Fighting Your Binge Eating Monster

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The Binge Eating Monster

Don’t let this fool you; it’s a jerk.

Everyone likes food for the most part – you need it to live and it often tastes good so, yeah, you eat. Other people eat, too. I also eat, but here’s the rub; a lot of the time, when I eat, I keep eating and eating and eating and eating. Just ridiculous amounts of food that make me feel like a chubby tornado, sucking down anything edible that’s around. I know there’s a fairly sizeable amount of people like me in the world, to whom food is a crutch, or an addiction, or a comfort when issues arise. For us it’s not “I’m hungry, let’s eat, ok now I’m not hungry and will stop”.

To preface the rest of this post, I should say that I’m coming off of a binge right now. I was around 455 at my biggest, and at 250 at my smallest (as an adult((obviously))). In the last part of 2016, I went from 280 down to 250 again, and was maintaining very well, until the basement opened and out lumbered the Binge Eating Monster. I’ve since put on 40 pounds. In the last 6 months. This isn’t healthy in the BEST of conditions, so of course I am concerned and all that anxiety was causing further binge eating episodes. I stayed up late, got little sleep, and gorged myself every night when my family went to bed.

If you’ve never experienced a binge episode, imagine standing at the counter with a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly and eating a spoonful of each at time and being…I dunno, numb? You can’t stop, or don’t want to, or both. It’s going to McDonald’s and ordering so much because you’re afraid of running out of food while you still want to eat, so you get a combo and 20 nuggets and then something else to eat while you drive home, too. You feel guilty, disgusting, burdensome, sick, weak, and exhilarated all at the same time. Because the binge is a compulsion, satisfying that compulsion is like scratching a really bad itch, or taking a hit of a drug you miss, and while you’re in the dregs of the episode, you feel numb and detached. Afterwards, it’s nothing but regret and guilt (and often a very disagreeable stomach). You can gain a substantial amount of weight in a short period, and it’s actually dangerous because there is a positive correlation between binge eating and type 2 diabetes (and weight gain).

Monster of a problem

So it is with binge eating – it’s a process of self-indulgence brought on by compulsion and rounded out by self-loathing. There are many triggers, some more psychological and some more biological, but in the end they’re all damaging and can frustratingly exacerbate other mental health disorders AND vice-versa. You can be in your clearest mind, functioning smoothly all day, hitting step goals, making healthy lunches, and in control of your destiny, but when the Binge Eating Monster rears its ugly head, it can feel like you’re powerless. The reason I suggest the BEM (as it will be referred to from this point forward) is because, at least in my experience, it feels like domination from another force. You freeze, and you think “I should stop this” but the compulsion is so strong that it drives you to keep eating. This little imaginary creature crawls into your brain and compels you to keep eating, even though you’re an otherwise reasonable person. And that’s the key; binge eaters are often otherwise completely rational. There’s a reason that most binge eaters do it privately – it’s not just embarrassing but we also realize it’s not correct.  In fact, it’s this rationality – even when it comes to diet and healthy eating – that provides the greatest source of frustration. You can see all the angles, you can KNOW the binge eating is detrimental, but when you’re there drowning in the moment, it can be difficult to surface.

Being Rational With An Irrational Tagalong

The Binge Eating Monster doesn’t care about your goals, your upcoming class reunion, or your health in general. The compulsion simply wants to be addressed. In psychoanalytical terms  we call this an unchecked Id. The Id controls your basic primal impulses like eating and sleeping. All it’s concerned with is pleasure and food provides a lot of pleasure, so it requires your higher mental functions to keep in check, but with an overeating disorder, the Id crushes the controls you have to keep it in check.

These are some things that help me – I cannot state they’ll 100% help you, but I have read a lot of people’s personal accounts of binge eating episodes and I’ve been counseled on it. My strategies for coping and overcoming are based on my experiences and my research.

A momentary lapse of reason

1 – Before a binge, there’s often a feeling of a loss of control. This can be from stress, depression, or simply a feeling that comes out of nowhere. Any kind of loss of self-control or detachment from self can set up your BEM to take over and you absolutely don’t want that. As my wife would say, detrimental choices are caused by a detachment from your future self. That person who wants to be in great shape, or wants to heal their diabetes  – you’ll never get there if you lose sight of it. In order to prevent this loss of control, I stay focused on my weight loss and health goals. I re-read them (I write in journals a lot) every morning and at night before bed. I flip through my planner and read them midday. Staying connected to your goals is like a tether to the future, and your Binge Eating Monster can’t chew through it to take control of your actions. The more you practice self-awareness and conscious living, the stronger that tether and the weaker the Monster’s attempts become.

It’s often been expressed that willpower is like a muscle – the more you practice it, the stronger it becomes, and this is true. If you’re prone to giving into your impulses, then you will continue to do so. If however you start to tell yourself “no”, even periodically, it will become easier to do when you need to do it.

Running isn’t my favorite thing, but the BEM has little legs and can’t keep up

2 – Day-to-day, I keep up a schedule of exercise and stick to it. I lift weights 3 times a week, run 2 or 3 times a week, and do a little yoga for my lower back. Working out has a tremendous impact on your mental clarity and your ability to stick to an improvement plan. I’m not saying you need to start Crossfit, but dedicating some time everyday to exercise is a good primary habit. Secondary healthy habits, like avoiding garbage food and being mindful of your eating choices, will develop around the primary healthy habit. The various after effects of exercise, including things like rearranging your schedule and forcing yourself to make time for it, can drastically decrease the likelihood of a binge.

3 – Purge your home of your binge-trigger foods. For me, it’s peanut butter and chips (not at the same time). It’s entirely too difficult for me to stop at a few chips or a bite of peanut butter when I’m feeling weak so I avoid them until I’m mentally stronger. In my experience, binges don’t start with a meal that I’ve purposely sat down to eat. Instead, they begin during stress or sleeplessness, standing in the kitchen or pantry, and they end when I feel like a bloated, defeated creature, like a whale that’s beached itself trying to eat donuts. If those specific triggers aren’t there, I’m much less likely to binge.

4 – Give it 100%. 99%, 80%, 50% – these are incredibly difficult. No matter what your “diet” is, stick to it 100% because when you give yourself leeway, that’s when the BEM strikes. “Just one bite” turns into “just one slice” which turns into “how do I explain to anyone that I ate a whole brick-and-mortar Pizza Hut?” The Binge Eating Monster preys on your ability to justify your slip-ups. Honestly in all facets of life, the 100% policy is a very powerful way to tackle your goals.

Well, almost all facets – don’t stick to it when giving blood or something.

5 – Get help. My binge eating comes from someplace that I cannot pinpoint. This isn’t the same for everyone, though. Some people binge because of a traumatic event, and for some it’s a response to a very real biological problem. What I described above are coping strategies that work for me, but a counselor or MD can be thoroughly useful in rooting out the cause and creating a solution to your binge eating monster.

 

The fact of the matter is that binge eating is a mental health issue. It’s not something to be ashamed of, despite how it makes you feel. Get help, stay focused on what you want, and don’t give the BEM power. It will be something you need to work at daily, even meal-to-meal, but being mindful of it is the first step to being able to resolve it and take back control of your life.

 

 

It’s Gotta Be Today

Productivity

Hi, I’m Tony, and I’m a big dude. I’ve been fat most of my life – probably from 4th grade forward. It has definitely defined who I am, in the sense that it honed my sense of humor and sarcasm and I use those as a defense mechanism when I’m in the wild, so in a sense, I’m thankful for that. So +1 to fatness for making me funny.

I can do without the asthmatic wheezing, tiredness, not-fitting-int0-clothes(ness), and all the other things that being fat does. I’d gladly trade those in for a sense of rhythm or not-being-colorblind, but that’s not how this works so here I am.

I’m 33 years old today (technically I was 33 in March, but I’m still 33 at the time of this writing) and I can’t think of a better time to lose the rest of this fat, once and for all. I have 2 kids and a fiance whom I’m marrying in the fall. These are three great reasons to lose weight – I want to be here for a long time, for them. I want to be there for them, to be their shoulder to cry on, make fun of their music as they grow up, and for them to know that their dad always has their back.

These aren’t the main reasons I’m going to do this, though.

I’ve already lost 200+ pounds. I add that “+” in there because after I dropped 200 and got down to around 250, I’ve gained and lost the same 20-30 pounds so many times that I expect to win a yo-yo championship. Any day now, gonna get that trophy.

My prior success isn’t the reason I’m doing this, though.

I’ve been fat my whole life and have no idea what I look like as a thin adult, or even a healthy-weighted adult. I want to chase my kids and not get winded. I want to be comfortable sitting in chairs at the theater (on the rare occasion that I, as a parent, get to see the inside of a theater). I want to get a handle on my binge-eating, and have a healthy relationship with food.

These still aren’t the main reasons I’m going to lose this weight for good and all, though.

I’m losing this weight because I’m so goddamned tired of living the same week/month/year over and over again. Am I cursed? Did I kick a witch in a former life and now I’m cursed to relive the same day over and over again? I mean, I guess maybe, but I’m going to approach this from a different viewpoint.

Hi! I’m Bill Murray From Groundhog Day!

It’s not a curse, though it feels like one. My stream-of-consciousness reflection that I am presenting here may be useful to you, as this feeling is broadly applicable to just about any self-fulfilling prophecy about failure you could have, be it weight loss, romance, starting a crab farm, whatever.

Essentially, I recognize (at 33) that my problems are mostly my fault. I have a cool family, a big, dumb dog who loves me, a house, a good job, talents, bo-staff skills, a big yard for my garden, books, etc. I am a white male in a patriarchal, white-centric society. I grew up in a good Italian family, had the best grandparents in the world, went to private school my whole life.

So why am I fat? Why am I spinning my wheels at my writing career? Why do I half-ass everything that I do? Why do I have “problems”?

Because I make stupid, id-centric decisions. Just all the time, it’s awful. By id-centric, I mean I tend towards bad impulse control. As I mentioned above, I binge-eat. I sit for long spells, drinking and watching bad television. I play video games. And I also love writing out goals in a notebook. I have a lot of goals, and I’ve HAD a lot of goals for a long time. I’m a procrastinator and we LOVE to plan, because it doesn’t take anything but imagination to plan, and the one thing it doesn’t take ANY of, is actually doing anything.

I look back into my old notebooks and I see all these grand plans to write, to start this website, to lose weight. I look back 1, 2, 5 years and see over and over again the grand goals and the ferocious, terrible crashes that resulted from my non-application of willpower.

So no more. And I don’t mean “flowery-text-on-an-Instagram-platitude” done, I mean for real, 100% time-to-go done. How am I approaching this lofty goal of “done”? By dropping the “ne”.

DO

Thank you motivational municipal structure. I will DO.

What separates procrastination from domination is a D and an O (there are other letters, too, but they don’t fit with what I’m trying to do here, so please just humor me). I’ve had these goals for years and the one thing that keeps me from achieving them is that I never really DO them. It’s not easy, but it is simple. I plan, I write stuff down, I make lists, but I don’t actualize them.

For instance, I found an old notebook from like 10 years ago at my mom’s house. In it, one of my goals for that year was to “lose weight”. I scoffed at that, because what does that even mean? I could have lost a limb and been able to scratch that goal off. I never got past the goal-creating portion of success, and that’s a huge problem. Failure to launch.

I did a little research on successful goal completion, and my notebook is a lot cleaner. It goes Goal -> Deadline -> Goal broken down into actionable bits -> weekly recap. If you’re trying to succeed at something, the first step is to just actually do it, and that’s way easier if you have a plan.

So now I have a goal, and I have a plan to reach that goal, broken down into little, do-able pieces that I can accomplish and cross off, one after another. This also feeds your ego, because it gives you a concrete sense of accomplishment, and as a gamer, I thrive on small, incremental victories or achievements. So now what? What’s the next barrier?

Stop Making Dumb Choices

My goal is fat loss, and how do you do that? Keep your sugars low, your calories at a deficit, throw in some exercise. Again, it might not be easy, but it is simple. Why then haven’t I lost the last 76 pounds (I’m currently sitting at 276) sitting between me and my goal weight?

Because I make dumb choices. I choose to stay up late cursing at my computer in little, losing-at-Hearthstone based increments, or watching Rick and Morty. This causes me to get up late, which causes me to not exercise or plan my day. I get to work, get derailed easily because I’m sleepy, I don’t have the willpower to avoid bad food that I would had I worked out or gotten sleep, so I eat garbage, come home and binge. Then I go to bed disgusted with myself. I recognize this pattern and that breaking it will require willpower but also some planning. Being aware of your overall goal, and stopping to think how each individual bad choice can cascade into a bucketful of botched plans is the first step in undoing those patterns of bad choices. Just like how a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan and so I eat a box of Pop-tarts here in America (nature is wonderful and complex), so to does every action affect the next, even if they’re seemingly mundane.

Finding where that stupid butterfly is metaphorically in my daily life and stopping him from flapping his wings is crucial to breaking the patterns and habits that keep me from achieving my goal.

Evaluate Constantly

Finding these notebooks shows me that I had planned, I had written my goals down, but I clearly never went back and reevaluated them. I have a compulsion to buy a new notebook when I’m gearing up to PLAN; a clean, fresh start. That’s why I have so many. If I had set a goal, set a process, and then set a date to go back and see how I was coming along, my failures would be much more acute and a lot harder to swallow.

So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m using the quarter-system for my goals, something I learned from this FANTASTIC book, and I’m reevaluating progress on a weekly basis. Knowing you have 3 months to accomplish goals rather than a full  year makes them much more pressing, and the need for a clear plan MUCH more important.

Honestly the most important thing is to be aware of yourself and your goals. Losing yourself in comfort, food, leisure – this is a low level of living, one that I’ve been in for 15 years. This is a picture of a notebook my fiance bought me for our anniversary. It represents my new relationship with notebooks – goals, planning, actionable bits, reevaluation, and at the back of the book: success.

Yes it’s Dr. Seuss. No you can’t have it.

Working Out With Your Kids

I lift weights AND stray toys.

Whether you take the title of this to mean you’re actively working out with your children, them adorably following along and mimicking you, or you think it means you’re using them as weights or cardio, you can consider yourself correct. Few things are as important as instilling discipline in your children, and a regular exercise routine is a great way to do just that. I personally like lifting weights, and my kids like mimicking or making fun of me while I do it, but either way they’re doing the motions and that’s what I wanted. Even if they’re only doing squats and presses because it’s funny to them, they’re still doing it, and if they do it EVERY morning with me, then that’s a habit! Yay!

Working Out With Your Kids

There’s a lot of ways to get your kids active, even if it means tricking them to a degree. My children are young enough that ” *gasp* oh no! Run!” is a good way to get them to chase me around or run with me. When they see me lifting weights, they come and do it to – we went so far as to buy them some little 1lb dumbbells from Five Below so they could lift with me and they LOVE it. Essentially, if you have toddlers, they want to do what you’re doing, so just let them. Encourage them working out by giving them their own tools to do it. Create games, like playing zombies – my daughter and son love to sit on my shoulders and we become the zombie and we chase the other kid. Often I get injured but it’s a lot of fun; as a dad, my pain seems to equal enjoyment for my kids so your mileage my vary.

What if your kids are older? Having been a pre-teen/teen at one point, I can tell you they absolutely DON’T want to do what you’re doing. How do you make them exercise with you? This might be easier if your kids are involved in sports and need to practice – offer to run with them, play catch, or shoot some hoops. Easy peasy, but if your kids are “indoor kids” like I was as a teen, it might be a bit more difficult.

As a kid who grew up shying away from team sports, the only physical activity I liked was biking. I hate structured … anything, so being forced to run with other kids, or play baskethoops, or run, or ANYTHING like that was something that I immediately rejected. I did, however, like long, unstructured walks in the woods. Biking with my friends was ALWAYS great, and once I got into high school, lifting weights captured my attention. Basically any introspective activity that allowed me to work at my own pace and discover my own goals and gains was something that I loved. This is a good way to approach kids who don’t go for team sports. Weight lifting and personal activity is a journey of self-discovery that allows a person to develop their strengths and interests without having to compare themselves to other people or feel like they’re holding back more people.

Especially with older kids, be open with your intentions and desire to start a new, healthy lifestyle. Some will jump on board just because they want to help you succeed, or see your success and want that for themselves as well. With all things, it’s important to be open and supportive with your kids.

Working Out With Your Kids

It’s largely about inflection here, so in this part we talk about using your kids as implements of exercise! Trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds. My kids are young enough that they LOVE being thrown in the air, given piggy-back rides, bench-pressed, chased, or swung around. I’m not advocating that you lift your kids up 10 times and toss them on the ground like a dumbbell – that’s both not a good idea and also it’s poor form. What I AM suggesting is get your kids involved like a game. I can guarantee that when I get home tonight, the first thing out of my son’s mouth will be “Daddy can you throw me in the air”? And I will oblige him, not just because I want him to have fun and because I want to spend time with him, but also because picking my 40 pound son up, lifting him up over my head, and tossing him straight up is great exercise. It works my lower back, stomach, and shoulder muscles, not to mention the entirety of my arms.  By the time I’ve tossed little dude into the air two dozen times, my arms are tired and my upper body has some decent resistance training (and my kid has had fun, whatever).

I also will hold my daughter while in a prone position on my back, and with her held out in front of me, move into a sit-up position. This adds extra difficulty to the actual sit-up while working my arms. Plus she thinks it’s hilarious. My point is that there’s a TON of things you can do, especially when your kids are little, that involve them in your fitness while adding difficulty and resistance to your workout. Play time can be both productive to your gainz AND a ton of fun for them.

Again with older kids, it’s probably less likely  you’ll be able to throw them around or lift them up, but you can race them. If they’re in sports, you can run drills with them, sprint, play catch – just about anything you can do in the previous example, only more focused on your own progress. Where in the previous section I am advocating for getting your kids moving with you, I am in this scenario suggesting you find a way to get into their routine, if they’re ok with it. Basketball drills are insanely difficult, even if you’re a teen. A parent is going to feel probably crushed by sprinting stairs or something similar, and that’s great. It gives you a goal to work towards and a person to chase after, plus it gets you more involved in your kids’ lives, and that’s to the benefit of everyone.

Lead By Example

I have made a special effort in the last year or so to avoid being on my phone or the computer when my kids are around. After they go to bed, I work or play video games or pass out because I’m ancient and don’t sleep enough. When they’re awake, though, I have been doing my best to engage and teach them, and exercising with them is part of that. If your kids see you sitting on the couch all night after work, drinking a beer and eating garbage, that will be their “normal”. If you spend all your time with your face glued to a screen instead of being active with them, they’ll assume they’re not as high a priority. We’re sedentary enough at work or school all day; you owe it to yourself and your children to be more. Be active, include your children, and improve all of your lives at the same time. They’ll thank you for it later.

Purging Sugar Part 3: Kick Your Kids’ Sugar Habit

Now that you’ve identified how much sugar is in your life, and how you plan on changing that fact, it’s time to focus on getting kids off sugar.

I know that some people might read this and say “well kids like sugar, kinda silly to deny them that” and I would agree, to an extent. Sugar is ubiquitous to childhood – birthday parties, Halloween, Easter, Christmas cookies, endearingly watching Willy Wonka’s near-murder of 4 random children – sugar is everywhere to a kid. But all of those things existed 30 or more years ago, so why is the childhood obesity rate nearly three times what it was in 1970?

It’s a complicated topic and there’s no clear one answer. Factors include:

  • A trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle
  • Less school time focused on play and exercise (many schools around the country have cut recess and PE in favor of spending more time devoted to passing standardized testing to improve grant funding)
  • Less families are spending time cooking and eating together, two factors that absence of which leads to more fast-food eating, more overeating, and less attention to nutritional emphasis versus simply eating to have eaten
  • More processed food consumption, which means more processed carbohydrate and sugar consumption
  • Little-to-no nutritional education in schools at any level, and misguided or unclear governmental information on the nature of healthy eating (emphasizing grains over proteins and healthy fats, for instance)
  • Massive funding put into advertising garbage food towards kids, as well as the part food lobbies play in what your kids eat at school. In particular, comparing the average American school lunch to that of a peer in another country provides a stark contrast in nutrition-density, variety of foods, and the amount of processing involved.
sugar-free kids, low carb parenting
Luckily, my daughter doesn’t seem to like sugar much. My son, on the other hand…

 

There’s more to it – studies indicate children with parents who example unhealthy behaviors will adopt unhealthy behaviors themselves, but it’s not good to get defensive or hard on yourself for anything you’ve done in the past. The whole point of this series is to change not only your life but that of those around you who look to you for guidance; wife, husband, children, parents, neighbor, dentist, that shady guy down the street who always seems to have candy. Er, maybe not the last two.

I digress.

BUT as long as I’m on a tangent, I might as well keep going for a second and tell a story:

My Nickname Was Fat Tony (Because I was Italian, A Tony, But Yeah, Also Fat)

I was a fat kid from about 4th grade until now-ish. I didn’t have a lot of nutritional guidance and what I did have was terrible, aiming me towards plain carbs because fat is evil. My mom and grandma were convinced that I needed to exercise more, so I did and I never lost weight. In Health class we were made to believe that eating too much fatty food was the problem, so it was dry turkey sandwiches on wheat bread for lunch and cereal for breakfast, complete with the spit-in-God’s-eye that is skim milk. Nope, still fat (and angry). Finally my senior year of high school, I got a car, a gym membership, and just kind of stopped eating breakfast, cut down my lunches, and I don’t know what I did for dinner. Regardless, the combination of weight lifting, fasting, and just less calories in general helped me go from 300lbs down to 265 when I graduated high school. I wasn’t quite sure what it was that worked, so I kept it all up until a depressive period saw my weight SOAR to 450. But when I finally discovered Atkins and keto 10 years after high school and really started to analyze my eating (and losing weight), I looked back and realized why I was likely fat:

There was sugar in EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY. My mom and grandma never wanted me to drink soda, but I drank probably 50+ ounces of fruit juice daily. I had skim milk – usually several glasses – with every meal at home. I had a binge-eating disorder that caused me to cram cookies and candy down my gullet whenever I was by myself, but even aside from those events, I still had peanut butter bars, cookies, whatever at my disposal all the time. Pop tarts or cereal for breakfast (because I couldn’t eat more than 2 eggs a week due to cholesterol!) When I was in high school, I worked at a fast food Italian place local to Springfield, and I remember subbing their plain, sweet, white bread for garlic bread when I ate my MASSIVE bowls of rigatoni with marinara because the meat sauce had a lot of fat in it and WHY WASN’T I LOSING WEIGHT GOSH.

Point is, carbs were everywhere. I was drinking them, I was eating more of them so that I could “eat healthy”, and at a certain point I’m sure they were scurrying into my mouth as I slept. It’s no wonder I wasn’t losing weight.

This is a good time to mention that childhood diabetes rates are at an all-time high. In a journal published in Diabetes Care in 2011, it’s stated before 2001, only 3% of new childhood diabetes cases were type 2. For the record, type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance – your body stops reacting to insulin, causing chronic high blood sugar levels. This is opposed to type 1 diabetes, which is from a damaged pancreas and a non-production of insulin. For what it’s worth, type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset” but that term has lost its meaning. Now over 45% of new childhood diabetes cases are type 2, and that number is growing. It’s projected that as many as 1/3 or even 2/3 children born in America will suffer from diabetes at this rate, and that’s pretty insane. For the record, diabetes is (type 2 anyway) completely preventable.  There’s not much out there about getting kids off sugar, because the understanding that sugar is the leading problem here isn’t widespread yet, but it needs to be.

If you’re not frightened at the prospect of the social impact of being obese for your child, consider the very real health ramifications of being obese, such as:

  • Significantly increased risk of lifelong obesity
  • Significantly increased risk of heart disease when diabetes occurs before the age of 20
  • Significantly increased risk of fatty liver disease, kidney disease, dislypidemia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, several types of cancer, stroke, diabetes-related amputation, etc.
  • Attention-related disorders
  • Mood swings, depression, tooth decay
  • I could keep going but I feel like the only thing worse than this stuff would be it literally turning your child into a bunch of snakes or pudding or something

Point is, you should be scared of these things. They’re very real – doctors are seeing cardiac patients in their twenties or teens for high blood pressure who have no family history or genetic component.

Make A Change

Fit2Father: One man's journey towards a healthier life and better parenting

I am not 100% advocating a keto lifestyle for your kids. It’s pretty hard and I’d no more recommend a nearly dogmatic approach to your children’s nutrition in keto than I would veganism or something. The main thing is assessing your kids’ diet – is it mostly processed? Is there just an insane amount of sugar? Do your kids have behavioral problems that aren’t quite clinical but are enough that you notice them?

Start by:

  • Do a journal – log your kids’ foods, at least what you can. Obviously older kids will be harder to pay attention to but the best bet would be to make this change while their young. Making notes about mood, activity, personality, etc will help you track changes that food makes in your kid.
  • Introduce healthy food slowly – make swaps. For our kids, we started small with swapping out their peanut butter (a go-to favorite snack) with plain, “natural” types that had literally nothing but peanuts and salt. They took to it just fine. Fruit replaced some candy and while fruit is pretty sugary, it’s 100% better than candy (in most cases).
  • Dilute fruit juices or try to phase them out altogether. Drinking calories is never productive. The same goes with pre-packaged “smoothies” – toss em.
  • Keep treats as treats. When your kids have candy every day, or cookies, or ice cream, it takes away from their special nature.
  • If you want some more tips, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you my “Breaking Kids’ Sugar Habit” download for free. It’s full of tips, tricks, and swaps to get your kids off their sugar addiction (and it might help you, too).

It’s no small feat getting kids off sugar, but every little bit you cut is a step towards better health for you and your family. Make the effort, get help, and change your life for good.

 

 

Keto Cinnamon-Vanilla Walnut Butter

Low carb cinnamon-vanilla walnut butter

Almond Butter Is Too Expensive

There, I said it. Everyone THINKS it, but I’m done living in the shadows. No more will we be oppressed by high nut butter prices, especially when it’s insanely easy to make them at home yourself. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s mostly hands-free, with the exception being a few scrapes down the side of your food processor every five minutes or so. That said, I’m also tired of almond butter. I don’t much care for almonds – I’ll eat them, but I’m not overly excited at the prospect – but every paleo or keto blog or recipe I see that extols the virtues of almonds has lead to burnout for me. No more, go away, I’m done.

Enter the walnut!

Walnuts are spectacular for low carb dieting, as well as paleo, or simply for regular people wanting an extremely healthy fat in their diet. Walnuts are full of omega-3s, folate, magnesium, and have a strong link with increasing brain health, particularly in inferential reasoning (in adolescents especially). This is perfect because honestly they look like little brains:

See? This picture is Cartesian, spooky, AND delicious. Brain in a jar!

Plus walnuts are just simply delicious. Give this walnut butter a try when they’re cheap and plentiful during the summer and fall – fresh walnuts are divine, though you can also do this without breaking the bank when walnuts are on sale for holiday baking. The beauty is that crushed or chopped walnuts are usually fairly cheap, as people want whole ones for pretty cookies. We don’t; we don’t care what you look like, walnuts, keto loves you just the way you are.

You can season them any way you want; I chose vanilla and cinnamon because those are the best flavors, but you can choose a lesser set of spices if you want.

Walnut Butter Ingredients

16 oz raw walnuts
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Pyure sweetener (you can add more to taste, but I don’t recommend more than 1 tbsp at a time)
2 tbsp coconut oil

Start by gathering up your walnuts. Here I chose peak-of-the-season, organic walnuts picked straight from my grandfather’s ancient grove:

Don't need no fancy walnuts
Only the finest plastic bag was used to contain these heirloom walnuts from the store that I bought on sale.

Just kidding; these were chopped walnuts on deep discount from Aldi. Though my grandpa does have walnut trees, so I’ll be pilfering some in the summer. If your walnuts come a little bit bigger and more orderly than these (which were pre-chopped), you can break them down a bit to get them to fit in your food processor a little better, but you don’t really need to.

Before we start to grind them, we’ll give them a quick toasting:

The benefits of two cast iron skillets cannot be stressed enough.

You don’t want them to burn, so keep it at medium-low heat and make sure you’re tossing them around every couple minutes. Also to ensure even toasting, I separated my pound of walnuts into two pans, each with one layer of nuts. Toast for about 8 minutes, then toss them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge for a few minutes, just long enough for you to set up your food processor.

Pour your walnuts into the bowl of the food processor, and start on low speed. If you have a grind option, maybe use that, but I just used the regular chop option and let it run. At first, it’s going to grind them into meal, and it will creep up the sides, so your first few scrapes down the sides of your processor will happen relatively quickly after you’ve started. Let them blend, taking care to keep an eye for side-creep and scraping accordingly, for about 5 minutes. At this point, it should start to get pasty. You’ll add in your coconut oil now; this will help ensure it keeps a creamy consistency (and you can’t taste it). Blend for another 5 minutes.

It should look something like this:

Paleo/Keto Walnut Butter
Not quite there, but getting close!

 

At this point, add in your spices. As I said, I used cinnamon and vanilla, but you can use anything that’s reasonable. Not nacho cheese or cool ranch, please – pretty sure you can go to jail for that.

I also used Pyure sweetener. It’s stevia-based, and it doesn’t have that weird aftertaste that pure stevia has, nor does it have that odd cooling mouth-feel that pure erythritol has. I highly recommend it:

Not pictured: me spilling that little thing of vanilla a wee bit.

Now you’ve spiced and oiled your walnut butter, we’re in the home stretch. Continue blending for another 10 minutes, scraping down the sides as you need to, though at this point it should be good to go on its own. After 10 minutes, give it one more good scrape and blend for another 5 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. I was done after about 17 minutes total, but mine were already broken down when I started.

Voila! Your very own walnut butter that took little effort and cost essentially half what you’d pay for a comparable store-prepared nut butter. I’ve found that cashew, walnut, and pecan butter are even more expensive than almond and that’s if you can even find them in stores. This has the added benefit of no sugar and no artificial weirdness. It’s toasty, spicy, and perfectly sweet.

Delicious, keto, paleo-friendly walnut butter.

Walnut Butter Uses

What can you do with it? Well anything! Use it for recipes where you would use peanut or almond butter, spread it on apples if you’re eating apples, or just eat a tablespoon when you’re craving something sweet. One of my favorite snacks is 2 tablespoons mixed in with some plain greek yogurt and a pinch of Pyure. It’s perfectly sweet, has a good dose of protein, and it’s not a carby mess like store-bought flavored yogurts.

When summer comes along, I’ll be doing a recipe spot on pecan butter. I LOVE pecans, and it’s a little bit different to make than other butters, but it’s so worth it.

How will you use your new keto walnut butter?

 

Going Sugar-Free, Part 1: Know Your Enemy

Why Purge Sugar?

As humans, our bodies normally operate in a state called “glycolysis” in which we burn sugar for energy (the other metabolic state is “ketosis”, where you burn fat). Though our bodies want glucose to function, too much and you eventually can end up diabetic, along with a host of other potential disastrous consequences. In a perfect world, we’d be in the middle all the time, eating enough carbs to keep us alert and energetic, but not enough to make us sick. The problem is people don’t handle moderation that well. Most of the rest of the world, outside of the US I mean, has an upper limit of added sugar in their daily diet that is deemed healthy. For most of the world, that’s about 20-25g a day, but Americans in particular are eating about 85g/day, which is about 60 pounds of added sugar a year. 60 pounds is a lot of ANYTHING; 60 pounds of spinach would qualify you to change your current job to “brachiosaurus”, but 60 pounds of sugar doesn’t make you a dinosaur, it makes you sick. This is a 3-part series on getting to understand your sugar intake and how to identify sugar in your diet, ways to change your eating habits to drastically lessen your sugar intake, and finally how to kick your family’s sugar habit (especially for your kids). Buckle up, there’s learnin’ to be done.

 

credit: www.morguefile.com
White? Check. Powdery? Check? Addictive? Check. Yep, sugar is a drug.

 

 

Why Is This Bad?

Well, aside from the fact that adding 60 extra pounds of nearly anything into your diet will likely add weight to your body in general, sugar is rough for your body in excess. I am refraining from using the word “toxic” because toxic has very specific meaning scientifically, and sugar isn’t literally toxic. It is, however, unhealthy. The short reasoning is:

  • Blood sugar causes the pancreas to secrete insulin
  • Chronically high insulin levels make the pancreas work harder, damaging it over time
  • High insulin also diminishes leptin, which is the hormone that suppresses hunger
  • We eat more, so blood sugar rises higher, which leads to more insulin
  • Cells resist insulin and eventually, high blood glucose damages organ blood vessels
  • Damaged blood vessels cause heart, kidney, liver, and pancreatic disease, as well as diabetes and other metabolic diseases

 

The Standard American Diet (SAD HA HOW CLEVER)

It’s really not far from the mark that the acronym of the regular way an American (or really, most of the western world) eats. It’s high in carbs, fat, sugar, and grease, none of it really healthy, and most of it processed in a way that would make Dr. Frankenstein cringe. Some data(I love data):

  • The average American eats out 4-5 times a week.
  • The average fast food meal contains 800 calories or more
  • HOWEVER, American adults tend to underestimate the calories in their meals by 178 calories or more
  • Teens fare worse, underestimating the calories in fast food meals by 259 calories or more
  • A little math reveals that 4 meals at 800 calories apiece is 3200 calories a week. A pound of fat is about 3500 calories.
  • Averaging the 178 and the 259 gives us 219, and if we multiply that underestimation by 4 meals a week over 52 weeks, we have about 45,552 calories, or 13 pounds of fat unaccounted for.

Unaccounted-for calories can pack on the weight, particularly since if you’re not minding calories at the fast food joint, you’re likely not in any other setting, either. Poor food choices are indicative of poor health habits (or at least correlated to them). This is where the SAD’s negative impact is compounded by lifestyle choices; poor food choices laden with artificial flavors and sugar will condition your palate to only crave highly processed food that’s nearly universally without nutritional merit. This in turn leads to overconsumption of calories, as highly-processed food is most often loaded with energy. Overconsumption leads to weight gain, weight gain leads to inactivity, inactivity leads to more weight gain and insulin resistance, which leads to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, etc.

So Am I Saying All Carbs Are Bad?

Not at all – various beans and quinoa are both examples of great carbs. Both are healthy and they taste pretty good, and beyond complex carbs, they offer protein and other nutrients that your body needs. Bread isn’t really useful, though it tastes good, and all things bready – pancakes, cupcakes, …cakes – are probably best avoided except for rare occasions. I think the best policy is moderation, but if you’re very far to one end of the bad spectrum on overeating sugar, then you’ll need to purge it first. As before, I prefer purge to “detox” because “detox” has specific meaning, and although sugar behaves in an addictive way to our brains, it’s still not the same, so let’s examine how to purge our systems of and dependency on, sugar.

These steps are meant to be taken for 1 week – 7 days. Follow these fairly simple rules, as we’re going to establish where you stand on overindulging in sugar/carbs. You might not be too bad off, or you might find yourself next week shocked at your sugar intake and ready to change your eating habits for good.

1. Weigh Yourself and Take Measurements

You’ll be making minor adjustments to your diet – primarily you’ll be monitoring everything you eat, and also making some substitutions. It’s worth getting some baseline information at first, because after a week you might see that even minor changes can produce positive results.

2. Gauge Your Sugar Intake

This step is simple. Download a food log (I personally use Myfitnesspal) and log EVERYTHING you eat, every day. If you don’t have a smart phone, I suggest using a small notepad and logging everything that way, then going to your computer and entering it into your food log. Then, keep track of your macros – fat, carbs, protein, and calories – every night. The log will do this for you, but I further suggest writing it down in a separate log. Putting it to paper makes it more real. That’s it – you’re just logging for the first week.

3. Observe Your Labels

Start really reading your ingredient lists. Did you know there are over 60 names for sugar that are approved for nutrition labels? And something that says “no sugar added” or “sugar free” can still have high fructose corn syrup or honey or something similar, which is still sugar, just run through a semantics filter. While you should be paying attention to the carbs and sugar sections of your nutritional labels, getting a feel for ingredient lists and where sugar hides is essential to understanding just how entrenched it is in our diets. Here’s a graphic with just some of the names – bear in mind that none of these is “healthier” than the others. They’re all just sugar, and though there’s trace minerals in honey and molasses that pure sugar doesn’t have, it’s not enough to warrant using them in excess:

4.Try Some Substitutions

Swap white rice for quinoa, try using lettuce leaves for burgers instead of buns, with the knowledge that, for this week at least, you have the option of going back to what you’re used to. This way you can experiment with healthier alternatives and it’s less frightening than just taking the plunge. I fully understand that psychological effect of “fear of missing out” of your favorite foods. This first week is about opening yourself up to change and also to establish a baseline of your current eating habits, so trying healthy options is a great way to breach that threshold.

5. Reach Out

With as popular as keto and paleo diets are now, you surely have a friend or several who have jumped down the sugar-free rabbit hole. I highly recommend seeking out support from other people. Changing your diet is hard because food is so psychological to us. It’s cultural, mental, comforting, and not least of all essential for survival. Having someone who has been there to talk to can greatly impact your chance at success.

 

That’s all for this week. Next week we’ll talk about transitioning into a sugar-free, whole-foods way of eating.

Part 3 of this series will focus on helping your family, particularly kids, transition off of sugar addiction. Stay tuned!

How To Make Your Fat Loss Resolution Stick

 

 

Another year, another chance at a new you!

Except not really – every single day is a chance at a new you. In fact, you don’t even have to wait until you wake up. Start right now – stop eating sugar from this point forward. Start running right now, even if it’s only for a few blocks, then do it again tomorrow. Every meal is a choice, every bit of free time you have is a chance at creating something fantastic.

That said, this piece is about making a fat loss resolution stick, but still keep that first bit in mind; that first bit is gold. That mentality will be part of keeping you on track to making your goals a reality this year, that and these other things.

Part 1: Diet

And in this sense, I don’t mean diet as in some kind of fad where you eat in tune with your blood type, or you only eat certain colors of vegetables or when the moon is in a certain phase. That’s all woo-woo. I also don’t mean “diet” in a deprivation sense. You will need to cut calories to lose weight of course, that’s how it works, but I’m not talking about only eating plain potatoes and celery every day. I’m referring to everything you eat, what makes up your way of eating.

1 – Fat loss is about 20% exercise and 80% diet. There’s an old adage “bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym”. That’s because you really can’t “earn” calories by exercising them off, and most machines or apps that estimate how many calories you burn doing any given activity are pretty bad at their job. So many things go into how many calories you expend and what fuel your body uses for that energy that saying “running for 1 hour burns X amount of calories if you weight Y” is pretty useless.

2 – Sugar is in everything AND it’s pretty bad for you, so cut it out. Modern nutritional research has pretty conclusive evidence that fat – demonized for years as the cause of heart disease and obesity-related diseases like diabetes and PCOS – is actually pretty healthy for you. It’s the sugar we were pushed to instead of fat that wreaks havoc on our hormones and bodies. In addition to restricting calories to lose fat, cutting out added sugar should be another primary concern.

3 – Choose a way of eating that works for you. For me, keto was the way of eating that stuck. It keeps you full, prevents blood sugar swings that cause ravenous hunger, and helps retain muscle when you’re losing weight. Other people though might not be able to swing bacon, cheese, and eggs all the time. The good news is you can still lose weight! Veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, etc – there’s a million ways to cut fat without compromising your way of eating or filling yourself with garbage food, or wasting money on stupid food gimmick shakes. The keys are cutting calories, cutting out/drastically reducing added sugar, and eating whole foods as much as possible. Following those guidelines, it’s pretty simple to lose fat.

Part 2: Exercise

1 – Pick a physical activity you love, and do that everyday. You want to be aiming for at least 30 minutes a day of activity above-and-beyond whatever your normal life is. Make sure this added activity is something you actually enjoy, otherwise it’s not going to stick. If you love hockey, practice drills or skating. If you like lifting weights, do that, but no matter what, don’t pick something you hate just because it’s supposed to be awesome or burn a ton of calories.

2 – That said, make sure you’re doing some strength-training. Studies show that weight training provides the best increase of insulin sensitivity of nearly all exercises. In addition, added muscle mass improves your metabolism, protects against injury, and makes you look better (ok, so that last one is subjective).

3 – Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see weight fly off. In fact, weight should be one of the last indicators of success you look at, though predictably it will probably be the first. Be sure to take measurements of your body: neck, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calf, bicep, and forearm. Measure these weekly. Take frequent pictures as well – these non-weight measurements might change far faster than the scale budges, due to a complex interaction of hormones, fluids, and other factors. Two weeks of dedicated healthy eating and exercise might not move the scale much but you could find clothes fitting better, inches gone from your waist, and a decrease in fluid retention.

Part 3: Mindset

1 – Don’t take on too much at once. Rigorous exercise plan, drastic dietary change, cutting caffeine, soda, cigarettes. People tend to see the new year as a time that they will turn into saints and give up their vices. Though this is a noble thought, doing it all at once will almost certainly fail, and worse yet, you’ll be miserable. Start with one thing, or small bites of several (changing your diet and adding in some simple, fun exercise is a great place to start for instance), and diligently stick to them until they’re habit. After that, look forward to your next goal to tackle.

2 – Recruit. Friends, family, strangers – it doesn’t matter. There is substantial evidence that making a goal vocal, even if it’s simply stating it to a close friend, makes you more likely to stick with it. Perhaps its the fear of public failure, or the desire to prove to yourself and others that you can succeed, but regardless, recruit people into your changes, even if it’s only as spectators. Join some weight loss Facebook groups, start tagging your progress pics on Instagram with trending hashtags, or start a blog about your journey and share it with anyone who will listen. Having a cheering section does wonders for your motivation.

3 – You only fail if you give up. Platitudes aside, this is one I’ve struggled with because of my binge eating. The number of times that I’d started a diet, or an exercise routine, and then went off target and then said “screw it” and binged is difficult to count. People derail all the time – parties, holidays, birthdays – all tempt us to eat bad food, drink booze to excess, or stop exercising. The worst thing we can do after this is to say “well, I’ve already screwed up, I’ll just screw up some more”. In these cases, you need to regain your senses, cut your losses, dust yourself off, and get back on the path. I mean, if we’re being literal and you are on a path and you go off the path, just, you know, get back on that path. It’s right there, just go back. Don’t go into the forest, no matter how many pizzas and beers are there.

4 – Plan. Exercise routines, meal plans, grocery lists, and contingencies for hiccups. If you start a low carb diet and you’ve got a beautiful meal plan worked out, but your daughter suddenly has banjo practice, are you going to hit a drive thru? No! Have some chicken or burgers cooked up. Wake up late and no time to exercise? Have a quick, 10 minute routine worked out for those occasions and skip the coffee shop that morning. Always have a back-up plan because life is full of detours and side quests.

Make 2017 your year for sure, but make tonight your night, and make tomorrow morning your morning. Stick to your resolutions because life isn’t about the broad strokes until you’ve passed those moments by and can look back at the painting. Life is about the little choices, the nuances of colors made up by your decisions with your time. Every meal is a choice, every second of leisure time unspent until you choose to allocate them someplace, and choice is the keyword here. Go, you crazy chooser. Go choose good things.

 

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Butternut Squash soup, easy crockpot dinner, easy slowcooker dinner, low-carb soup, low carb dinner, low carb slow cooker

Crockpot cooking is a constant in my family, given our desire to eat healthy but also save time. Now that it’s Fall(ish) here in Illinois, it’s time to adjust our diets once more to allow for a few gluttonous days (looking at you, Thanksgiving), but still allow ourselves delicious meals on a daily basis.

Enter: Butternut Squash soup

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, slow cooker soup recipe

This butternut squash soup has become a staple throughout the colder months and it’s not only an absolutely amazing comfort food, but it’s fairly healthy, too!

Required equipment:

  • Crockpot/Slowcooker
  • Immersion blender (we have this one and it’s my absolute most favorite kitchen tool!)

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, slow cooker soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, diced
  • 1 Large Onion, diced
  • 1 Medium-Sized Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 Cup of Baby Carrots (chopped regular carrots are fine, too)
  • 2 Apples (Granny Smith tastes best for this recipe, imo), diced
  • 1/8th tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4th tsp of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/4th tsp salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream (optional, and to be put in at the end)

Place stock, garlic, onion, squash, carrots, apple, and seasonings in the crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, until the squash is soft.

Using the immersion blender, puree the mix until smooth, then stir in the cream.

Serve with optional garnishes, such as red pepper or sour cream.

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, slow cooker soup recipe

It makes about 6 servings, depending on how garnishes and cream, but just the soup itself, per serving (assuming 6) breaks down like:

Calories: 126
Fat: 5 (this is with the cream)
Carbs: 15
Fiber: 3
Protein: 1

It’s a warming, delicious fall side or light meal if coupled with a solid protein, like roast pork. Depending on if you’re in the very early stages of low carb eating or not, the 12 net carbs per serving might be “a lot” for you, but it’s fairly low carb and low GI, in addition to being crammed with vitamins.

Enjoy!

 

What’s your favorite part about Fall (other than Halloween, of course…)?