Week 2 Bonuses

Bonus: Tap-Along Video for the “Half a Plate” Exercise

In the video bonus below Dawson introduces the “Half A Plate” concept that you can put into action anytime.

Below is an excerpt from Karen’s book Beat the Belly Fat Blues:

Carbs, Brain Chemistry, and Belly Fat

When we eat, or drink, foods that contain carbohydrates like bread, cereal, rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, cake, donuts, chips, bagels, pretzels, pancakes, waffles, soda, sports, drinks, fruit juice, candy, syrup, fruit, potatoes, and more – those carbohydrates are digested into sugars and transported to the blood where they are now called blood sugars or blood glucose.

This is actually how it’s supposed to work. All of the cells in our body need energy to do their jobs and they get this energy from the foods we eat. However, the more carbs we eat or drink, the higher our blood sugar levels rise. This is what gets most people into trouble when it comes to weight loss and keeping it off, especially if our carb intake is greater than our physical need.

When blood sugar levels are high (after a meal or beverage containing carbohydrates) the pancreas gets a message to release some insulin into the blood. Insulin is often described as a “key” because it helps to “unlock” the door to our cells to let the sugars enter. Shortly after a meal, your insulin levels should rise in response to the food or drink you’ve consumed. The insulin keys are supposed to unlock the door to our cells and let the sugars get in to provide energy. The level of sugar in the blood then decreases back to normal and everyone is happy.

However, when you consume too many carbohydrates (for example as a result of a craving or an episode of emotional eating), the system gets thrown out of whack. The pancreas is forced to make extra insulin to compensate for all the extra sugars in the blood. Over time, the cells become resistant to the insulin, and even more insulin is needed to “knock on the door” of the cells, trying to get the sugars inside where they belong. (Clinical symptoms of insulin resistance include high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, higher blood sugars, high blood pressure, and extra weight in the belly).

Having all that extra insulin and extra sugar floating around your blood is bad for several reasons. First of all, a high level of insulin is a risk factor for heart disease. Secondly, only so much blood glucose (sugar) can be stored in the cells. Your body knows that the excess sugar doesn’t belong in your blood, and it wants to store it somewhere, so . . . it gets stored as FAT, right in the BELLY.

What’s even worse is that this process can actually drop your blood sugars levels too low, a condition called hypoglycemia. Now you crave even more sugar to bring your levels back up. Of course this starts the whole cycle all over again, and you store even more fat in your belly.

It’s a recipe for disaster. Sadly, the pattern continues for many people, and after years of abuse their pancreas starts to “burn out”. It simply can’t keep compensating by overproducing massive amounts of insulin. As a result, blood glucose levels stay high because the sugars can’t get into the cells. The result is type 2 diabetes.


Sugars and Serotonin

In addition to leading to fat storage, this combination of high blood sugars and insulin also affects your brain chemistry. The insulin produced in response to the higher blood sugar levels allows more tryptophan, an amino acid, to enter the brain. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, and, once in the brain, nearly all the tryptophan is converted into serotonin. Serotonin is that “feel good” brain chemical that helps us feel calm and happy and relaxed. This is evidenced by the drowsiness that can accompany a carbohydrate binge and it also helps explains why many of my clients say they would “kill for chocolate” but not for a hard-boiled egg.

If you’ve ever “self-medicated” with carbohydrates, you know what I’m talking about. It works. Until it doesn’t . . . You feel good for a little while, but chances are, shortly after the carb binge, you feel you feel like a failure because you blew your diet again AND you stored extra fat I your belly. You might also be tired and irritable. At this point your brain says “Hey, I know what will make you feel better . . . let’s go find some carbs!” You try not to give in, but by now you don’t really care; your brain just wants to feel better. If your carb binge was stress- or anxiety-induced, you were probably eating to tranquilize your emotions and now your brain really needs to be calmed.


The Addictive Nature of Sugar

To complicate matters further, sugar appears to have an almost drug-like effect on our brains. While still controversial, many researchers believe that sugar acts like an addictive substance, similar to alcohol, nicotine, or drugs like heroin and cocaine. Each of these substances activates the reward/pleasure center of the brain, causing the release of dopamine. Dopamine is another one of those “feel-good” brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that makes us feel “rewarded” – and we really like that feeling. And we want that feeling. Again. And again. And again . . .

Here’s what happens. Sugars activate the sweet receptors on your taste buds, which sends a signal to the brain, activating the reward system. If you rarely eat sugar, or don’t eat too much at one time, your dopamine rises slightly and then levels out. But if you do eat too much, especially on a regular basis, your dopamine response does NOT level out and eating or drinking the sugar will continue to feel rewarding. It’s one of the reasons we’re so “addicted” to sugary foods and why many people can’t stop at just one piece of chocolate or one cookie. Though the effect is not quite as intense as when dopamine is released in response to drugs and alcohol, too much of any “good” thing (including sugar) can send dopamine into overdrive, leading some people to constantly crave that “high”.

If you factor in the emotional connection so many of us have to food, it makes losing weight hard and keeping it off even harder. For better or worse, our brains seem to remember exactly how and when we received our reward “stimulus”. For example, if mom always baked you treats for being “good” as a child, it’s likely that you’ll turn to that food to recreate that loving feeling, especially if you’re feeling unappreciated or not good enough. Or maybe you didn’t receive the love you needed as a child, and you found a way to nurture yourself with chocolate. The bottom line is that when we are deprived of the feelings we crave (love, peace, calmness, joy, validation, happiness, etc.) and we cope by eating lots of carbs and sugary treats, comfort foods take on a very literal meaning.

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