Eating to Control Cravings

December 26, 2020

Did you say to yourself, just one more treat and I promise I will start eating better tomorrow! BUT tomorrow never comes, because you just can’t seem to stop at just one? If this sounds familiar, listen in as two nutritionists explain what you need to eat first to get ahead of those cravings, often a new concept for many when they first hear it. Cravings are more about brain chemistry than willpower and this episode explains just that. Start 2021 off with this valuable knowledge!

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LEAH: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Are you someone who treated yourself to cookies or eggnog lattes, or maybe had a few extra glasses of wine this holiday season? Perhaps it was even a daily treat for a couple of days a week; maybe even the last month. You craved and ate those sugary treats, but deep down, you knew that later on, you were probably going to pay that price that you would not feel well later. Maybe you would feel tired or perhaps experience more aches and pains in those joints. And of course, there are always those extra pounds that you always worry about. But what else happens when you eat more sugary treats? One answer to that question, which I'm sure most of us are very aware of is that you want more and more and more. How many of you can say that you can just stop at one? For some people that's the case, but for others not so much. So do you say to yourself, “Just one more treat and I promise I will start eating better tomorrow, or on Monday or on January 1st.” But tomorrow or Monday never comes because you can't seem to stop at just one. So today we want to discuss with you why you wanted more and more and more, and what you can do to break that cycle and to control your cravings. You may be wondering, “Am I the only one that struggles this much? Am I the only one who experiences these intense cravings?” And the answer is a resounding “no”. I think if that were the case, Nikki and I wouldn't have jobs anymore; so a little job security there. But the truth is that sugar and processed carbs affect many different areas of your body and your brain. And that helps to convince you, or almost trick your body and your brain into thinking that one more treat, one more isn't really going to hurt.

NIKKI: I can really relate to that, Leah, because I, as a dietitian used to think that. “I am alone. What is the sugar craving all about?”

LEAH: As dietitians we should have it figured out, right?

NIKKI: Yeah, we shouldn't sugar should never even cross our lips. Right? Well, that's not so true. I would think a lot of dieticians and nutritionists can relate to that. And over time I learned that guess what? 97% of women and 68% of men have cravings. I wasn't the only one. And I'm still not the only one. There are many, many people: 97% of women. It's, that's just an astounding number. I am still very sugar sensitive today. And I'm definitely, like I've mentioned, not a stranger to cravings. One little cookie or one little piece of candy can just set me up for those cravings: just like you said. It's, then I need more, you know, one more, one more. Okay. I'll get back on track on Monday. I mean, you're speaking my language there. I've said it to myself. So yeah, I'm a dietitian and I've struggled with this too, so I can completely relate.

LEAH: Yeah. So again, for our listeners out there and for you and me, we speak that same language because a lot of us have been there, have done that and/or it's something that is still part of our language today. So for those of you out there, if you are one of those 97% of people who are experiencing cravings, so by far the majority, you'll want to stay tuned today because we will share some biochemical causes of those food cravings and then some realistic solutions to overcoming those food cravings. You know, it's always nice to know the “why” to have that biochemical background and that knowledge, but then we need to provide those realistic solutions. And how do you realistically stop that cycle and get back on a better track?

NIKKI: What a great show to end the year with, I mean “bye 2020”.

LEAH: Yes, exactly. Yeah. So it's been a long year, hasn’t it? This is going to be a great topic to wrap up the year with. So before we get too much further into the show, my name is Leah Kleinschrodt. I am a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And I have been seeing and helping clients with cravings and with a variety of other issues for the past three and a half years at Nutritional Weight and Wellness. So, nearly every day, I, like I mentioned, I work with clients who are trying to get their cravings under control, because this is really a lot of what drives our food decisions, how we think about food, some of the emotional choices that we make around food. And a lot of my clients come in and they are frustrated. They are so done with these sugar cravings. And they might say to me, “I am so done. And because I know if I have just one, I can stop with just one. And then I know the consequences afterwards. I know that I don't feel good after I indulge. And I know that that's one of the big reasons why I keep gaining weight, why I can't lose weight, but it is so hard to stop with the cookies and the chocolates when they are just sitting around.” So like Nikki, I have personally experienced some of those cravings in the past. I completely understand where they're coming from. And I try to relate that to them that we've all been in that boat. Again, here's 97% of us have been in this boat at some point or another. And so how, again, how do we build in some of those realistic solutions for each individual client to help them get off of that cycle?

NIKKI: Yes, exactly. We're real people, right, Leah?

LEAH: Absolutely.

NIKKI: Well good morning. And it's nice to be here with you, Leah. I'm Nikki Doering. I'm also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And I've been helping clients at Nutritional Weight and Wellness for about two and a half years too. As I personally have explained that I have dealt with cravings in my own life, I've also had many experiences in my past work experiences with clients or patients actually at a weight loss management clinic where they did weight loss surgeries. So I would help them with their eating prior to surgery and then after surgery. But one of the biggest things was they had a lot of cravings. That was a lot of reason why those folks were in my office when I saw them. They gained weight because of that. And that's a big concern with a lot of people dealing with cravings. Some of my patients had to lose 100 pounds, some 200, some even upwards of 400 pounds. And so if you think about the implications of having a high sugar diet or high-carb diet, or being, having cravings for sugar, that can really affect you. And you look for solutions other than food sometimes, like weight loss surgery. Not all of my patients had issues with cravings, but many of them did. And I think the big thing is they were looking for that solution of weight loss from the surgery and to help them with their cravings. All of my patients were just like everyone else. They wanted to lose weight to be more active, you know, to, you know, if we ever get snow, maybe go out and have, you know, like go skiing or they wanted to just walk around the lake, walk their dog longer than just a few minutes. They wanted to get into more stylish clothes. They wanted to fit on an airplane someday, you know, comfortably in an airplane seat. I heard all of those things. They wanted to be able to play with their kids, their grandkids; all of those were reasons why they wanted to get rid of their cravings and lose weight.

LEAH: Yeah. So Nikki, thinking back then, when you were working in that setting and working with these clients who had a lot of weight to lose, you know, and this might be a question some of our listeners want to know the answer then too. Once they had that surgery… so you worked with them pre and post-surgery, but once they had that surgery, did the weight loss surgery actually help take away their cravings?

NIKKI: Unfortunately, no. And you know, quickly learning from working at that clinic, that that was the case, you know, the cravings didn't go away. The hunger didn't necessarily go away. If it did, it was for a very short period of time. And, we need to, and so I spent a lot of time explaining that yes, the surgery would help them lose weight, but not necessarily help them with the cravings. And I really had wished that when I worked in that clinic that I would have, I knew about cravings and that biochemical piece in the brain, because I think I could have helped my patients more.

LEAH: Yeah. So that's just very interesting to know. And I guess I'm curious to know too, with those clients that you saw, and if that, you know, if the weight loss surgery didn't necessarily resolve their cravings, but what happens in those weight loss surgeries a lot is now the stomach and just the digestive tract has a lot less acreage to it; like you can't fit as much food in there as usual. So now potentially would you say that sometimes you saw, even if people couldn't necessarily satisfy those cravings with food, would you see that translate somewhere else?

NIKKI: Definitely. Yes. There were definitely some addictive behaviors that happened because sugar is an addiction. You know, sugar cravings are, you know, a lot of people come into our office. You probably hear this. “I'm addicted to sugar.”

LEAH: Yup.

NIKKI: So, you know, how I learned about how to help people with cravings was my real clinical experience. You know, my clinical experience from the weight loss surgery, you know, clinic, showed me that there was an issue out there. But once I worked at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, I learned about the how to fix those cravings, you know, why those cravings were happening. And so it helped me myself and it helped, it helped all my clients. So, you know, back to, you know, my previous patients, you know, they would lose weight, you know, the first year or two. And then all of a sudden weight would start creeping back, you know, and a lot of them would gain all their weight back or some of them would gain a lot of their weight back and some of them would even gain more. So it was really, you know, we never got to the root cause. Those cravings, their food; how do we balance their blood sugars so they get off that cravings train?

LEAH: Absolutely. Let's circle back. I know you have a couple more stories that you just want to share from your experiences there, but we do have to go to our first break. So stay tuned. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And many people are told that how they think determines how well they feel. They are told that positive thoughts and affirmations are the answer to overcoming depression and anxiety. And yes, it's true that positive thoughts and affirmations really can help change the chemical process to create better attitudes and a better mood overall. But researchers have actually found that in these more modern times, many people lack the essential nutrients for brain wellness that supports their overall sense of wellbeing. So today, during our breaks, we want to share some of those key nutrients that we all really need to achieve a well-functioning brain. And we'll be right back.


NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. As Leah mentioned before break, we were discussing some key nutrients that our brains need for wellness. A very important key nutrient is protein. All the essential amino acids that our brain needs to make neurotransmitters, those happy brain chemicals, are from animal proteins that we eat. Protein is digested in the small intestinal track. And it produces these amino acids that turn into those neurotransmitters, which affect our mood, our energy, our motivation, and our memory; sounds pretty good to me.

LEAH: Yeah. Protein sounds like an awesome idea!

NIKKI: So serotonin is made from protein. Dopamine is made from protein; GABA. You're getting the picture: made from protein. Acetylcholine: made from protein. Those are all those good neurotransmitters that make us feel really good. We have over 200 neurotransmitters that affect our mood, our memory, our energy, and our motivation, and all of these neurotransmitters are linked to the proteins we eat.

LEAH: So protein, protein, protein. I'm always forever emphasizing protein with my clients for all of those reasons. And then I always throw in metabolism in there as well. That usually hooks them.

NIKKI: Yes, definitely don't want to leave out the metabolism. That is so important. So before break, we were talking about just my experiences in the weight management clinic and working with patients that were undergoing weight loss surgery. And we had mentioned a little bit about the sugar cravings and addiction. And one of the parts of research that have come out after, and I saw this while I worked there. So this isn't new research, is that 10% of patients that undergo these weight loss surgeries end up switching their addiction from maybe sugar to something else like alcohol, drugs. I mean, other things in your life that, you know, shopping I've seen. I saw a lot of different addictions and I actually would speak to my clients a lot about warning them not, you know, you have to be careful about these addictive behaviors and you need to be mindful of them and watch for them. I wish I could say it didn't happen that often, but I did. I saw it a lot.

LEAH: Yeah. 10, 10% is way more than what we would want to see in that kind of situation. One out of 10 is way too often.

NIKKI: Exactly, and it would, I mean, people ended up in the hospital. I would also see them in the hospital from it.

LEAH: Yeah. Well that and that's, I mean, to me, that number is mind-blowing and, you know, I did not work in that type of situation. And so to me, it didn't even really occur to me like that translation was occurring. But now that, now knowing what I know working here at Nutritional Weight and Wellness and knowing some of that biochemistry now, it makes a lot of sense if we're not balancing out that biochemistry while we're working on the weight loss and the metabolism and everything like that.

NIKKI: Exactly.

LEAH: So, yeah. So Nikki, I really think a lot of that highlights part of the problem in that treating and controlling cravings: it takes much more than just surgery because you mentioned sugar addiction. I mean, addiction is a very serious and complicated problem. It's a very complicated condition. So it's not a simple answer to be free of cravings. So I think the majority of society: we're finally starting to come around and come to realize that sugar addiction really is a very complex problem, but it's crucial for preventing a relapse in those who have been treated for, for food addiction, but for alcohol and also drug addiction. It is so much more than just willpower or “white-knuckling” your way through it. So the same is absolutely true for food and sugar cravings and addictions and addictions to those more refined, processed carbs.

NIKKI: You described it like really well: the “white-knuckling”. Because that's what it feels like when you're in that “I need, need, need...”

LEAH: Yeah. And, you know, we've both been there. So we know exactly what that feels like. You can look at your knuckles and it's like, oh, we know what it means to just feel like you're hanging on by a thread.

NIKKI: Yes. So I think it's important to point out some foods that just seem to have addictive qualities to them. And I think sugar, I think carbohydrates: those are typical addictions. In all my years of nutrition counseling, I've never had somebody come into my office and say, “I am addicted to salmon. I am addicted to steak.” But you know, you mentioned Sweet Martha's cookies to them and their eyes light up, you know, they just start, you can actually visualize that they'd like to have a cookie: that smell, the gooey chocolate, you know, all of that coming right out of the oven. It's just, it does, it lights up those centers. I think neurotransmitters, you know, they kind of like go exploding a little bit. I can relate to this with gummy bears. That was my treat. That was my favorite food for years. And I had this little cup of pre-portioned gummy bears because I was a dietitian, mind you, I was a nutritionist at this time. This wasn't before that. And so I knew, well, I'll just pre-portion and I'll have that. And I had it every day at night, every day. And you know, a lot of times I'd start thinking about that cup at two o'clock in the afternoon and it would just be my obsession. And so when we talk about sugar cravings, that's what we're talking about: that “I have to have it”. I couldn't imagine not having it. Leah, did you have anything like that?

LEAH: Oh my goodness. Yes. We were talking about this before we started this segment of the show, but, yeah, absolutely. I struggled with sugar cravings and rollercoaster blood sugars, which we'll get to in just a minute for, I would say a good portion of my teenage and definitely like my early to mid twenties or so too. And specifically, I remember when I was on more of that blood sugar rollercoaster when I kind of had my highest amount of sugar cravings. At the same time I also craved fat a lot, and specifically peanut butter, because I think my body intuitively knew like it was sensing that it needed some of that balance and that biochemistry again. And at the time again, I was eating sugar, those refined carbohydrates, and I was eating the standard low-fat kind of typical standard American diet. And I really, my body really craved peanut butter I think as a way to balance out those blood sugars. So I just remember that standing out very, very much to me in that early, like my early twenties or so. And being again, it was that feeling of being powerless and being like, I can't fight this type of craving. Like I'm, it's something that I have to have every day or it's something that I know I'm going to give into. So again, when we speak to a lot of this, that most of us, you know, when we do the counseling and we talk to clients who are experiencing cravings, it's because we have been there and, you know, and we've again, learned some of that biochemistry, but practice it in our own lives and found that freedom enough so that we want to help other people find that freedom from their cravings also.


LEAH: Yep. So back to our listeners here: you, you might be thinking, you know, “Why is sugar and processed carbohydrates so addictive?” Like Nikki said, no one ever comes into our office and says, “I can't put the salmon down.” Or, you know, “I just bought eight bags of broccoli and I'm going to have that all eaten in the car before I even get them home.” Like, that's, that's just not what people are going for. So, so let's translate over to again, those cookies or those M&Ms though. Those guys: that's where we might see some of those lighting up of the eyes or the brain attaches to those types of foods. So perhaps you as listeners, maybe you've noticed that that first cookie or the first handful of M&Ms gave you a quick burst of energy or it almost gave you like a high type of feeling. You feel good for a little while, but a few hours later you crash or you hit that rock bottom. So you find yourself, you, to just to get that feeling back, you reach for another, another cookie or another handful of M&Ms. You know, this is kind of interesting. I have a dog at home, but dogs think about a treat as a piece of chicken. So here as humans, like why did we tend to go for something sweet or, you know, something carb-like? It's just something to think about there. Then we as dietitians and nutritionists, again, we understand that many of these sugar cravings come from a biochemical reason of having a fluctuating blood sugar level. So I dropped that term a few times a couple of minutes ago, but I want Nikki, why don’t you take the helm here just for a minute and explain like, how do you explain to clients what that fluctuating blood sugar means?

NIKKI: Well, I can give an example. You know, if you take that cookie or the M&M, or for me, it was gummy bears. You eat that. Your blood sugar goes up above a normal range and your pancreas, an organ in your body, releases insulin. Your blood sugar then drops because that's what insulin's job is. It's to take the sugar out of your bloodstream and get it into the cells. And so your blood sugar drops below normal, and then you start feeling tired, anxious, irritable. So that's that crash Leah was just talking about, and then you need another sugar fix. So this can happen in minutes, you know, a half hour, hour, a few hours. It really changes.

LEAH: Yep. Yup. That's a great explanation there, Nikki. And so again, when you're in that low blood sugar state, when you're, when you're down at that bottom part of, of that rollercoaster, the only solution that your body knows at that point to remedy that tired feeling or those feelings of irritability or the anxious feelings is to reach for another cookie or another handful of the M&Ms to grab your blood sugar, or to bring that blood sugar back up again. Again, most people aren't going into the fridge and looking for the broccoli and the butter in a low blood sugar state, but a bagel or the cookie or the chips, or, you know, munching on something as you're making dinner because your blood sugar’s in a low state: that happens; absolutely. And so grabbing that sugar or those processed carbs: that kicks that blood sugar back up into a normal range or, or spikes it up again, and you get that high feeling again, or you feel more normal again, and then it starts to become a habit to make you feel better. So our brain starts to go back to those solutions each time, because, hey, guess what? It did work to get that blood sugar back up again. And so we will continue talking about blood sugar and how do we get off that blood sugar rollercoaster on the other side of break. But you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And another key nutrient for our brain is natural, beneficial fat. Our brain is made up of over 60% fat. So more than half of our brain is fat and one critical fat for a good functioning brain is omega-3 DHA. So DHA is one of our omega-3 fatty acids, and it's the primary one that is in our brain. And when DHA levels in the brain are adequate, the membrane of the brain cells allows for transmission of information, thoughts, feelings, basically the cells in our brains can communicate well with one another. But on the flip side, when DHA is insufficient, faulty thinking can occur. Memory starts to go, or we start getting mood swings or mood disorders, even along the lines of bipolar or depression. So on the other side of break, Nikki, will share more about the types of fats that we should eat and we'll be right back.


NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Leah had mentioned some healthy fats before break, and I will talk about those now. So if you're thinking, “I have some anxiety. I have maybe some depressed or low moods or even mood swings.” Maybe you're feeling some senior moments occasionally. I would suggest about seven teaspoons; excuse me, tablespoons; seven tablespoons of natural beneficial, healthy fats every day; seven tablespoons, not teaspoons. So we're looking for good amounts. So what are some of the fats that we can do? Butter: we love our grass-fed butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, nut butters, avocado mayo, heavy whipping cream. The list goes on. There are many, many, many awesome choices for really good healthy fats. The ones, you know, so then that brings me to, should we avoid certain fats? Yes. There are actually some that do the opposite. They are not healing for our body. And you want to avoid the ones that are soybean based: soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, or cottonseed oil. Supplementing your diet with omega-three DHA two to four times a day can be that extra boost if you feel you need that.

LEAH: Yeah, it's funny, Nikki. I was talking to a new client just the other day and I was encouraging her like, hey, maybe we can make that switch over from margarine over to real butter and go back to, you know, the way that your mom used to cook or that your grandmother used to cook and things like that. And, and every, every meal and snack we, we talked about, at some point we kind of, we, I brought up, well, maybe we could use butter for that good fat in that meal or snack. And she said to me, she said, “Man, you guys really love your butter over at that company, don't you?” I said, “Yes we do.”

NIKKI: I swear we don't have stock in butter.

LEAH: We don't have stock and butter, but it is just something we so believe in. And she's like, “Yeah. And it tastes so good.” It's like, absolutely. So it can be healthy for you and taste amazing. So, yeah, so, the, before we went to break, I was, Nikki gave a great explanation of what that blood sugar roller coaster looks like. And I just want to add in a little bit more about what that blood sugar rollercoaster, how we feel when that happens and, and make some other connections for you folks. So again, we talked about when you're in that low blood sugar state, grabbing the processed carbs and the sugar at that point is what brings that blood sugar back up into that more normal range or into that high range again, so that you feel good again. You feel more normal, but that is the beginning of that habit. After some time of this, so maybe this is something that you've done day to day, month to month, year to year even. And you start to realize that consuming sugar helps you feel normal. I've heard this from clients that “I don't feel normal if I don't have X, Y, and Z, that processed carb or that sugary treat or something like that in, in my car, in my purse or in my house every single day.”

NIKKI: I've heard that too from clients.

LEAH: And this cycle goes on and on, and now you get the idea that this is where that addicting nature of sugar comes in. So you've now developed a sugar habit. And this scenario is very similar to how alcohol makes people feel and how some people fall, fall into that trap of alcohol abuse. For a short time, people or alcohol makes people feel normal, just like the cookie or that sweet treat makes you feel normal. And that high feeling is short-lived, but it's very addicting. It's very intense. So both alcohol and sugar habits are related in part to a blood sugar imbalance. So an alcoholic drink does the same thing. It brings that blood sugar level up temporarily, just like the cookie does, or just like gummy bears do. And so people feel better just for that short period of time.

NIKKI: So our listeners are probably asking now at this point, well, “How can I set myself up for a normal balanced blood sugar and not be on that blood sugar roller coaster? Balancing your blood sugar is so important to get rid of those cravings. That's like the number one thing. It's so simple, but I mean, it's not always easy to execute. But blood sugar is directly related to those cravings.

LEAH: Yeah. I tell my clients, that's the foundation that we have to start with is we have to start with stable blood sugars.

NIKKI: So now you probably are wondering, “How can I maintain balanced blood sugars throughout the day?” It starts with starting your day with a really good balanced breakfast of real food; so some type of animal protein like eggs or sausage or steak, or even salmon. Yes, I said salmon. You can have fish in the morning. I promise. It's not, not everyone, but try it. If it doesn't sound totally weird to you, I highly recommend it. Salmon kind of makes me always feel really good when I eat it. Make sure you include some veggies. That's another new one for a lot of people is vegetables in the morning. We are, part of our standard American diet, the SAD diet, are carbs and processed carbs, cereals and toasts and all of those things. So switch that carb over to veggies and get your carbs that way. It really is delicious. And then of course, we just talked about fat. Fat: you need to include one tablespoon of healthy fat like butter, coconut oil or avocado oil would be perfect. So today I had kind of a non-normal breakfast. I had chili because it was in my refrigerator. I didn't have to make it. I could just heat it up. And I threw some guacamole in it for my healthy fat. And it was delicious. So listeners, your goal is to start your day with a balanced breakfast, so that will start controlling your blood sugar. You'll stay off the blood sugar roller coaster, and you'll be able to control your cravings. Once you're in charge of your, your balanced blood sugar, you’re, you’re off the blood sugar roller coaster, you'll be in charge of those sugar cravings. They won't be there. They won't even be bothering you. They won't be knocking on the door.

LEAH: Absolutely. Yeah. When you can start your day from a stable place, that just sets the rest of the day up to go much better. Here's a question that I get a lot when I'm teaching classes or from clients. A lot of people ask me about that bowl of oatmeal in the morning. So here in Minnesota, it is winter. So that hot bowl of oatmeal is kind of comforting. It sounds really nice in a cold, snowy winter morning. But here's what I, what I tell my clients, or at least help them understand is that oatmeal by itself acts just like sugar in the body because what are oats? Oats are carbohydrates. And any of those carbohydrates, whether it's oats or rice, or even vegetables, any carbohydrates turn into sugar in our body, just some turn into more sugar than others in the body. And some do it more quickly than others. Oatmeal is one of those carbohydrates that converts into a fair amount of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream. It causes that blood sugar to shoot up. And then within an hour or two, your blood sugar comes crashing down. So say you have that oatmeal at seven in the morning. I always ask my clients, well, “How do you feel come nine o'clock or 9:30 in the morning?” And oftentimes they'll say like, “Oh, well, I'm kind of already starting to think about lunch, or I'm starting to look for that snack. Or I'm kind of thinking the vending machine starts to sound really good.” And so we talk about what that blood sugar is doing at that point. And we say, all right, well, how could we balance out this breakfast a little bit better? Or maybe we need to make that switch away from oatmeal and get you something, you know, more vegetable or fruit-based and see what works better to balance out your blood sugars. So for you listeners this morning, you know, if oatmeal is a big go-to, but you find it just doesn't sustain you as long as you'd want, maybe we try switching out that oatmeal, or maybe for some people it's still that dry breakfast cereal, the dry toast; maybe it's a huge bowl of fruit or that glass of orange juice. What if you were to switch some of those carbohydrates out; some of those more processed or high sugar types foods, and switch them out for something more like vegetables or some berries or something that won't give you a big blood sugar hit, and start your day off on that blood sugar rollercoaster.

NIKKI: We've talked a lot about foods and weight gain. We've talked about the weight gain being an issue with blood sugars and cravings, but are there any detriments to these sugar cravings; to eating sugar? And yes, there are. There are a lot of different things that can happen in the body. So let's first look at sugar and processed carbs: what they've done to people over the years. So 50 years ago, one in eight adults in the U.S. were considered obese. Today one-third are considered obese. That's one in three Americans. So we really talk about that epidemic of obesity happening. And it's been, you know, in a relatively short period of time. Another health risk that we're seeing is diabetes. It's also an epidemic in our country. This is staggering. There's been an 800% increase in type-two diabetes since the 1960s.

LEAH: That’s huge.

NIKKI: Yeah, I didn't say 80 or 8%. I said 800% increase in type-two diabetes. So, and that really does coincide with that increased surge of sugar consumption and processed carbs. The fact of the matter is that getting our sugar cravings under control is much more important than the weight gain itself. Excess sugar and processed carbs can easily lead to the diabetes I mentioned, high triglycerides, heart disease, increased pain and inflammation. I think Leah and I both have seen many clients with increased pain and inflammation and see that bringing those sugars down really helps with that. I had high triglycerides when I was in my late teens, early twenties. I had high triglycerides and it just kept climbing and climbing. And this is while I was in college and learning about nutrition. And until I worked here, I saw my first drop ever. And it was actually probably below a level I'd ever been at. So triglycerides are huge.

LEAH: Absolutely. Yes, you can make a huge impact in those triglycerides very quickly just by controlling those sugars and those carbohydrates. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And nutrition is so powerful. If you, any of you are listening to this show as a first or second or third time, I hope we've conveyed that message that nutrition really is so powerful that it can affect our moods, our memories, shape our thoughts and shape our feelings. And so just think of what real food can do for you. I'm sure some of this question has crossed some of your minds this morning. Listening to this podcast is great, but how can I even take that next step or take advantage of all this great information that's available to me at this critical time in history? I would suggest that you go to our website or give our offices a call and sign up for one of our packages of appointments and maybe that personalize the Personal Wellness package, so that you can get started 2021 in that right frame of mind. Through the rest of December, so we just have a couple more days now, you can save $135 on that package of appointments. We don't want you to miss out on this great offer. So you can call our office at 651-699-3438 or read all about it online at


NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. The first of the New Year is just around the corner and we have some great classes to offer. And it's a perfect time to start these classes. Our, we have three Nutrition for Weight Loss programs starting in January: one on Tuesdays, starting January 19th, another class starting, a Thursday class starting January 21st, and a Friday class starting January 22nd. Each of these Nutrition for Weight Loss programs are taught through Zoom to small groups, which give those participants opportunities to ask personal questions and really get all their questions answered. Call us at (651) 699-3438 to answer any of the questions you may have about the Nutrition for Weight Loss program, or you can read about it, too, on our website,

LEAH: Yeah; awesome. Yeah, that'll be a, it's always great to have a new set of classes coming come the new year and get people off with a fresh start in January.

NIKKI: Exactly.

LEAH: Yeah, so before we went to break, Nikki was just giving us some information about, okay, we know about sugar cravings. Some of the fallout items from that can be obesity and weight gain and also diabetes, heart disease, increased pain and inflammation. One more item I just wanted to bring up very quickly is The National Institute of Health estimates that one in four Americans have fatty liver disease unrelated to alcohol consumption, and this can progress to cirrhosis of the liver, which can lead to actually a person needing a liver transplant. And so we bring this up because, all right, if we're getting liver damage unrelated to alcohol, what's causing that liver damage? Well, sugar, processed carbs. Yep. Those refined processed carbohydrates: that is a major culprit. And I've seen that a handful of times in my practice here with Nutritional Weight and Wellness that people get damage to their liver, or they start seeing elevated, elevated liver enzymes and damage to their liver. And they haven't drank a drop of alcohol in 10 years, but when we start looking at their diet, we start looking, oh, it's high sugar. It's the processed carbs. And we start knocking that down.

NIKKI: Yep. I've seen it too, Leah. I like to think of outside of the box reasons too. I mean, we've talked a lot about what we're eating, but sometimes there are things that don't have to do with our diets. It has to do kind of with our lifestyle.

LEAH: For causing sugar cravings?

NIKKI: Yes, for causing sugar cravings. Insomnia is a common cause of sugar cravings. So that means if you don't get enough sleep, you lack the energy and find yourself reaching for energy via food. And what is that? That's usually high sugar. So maybe a high-sugar coffee drink or a candy bar, soda full of sugar. So, you know, I find, I find this with myself too. You know, if I'm up late with my son or I'm watching a show and I don't get enough sleep, I am, I have sugar craving the next day. Sugar equals energy. So if we don't get it, if we don't recharge our battery at night with sleep, we need to look for energy somewhere. And a lot of times that's carbs. You have to be very careful.

LEAH: Absolutely. Yeah. So if you're, if you listeners are trying to eliminate sugar from your diet, think about your sleep or ask yourself that question. Am I getting enough sleep every night? And is it good quality sleep? So this is something that we ask on our health questionnaires. This is something that we talk with most of our clients almost every session for some of our clients checking in on how they're sleeping. Yes. So you get your natural energy level up when you get that eight, nine hours of sleep or so every night and your cortisol levels then come down. So you get that natural energy. And then our major stress hormone, cortisol, comes down. So double win there. In a manner of speaking, there are two magical things that happen when you get sufficient sleep every night. So you will have fewer sugar cravings and you will lose weight while you sleep.

NIKKI: That's kind of a fun concept.

LEAH: Yeah, a double whammy for sure. Sleeping to lose weight is certainly a lot easier than running a marathon or trying to exercise two or three hours every day, just to keep those pounds away. So the good news is that over the years we have found and experienced that many of our clients lose eight, 10, 12, even 15 pounds when they sleep eight to nine hours every single night.

NIKKI: So, you know, sleep is so important. It's really important. And I, like you said, we, I talk about it with all my clients because it's so imperative. So let's think about other, you know, I kind of want to go back to the whole fatty liver discussion we started earlier. So the fatty liver we're talking about is a non-alcoholic form of fatty liver. So this type of liver damage happens when you have too much sugar and processed carbs. And it's interesting how it's affecting our kids in our country. One in 10 adolescents actually has non-alcoholic fatty liver. And it's kind of shocking that they're even diagnosing it in infants now. So how does this happen? I think of juice, you know, fruit juices, juice boxes, highly concentrated sugar drinks, whether it's actual fruit juice or fruit-flavored things or artificially-flavored things, those, you know, some kids are drinking up to 16 to 24 teaspoons of sugar daily just in juice form or liquid form. And so I try really hard not to give that to my son, Max: juice. If we do do juice, it’s diluted juice with water, so a big significant portion of it is water and maybe just a splash of juice or, you know, a little, you know, a quarter of it is juice. Leah, do you do anything with Landon, your son?

LEAH: Yeah. I'm a huge fan of the Key Fruits and Greens. So we have a pink lemonade flavor. And, so I'll give that to him in, in, in, you know, a small glass of water. So he calls it his “special water”. It's not something that we do every day.

NIKKI: So cute.

LEAH: Yeah. But he loves it. He slurps it right down. If I have a glass, he always wants mommy's glass as well. So he kind of, he knows it, and he loves it. And him being two, almost two and a half now at this point, he's, he's decided he's not going to be the greatest vegetable eater and stuff like that right now, too. So I find solace in that he's having something fun to drink, something different, but it's also giving him some nutrients, just some of that pulverized vegetables and fruits that he might not just be getting off of his plate at this point.

NIKKI: Yes. I definitely see when my son has sugar, he asks for it. He asks for it. So yeah, it's important to kind of keep it out as much as you can.

LEAH: Yeah. So another reason that my, that we look at with clients that might be linked to those sugar cravings, we think about neurotransmitters. Nikki mentioned some of those neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine and GABA, and how these things are related to sugar cravings. Researchers have really found that low levels of one brain chemical in particular, serotonin, has been connected to sugar cravings. And serotonin: I describe as, as our feel good neurotransmitter. It helps us feel calm. It helps us feel relaxed. It feels like that “chill pill” type of neurotransmitter. And it helps us feel satisfied with the foods that we have eaten. But low levels of serotonin can be a root cause behind low moods or Seasonal Affective Disorder, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability, and then those cravings for sugar.

NIKKI: And I think that's so important to point out too, because I remember feeling out of control, like with that needing, I felt why can't I control this craving for gummy bears? It's it kind of ties to that neurotransmitter piece. So I think we normally make serotonin… when I think of that, I think, what do we eat? We eat protein to make serotonin, so eggs, steak, chicken, turkey, salmon; any other animal protein will do. You know, cottage, cheese, whey protein and a protein shake: those all will help you make serotonin. But we need to be able to digest this protein. So how do we have, what do we need to help digest the protein? We need good digestion and it's supported with probiotics, you know, bifidobacteria.

LEAH: Yeah. So to add another layer of complexity there, we need to be eating the protein in the first place, but then we need to be able to break it down well so that we can absorb all those little amino acids to make our, our neurotransmitters. So let's talk through that process really quick, like what does that process of digestion look like? So it starts with actually eating that meat. We chew it up really thoroughly. It goes down into our stomach, where that's actually the biggest part of where that protein digestion starts is in that stomach when we churn out that stomach acid. And then it goes down to our small intestinal tract where there's more digestion that happens. And then that's where we absorb all those amino acids. And we absorb the nutrients that come in those meats. So we absorb those amino acids and it gives us those building blocks to make those brain chemicals, which includes serotonin. And then when we make enough serotonin, we feel relaxed. We feel positive. We feel free of cravings. And again, it's almost like that “chill pill” type of feeling. And I will make a note too, that here's where I also, when I see clients who come in on acid-blocking medications, here's another piece where maybe we're not breaking down our protein quite as efficiently then because we're blocking that acid production in the stomach. So that's another piece that I look at with my clients to be able to make those neurotransmitters.

NIKKI: That's a really good point, Leah. Yes.

LEAH: So we actually have to wrap up our show now. Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It is a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for listening. Have a safe and Happy New Year. And we look forward to connecting you with the next year.




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