whatever and whomever you need to bring into your circle during this time of great change and transformation...bring them in and line them up. Let them in on your goals and how they can help you reach your goals. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You may have never asked for help in your entire life. But now you may need to practice that as well. Asking for help. And receiving it without guilt. Remember that there is a gift in giving and receiving. Everyone benefits.

  5. Document.

    Sometimes in our lives, it is important not to forget. The good and the bad. The little things. For example, the little changes along the way you have made. They may feel insignificant, but even if you practiced changing your thought patterns one time and practiced letting go of any guilt or shame and reset at the next meal...that is something!! Even if you asked one friend to support you in reaching your goals...that is also something! Write down what you have done so that you don't forget. It's also important not to forget how good or bad you feel. The human mind is created to have short-term memory when it comes to pain (ok maybe not long ago emotional pain from childhood), but the pain of feeling sick after overeating or a horrible hangover after drinking, even childbirth! Otherwise, we wouldn't continually repeat painful experiences (okay childbirth may be in a slightly different category). So write it down when you feel good or notice good things: ie. "I ate a piece of fruit with a handful of almonds today for a snack and had a lot more energy this afternoon. I wasn't starving when I sat down for dinner and I was able to control my portions". Also, consider writing down when you felt bad but using the healthier thought patterns: ie. "I was starving on my way home from work and went through the drive thru and ordered the #6 and now my stomach hurts and I feel sluggish. I was going to go workout but now I am dragging. So I am going to drink lots of water and have a healthy snack in a few hours and put on my tennis shoes and go for a walk anyways. Lesson learned". This way you are processing both the good and the bad so that you don't forget, and you are also practicing changing thought patterns. Which ultimately leads to breaking this destructive cycle.


    So now you have the 5 steps to breaking the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. Start putting them into practice. It will take time. It will take practice. It will likely be uncomfortable, possibly painful and definitely annoying at times. And I will guarantee you, it won't be perfect. But that's one of the best things about breaking this unhealthy cycle...you are learning that it is okay to not be perfect. I like to call that being imperfectly perfect:) Annnd go!

Change

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Every time I meet a new patient in my practice, there is a great mystery in each of them I begin to try to understand...what their greatest motivators are and what their greatest barriers are...to change. 

Change isn't easy for anyone. But for some, the motivators may be a new health diagnosis that scares them to make changes. Or it may be realizing that they have no energy or that their quality of life is affected by their weight. It may be that they have come from generations of obesity and now that they have children, it's time to break the cycle. 

But it's the barriers to change that are even more challenging and take more time to uncover. Sometimes it's slowly sifting through the sand until they are discovered one by one. They can be something as simple as a bad habit. But they can also be tied to something deep inside of us. It could be that we were taught that food represents love and the more food the better. It could be that we are used to being overweight and thinking of ourselves that way. It could be a fear of failing again, or even more difficult to discover is that we are afraid to succeed. Sometimes we don't want to give up some of these things that have created us even if they are unhealthy. 

Even though I am a dietitian, much of what I do is also helping others discover and process something inside of themselves that will help them reach their wellness goals. It's a quicker journey for some and a longer one for others. But as they learn some new things about themselves, these discoveries will begin to encompass every aspect of their life. Other areas inside of them that have been closed off, will be touched and transformed.

What motivates you? What prevents you from getting to where you want to be? Sift through the sand and discover some new things about yourself. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.