By Shana Weddington
The fad diet or weight loss program slogan often goes something like this, “It’s a new year; time for a new you! Try this scientifically proven <insert diet or weight loss program> today for FREE!” Oftentimes, we see results during that “free” trial period and we’re hooked! Before we know it, we’re sold and paying out the nose for a program or a diet that might give us the results we want but for only as long as we’re paying for it. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 49% of Americans attempt to lose weight each year. But based on research conducted by the National Institutes of Health, a shocking 80% of people who have achieved significant weight loss will gradually regain it to the same weight or more.
As a clinical herbalist, I have the privilege of working with people to achieve their health goals by looking at the person holistically. If someone has a health goal to lose weight, I might begin by addressing the foundational issues of sleep, stress and food intake. While there are particular diets that have therapeutic value in certain cases, I primarily focus on the one area of our diet that goes unaddressed in almost all weight loss programs: our relationship with food and our appetite. Using a low reward food model coined by Dr. Stephan Guyenet, who authored the book “The Hungry Brain,” I have outlined a three-step approach for creating positive change in our relationship with food and our appetites. The journey to achieving weight loss goals can be challenging and convoluted. Using a low reward food approach, along with the guidance of a trusted health professional, can go a long way towards success.
STEP ONE: This first step is often the most challenging because it largely goes against most diet/weight loss models. We begin by adjusting the focus towards ramping up self-care and doing things (besides eating) that make you feel good and away from what you can and can’t eat. Making a commitment to doing something that you enjoy and doing it more and more frequently will help to train the reward system in your brain towards those things as opposed to food cravings or the act of eating. Ideas: Take a 30-minute bath twice a week, listen to music and rub your feet, or take time in your favorite nature spot. If you’re working or in class, try using an aromatherapy inhaler, drinking a glass of ice water, or squeezing a stress ball. If you can engage your sense of smell or touch in a way that is pleasant to you, you’ll have better success.
STEP TWO: Identifying emotional hunger vs. physical hunger.
|Emotional Hunger||Physical Hunger|
|Craves specific food||Open to different foods|
|Does not stop||Stops|
|Above the neck: mouth and mind||Based in the stomach|
|Automatic or absent-minded eating||Deliberate choices|
|Paired with upsetting emotions (not always)||Physical need|
TIPS TO CURB EMOTIONAL HUNGER
• Have a 15-minute cool-off period; take a shower, do a breathing exercise, or go for a walk. If after this period you’re still hungry, eat a low reward food.
• Because you are experiencing mouth hunger (you want to taste the food), brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash, or drink a glass of water.
• Identify your emotions causing you to eat (i.e. stress, anxiety, tired/low energy).
• Self-Love!! Do things to pamper yourself.
STEP THREE: Follow a deconditioning diet and eat low reward foods.
• Avoid high reward foods: sweets, fast food, pizza, and other foods that you know are particularly problematic for you. Avoid situations where you will be tempted.
• Eliminate liquid calories; consume only water and herbal tea.
• Add nutrient dense, low calorie vegetables to every meal, i.e. use potatoes as the main source of starch rather than bread or pasta.
• Each day, eat one meal with only single ingredients with no flavorings added. No spices, herbs, salt, added sweeteners, added fats, etc. If you eat a potato, eat it plain. If you eat a
piece of chicken, eat it plain. It can be in the same meal as other foods, but don’t mix anything together.
• If after two weeks you are still having intense food cravings, try using a nose clip or pinch your nose while eating. This dramatically suppresses appetite and is a powerful way to lose weight. I recommend only doing this for 1-2 weeks to help break food cravings.
About the Author:
Shana Weddington is a Michigan-based herbalist, writer, and local food systems champion. Recognizing the impact that herbs and diet had on her own health, Shana dove deep into study and practice over a decade ago and has primarily worked with the youth and elder communities. Now a graduate of The Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine’s Clinical Intensive Program, Shana is growing a community-based herbal practice in Chelsea, Mich. You can find Shana teaching classes, offering consults, and hosting community events at Agricole Farm Stop in Chelsea. For more information, please contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.