Why We Love Comfort Food + 3 Steps to Cut the Cravings

Mac & cheese
Rice pudding
Cream of chicken soup
Cookies
Asian noodles

What is it about certain foods that calm you under stress? That call your name when you’re feeling down? That make you feel better like nothing else can?

Is it possible to feel better without them?

For me, it’s always something creamy – pudding, ice cream, fettuccine alfredo. You might prefer chips & onion dip, or go for a bagel with melted cheese.

Looked at rationally, through my “professional” lens, most people I ask come up with some form of starchy carb, often accompanied by dairy. Inevitably, it’s something from the naughty list.

In times of strife, we don’t tend to crave the healthy choices. Nope. We want the sweet, fatty, starchy, salty, oily stuff that we so piously avoid on the good days.

“Bad” as they are, those choices make nutritional sense.

When you’re in stress mode, the hormonal cascade acts to draw more glucose into your blood. It’s the fuel necessary for you to flee from or fight with the tiger at hand. The liver will access that energy by tapping your small storage reserves, then by converting fat & protein to make more.

This is great if you’re dealing with a short-term situation (or going for a fat-burning power walk). Your body will rebalance in the hours following the episode.

But when the stress continues all day – when the tigers keep showing up in the form of traffic jams, computer glitches, unruly kids, etc. – the recovery doesn’t happen. Your body continues to use and need glucose to drive you through the ongoing crises, shunting this key nutrient away from your brain & nervous system. Read: your ability to think straight and stay emotionally calm goes out the window.

Step in the cravings:

The (starchy, refined) carbs are the quickest route to more glucose.

You want dairy because it’s full of the calcium to nourish & calm your nerves. Plus, when it’s main protein (casein) is broken down, it creates opiate-like compounds that keep you happy & ease your pain, just like endorphins during exercise. (There’s a reason your grandmother gave you warm milk before bed.) Cheese, with its relatively high protein content, is the biggest source of these casomorphins – a fact which makes cheese highly addictive.

Salt, sugar and fat stimulate the brain to release dopamine and other pleasure chemicals in the brain, making you feel better.

Unfortunately, sweet & salty also stimulate the adrenal glands, keeping them pumping out the stress hormones, which can set up a vicious cycle. Coffee, and anything you’ve got an underlying allergy to, also perpetuate the drama in the same way.

Beyond the nutrient factors, and possibly more influential in your choices, you quite likely have an emotional association to the comfort food of choice.

My mother’s a big one for offering snack to a child who’s out of sorts. (This is something I notice more from how she treats her grandchildren than from any conscious recollection from my own childhood.) She’s working from the innocent premise that the moodiness stems from low blood sugar. But even in the face of a child who’s hurt or needing emotional solace she’s not equipped to offer, out come the cookies.

It’s a case of the spoonful of sugar replacing the necessary medicine.

A client once told me how she can easily eat a large bag of chips in lieu of supper when she’s upset. I delved deeper into her story: it turns out that the only time she got anything resembling positive attention from a violent, alcoholic father, it was when he was on an upswing, and he’d bring home chips to have a party. There would be a brief window of laughter and hugs. For her, chips = love.

That’s powerful stuff.

I could ask you similar questions about your own cravings. Maybe not such an extreme case, but I’ve no doubt that you have an emotional connection, a fond memory of a loved one or a special time in your life, linked to what you want in times of strife.

Which becomes the key to moving past the craving for that food.

Before I go there, let me step back into the nutrition piece.

Reason #742 of why it’s important to be well nourished on a regular basis: Eating a solid breakfast and well-balanced meals throughout the day lays the foundation on which you build your health.

When you’re well fed – when your reserves are stocked up – you’re prepared to deal with a crisis if and when it comes up. And this can be anything: a car accident, a sick child or parent, a break-up, losing your job, getting a new job, a move, a death,…

In the midst of the turmoil, if you fall off the good eating wagon, for various understandable reasons, it won’t harm your in the long run, and you’ll recover more quickly.

You can nourish yourself in a similar way on an emotional level. Doing the inner work beforehand prepares you for the acute times as they happen…and they will happen.

It’s a 3-Step Process:

1. Get relaxed and tap into the person or memory that’s connected with the food.

What did/does this person mean to you?

What was she/he providing along with the food?

Hot buttered toast brings me back to my grandparents’ kitchen with the smell of fresh-baked bread coming out of the oven. This was a place where I felt appreciated and understood.

Or, What did the food convey that they could not?

Again, my mother’s cookies and ice cream replace the warm hug and words of encouragement a child needs after a disappointment or a fall.

2. Think of the last time you craved that food.

What was happening? How were you feeling?

What did you need, deep down?

How are those needs met by the feelings you associate with the comfort food?

Rather than pop some bread into the toaster, I might ask myself in what way do I need to be appreciated or understood in this current situation. Do I need loving arms and encouragement rather than a cookie.

3. Fill the void by fulfilling the underlying need.

Get help if you need it.

Talk to a friend.

Call the person in question, even if just to connect.

Who else do you know who can provide what’s missing?

How can YOU be the one to give you what you need?

That said, sometimes, a cookie’s just a cookie, and it’s ok to simply want it.

What do you crave when you’re upset? What do you think it’s doing for you emotionally? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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image by aschaeffer via freeimages.com

Nourish your Body as a Gift to your Soul

Today we get to the last piece of the self-care as spiritual puzzle. (But by no means the last you’ll hear of the subject from me!)

Your body.

We might be living in a time when eating and exercise verge on religious obsession, but taking care of the body as spiritual? Really?

Yes, really. Let me explain.

First I’ll reiterate: You’re a spiritual being having a human experience. The body is simply the vessel that enables that experience of life on Earth to happen.

Your body is your hostess.

The relationship you have with a hostess can determine the quality and length of your visit anywhere. Treat your hostess with kindness and gratitude, she’ll bend over backwards to make your stay pleasant. From the other perspective, if she fulfills your desires and makes you comfortable, your stay will be effortless.

Perhaps an over-simple metaphor, but you get the picture.

This is why I firmly believe – and continually teach clients – that listening to your body really is the key to healing whatever ails you.

Talking over this concept with my friend Dana the other night, she worded it so perfectly – and in a way I’d not considered: Maintaining health is a reciprocal trust between my body and myself.

Think about that for a minute.

Do I trust my body?

Does my body trust me? Not an easy one to ponder.

Do I betray my body? Or, if I’m more honest, HOW do I betray my body?

But doesn’t my body betray me as well?

Actually not.

Your body isn’t betraying you when it erupts in pain, discomfort, anxiety attacks, etc. She’s telling you plainly that you haven’t treated her right and she’s not happy about it. Maybe she’s trying to tell you something that you can’t, or refuse, to hear, so the pain has to get bigger and louder. You know, like: “Mom. Mom. Mom! Mo-o-om! MOOOOM!!!”

I’ll even go a step further and say that your soul’s not happy and expresses her displeasure through your body. Because the body provides the means for your spirit to function daily, any messages it has for you will be sent via that medium.

bosy last voice of soul

Dana posted this on Facebook the day after our chat.

This isn’t an airy-fairy concept that requires years of meditation training. Your soul speaks to you constantly in a language you understand: sensations, tension, energy levels, seemingly random thoughts and images.

Building trust is a conversation. A two-way street.

A relationship. It’s taken years to establish the one you’re currently in with your body.

Whatever the relationship: hostess, child, friend, lover, it takes time to understand who the other is.

As you get to know a child or a new lover, you gradually pick up and understand the little signals they send. You become attuned to the non-verbal cues, facial expressions and mood changes that let you know how they feel, and what they want. Your own body works the same way.

When you get right down to it, self-care is an expression of self-love. And it’s the means by which you build the relationship with your Self.

The deeper and closer the relationship, the better you’ll understand the subtle nudges and cues she gives you. Then she won’t need to cry so loudly to get your attention.

Care for yourself as you would for any loved one.

Feed your body as you would your dearest friend. Talk to her like you would to your child. Indulge her as if she were the most precious lover. Show her appreciation as you would the most gracious hostess.

What I’m trying to say is, put your love into action. Changes don’t happen in the body unless you embody them. (Duh!)

How do I hear what my body and soul are saying?

All you have to do is listen.

Whenever I’m unhappy with any aspect of my life, I distill whatever the issue until I find the need underneath. Usually, it ends up being some variation of

I want to be heard. I want to be loved. I want to be appreciated. All pathways to my core need for connection.

These same themes came up as I sifted through a particular issue I’ve been having lately around work. Talking to Dana the other night, I was reminded yet again to find these qualities in myself, rather than seek them elsewhere. That’s when it hit me:

My body wants to be heard.
My body wants to be loved
My body wants to be appreciated.

Turns out, that’s what my body was trying to say when I was curled up with gallbladder pain earlier this year. When my moods are off the wall, when my energy’s dipped beyond reason.

Ultimately, it’s my inner self, my soul, that needs to be loved, heard and appreciated. What better way than to offer her the most beautiful, healthy home I can?

Fortunately, even if you can’t quite hear the voice of your soul yet, there are some pretty common ways to get you started on the road to nourishing your body more…and building that trust!

Eat a good breakfast. I’ve always known it to be critical to the day, but I’ve recently recommitted to eating a proper breakfast and it’s made a huge difference to my day. (I’ll be elaborating this one in my next blog!)

Limit sugar, cut out poor quality fats, eat more veggies. Yeah, yeah, you know the drill…this is not news.

Practice loving movement. Yoga, running, zumba, kick-boxing,…whatever. Find a physical activity that lights you up and makes your cells dance.

MOST IMPORTANTLY…

Eat what you love and love what you eat. How can you create a loving relationship if you have to pinch your nose while you’re doing it? The best way to derive nourishment from the food you feed your body is to embrace it with your whole being, so your body can embrace it in return, and put the nutrients to their best use.

The challenge now is to DO it!

Embody healthy changes by putting them into action!

If you’re ready to hear more deeply what your body’s saying: I would LOVE to help. Breaking the ice on that conversation is what I do best. Drop me a line, and we’ll talk about it!

Before you go, pop into the comments and tell me one thing you do that makes your body feel nourished and loved. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

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Our Obsession with Protein Part II: The Straight Facts

I recently gave a talk about food at the local running club and, naturally, the discussion veered towards protein. This happens because people associate it directly to muscle. Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg where protein facts are concerned.

In exploring the beautiful reflection you see in your meals through the Magic Looking Glass for Eating Right, you are also learning to reflect a deeper care of yourself. This is self-love in action. Eating a balance of nourishing food you enjoy is one of the concrete ways you express self-love – it’s a form of radical self-care. Each of the nutrients in the looking glass framework offer you an important angle for eating right AND show you how you can nourish your best self.

 

WHY YOU NEED PROTEIN

As explained in Part I of this segment, protein is the building block for every aspect of your physical container. It’s the structural material for all connective tissue in the body:

  • Your protective layer: skin, mucous membranes, nails & hair;
  • Cartilage, ligaments and tendons to hold you together;
  • Muscles so you can move;
  • Your nutrient & communication highway: blood vessels and the blood itself;
  • Bones & teeth: yes, they need calcium, phosphorous, fluorine and magnesium to give your body solidity, but those minerals are encrusted on a protein matrix, like a heavily beaded bodysuit.

 

“Protein gives me energy.”

Yes & No.

Protein does indeed provide energy (calories), but because it’s required for so many specific jobs in the body, it’s more practical to rely on carbohydrates & fat for most of your energy needs.

The extra energy boost you feel from protein has more to do with the functional molecules that do the physiological work and keep communication flowing.

  1. Hormones of Action:
    • regulate & control all bodily functions from the glands in your brain;
    • control your very metabolism (how you use calories);
    • keep your blood sugar (brain food) balanced;
  2. Neurotransmitters: send electrical & chemical impulses through your brain & body for instantaneous responses to life with its many twists & turns;
  3. Antibodies: help maintain your integrity by creating boundaries between what’s yours and what isn’t;
  4. Enzymes: facilitate just about every chemical reaction – and there are millions.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED

The body recycles and reuses amino acids (the units that link to form protein) in whatever combination is needed at a given time.

Because of that sustainable quality,  protein has the lowest requirement of all the macronutrients – only 10-15% of caloric intake, as compared to 65% & 25%, more or less, for carbohydrates and fat.

Protein facts: how much do YOU need

Protein Math: click on the image for the full view

NUMBERS ARE GREAT, BUT HOW DOES THAT TRANSLATE INTO FOOD?

It’s not as difficult as we seem to think.

First, a reality check: the average American eats 100 g of protein daily. Much more than enough; an amount that sets us up for problems(I’ll get to that in a sec). Let’s look at the true needs of our example from above: a 140 lb woman.

Protein facts: how to find what you need in food

For a great article about plant-based protein: http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/my-crazy-sexy-guide-to-plant-based-protein/

For a summary of amounts in conventional protein-rich food: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/highproteinfood.htm

NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN

When you don’t eat enough protein, you lose body mass: hair, nails, skin, then muscle starts to break down; wounds don’t heal well and you get sick more easily; you become lethargic, and in the extreme your blood will degenerate. In fact, any of those signs could be a red flag that you need more protein in your diet.

Continuing the analogy of the temple from Part I, when you don’t replace damaged bricks, nor maintain the mortar, the structure will eventually crumble. Necessary tasks will remain undone when you spread the staff too thin.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

The other day, I heard someone at book club announce, “You could never get enough protein.” Why, oh why do we hold onto the idea that if some is good, more must be better?

Eating too much protein doesn’t come without a price on your health. As a reflection of the consumer society in which we live, a high percentage of protein in the diet creates issues similar to the overcrowded landfills and plastic islands in the ocean.

High protein consumption

  • Dehydrates the body: water is necessary to the reaction that breaks peptide chains (strings of amino acids) apart.
  • Increases tissue acidity, the playground of inflammation and feeding trough for cancer. Calcium & other vital minerals are drawn out of your bones to buffer the acid.

To make up for a relatively low intake of carbohydrates, amino acids are converted to glucose for energy, an inefficient conversion that requires energy to perform.

  • This same reaction creates ketones and nitrogen-based bi-products, which in turn
  • Force the kidneys work harder to eliminate the wastes, potentially allowing them to back up in a toxic traffic jam.

All this extra peeing is how protein has become the latest panacea in our eternal quest for weight loss solutions: That big initial weight drop is nothing more than water loss.

 

ARE YOU ABLE TO TAKE IT ALL IN?

Let’s talk about this concretely:

So you eat adequate protein for your age, gender, activity level (see the box above), yet how much of it are you absorbing?

Before the protein-digesting enzymes can do their job, a protein needs to be denatured (uncoiled) by stomach acid. Not enough acid, and that protein stays pretty much intact through the rest of the digestive ride, leading to putrefaction.

Translation: feeling full & heavy or heartburn after a meal (esp. if it includes meat); bloating & smelly gas; constipation. (As well as the signs of low protein mentioned above)

The good news is that this is easily fixed

  1. a) lay off the antacids (talk to your health care professional if you have an ulcer or true high stomach acid);
  2. b) drink a glass of warm water with 1 tsp of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar before your meals (or after, if you have heartburn)

 

Hope this helps clear up some of the confusion. If you have any questions, bring them to the comments at the bottom of this page, so everyone can benefit. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

Be sure to share these protein facts with all your healthy-food-rules concsious friends using any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

Self-Love: The Secret to Attracting (& Keeping) True Love

It’s my birthday week! So I’m giving myself the gift of a little blogging break. And since it also happens to be Valentine’s Day week, I’m giving YOU a gift too! Please welcome my colleague, Law of Attraction Love Coach Tanner Kennedy. Who better to talk to you about maintaining the health of your love life?

THE RELATIONSHIP EPIDEMIC

We are experiencing an epidemic.

Have you noticed over the last twenty years it seems so few relationships last? I can’t even count the number of people I know who have broken up in the last 6 months alone.

And they all have a common theme…they are characterized by chaos, confusion and disappointment.

I believe the reason so many relationships have crumbled in the last twenty years is because divorce and being single are now viable and accepted options. People are less likely to stay in unfulfilling relationships just because it’s the “right” thing to do.

People are ending unfulfilling relationships at an alarming rate. This also shows people have been creating unfulfilling relationships at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, the trend in unfulfilling relationships doesn’t help solve one of our core fundamental needs as a human ~ to love unconditionally and be loved unconditionally. And, not just by your parents and friends, but by a partner on an intimate level.

We are the product of broken homes or, sometimes, even worse, the product of parents who stayed together in the absence of love.

And this creates more and more people who want to experience true love but won’t risk their hearts to find it.

Why?

Because we were raised to believe love doesn’t really work, so we run from the prospect of it.

But this only leaves us with feelings of helpless frustration because we still have the yearning deep down inside to experience the feeling of unconditional love. 

It makes us wonder if there is a solution to create a lasting fulfilling relationship.

THE SOLUTION

We think the answer to true love is external, when in reality, we have had it all along. It is inside of us.

The solution is Self-Love.

Many of us look for someone or something to fulfill us, to make us whole.

I did it for years. I thought if I can get into a relationship then I can start the life I have always wanted. Instead, what I got was extremely unfulfilling; a string of men who would never commit. The exact opposite of what I truly desired.

What I eventually learned was the only way to be fulfilled is to learn to love yourself unconditionally.

Based on the principles of the Law of Attraction, you attract people who reflect who you truly believe you are on the inside.

When you have the capacity to love yourself unconditionally, you will then attract a person who reflects what you believe: that you are worthy of unconditional love.

That is true love, the kind that lasts. Not the pretend kind of love that looks to another for fulfillment.

A LOVE STORY

To show you how learning to love yourself unconditionally works, I want to share this true life example.

I started working with a client who had been seeing this man off and on for over a year, but he would never commit.

There was definitely a strong connection between them, but he would never move forward with the relationship.

She was dumbfounded as to why. I was not. I not only experienced this myself, but had seen it so many times in others.

They were perfect reflections of each other. They both had commitment issues. They just came out in different ways.

I worked with her to help her love herself unconditionally.

As soon as she started working on herself and making some changes, she suddenly started to notice a change in his behavior. It was like a miracle was happening right before her eyes. He started slowly moving the relationship forward.

The more she worked on herself, the more he became invested in her and a possible relationship.

Since their energy was tied, by her working on herself, she energetically helped him work on himself.

It’s a true example of how the Law of Attraction works in relationships.

If you are currently in a relationship and it’s not going as you would like, try focusing on loving yourself as much as possible and see what happens.

And, if you aren’t in a relationship, focus on loving yourself and you will start the process of attracting a person who loves themselves as well.

Share in the comments below how you have learned to love yourself unconditionally. Sharing your tips and techniques will only help you and others attract amazing love into your life.

To Creating the Love Life You Desire,

Tanner-Signature

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Coach TannerTanner Kennedy is a Law of Attraction Love Coach. Her mission is to help women create the love life they desire by using the theory of the law of attraction along with a healthy dose of self-love. She is currently working on an online program for people who have ended a relationship and lost their “joy”. This self-paced program teaches you how to get back to yourself, discover your inner joy and build a rock-solid foundation to create long-lasting love in the future. If you would like more information on this program or techniques to help you on your path to unconditional self-love, sign up for Tanner’s newsletter. Tanner lives in Charleston, SC, where she enjoys the being surrounding by the beautiful natural setting and the warm weather.

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Wants, Needs and the Necessity of Both

loveactually12

Love Actually

You know that scene in Love Actually, when Mia puts Alan Rickman’s character on the spot by asking if he’ll buy her something while he’s out Christmas shopping with his wife? Then he calls and asks if she needs anything, and she says, “I don’t want what I need, I want something I want.”?

I’ve been thinking about those two words lately. Now that I’ve made a shift in my ability to receive, it’s time to figure out what I want.

“What do you want for Christmas?” That question can make my mind reel with a veritable catalogue of all the clothes, boots, dishes, CDs, trip opportunities, etc. I’d love to have…with a side order of greed guilt so strong that I reply with a “not much” kind of shrug.

If someone instead asks if I need anything, it feels kind of boring: wool socks, a new blender, that book I was planning to read for work.

Same thing happens on a greater scale outside of Christmas presents.

I find it much easier to ask for something that serves some obvious or practical “purpose”, than something that would just make me feel good. Even if it’s boring.

With the Solstice coming this week, I’ve been diving deep to evaluate what it is I really want from life, and what I’m willing to leave behind with the dark. What is it I need in order to move forward into my intentions for 2014?

Want implies a lack – the old expression “I want for nothing” means I don’t lack anything.

Need says that I can’t live without it.

Want & Need

Is one of these concepts better than the other? Is one more important?

The educators at my sons’ daycare used to correct the children whenever they said “I want”, in favour of “I would like”. Perhaps it somehow sounds more polite, less demanding to say, “I would like a cookie” rather than “I want a cookie”.

But, “I would like” insinuates there’s a condition.

I would like a cookie, when I finish my vegetables.
I would like a cookie if there are any left.
I would like a cookie if you think I’m worth it.

It never sat well with me. It always felt as if the children were being discouraged from having any desires.

In the Dance of Life, Desire is a step forward.

It’s how we improve our health, our quality of life, our environment, our relationships.

Desire is how we evolve.

Need takes our desires and lines them up with our values.

I may want a new Mustang convertible. A Prius or a Smart car would fulfill my need to make enviro-friendly the new cool.

I want a bigger house, or at least one that has bigger rooms, and real closets. What I need is to give gratitude for the fact that we have a cozy little place that keeps us all safe.

I want my business to improve, though I need the growth to happen in a way that doesn’t make me lose my ground.

I want those red high-heeled boots I saw in a Manhattan shop last year, but I need a pair of lined, waterproof boots with a sturdy sole. Then again, having those designer boots would fulfill a need to open my heart to more pleasure in my life. 😉

And if I never express my wants, how can I ever expect to get what I need?

Next time, I’ll lay down my intentions for the coming year: a public acknowledgment of what I desire for my business in 2014 – you can all hold me to it!

Now, tell me in the comments below, what do you want for Christmas? How would it fulfill your needs?

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