Category Archives: Weight Loss

Fat, Fatigued, Depressed, Digestive Trouble and Hormones?

You’ve seen the reports, you’ve watched the news, you probably know someone, it may even be you, who is dealing with one, two, three or even all five of these issues. Fatigue at one time catches nearly everyone these days. Truly joyful people are becoming a rarity. Constipation, heartburn, gas, bloating, or diarrhea plague more and more people. Hot flashes, mood swings, sleep problems and weight gain are so common they’ve become Broadway musical material.


The Kalish Method by Dr Daniel Kalish

Dr. Daniel Kalish realized writing prescriptions and chasing symptoms wasn’t helping his patients.  Now he has developed a new system, and written a book telling us about it, designed to get to the root causes of poor health to help you get truly healthy. His book is The Kalish Method: Healing the Body, Mapping the Mind. In his book Dr. Kalish explains how three important body systems control much of our health, and if just one of these systems breaks down it can cause a cascade of trouble throughout our bodies. When we just focus on symptoms (weight gain is a symptom not a disease by itself) rather than the underlying root causes (poor liver detox ability is a root cause) we won’t find lasting solutions. When we throw drugs at symptoms we can even end up with more problems then we started with.  Through years of experience Dr. Kalish came to realize that “while the patients and their symptoms and their individual expressions of the problems varied, the underlying problems with the various body systems remained the same.” So he stopped pursuing symptoms and focused on fixing body systems.

What were those body systems? The digestive system, the detoxification system and the adrenals and how they interact with the brain are what Dr. Kalish looks at first. The digestive system is like the mother. It feeds everything. “You quite literally are what you eat, and if your body isn’t able to properly absorb your food, you will suffer a myriad of symptoms.”  Sometimes the symptoms that clue us in to the fact that we have digestive issues can be tricky to decipher. However if you have one of the issues listed above, or the “Big 5” as Dr. Kalish calls them, you probably have digestive troubles. Whether from your outside environment, as a result of poor nutrition, or because of your digestive troubles, too many toxins building up in your body can spell trouble too. In fact one of our body’s common responses to toxins is to wrap them in fat so they’re less dangerous. So when we take in more toxins than our livers can handle we get fat, toxic fat that is even harder to lose.

Dr. Kalish explains that the adrenals, two glands sitting one on top of each kidney, play a powerful role in our everyday health. Adrenals effect our blood sugar regulation, cells, muscles, bones, connective tissue, memory, learning, sleep, mood, immune system, detox capacity, weight, metabolism, thyroid, sex hormones and more. When our adrenals get overstressed then any one of these other functions can get broken AND messed up adrenals can mess up digestion which starts ANOTHER cascade of problems. Nutrients don’t get absorbed, more toxins slip through, we get food allergies, our antioxidants get used up, and we get fat, tired and depressed. On top of that our brains don’t work because there aren’t enough neurotransmitters being made. Oh boy!

You may not know much about neurotransmitters, but they are very important! Neurotransmitters are special chemicals (made from the amino acids we eat) in the brain that allow nerve cells (also called neurons) to communicate with each other all throughout the body. Our body makes neurotransmitters in well-regulated cycles just like it also makes hormones (why else do they call it your monthly cycle 🙂 ).  Two key neurotransmitters that frequently get off balance are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is energizing, it motivates you and improves your focus, concentration and memory. Serotonin is calming, helps you sleep, and relieves anxiety. Serotonin, or the lack of it, has gotten a lot of media attention in its role in depression.  Very few people realize, however, that 95% of the serotonin made in our body goes straight to the digestive tract where it controls digestive function!  So not only does low serotonin make us feel depressed, it also causes us to have digestive trouble which, as we know, can cause that cascade of additional problems.

So how do we get deficient in these neurotransmitters? Dr. Kalish says we might be deficient due to our lifestyle because we eat all the wrong things, we are constantly under stress and we don’t get enough sleep; or we might be deficient due to some kind of damage or trauma such as a concussion from a car wreck or exposure to dangerous chemicals; or we might be deficient due to a genetic defect that doesn’t allow us to make enough neurotransmitters. Some people have more than one reason for being deficient.

Dr. Kalish explains in detail how our three systems, digestive/adrenal/detox, work and how breakdowns in any or all can lead to the “Big 5”. He spends time writing about healing the body and the mind and how to find the causes underlying many of our main health concerns. What surprised me was how often he listed stress as the main trigger for the breakdown of our health. Stress burns out our adrenals, it causes our digestive tract to fall apart and it allows toxins to build up. Stress is bad stuff!

Throughout the book Dr. Kalish talks about diagnostic medical tests you can get from functional medical practitioners that help you discover which body system needs help.  These tests were developed by Dr. Marty Hinz who has researched and published many papers on how he unraveled the biochemistry of the brain, and has helped his patients to lose weight, improve blood pressure, and stabilize diabetes using nutrition instead of medication.  Dr. Kalish also talks about the importance of managing stress. In fact when he first begins treating his patients he always asks them “when did your health problems first start?” and then “what was going on in your life?”  He has discovered that 95% of the time a person’s health problems started within 1-2 years of a period of great emotional stress such as grief, loss, financial, work or even something happy like a wedding.

Dr. Kalish lists our three main sources of stress as coming from something emotional such as a divorce, or dietary such as low calorie dieting, or inflammatory such as undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. In fact, he has discovered that so many people don’t realize they are sensitive to gluten that he puts a gluten questionnaire right in the book. I scored an 8 which put me in the “suspected” category. (I had already suspected this myself and have been mostly off gluten for 8 months.)

So what can we do to improve our three systems, give our brain what it needs, and get rid of the “Big 5”? Dr. Kalish advises we find a functional medicine practitioner who can order the diagnostic tests for us. He also recommends a program of stress management, regular plentiful sleep (go to bed by 10pm), exercise at least 30 min. per day 5 days a week, and eat a healthy diet. What is his idea of a healthy diet? He says to eat enough high quality protein to re-stock our brain chemistry. This comes from grassfed beef, pork, lamb, pastured poultry and eggs, wild caught fish, raw or soaked nuts, raw cheeses or goat cheese and yogurts. Eat only unrefined carbohydrates including plenty of fresh vegetables (especially green ones), fruits, beans and gluten-free grains. But most of all include unrefined fats at each and every meal. “If protein is the framework to a brain-healthy diet, then fats are the nails and the bolts. The brain is 80% fat, so it is crucial to have unrefined fat sources at each meal.” He recommends a variety of healthy fats including extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, sesame oil, cod liver oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil, and real butter or ghee. He especially likes raw butter for its healing qualities. He specifically says to avoid all margarines and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils as well as canola and other vegetable oils.  As for beverages – water is best. Additional cautions are given to avoid soy and any genetically modified food, artificial sweeteners and MSG.

Several questionnaires in the appendix allow you to asses your stress levels. You can also learn more by visiting the Wellness Center on his website.

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Stress and Homeostasis – Balancing Hormones

I really liked this article on Radiant Life Company’s blog section all about the relationship between stress and homeostasis. You can read an explanation about homeostasis and its relationship to weight gain here.  Apparently even when we are eating well, exercising, trying to do everything right, our weight loss efforts can still get derailed when we don’t manage our stress well.

Our bodies produce the stress hormone cortisol when faced with threats and dangerous situations. We also produce it when faced with traffic jams, screaming bosses, deadlines and other stressful situations. Constantly living on the edge and not dealing with these stresses can throw our health out of balance. The Radiant Life article  gave 5 ways to rebalance that cortisol.

1. Take fish oil or cod liver oil to replenish vital nutrients. This is especially helpful when paired with vitamin K2.

2. Learn how to breathe properly and deeply. Read how here.

3. Maintain healthy magnesium levels in your body. Eat magnesium-rich foods like properly prepared whole grains, nuts and seeds; kelp and dulse; nutritional yeast; dried coconut; raw milk; or vegetables such as collards, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli and eggplant. Use magnesium supplements or magnesium oils or salts.

4. Supplement with B vitamins, especially B5, to slow down secretion of cortisol.

5. Try earthing – reconnecting with the earth through walking barefoot outdoors, swimming in lakes and oceans and other activities that give skin-to-earth contact.


How Do I Know I’m Feeding My Body the Right Way?

Sometimes with all of the nutritional news, big headlines, new studies, and conflicting information we get confused, lost, miss our focus. The truth is there is no ONE diet that works for ALL people. Even within a person’s lifetime there can be several different diets for different stages of life. The bottom line to keep in mind, however, is the basic goal of nutrition.

Byron Richards, Clinical Nutritionist and author of Mastering Leptin, explains that the goal of nutrition is to maintain or restore the healthy structure and function of our body, to maintain or restore effective communication within our body systems, and to establish or maintain correct biological rhythms even in times of stress.

In a nutshell you will know your nutritional needs are being met when you have a healthy tolerance DSC03223for stress (physical, mental or emotional), your belly is flat (or if you are overweight your belly is beginning to shrink), your muscle energy is good, and you have a positive drive for life.

Is your diet doing this for you?

Finding Hidden Obstacles to Weight Loss (weight loss series part 7)

Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3  Part 4    Part 5  Part 6

In Part 1 we started with a look at homeostasis, or the state of being in balance, as it relates to our bodies and our metabolism. We took a tour in Part 2 through the pages of dieting history with some surprising discoveries that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. With that in mind we took a look at how America typically eats and discovered a powerful hormone called leptin. Next we looked at ways to overcome leptin resistance in order to speed up metabolism. This article takes a look at several other hidden obstacles to weight loss that may surprise you.

scale slidingIn June 2013 the American Medical Association announced that it was now classifying obesity as a disease. If you have been keeping up with our series on weight loss you may disagree with the AMA. Obesity is instead a symptom of any number of other issues. If you pinpoint the issue you can correct it as well as experience weight loss as a side effect of regaining health.

The majority of people struggling with weight issues are also struggling with other issues. They may be fighting depression, diabetes, adrenal exhaustion, thyroid malfunction, food allergies, digestive disorders, sinus infections, candida, or any number of other concerns. While these issues may appear unrelated to obesity on the surface, they are in fact integrally tied to each other.

Julia Ross, author of The Diet Cure, gives eight different health issues that could be holding you back from losing excess weight. I highly recommend getting her book and reading in great detail about the health issues I share briefly here on this blog.

1. You have depleted brain chemistry. There are key chemicals, called neurotransmitters, within your brain that allow your brain to work efficiently and keep your body’s engine running smoothly. You may be very low or even missing many of these maybe due to prolonged unresolved stress, eating refined and processed foods too often, or not getting sufficient quality protein.

2. You suffer from malnutrition due to years of low-calorie dieting and fasting diets. I love how Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness puts it in his You Tube video Leptin: Fat Loss for Smart People. (catch the quote around the 8 minute mark about the cave man going jogging!) He explains that low-calorie dieting is nothing more than voluntarily putting ourselves into a famine! You need to understand that our physical bodies see no difference between voluntarily eating MediFast meals and involuntarily being in a concentration camp starvation situation! Prisoners in Nazi Germany at Treblinka concentration camp were (barely) kept alive on 900 calories per day. Today doctors are prescribing liquid-fast diets at 700-800 calories per day – less than a concentration camp meal plan!! The World Health Organization studied worldwide emergency food shortage situations and established that starvation begins at anything fewer than 2,100 calories per day, so their emergency food aid packets BEGIN at 2,300 calories for women and 2,500 calories per day for men. It is vital to note the belief that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is a big mistake. Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine put it this way “A calorie is a calorie violates the second law of thermodynamics.”  Sometimes it takes a physicist to make us understand the lunacy. Junk food calories are always bad. We need nutrient-rich calories, NOT dead food.

3. You have unstable blood sugar. Highly processed carbohydrates like crackers, chips, cookies, juice drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks and boxed cereals are lacking in usable nutrients. Constantly eating these fake foods puts you in a carbs>body fat>insulin cycle that can lead to diabetes. Or you may burn out your adrenals as they rush to rescue you from blood sugar swings. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and adrenal exhaustion have similar symptoms. Both are dangerous.

4. You have unrecognized low thyroid function. People with thyroid problems can literally find it impossible to lose weight even on liquid fasts and starvation diets. Seemingly unrelated things can cause malfunctioning in your thyroid such as anorexia, vegetarian diets, unidentified gluten intolerance, birth control pills, antibiotics, menopause or amalgam fillings.

5. You have food addictions and allergies. Sugar is highly addictive – possibly more addictive than crack cocaine! Flour and wheat products as well as milk and dairy products are also highly allergenic nowadays due to the destruction of their proteins through careless processing and careless industrial farming practices. What were once nourishing foods (why else did God call the Promised Land a land of milk and honey? Why else use the imagery of Bread of Life for Jesus?) are now foods capable of stimulating heroin-like reactions in the brain. Casein and gluten function like opiates in the brains of those with food allergies causing drug-like levels of addiction to these foods. Other symptoms of food allergies may again seem unrelated such as joint pain, headaches, earache, postnasal drip, gas, constipation, and ADHD. Food allergies can directly impair your weight loss efforts.

6. You have hormonal issues and imbalances. Cravings and weight gain and health issues can all be stimulated by hormonal events such as PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, perimenopause and menopause. Any juncture in a woman’s life where we are susceptible to imbalance in hormones could upset our homeostasis. Men get it too from poor diet and high stress. American women experience more troubles with these stages of life than women in third world countries whose diets are more primitive. Immigrants from these countries soon begin to experience our problems when they adopt our diet. It is important to know that cholesterol-rich foods nourish our adrenals which are responsible for producing 50% of our sex hormones and nearly all of our stress hormones. Eating low-cholesterol diets and taking statins can tax already inadequate adrenal glands.

7. You have yeast overgrowth. There is a direct connection between the gut and the brain. Yeast overgrowth in the gut can hijack the body/brain connection. Yeast needs sugar to grow so yeast causes sugar and carb cravings. Side effects from yeast overgrowth include depression, bloating, PMS, painful joints, eczema, sore throat, impaired digestion, urinary problems, chest pain, shortness of breath, sinus infection and ear infections! Antibiotics, birth control pills, stress, recreational drugs, surgery and a lack of fermented foods can all contribute to yeast overgrowth.

8. You have fatty acid deficiency. We need the right kinds of fats for hormone production, cell protection, healthy skin and hair, mental stability, concentration, regularity and prevention of abnormal cravings. Safe, nourishing fats are those highly valued and eaten regularly by the traditional people Weston Price studied who possessed the true definitions of health. Those fats are butter, coconut oil, animal fats from free range and wild caught animals and fish, extra virgin olive oil, nut/seed/avocado oil from cold-pressed sources. Healthy fats contain so many of the nutrients we need like vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, CLA, MCT, cholesterol, and omega-3s.

Addressing these 8 hidden causes of metabolic imbalance will put you on the path to good health, and it will also bring about the desired balance within you body that allows your metabolism to burn efficiently leading to a healthy body weight.

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Regaining Balance Means Healthy Metabolism and Healthy Weight (series part 6)

This article is part of a multi-part series on weight loss, metabolism and general health.    Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3  Part 4    Part 5

The previous article  gave a look at many of the health issues that can cause our bodies to lose homeostasis or balance.  Low-calorie dieting, unrecognized hormonal issues, unidentified food allergies, yeast overgrowth, and vitamin deficiencies caused by low-fat diets are major reasons why we lost homeostasis and gain unwanted weight.  I have said before, but it bears repeating, that being overweight is a symptom of an unhealthy body and NOT the primary problem. If you didn’t have any health issues your metabolism would be keeping you at the right weight for your body. So how can we regain our balance?

Begin by addressing your leptin resistance. Recall that leptin is one of those major hormones that keeps everything else in line. When leptin is out of whack everything else begins to fall over like a long line of dominoes. In Byron & Mary Richards’ book, Mastering Leptin  they give five steps to follow to regain leptin’s correct function.

5 Rules to Overcome Leptin Resistance


1. Never eat after dinner. Finishing eating dinner at least three hours before bed.

2. Eat three meals a day. Allow 5-6 hours between meals. Do not snack!

3. Do not eat large meals. Eat slowly, chew well. Finish a meal when slightly less than full.

4. Eat a high protein breakfast. Aim for 25g or more of protein.

5. Reduce the amount of carbs you eat. Don’t eliminate carbs, just cut back. (Especially cut back on processed carbs like soda, bread, chips, etc.)

What often happens when people begin following these five rules is they find they begin to sleep better, they are not hungry all the time, their cravings begin to diminish, and they begin to lose a few pounds without really trying. The longer you continue with these five rules the easier they will be to follow.

“But I thought we were supposed to eat lots of ‘mini-meals’ throughout the day!” I can hear you thinking this. Truthfully, this only works if you’re younger than 30, or an Olympic athlete, or have trouble controlling your blood sugar.  For us older, non-Olympians it is better for our bodies to have rest cycles of non-eating to allow all of the other body functions time to deal with each meal, rest and get ready for the next one. Constantly eating means no rest for the pancreas, liver and other digestion-related organs. Without rest they can’t operate in peak condition. Things start to falter, and then here we go – we’re out of balance!  If your blood sugar is so out of control that you must eat constantly then you have more serious metabolic issues than can be fixed by the 5 Rules. You are not without hope! You just have more work to do.

Ok, so Five Rules. CHECK! What next?……..Part Seven here.

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How Did We Lose Our Balance? (Weight Loss Series Part 5)

Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3  Part 4

During the last blog in this series we introduced leptin. Leptin is a major player in the hormone family; it is kind of like the President of hormones. Leptin-related problems start happening when communication breaks Lee, Amy, President Lincoln 1976down between the President Leptin and the cabinet Hypothalamus brain and the congress made up of the rest of the hormones plus the body’s hormone receptor sites. A great majority of overweight people have too much leptin.  The hypothalamus in our brain is the main target for leptin messages.  Too much leptin causes imbalances like insulin and adrenaline resistance.  Our liver, pancreas, adrenals and thyroid start blasting out mega-doses of hormones in an attempt to break through the communications block. Consequently we burn out these organs and fall prey to fatigue, disease and more.

Reed Davis, founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition uses the acronym HIDDEN to teach us how we got out of balance in the first place.  HIDDEN stands for Hormones, Immune system, Digestion disorders, Detoxification systems, Elimination, and Neurotransmitter systems.  Julia Ross covers very similar topics in her book The Diet Cure. Ms Ross’ list includes depleted brain chemistry, malnutrition, unstable blood sugar, unrecognized low thyroid function, food addictions and allergies, hormonal issues, yeast overgrowth, and fatty acid deficiencies.

Neurotransmitter depletion – meaning you are missing key neurotransmitters – happens due to prolonged stress; consuming refined sugars, white flours or alcohol; or eating insufficient protein. Neurotransmitters are substances such as tyrosine, glutamine, serotonin, epinephrine, glucagon and endorphins. Without ample neurotransmitters you get insomnia, depression, tendency toward drug addiction and more.

Malnutrition can happen even when we have plenty to eat. For dieters, however, malnutrition often comes as a result of extreme low calorie dieting. The subject of calories deserves a blog post all on its own. For now you just need to realize that low-calorie dieting is the same thing as creating our own personal famine.  Yes FAMINE! Your body, your brain and hypothalamus, sees no difference between voluntarily eating Jenny Craig meals and being involuntarily held in a concentration camp. 900 calories/day = famine whether you pay someone for the privilege of starving yourself or you are held prisoner against your will.

Refined and processed carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white rice) lack vitamins, protein, fat and fiber. Soon you get stuck in a carbs-body fat-insulin cycle that can lead to diabetes; or you might burn out your adrenals. Symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to symptoms of adrenal exhaustion. Both are dangerous.

Thyroid problems also deserve their own blog post. Some causes of thyroid malfunction are genetics, low calorie dieting (there it is again!), vegetarian diets, anorexia, soy (yes, soy!), a physical injury to the gland, a severe illness, unidentified gluten intolerance, certain prescription drugs such as the pill/antibiotics/estrogen/lithium, iodized salt, chemicals in your dental fillings, or change-of-life events such as puberty or menopause.

Food allergies can be obvious, they can also be sneaky. Casein and gluten are especially tricky as they behave like opiates by triggering exorphins which flood opiate receptors in our brain with comfort and pleasure. When this happens you get food addictions. Some symptoms of food allergies seem unrelated to food: joint pain, headaches, earache, postnasal drip, ADHD to name a few. Sometimes it is necessary to go on an elimination diet to discover exactly what foods are causing your problem.

American women are frequent targets for hormonal issues. We have more trouble with PMS, infertility and menopause than most women in less developed countries. According to Julia Ross Women in third world countries don’t have hot flashes and don’t dread menopause. Low-fat dieting, sugar, soy, tobacco, artificial hormones in our meat and dairy, birth control pills, skipping meals and adrenal stress all contribute to hormonal issues in American women. Men get it too, male menopause, from poor diet and stress.

Yeast overgrowth in the gut (imbalanced gut flora – see my blog on digestive disorders and gut flora here can take over the body-to-brain connection. Yeast needs sugar to grow so you get cravings for sugar and carbs. Side effects of yeast overgrowth are depression, bloating, PMS, painful joints, eczema, sore throat, impaired digestion, urinary problems, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus infection and ear infections. Yeast can overgrow your digestive system and spill into your bloodstream!

Lastly we get to fatty acid deficiency.  We must eat the right kinds of fats in order to have hormone production, cell protection, healthy skin and hair, mental stability and concentration, regularity and to prevent abnormal cravings. Safe, nourishing fats are those highly valued and eaten regularly by the traditional people Weston Price studied who possessed the true definition of health. Those fats are butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, animal fats from free range and wild caught animals and fish, extra virgin olive oil, and nut/seed/avocado oil from cold-pressed sources never heated. Healthy fats contain vitamins like A, D, & E, CLA, MCT, cholesterol, precursors for hormone production and most importantly omega-3 fatty acids. Balanced omega-3:omega-6 ratios will helpDSC01406 bring balance back to the entire body. Certain people have genetically greater needs for omega-3 fats. If you are descended from Scandinavian, Native American, Native Celtic, Irish, Scottish or Welsh you might not be able to metabolize omega-3 from plants (like flaxseed or chia) and you must get omega-3 from cold water fish, grassfed beef and wild game or fish oil supplements. Depression and alcohol cravings are often signs of omega-3 deficiency.

And there you have it – a lengthy list of how we lose our balance, how we get out of homeostasis, how we run into leptin resistance and become overweight in the first place. Now that you know how imbalance happens you can begin to take steps to correct it. Coming up next are some strategies for restoring balance and regaining a healthy metabolism. Read Part Six here.

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Leptin – what is it and how does it work? (weight loss series part 4)

This is part four of a continuing series looking at weight loss. To read Part 1 –    Part 2 –    Part 3

We used to think our fat cells were just a place to store extra calories. I would guess that the majority of people still think that fat, also called adipose tissue, is just a big blob of worthless stuff causing us a lot of grief.  In 1994 scientists discovered that in fact our fat cells are very busy, working all the time, AND they even produce a special hormone.  This hormone, called leptin, is one of the most powerful hormones we make!

One of the best layman’s explanations of leptin comes from Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness.  His video, “Fat Loss for Smart People” is worth a look.

Leptin is like the CEO of hormones. Produced in our adipose tissue (fat), it has a direct influence on metabolism.  It is essential for survival.

Leptin works together with two other important hormones, insulin and adrenaline.  Leptin, insulin and adrenaline report to and are directed by the hypothalamus, an area in our brain.  So we have our hypothalamus (in the brain) listening to messages from our leptin (in our fat), insulin (made in the pancreas) and adrenaline (made in the adrenal glands); and making critical decisions on our health status based on these messages.  The hypothalamus revs our metabolism up, or slows it down depending on the messages it is receiving.  A body in balance has good communication between all of these areas. This is one of the key ways we maintain a healthy weight – good communication!

steam engine and diesel AmtrakThe hypothalamus region of our brain is mostly interested in staying alive, really that’s all it cares about, staying alive at all costs. Like the engineer of a big train it says, “How much energy is being used? How long will this last? Do we have enough in reserve to keep this up? I need answers people!!”


Leptin sends out messages at regular intervals keeping the hypothalamus informed. “Everything’s good here. We have plenty of food coming in, we’re setting aside exactly what we need. No worries here, things are fine.”  Leptin also sends messages to the pancreas and the adrenals letting them know what is needed.

The boss Hypothalamus stays calm when these messages come in on schedule. “Roger that! Metabolism will remain at optimum energy production. Appetite, you don’t need to be high. Pancreas, thyroid and adrenals you’re doing fine, keep up the good work. Good teamwork everyone!”

If we are ever in a famine we are forced to burn our fat stores because food is scarce.  The fat stores get smaller and smaller and nothing is coming in to replace them. Leptin sends an emergency message, “Hey, stores are running out. We will soon be burning muscle tissue, there’s not enough food!”

The hypothalamus jumps to action. “Thyroid, slow things down! We’re burning up energy too fast! Appetite, I order you to find us more fuel STAT!”  This way we are able to conserve energy through slower metabolism while becoming hungrier and hungrier and thus even more motivated to find food. This is what happens when our bodies encounter starvation or famine.

The trouble is our hypothalamus never looks in the mirror. Our hypothalamus does not care one bit what we look like. It only cares whether or not we are going to die from lack of food. Someone in a war-torn third world country who is truly suffering from a dangerous famine will have this scenario going on in his body.  Someone else (like us) in a wealthy western country with plenty of grocery and convenience stores as well as extra pounds on our hips, may decide to go on Medifast 800 calorie/day diet and our bodies will have the exact same reaction as the person in the famine-plagued country. The moment we are no longer in starvation mode our body works as quickly as possible to return to the pre-famine state.  If that pre-famine state was a healthy one that’s not a bad thing. But if that pre-famine state was already overweight this means we gain back all of the weight that was lost by starving ourselves on purpose. (self-induced famine)  The more often we put ourselves through starvation mode the less our body will trust us for survival. Instead of gaining back only to the original amount we will now gain a little extra “just in case you do something stupid and try to starve us again!” says the hypothalamus.

So how does leptin, insulin, adrenaline and the hypothalamus let us get overweight in the first place?

It all goes back to that balance we talked about in the very first article of this series. Something in out-of-balanceour lifestyle pushes us out of balance. When that happens the leptin tries to send messages to the hypothalamus but the lines of communication are down and the message doesn’t go through. This is called leptin resistance. The hypothalamus sends out the alarm, “Oh no! Starvation mode!” Metabolism slows down to conserve energy, appetite increases and fat stores get larger and larger. This gives us even more leptin-producing tissue which puts it out of balance with insulin. We have set the stage for serious health issues. These issues include erratic behavior and strong cravings, mental problems, bone loss, heart disease and cancer. We have also lost the ability to maintain a healthy body weight.  This is all because leptin regulates the other hormones including thyroid, adrenal, pancreatic and the sex hormones.

The brain is not the only site that receives messages from leptin. There can be a breakdown in communication between leptin and all the other body receptor sites. We can burn out our livers, pancreas, adrenals and thyroid when our body tries to fight off what is perceived as starvation or famine.  The older we get the more likely this is to happen. It happens even faster when we are overstressed.

How do we know if we are leptin resistant? According to the book Mastering Leptin by Byron and Mary Richards   there are several signs that indicate leptin resistance:

15 or more pounds overweight, low energy, poor immune response, fatigue, not refreshed by exercise, anorexia, significantly overweight in spite of near-starvation levels of calories.

So how did we get out of balance in the first place?     …… be continued!…………Part Five here.

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Chemicals, Carbo-drugs and the New Normal (series part 3)

this is the third in a continuing series taking a look at weight loss. Read part one here and  read part two here.

No one WANTS to be obese. People are literally starving themselves in order to get thin and yet they still gain weight. What are we doing wrong?

One answer is that we have abandoned our nutritious foods in favor of foods that are devoid of life, devoid of nutrition, but these foods meet the need in our modern lifestyle for quick, easy, tasty and cheap. This kind of modern diet lacking in nutrition has literally damaged our bodies very badly and yet we are so addicted to them we cannot break free.

“We have stopped eating food here [in the U.S.]; we mostly eat chemicals and carbo-drugs.” –Julie Ross, author of The Diet Cure

So let’s take a look at “normal”. Which of these is your normal?

A. We wake up from a sound and restful sleep each morning and spring out of bed with pep andDSC05819 energy ready to meet the day. We eat three nourishing meals a day made of real, nutrient-filled food and we are not tempted by snacks, coffee, sodas or cigarettes.  We are refreshed and revitalized when we exercise. We don’t have an afternoon or evening slump requiring any kind of pick-me-up. When bedtime rolls around we are comfortably tired and fall asleep quickly, ready to sleep the full night through. We are not plagued by chronic disease and we easily maintain a healthy weight and a healthy outlook on life well into old age.

B. We hit the snooze button five times before finally rolling out of bed at the very last second stillRJ sleeping on the floor wishing we were back under the covers. If we’re lucky we get toast and coffee, but more likely we get nothing until about midmorning when we dive headfirst into the breakroom donut box. Feeling guilty at lunch we get a diet soda and chewing gum. It’s not January anymore so the gym isn’t part of the afternoon routine. Instead we pick up the kids after school and drive through a fast food place for some nuggets to keep them quiet until we can figure out what’s for supper. Pizza delivery on the speed dial works tonight. It goes well with the glass (or three) of wine that helps you fall asleep by midnight so you can do it all over again the next day.

Which scenario is your normal?  Do you know anyone who claims “A” is their normal?  Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid at Christmastime? – loads of energy, excited about everything, couldn’t wait to get up in the morning…

Wouldn’t it be great to feel like that again?   When your body is in balance that is what your normal can be once more. One key to finding that overall balance is to balance your leptin.  Don’t know what that is? Don’t know how that works?    ………to be continued!……..Read Part Four here.


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A Brief History of Fat-Free Dieting (series part two)

This is part two of a series looking at overall health in relation to healthy weight.

Part One looked at how a body in balance, or homeostasis, is more likely to be a body able to tolerate stress, recover from illness, and maintain a healthy weight. We know entire communities of healthy, balanced people have existed in the recent past and may still exist today. The question remains – why are so many of us still so unhealthy?

Let’s again look at some history. These examples are discussed in Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories:

In 1882 at the University of Göttingen in Germany, a professor of medicine, Wilhelm Ebstein, wrote a paper titled “Obesity and Its Treatment”.  Professor Ebstein had a famous patient, Prince Otto otto von bismarckvon Bismark, who was able to lose 60lbs. in less than a year. Prince Otto followed Professor Ebstein’s diet which banned sugar, sweets and potatoes and limited bread. The diet allowed green vegetables and meat of every kind. Professor Ebstein particularly insisted that fatty foods were crucial to weight loss because they increased satisfaction with meals and decreased fatty tissue accumulation in the dieter. Remember, this was still long enough ago that all meats and vegetables were still what we would today classify as “organic”. It was also still early enough in modern history that industrialized vegetable oils had not become mainstream.

In 1951 Dr. Raymond Greene and six other British doctors published a book titled The Practice of Endocrinology. In their book they outlined a diet remarkably similar to the one Dr. Atkins would publish 20 years later. Dr. Greene and colleagues encouraged their patients to eat meat, fish, poultry, all green vegetables, eggs, cheese and fruits with the exception of bananas and grapes. They advised avoiding anything made with flour, breakfast cereals, potatoes and other white root vegetables, all sweets and foods containing a lot of sugar.

hilde bruch obesity expert


In 1957 a German-born American specialist on eating disorders, Dr. Hilde Bruch, wrote the following quote: “The great progress in dietary control of obesity was the recognition that meat was not fat-producing, but that it was the ‘innocent foodstufs’, such as bread and sweets, which lead to obesity.”


In the 1960s and 1970s clinical trials were being conducted in Sweden, England, France and the United States studying carbohydrate-restricting diets. These diets were shown to be extremely effective at producing weight loss.

In the 1980s it suddenly became popular to avoid fat and anything containing fat. Entire cookbooksfood pyramid fda and television shows were produced centering on this low-fat craze. Bread, potatoes and pasta became the main dish, the darling of the diet world, while meat, especially red meat, became the villain. Even with more than 100 years of study and success using low carbohydrate diets, suddenly the AMA labeled these diets as “fads”.  Fat suddenly became the cause of heart disease.

Something that Mr. Taubes doesn’t mention that I personally feel is significant is that during the 1970s and 80s the CAFO, concentrated animal feeding operation, became the norm for beef and pork production rather than the historically traditional and biologically normal pasture or free-range method. It is in the CAFO that the meat we eat gets fattened up as efficiently as possible and as quickly as possible. What is the feed that gets meat animals fat quickly? Grain, corn and soy, the very same foods the experts were telling us to eat in order to get thin.

In the 1900s obesity rates in America were very low, less than 1%.  By 1960 they had risen to around 12%. This rate stayed fairly steady up to about 1980 when it began rising. By 2010 obesity rates had skyrocketed to 35%.  Gary Taubes notes “this parallels the years when we were told to stop eating fat and start eating more breads and grains.”

The federal government, the food industry and many physicians and other public health experts took some studies from the 1940s showing a correlation between a high-fat diet and high cholesterol levels that concluded high-risk heart patients should lower their fat intake and decided that the general population should go ahead and do the same. (Remember, blogger Denise Minger’s favorite mantra “correlation does not prove causation”). These experts assumed that if we ate less fat our weights would go down. They thought this because fats contained densely packed calories. What they did not take into consideration was that the composition of the calorie is far more important than the calorie itself. Instead of weight going down the opposite happened. Weights went up, portion sizes went up (because this new way of eating still left us hungry unlike the fattier foods of old), and the actual amount of food eaten also went up since what we were eating was no longer nourishing us very well and we kept craving more. Foods that are lower in fat are naturally higher in carbohydrates. People ate more because without the fat there was no satiety – our bodies didn’t register “full” as easily.

fat free half and halfThe end result is that now everyone just assumes that fat is bad. More and more fat-free foods became available as the food industry leaped to the forefront to “rescue” us from evil fatty foods. Now we have fat-free ice cream, fat-free cookies, fat-free yogurt, we even have fat-free half & half! (How is this possible? I thought the definition of half & half was half cream half milk!) Still obesity rates have gone up and up while the media and public health experts are accusing us of being lazy and cheating!

This makes me furious! Can you tell me one single person who WANTS to be obese?! Often times it is these people accused of being lazy and cheating who are working the hardest to get thin! They literally starve themselves on diets and liquid-fasts of 700 or fewer calories per day and yet they still gain weight!

What are we doing wrong?   ………to be continued………..Part Three is here.

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A Healthy Body is a Body in Balance: Looking at Homeostasis

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Orgnization

“A healthy, balanced body cannot have chronic mood and weight problems.”                                     – Julia Ross, The Diet Cure

Take some time to honestly reflect on how you feel right now,  How did you feel this morning when it was time to get out of bed? How do you feel each afternoon around 4 or 5pm?  Would you say you are in a state of completel physical, mental and social well-being?  Or do you have chronic mood and weight problems? Do you have other health problems? Do you have trouble sleeping? Are you frequently tired? Are you plagued by every cold or flu bug that comes around? Do you have indigestion? Do you have skin problems, achy joints, or migraines?

Would you be surprised to learn that all of these conditions are related? They are all symptoms of a body that is no longer in balance. The scientific word for this is homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the ability of a person’s body to maintain a stable internal physiological condition under fluctuating environmental conditions. In other words you feel good even when things aroundscales clip art you are changing – it might be cold and rainy, or hot and dry, or pollen season, or your co-worker has a bad cold – it doesn’t matter because you are able to remain healthy. That is homeostasis.

When you are in a state of balance your metabolism burns efficiently.  You are able to maintain a stable blood sugar. Your emotions are stable. You are the correct weight for your height and body type.

Homeostasis is a key principle of good health. When you are able to get your body into a balance, into a rhythm, all of your other health problems, all of your symptoms, should be resolved.

When the body is working in harmony it has much less internal friction and much less wear and tear.  Homeostasis is the key to being able to bounce back, to recover, and to tolerate stress of any type.

Is this status of homeostasis just wishful thinking, or is it a possible reality?

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration book cover

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr Weston Price

Once again I am drawn toward the work of Dr. Weston A. Price.  His global research during the 1930s has left us with undisputable proof that generations of people have been able to achieve homeostasis across entire villages and regions.  These people were free from chronic disease, maintained a healthy weight, and were mentally stable as well. Entire cultures of happy, healthy people were a reality.

What was the secret of success for these healthy groups of people? Dr. Price felt much credit was due to their traditional diets which were full of all the needed nutrients in abundant and easily absorbable form.

Today in the United States our bodies still have an optimum body weight, still have an ability to achieve balance. We are still able to be healthy both physically and mentally. We have not lost the ability to achieve homeostasis and therefore good health and well-being.

So why are we still so unhealthy?  ……… to be continued……..Read part two here.

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