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Let’s Talk Sweet Cravings

October 11, 2019

Craving sweets every now and then is something quite common among most of us. However, there are times where our sweet cravings come non-stop and may seem quite uncontrollable. And to be quite frank, it can be darn frustrating! Especially when you feel you’ve been doing so well when it comes to healthy eating.

On my previous post Tired of Stress Eating? I talked about why we tend to stress eat so much and what we can do to bring mindfulness into an act that can feel quite mindless. And this is a great strategy that I personally use that works! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t experience sweet cravings anymore. That’s what I want to focus with you on this post.

Why we crave sweets / sugar?

Whenever we eat something sweet (typically with tons of sugar), some interesting reactions happen in our bodies. Sugar triggers the release of the feel good, happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin. And boy do we love that feeling! I mean who doesn’t like to experience delicious moments of happiness? You know when you are having the time of your life and you wish that moment would never end? Well our bodies experience this when we eat sugary foods.

Naturally, when the mood boost sugar-high goes away, it leaves us wanting more. That’s why sugar can feel so addicting. Because it makes us crave and desire that feeling again and again. We learn at a very young age that we can drown our sorrows in sugar. Because it works (in a way). Even if just for a quick instant. Having a lousy day? Have a slice of brownie. In a bad relationship? Eat a cookie. Unhappy with your job? Ice cream to the rescue.

As much as I love romantic comedies, they are the masters of preaching this. The girl gets her heart broken. Typically this happens in the beginning of the movie or towards the end. She walks home at night, slowly and in tears. That catchy, sad and yet romantic song goes on. She arrives home and dives into the chocolate or ice cream. It’s just her, the spoon, and the ice cream pint. I bet dozens of movies just came to your mind. Right?

We are conditioned to seek comfort and pleasure in sugar. But this is not the only reason you might be finding it particularly challenging to tame your wildly sweet cravings. How you’re eating on your day-to-day may be playing a role here as well.

A little biology

Let’s first dive into a little biology. I promise that we’ll come back full circle here. Carbs in general (especially refined and processed) break down in your body quite easily and quickly into sugar or glucose. Your body uses glucose as a main source of energy. But whatever is not needed immediately, will be stored in the liver and muscles to be used for energy as needed.

Whenever you have meals that are carb or starch heavy like pasta, sandwiches, or pizza, you end up with blood glucose spikes. This throws off your body completely and triggers tons of reactions. Remember, the goal is to remove the glucose from the blood and either use it for energy or store away for later. So starch-dominant meals, will unload tons of glucose at once. Your body will work super hard to deal with it and what was once a spike will shortly after be followed by a glucose drop.

Your body likes consistency. Any radical changes triggers it because it’s designed to survive. So it doesn’t like being surprised in any shape or form. And glucose spikes and drops are just the worst. It makes things unpredictable for your body. With the spike, it tells your body that you have an abundance of food and energy coming in. But with the drop, it triggers survival mode. You’re running out of fuel and something must be done.

THIS right here, is what is responsible for your sweet and starchy food cravings. Because the best way to get immediate glucose is by eating starchy and sweet foods. So therefore, that’s what you crave when you’re just coming out of a glucose spike-drop roller-coaster. And many of us are experiencing this multiple times per day, every day!

How to eat to avoid cravings

Eating to avoid the spike-drop glucose roller-coaster is all about balance! It’s about making sure you include meal components that slow down the breakdown of food into glucose. These components are protein, fat, and fiber. Including them in every meal you have (big or small), will avoid your body going through instability. It’s a game changer when it comes to strategies to avoid daily sugar cravings. This also is a great way to make sure you have consistent energy in your day. No more carb comma after lunch. You can read more about how to incorporate this balance into your meals in The Secret to Healthy Eating.

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Tired of Stress Eating?

September 27, 2019

Stress eating is one of the biggest obstacles that many of us face when it comes to healthy eating. It can be extremely frustrating to feel like just one little episode of stress eating, puts all of our healthy eating efforts to waste. All that kale and broccoli eating, for nothing. Gone out the window. So there’s only one thing left to do. Throw healthy eating out the window too! I mean we’ve been down this road so many times before.

“I’ve failed yet again”.

The first thing I want to say to you is that you have not failed. Let go of those thoughts of shame and guilt. They will get you nowhere. In fact, chances are stress eating BECOMES a reason why you stress eat even more. And that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish here: to give your body the right tools (nutrients) for it to properly function and thrive!

Your Relationship With Food

Food not only provides our bodies with nutrients. Eating is also a pleasurable and comforting experience. Childhood memories are tied to certain foods. Past experiences can create attachments to other types of foods. For example, if you created wonderful family memories around going out for ice cream, chances are you’ve created a special relationship of sorts with ice cream. You might turn to it during tough and stressful times to try to relive those precious moments you’ve shared with your family. Even if it’s happening in an unconscious way. The same way that you can create wonderful memories around certain foods, you can also develop aversion to others with negative experiences. For example, if white chocolate gave you food poisoning for 2 full days, chances are you’ll stay away from it. For ever! And if you’re thinking this was an awfully specific example, well that’s because that might have happened to me. 😉

We don’t only have a special connection and relationship with certain foods because of memories attached to them. There are some foods that by nature give you immediate satisfaction. Like in the case of foods that are high in sugar and fat. Now, I’m not here to hate on sugar and much less fat. You cannot deny however, that your stress eating episodes revolve around foods really high in sugar like cookies, ice cream, and cake. Or they’ll be fatty and heavily processed, like potato chips, fries, and pizza. Let’s just say that you will very rarely catch anyone stress eating with broccoli.

Why We Stress Eat?

This brings us to the reason why you have such a hard time controlling stress eating. You see, this is the way that you’ve found to cope with your day. Or not cope with it. It might sound simple and obvious on the surface. But think about it and let’s dig deep. We are under stress from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed.

It starts with the harsh sound of the alarm clock, then having your breakfast on the go because you realized you’re already late. Let’s not forget dealing with our ridiculous commute. Traffic, pollution, horns honking, people cutting you off, super slow drivers. You get to work or class already pissed and annoyed. Then you have your typical work or school stress. Pointless or stressful tasks, annoying coworkers or classmates, deadlines, meetings. You do this for 8 hours straight and back to the traffic you go. Same B.S. all the way back home. You make it home just in time to watch one episode on Netflix of some show and get ready to start everything again tomorrow.

Insane, right?

Notice how you’re on autopilot. How you are just surviving through this routine. You haven’t had a single moment to actually process any moment of your day. No wonder you feel so out of control at night. So lost. In need of some sort of comfort. That right there, is why you can’t help but go for that cookie.

The Key To Help You With Stress Eating

Understanding and properly processing your day is key. We may not have much control over our routine at the moment. But there’s one thing that you have full control over. And that’s yourself and becoming aware and connected with your emotions.

So this is what I propose. Set 3 different times for you to check-in with yourself. Once in the middle of the morning, once in the afternoon, and the third time in the evening. During these little check-in moments, pay attention to your body. Are you holding tension anywhere? Especially on the back, neck, and head. These areas can really be telling when it comes to detecting our stress levels. Next, take a couple of deep breaths and check-in with your thoughts or inner conversation. What’s happening in that beautiful mind of yours? Are you angry at someone? Is something bugging you? If so, why?

Believe me, this will make ALL the difference for you. You won’t come back home wired and like a ticking bomb about to go off. You will be aware of your emotions and connected with your mind and body. You’ll be able to tame the wild stress eating beast that comes out especially at night to haunt you.

What If It Happens Again?

I can’t promise you that you’ll never stress eat again. Because it will happen. We are human, we have tons of beautiful emotions, and we’re not perfect. But what’s important to remember is to understand yourself. Be aware of your personal boundaries and your stressors. Learn to cope with them in a way that doesn’t revolve around seeking comfort from foods. Because that doesn’t make what you’re going through better. It masks and covers it up with an instant moment of pleasure followed by much guilt. Peel back those layers my dear friends. Get to the bottom of why you’re stress eating. It might be challenging at first because we are not used to checking in with ourselves. But once you get into this habit, you’ll unlock greatness within you.

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The Secret to Healthy Eating

September 24, 2019

Food freedom has been my jam for quite a few years now. I am all for breaking up with the diet and just finding peace when it comes to food and your body. I don’t think that anybody should be counting calories or be on any other diet, trendy or not. That is what I preach and what I work on myself every single day.

Having said that, as a nutritionist, I can also not tell you that what you eat, won’t have a direct impact on your body and your health. Food is information. Every single thing that we eat, will provide us with either nourishment or it can trigger reactions in our bodies. Reactions like inflammation for example.

Knowing your why helps you find the sweet balance between embracing food freedom and healthy eating. Ask yourself whether your eating and lifestyle changes are coming from a place of love for your body or because you are unhappy with how you look. If it’s the latter, you have to start with working on this part before anything else. The body and self love part. Being in peace with yourself will help you make the right decisions when it comes to your body. Not out of fear, but out of love. And not to sound cliche and all, but love does conquer all. It’s the strongest force and drive within us.

Now, back to why we can’t only embrace food freedom and kick healthy eating to the curb. We get all of the nutrients that our bodies need not only to survive but also thrive, from foods. Think about that for a second. We NEED these nutrients for our survival. No multivitamin or shake will ever be able to replace it. Food is not about the calories. In fact, that is something so minuscule in the grand scheme of things. So from this moment on, you are officially released from ever having to count calories.

Tell me the truth, how freeing do you feel right now?

You might now be wondering if calories are not important, then what should you be paying attention to? And here’s a good place to start.

Make sure every meal you have, whether big or small, has the main components: a healthy source of protein, healthy source of fat, fiber, and a nutrient booster.

Protein: Your mind might go straight to building muscles when we talk about protein. But it does so much more for the body. Protein helps with supporting strong bones, healthy/shiny hair, glowing skin, strong nails, your immune system, and it even plays a role in helping you stay full for longer. Just to name a few. Some nutritious foods that can up your protein intake for the day include: eggs, almonds, cashews, peanuts, soy, peas, chickpeas, beans, lentils, fish, and dairy (or dairy alternatives). You can learn more about Protein here.

Fat: The time to fear fat is finally coming to an end! Granted, not all fats are created equal. But healthy fats like the famous omega-3, are important for the brain and nervous system, they also play an important part in heart and hormone heath and support healthy joints. A few nutritious ways to incorporate the wonderful benefits of healthy sources of fat include: fish, walnuts, eggs, peanuts, avocado, olive oil, and seeds in general like flax, hemp, chia, and pumpkin.

Fiber: Fiber is commonly used as a strategy for those wanting to shed a few pounds. This is because it helps you stay fuller for longer. But it’s not the only reason I love fiber so much. It’s important for heart health, blood sugar management, and to help you stay regular while eliminating toxins from your body. Fruits and vegetables in general are great sources of fiber, along with beans, legumes, seeds, and whole grains.

Nutrient Booster: This includes fruits and vegetables. The reason you should make them a priority in every meal is because it’s where you’ll be getting all the good stuff, like vitamins, minerals, and tons of antioxidants.

This my dear friends, is what healthy eating is all about. Finding the sweet spot between food freedom and balanced nutritious meals. Without dieting. Just showing your body tons of love. Like you would do when you want to treat yourself to a spa day. I mean I’ve never heard anyone be unhappy about going to a spa.

-Ughh, I HAVE to go get a massage – said nobody.

So why do we see healthy eating that way? Why are we forcing ourselves to follow someone else’s idea of a diet? They don’t know what’s best for you. They don’t know your routine and lifestyle. They have no clue that you hate kale. But yet, here we are forcing ourselves to “eat healthy” while hating life.

But by keeping these 4 components in mind, you’ll be refreshingly adding flexibility when it comes to your meals. And dare I say even enjoy healthy eating without feeling guilty or deprived. For once! And it’s about time, too. The secret to healthy eating is basically understanding the role that each one of the food components play in your body, while incorporating good sources in every meal you have. And whenever you feel like having just pizza, that’s OK too. You enjoy that moment and come back home, to your baseline after.

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Let’s Talk Protein

September 18, 2019

Protein is usually a topic that interests those looking to build muscle and even shed the extra pounds. But the reality is that protein does so much more for the body. Including helping us feel full and satiated throughout the day.

First, here’s a little extra info on protein:

It comes from the Greek word protos meaning “first”. I confess that part was actually new to me. See, we learn something new everyday ;).

Most of us make the important link between the amount of protein we have in a day and muscle development. But I want to share with you the other amazing roles that protein plays in our bodies! You see, your body needs protein to build new cells, maintain tissues, and make new protein for your body to use. Does this give you flashbacks of biology class and migraines with it too? Don’t be afraid, we’re in this together!

The main reason why we need protein is because our bodies are full of it.
Wanna see some of the neat places where protein makes an appearance?

  • Hair, nails, and outer layer of skin are made up of a protein called keratin — it is just one of the many amazing ways that our bodies have to protect us.
  • Muscle contains quite a number of different proteins.
  • The inner structure of bones.
  • Ever heard of hemoglobin? It’s in our red blood cells. This is a protein that carries oxygen throughout our bodies. So yeah, pretty important.
  • Don’t get scared of this next one: enzymes. These are very special proteins that do specific jobs such as digesting or breaking down food (not to be confused with the book/movie “Breaking Dawn” 😉 ). These are so important that about 1/2 of the protein that you eat each day goes into making enzymes.
  • DNA
  • Your immune system.
  • and the list goes on!

As you can see, protein is quite important not only to develop Johnny Bravo muscles. A little side note, Johnny Bravo was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. If this sounds foreign to you, stop everything and check out some episodes on YouTube.

So you might be wondering where you can get some and whether you should be ordering some protein shakes ASAP.

NOPE! At least not as your first go-to. What better way to get your protein needs than through eating delicious foods? Shakes, when they have clean ingredients, can be a great supplement to your lifestyle. But foods should always come first. Some great sources include eggs, nuts & nut butters in general (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachio, peanuts), beans, lentils, soy, chickpeas, fish, and even dairy & dairy-free options.

How much protein do I need?

Moving on to how much our bodies actually need, you might be feeling ready to ditch the other nutrients like fats and carbs and focus mainly on protein. Hey, at least our hair would look fantastic! The thing is carbs and fats are actually quite important for the proper functioning of our bodies as well. And it turns out that protein out of the 3 is the one that we typically consume in high amounts as is.

So let’s do some math together to figure out how much each one of you need of protein per day. Calculators in hand, or if you are one of those math wizzes, then no need ;).

First step: Convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing it by 2.2. Say your weight in pounds is 160 –>  160 / 2.2 = 72.73 (this is how much you weigh in kilograms).

Second step: Multiply your weight in kilograms by the following:

0.8 – if you are not very physically active (basically if you’re a student or work at a desk, walk less than 2 miles per day).
1.0 – if you have a light physical activity level (jog, walk, bike not every day).
1.2 – if you are physically active every day (run, bike, swim, every day).
1.5 – if you are physically active and are trying to build muscle.

Usually when you calculate your nutrient needs per day, you estimate a range since we don’t eat the same thing or behave the same way every day. Let’s say you fall somewhere in between the first and second, so this is what the math will look like: 72.73 x 0.8 = around 58g  AND 72.73 x 1.0 = 73g. The range of how much protein your body needs is about 58-73 g.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind we are talking about grams of protein and not calories, OK?

Now that we have all calculated and know how much protein our bodies need, here are some good food sources and how many grams each one has:

– 3 ounces (this is about the palm of your hand) of lean meats, fish or poultry –> 21 grams.
– 1 cup of unsweetened yogurt –> 10 grams.
– 1 cup (8 ounces) of unsweetened milk –> 9 grams.
– 1 egg –> 6-8 grams.

Vegan options:
– 6 ounces of tofu –> 13 grams.
– 1 cup of soymilk –> 7 grams.
– 1/2 cup cooked beans –> 7-8 grams.
– 1 cup of oatmeal –> 6 grams.
– 1 ounce of almonds –> 6 grams.
– 1 tablespoon of peanut butter –> 4 grams.

So as you can see, there are so many delicious foods that have a pretty decent amount of protein. Which is why we don’t really have to depend on protein shakes to reach our daily needs. Enjoy whole foods first since these are also rich in so many other nutrients. Your body will thank you!

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The Perfectly Imperfect Body

September 9, 2019

Ever since I was a little girl, I had issues looking at my body in the mirror. I always felt somehow inadequate. You see, I’m the youngest of 3 and my sisters have always been size zeroes. So you can imagine how growing up in their shadow took a toll on my self-esteem. They got to have all the fun and use each other’s clothes. I remember thinking how everything just looked beautifully perfect on them. Heck, there wasn’t a single dress, blouse, skirt, or pants that didn’t fit them like the designer created it especially for them. So while my sisters were shopping together in the XS and size 0 section, I would make my way to the M/L and size 10 section. 

This may sound silly now, but it was something that never felt good and it always bothered me. I’d find myself thinking that if I could only look like them, then I’d finally feel confident and pretty. When you have a little belly with you at all times, it’s hard to see yourself as beautiful. At least that’s how it was for me. And that thought also splashed into my personal life.

I remember when I had just turned 20, my sisters and I went on a girls trip to Argentina for 2 weeks. It was the first time that we traveled together just the 3 of us. There we ended up making some new friends. This included a boy that was probably about 5 years older than me. We would hang out together almost every day and one day he told me that he liked me. You want to know what my reaction was?

Why?

I wish that this were a joke. But the shy and insecure 20-year-old me asked him why he would like me when my sisters were there too. Needless to say he was so shocked to hear me say this. Believe me, this is not an easy story to share. But I find it an important one. Because I know that I am not alone.

So many of us walk around feeling inadequate because we are not happy with our bodies. And it’s this lack of love for our bodies, that typically takes us on the yo-yo-diet rollercoaster of hell. Depriving ourselves from food. Labeling foods as good or bad. Experiencing fear of gaining weight every time  we eat something. Trying to make up for binges by being extra good. And let’s not forget the guilt and feelings of failure and disappointment. Because here we go again. Not being able to “stick to the diet”.

I want to say one thing to you. You are NOT failing the diet. The diet is failing you!

Take a moment to think about that one. It’s not about pointing fingers at someone else. It’s about practicing forgiveness and love towards self.

Succeeding when it comes to healthy eating all begins with loving yourself and your body just as you are. You see, when we do things out of fear or as punishment, it sets us up for failure. If you don’t see your body as a beautiful miracle NOW, believe me when I say that even as a size 0 you won’t be able to see it. Because your eyes are being trained to only find the flaws. And as you know, we are all perfectly imperfect.

So before rushing to jump on another diet, I ask you to stop and reflect on your “why”.

Why do you want to eat healthy? Is it because you don’t love your current body or is it because you want to love it endlessly with amazing nutrition.

We all have our insecurities. Remember that. Even the ones that we see as beautiful and perfect. You will only find happiness and contentment with self once you learn to make peace with your body, once you learn to love it endlessly. It’s time to stop letting our insecurities get in the way of living our best lives. Start living from a place of love. Because you are worth it!

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