Reward ≠ Food

rewardnotfood

Patient and client conversations can be a rich source of writing inspiration to address common concerns. As we discuss new changes, cravings, accomplishments and challenges, ideas start to percolate as we work together to find the best solution for the individual. If the same issue is mentioned by different individuals more than three times in relatively short succession, we can almost *feel* the universe tapping on our shoulder.

The latest recurrent theme among us all seems to be regarding emotional eating, over-eating, and reward-eating.

Let’s break this last one down. Why would we associate certain foods with a reward?

    • With thousands of years of evolution working for (or against) us, humans naturally crave sweet flavor. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a little *ping* of dopamine by eating berries and other naturally sweet substances. The brain would reward eating this food, which some argue helped our ancestors survive by promoting fat storage to see them through the leaner times. This survival mechanism is all but unnecessary during the times in which we live, with plentiful food stores and sedentary lifestyles (when was the last time we burnt 2000+ calories a day hunting down buffalo?).
    • An ostensible lack of other options or ideas for rewarding ourselves. We’ve leaned on food to give ourselves a pat on the back after a hard day in the office, for finishing a big project, or to relax after a full day with the kids finally in bed. After many years of this, we may have forgotten how to celebrate our accomplishments without cake, doughnuts, french fries, or chips.

After the sleeve of cookies is finished, there can be a poignant anxiety that settles in. Guilt and shame follow soon after and we feel terrible about ourselves. Then we say “what the Hades, I’m probably never going to lose the weight anyway” and keep going or we decide with firmness and determination, “starting tomorrow, no cookies ever again!” However, we all know how this plays out; the deprivation leads to cravings and the whole cycle begins anew.

When you eat, try eating to nourish your body and experience pleasure. Tying food to your reward-system will unravel advances in your health goals and, here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even work. By the time we are done with the chocolate chip cookie party, we only temporarily feel sated before we either look for more sugar (during the ‘down’ of our blood sugar rollercoaster) or we feel guilty…..which drowns out what ephemeral feeling of pleasure we got from the food in the first place.

By having some non-food rewards instead, or at least sprinkling them into your current routine, you can start to challenge the ‘need’ for something sweet and, instead, ‘treat’ yourself ‘sweetly’ (double puns, couldn’t resist :D). Here are a few ideas to get your started on non-food rewards:

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❄️ Are you Frozen too? ❄️

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One of the great joys of having young kids in the family is letting our own inner child come out to play. With the recent release of Frozen II in theaters, we thought this was the perfect time to relate this to being frozen in our own lives. Elsa the Snow Queen’s super-power is turning objects and people to ice. She can build icy bridges, stop an attack, and probably make ice cream whenever she wants (lucky). But her power has to be controlled. And while Elsa freezes things, we often freeze ourselves.

How we ‘Freeze’ ourselves

How do you relate with being frozen? In what area of life are you stuck? It could be around starting an exercise regimen, decluttering the basement or guest room, addressing the issues in your relationships, writing the book, updating the resume or asking for a raise. It could be in the area of health improvement, where we want to lose weight or become more plant-based, but we just can’t seem to begin or sustain our progress.

And because we are frozen, we just find ways to feel better about it. Sometimes we distract ourselves. Have you ever needed to study for a test and then looked at the messy state of your room and thought to yourself, “there’s no ways I can study in this environment”and then spent your study time detail-cleaning the room? We may distract ourselves with lounging in front of the TV, or spending hours on Facebook or Instagram. Numbing out with sugar, caffeine, smoking, or alcohol are also ways we try to make ourselves feel better about being frozen.

What makes this even worse is we put a layer of shame frosting on top. We start belittling ourselves and ‘wishing’ we were better. “Argh,” we think as we get up from the couch after 4 hours of watching Gypsy Sisters or Netflixing World War II documentaries, “I wish I had more motivation to have exercised today” or “I should have cleaned out the downstairs closet, it’s such a mess.”

Perhaps you can relate to unachieved goals, shame storms, and numbing out. Have you ever wondered what lies beneath?

What causes us to be Frozen

In a word: perfectionism. It sounds kind of beautiful, but it’s actually one of the worst words because of the meaning and effect it has in our lives.

It’s hard to say where our perfectionism comes from, but if you’ve ever grown up hearing someone say to you, “If you can’t do it right; don’t do it at all!,” that could be part of the origin. In essence, we are told that our actions, and even who we are, aren’t worthy unless perfect. What a toxic message to carry around with us in our lives.

Perfectionism tends to either paralyze us into inaction or cause us to go overboard and, consequently, burn out.

Why even start to clean the guest bedroom if we can’t do it ‘perfectly’ and we don’t have the five hours we believe it will take? Well, because you CAN make progress, even with 15 minutes of removing trash, clutter, and boxes. 

Perfectionism with our food usually looks like following a certain diet for a few days or weeks, then falling off the wagon and eating everything in sight. There’s an anti-dote to this that allows for sustainable weight loss; chat with us and find out more.

In short, perfectionism usually causes us to procrastinate, get overwhelmed, and shut-down or ‘freeze’.

What’s the cost of perfectionism? The cost is not getting things done at all, whereas we could have made progress. The cost is our inner peace; we don’t feel at peace when we feel stressed and frustrated by not having the time or ability to do something perfectly. Perfectionism can cost our relationships with other people. If you’ve ever yelled at a child or spouse because of a small mess or because they aren’t cleaning the ‘right’ way (your way) you can see the effect your perfectionism and words have on others. Also – and this is two-fold- if you value keeping your home environment museum-perfect over having your ‘messy’ grandchildren visit or if you feel like you can’t have visitors due to a messy, cluttered environment, your relationships with others will suffer.

Check yourself: next time you find yourself frustrated or overwhelmed by a challenge, look underneath that feeling to see if perfectionism is the undercurrent.

How to get Un-frozen

The power of un-freezing ourselves comes from realizing that progress > perfection. Initially, your belief in that statement will recoil. How could progress be better than that which is perfect? Well, considering the high costs and knowing something will never, ever truly be perfect….progress starts looking really good, right? Excellence, according to dictionary definition is, “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” If excellence means that we can take action, feel good about ourselves, and not get stuck, why would anyone choose perfectionism instead? 

A small step, taken consistently and continuously reaching toward our goal is better than no action at all. Perhaps you remember My 30-minute Morning Routine about how many people create obstacles for themselves to workout when 6 minutes of strength-training in your own home can still help you feel better and see results. But if you don’t learn to change your way of thinking, perfectionism will keep you hog-tied and frozen.

In Frozen II, Elsa’s sister, Anna, seems to display and embody more of the element – fire – in this movie. Here’s where we have an answer to thawing ourselves out and taking action. Fire motivates, it stirs passion, and, if uncontrolled, it will burn everything in its path. So the key here is to find your motivation and use it as the fire to propel you towards your goals, but without going overboard and burning out.

Motivation isn’t usually enough though, so consider other ‘hacks’ such as scheduling your workout. The 4 Tips to Fit in Fitness blog is a great place to start. When it comes to decluttering, check out our experience with the Konmari Method for inspiration and ideas to make it easier.

Want to write a book? Just start writing, imperfectly. A typo is not the end of the world; besides, there are opportunities to review and make edits (or have others do it!). Allowing perfectionism to rule in this area of your life means your story is never shared, in-print or online.

What’s one area of your life where you’re willing to become ‘unfrozen’ and warm up your ‘fire’ to take action?

10TV Recipe: Cocoa-Maca Energy Balls

cocoa-maca energy balls

If you watched last month’s segment on 10TV, you learned about the factors which can make us feel FAT & TIRED as well as the top 10 foods for increasing our natural energy levels. One of the ideas featured was our Cocoa-Maca Energy Balls; it’s a great pick-me-up for the 3pm slump and a delicious, chocolate-y treat.

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Servings: 24 energy balls

Ingredients

1 cup coconut oil, melted
2.5 cups shredded coconut
1 cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maca powder

Instructions

Put shredded coconut, cacao powder, cinnamon and cayenne in medium bowl. Mix melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract and pour over dry ingredients. Combine well and put in freezer for about 15 minutes. Remove mixture and shape into balls; recipe makes 24. Store in fridge for up to a week or in freezer for up to 3 months.

 

Sugar Detox Challenge Star: Bobbie

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This past Sugar Detox Challenge was a huge success! Over 78% of participants experienced a weight loss of 5-10% (average pounds lost in 25 days: 8). The feedback included everything from improved skin texture and tone, less stomachaches, less tinnitus, better digestion, conquered out-of-control cravings, and inches lost!

We would like highlight the journey of Sugar Star, Bobbie:

Bobbie started out early in the journey and realized she was getting over 160 grams of added sugar per day! Within the first week of the challenge, she got down to than less than 5g of added sugar.

During the past 24 days, she has lost 11lbs – which wasn’t even her primary goal!

In terms of body composition, she lost a total of 7 inches from chest, waist, hips, and thighs! As she reports: “My size 8 pants used to be tight; now I can get into size 6, they are a bit snug but fine”

In her words:

“This is the easiest ‘diet’ I’ve ever been on! Instead of calorie-counting and deprivation, I’m just getting rid of sugar and it’s working!

I feel better and good about myself. I find that my depression has lifted and I’m getting off the couch more – I feel more energized and my to-do list actually gets done!

I thought that $149 was a lot of money but it’s less than I spend on sugar! The ice cream I was eating was costing me between $6-8.50 per day so I’ve actually saved money, now and for the future!

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about health but I still experienced ‘aha’ moments; also speaking with an actual person, who is caring and helpful, is a wonderful way to check-in and keep myself accountable.

I’ve discovered a difference between a mental craving and a physical craving. When I’ve had a treat, I’ve really savored it.

Plan for maintenance: “I feel so proud of myself! I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing now – I’m happy and want to continue! Also I’m glad I can come back to you for additional help when I need it”

Runner-up: James

James loved his sugar-sweetened beverages and he felt he needed them to provide energy to get through the day. He was at his highest adult weight and his doctor recently cautioned him about developing disease states. James understood that his habits around food and cravings were a root cause for his weight gain.

“I didn’t even change my exercise but getting rid of the extra sugar helped me to lose 9.8 lbs! I still miss soda sometimes but when I’ve had it recently, it’s too sweet! The strategies Adrienne helped me develop are working. I am having healthier substitutes, distracting myself, and deconstructing cravings. I realized that when I was stressed, soda was ‘the answer’ but now I have better stress management techniques. We cleared out the junk food at the house. My family and I thank you for all that you do!”

3rd place: Dawn

Dawn has lost 6.3 lbs during the past 24 days! She finds the 3pm slump doesn’t happen as much and she’s skipping visits to the vending machine; when she does want a snack, she is making healthier choices.

“Working with my coach has been terrific- she has ideas for every obstacle I tell her about and helps me create my own solutions too!”

Thanks to all Sugar Detox Challengers for your hard work and dedications to living a sweeter (no-sugar added) life!

Curious? Ready to start your own sugar-squashing journey? Our next challenge will start before the holidays on October 2nd!

Recipe: Caramelized Parsnips

parsnips

A parsnip is a fantastic root vegetable which is rich in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants and fiber.

Before sweetness in the form of sugarcane and beet were an option, Europeans used parsnips as a source of sugar. Next time the craving for a sweet arises, try some caramelized parsnips and find how sweet and grounding this root vegetable can be!

Ingredients
1 lb parsnips
2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter, if preferred)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Peel parsnips and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Melt coconut oil in skillet then add parsnips and cinnamon. Cover with lid and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until they become more golden. Add water and cover. After water evaporates you’ll be left with tender and caramelized parsnips. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Singing the Sugar Blues

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Sugar. It’s a common ingredient added into countless food items – from cereal and condiments to baby food and supposed ‘health foods’. According to the USDA, the average American, as recently as 2016, is consuming close to half their own body weight in pounds of sugar each year. [Take a look at Tables 51-53 and add together where it says “Per Capita Consumption – Adjusted for Loss” in pounds per year; for 2016, this would be a total daily intake of 74.9lbs]. Our estimated consumption is not just as a result of purchasing and eating the bags of sugar found in the grocery store baking aisle; it’s partially because sugar has many different names which makes it easier to be ‘hidden’ in various products created by the industrial food machines. It’s also because…

Sugar is a drug. Like nicotine, cocaine, or heroin, it is addictive and even considered poisonous by many health experts. Look up the definition of the word ‘drug’ and you’ll see sugar fits. It is a nutrient-less substance – so not only does it add extra calories, but it’s actually responsible for depleting the body of certain vitamins and minerals needed to break down and essentially ‘detox’ the sugar.

Added sugars are typically found in processed or prepared foods – sugar-sweetened beverages (which doesn’t just include sodas or juice, but some non-dairy milks!), breakfast pastries, dairy desserts, candy- to name a few. Naturally occurring sugar, such as that found in fruit, is not included as an ‘added sugar’.

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary widely. The Institute of Medicine reports that added sugars should not exceed 25% of total calories consumed. World Health Organization takes a more conservative approach and recommends less than 10%.

Studies have shown that people who consume higher amounts of added sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, tend to gain weight and have a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, unfavorable lipid levels (i.e. cholesterol, triglycerides), hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Blood sugar equilibrium is one of the most important keys to health.

Getting rid of sugar in your diet takes more than passing on dessert. It involves a multifaceted approach to being a ‘sugar detective’ and becoming creative in how we can healthfully live without it.

Are you ready to take the One Bite Wellness ’25 Sugar Detox Challenge’? Join us in revitalizing life and health by breaking the bonds that make us slaves to sugar. We will explore hidden sources of sugar, re-creating healthier home and work environments, understanding & combating cravings, and learning how to have delicious meals.

Deconstructing Cravings

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Cravings… everyone has them, but you don’t have to indulge in them! Your body naturally craves things that you are lacking nutritionally. For example, if you are craving something salty, you may need more sodium. Since sodium is essential to several pathways in our body, we need this nutrient but too much becomes harmful. You can get this nutrient in healthy ways instead of over indulging in unhealthy sources.

Your body is very efficient and intelligent always trying to maintain balance. When you consume artificial foods, caffeine, alcohol or drugs, your body’s balance is thrown off. For this reason, the body creates cravings to get what it is not getting, These things trick the body often causing more cravings.

So what can you do when you feel an intense craving coming on?

  • Try drinking a glass of water and then see if you are still craving it. Are you truly craving something or just bored?
  • Try eating healthier versions of your craving
  • Craving sweets? Eat fruit or root vegetables

Think about why you are having the craving. Are you bored or yearning for something in your life? Did something happen that affected you emotionally?
If you go through all of these and decide you want to indulge in your craving, truly savor it. Enjoy what you are eating, taste every bite, and be conscious of how it affects your body.

“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself”

-Cicero

Food Focus: Salads

Salads can be so diverse that they are a fun way to try something new. You can mix any combination of vegetables, toppings, and dressings to make something totally original or you can stick to a recipe. I like to make sure that my salads have a couple of key ingredients to help me get the most nutrients I can. I start with a base consisting of some type of leaf. I try to pick darker leaves like spinach or kale because they are more nutrient dense. Then I choose some vegetables to include on my salad. The key is to incorporate color. Some good ones to include on any salad are tomatoes, onions, avocados, cucumbers, radishes, and even carrots. Next, I add a source of protein. I do this by adding nuts, beans, or a lean meat like chicken or turkey. Finally, it’s time to add the dressing. I like to do an oil and vinegar type salad dressing consisting of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, however this is where you can get creative. Be cautious when choosing a dressing to avoid covering your health salad in an unhealthy sauce. Make sure you check the ingredients in the dressing as well as the fat and sugar content. The fun thing about salads is you can mix any ingredients together to make something just for you.

Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners

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If you’re like me, sweets are something that are hard to avoid. However, if you indulge in the right way, you do not have to avoid them totally. One healthy way to get that sweet taste without all the harmful additives we find in most processed foods, is through natural sweeteners.  But what exactly are natural sweeteners and why are they better than plain sugar? Natural sweeteners are better than refined sugar because their nutrient content is not destroyed. Refined sugar loses the vitamins, minerals, and fiber and can tend to spike blood sugar and actually cause cravings. Natural sweeteners are made in a way that keeps their nutrient content intact. Some good natural sweeteners to use include raw honey, maple syrup, and stevia. When looking for a good honey, try to opt for raw honey because this is the most pure form and contains the most vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Maple syrup is also a good substitute for refined sugar, however make sure you get 100% pure maple syrup with no added flavors. Finally, stevia is also a great substitute for sugar especially in cooking and baking. One thing to take note of when purchasing stevia is to make sure you get the green or brown liquids or powders because the white can be very refined. These natural sweeteners are great alternatives to refined sugar however, just like anything they should be consumed in moderation.

Eating Our Emotions

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One of the reasons we eat is because our culture promotes dining in conjunction with emotionally charged events – Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah and Valentine’s Day. We eat when people are born, when people die, when we get an “A” on an exam, when we don’t get an “A” on the exam —we use food as reward and a punishment. Food is tied to our successes and failures, our joy and sadness, our excitement and anxiety.

Our emotions calm down as we anesthetize ourselves with salty, fatty or sugary foods. Our neurotransmitters increase production of serotonin, dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals. Once we stop eating, we start the emotional descent again and eat more to temporarily feel better. After the cycle repeats a bit longer, we usually find ourselves physically full and feeling badly about our food choices.

In the cases of emotional eating, I work with my clients to be more mindful when eating and to build a reserve of what I call “soul-nourishing” activities – things that feed you but don’t come on a plate.

With the practice of mindfulness, we learn to cultivate the possibility of releasing ourselves from reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Eating mindfully teaches us to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide decisions to begin eating and to cease eating.

My goal is to assist clients in learning how to mindfully eat and improve nutrition without deprivation, guilt, fear or shame. I am happy to report Kate* is eating more mindfully and engaging in self-nurturing activities and is no longer beholden to eating her emotions.

List of 10 soul-nourishing ideas

  1. Give compliments and praise to those around you.
  2. Practice relaxation techniques.
  3. Keep a journal to write out your emotions and gratitude.
  4. Visualize what life will be like after the emotion passes.
  5. Surround yourself with friends and positive people.
  6. Exercise (choose something you enjoy or that has a mind/body component like yoga or tai chi).
  7. Learn proper self-care (get enough sleep, have a nutritious diet, & plenty of water).
  8. Get outside and into nature (try a walking meditation, spend time near the water, watch the sky change colors as it sets).
  9. Listen to music — and dance!
  10. Use your passion and creativity in a hobby or career.