Cortisol – Friend or Foe?

Cortisol

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We hear a lot about cortisol and its negative effect on the body…so much so, that we have come to think of cortisol as a bad thing.  Similar to how we have come to view insulin.  (See my article Insulin – Friend or Foe HERE.)  But ask a person with Type 1 diabetes (no insulin) how difficult it is to manage health without insulin, and you will realize that insulin is our friend.  It is TOO MUCH insulin that is the problem.  Well, it is the same with cortisol.  Cortisol is an amazingly vital substance made by our body, and, in proper amounts, is absolutely crucial to our survival.  Let’s take a look at this amazing hormone.  What is it and why do we need it?  What happens when we have too much?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands typically in response to stress (or perceived stress).  Cortisol levels are naturally higher in the morning to help us wake up and get all of our body processes moving for the day.  Cortisol levels can also raise with exercise, as we are taking our body temporarily out of its comfort zone.  But one of the main functions cortisol plays is in our body’s response to a stressor, particularly our “fight or flight” response.  That is why we call it our “stress hormone.”

Let’s be clear, if you are walking across the street and see a car barreling toward you at 50 mph, YOU WANT CORTISOL.  When cortisol is released, along with other stress hormones, like adrenaline, your body will be able to mount a “fight or flight” response, which is crucial to our survival.  What happens in fight or flight response?

Our liver will kindly dump some glucose into our bloodstream for quick energy.  Our heart rate and blood pressure will increase.  Our body will shunt more blood to important organs such as the heart (to have more oxygen to pump to where it will be needed) and brain (so that we can think more clearly to make split second decisions).  The body will temporarily down-regulate less important functions, like digestion or elimination.  Our immune system will be temporarily depressed.  We will be “on edge” with heightened senses, ready to make a move.  (Ever just HEAR squealing tires in traffic and feel on edge?  How many minutes did it take you to feel normal again?)

Here is cortisol in action…

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So what’s all the hubbub about cortisol?  The problem, as with insulin, is TOO MUCH cortisol.  When we live with chronic, uncontrolled stress, our body is preparing for this fight or flight response (that never happens.)  So our blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate might be chronically high.  We are on edge, moody.  We have poor digestion, stomach aches.  We have poor elimination, constipation. We will have poor immune function, be frequently ill.  Over time, our adrenal glands will tire out from the over-production of these stress hormones, leading to adrenal fatigue, possibly chronic physical and mental fatigue or depression.

So what do we do if our life is full of stressors that we have ABSOLUTELY no control over?  Sometimes, we THINK we have no control over our stressors, but for some of them, we really do.  When I used to work night shift in a hospital with critically ill patients, I knew my stress levels were too high.  I knew I HAD to stop working nights.  But my family was dependent on my working those hours.  What did I do?  I made an uncomfortable decision to put my health first and let the chips fall where they may.  I took a decrease in pay to work more normal hours.  It was uncomfortable for a time.  But in the end, it all worked out.  Adjustments were made and now I have restored health, adequate income to care for my family and a schedule that works for all of us.  Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions, leave good paying jobs, terminate toxic relationships, etc.

After we have made some tough decisions, there may still be some stressors left that there is no way out of.  Dealing with a chronic illness (ours or a family member’s), financial problems, family problems, etc.  We may NOT be able to change or eliminate all of our stressors.  So, then it will be a question of, “how can we more effectively DEAL with our stressors?”

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The best way to deal with stressors is to improve our health.  Eating healthy is the biggest part of that equation.  Eat real food, cut out as much processed food as possible.  SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP.  I can’t stress this enough.  Sleep is absolutely crucial to our ability to cope with stress.  (For helpful sleep tips, see my article HERE.) Exercise is also a key player, as exercise can help reduce stress. How?  Exercise increases cortisol, right?  While that is true, regular exercise can condition our body to have a better response to stress and therefore, over time, allow us to require less cortisol release.  Let’s use an example.  Our heart rate also increases with exercise, but over time, our heart becomes stronger so that our RESTING heart rate actually lowers when we condition ourselves with exercise.  None of us skips exercise because it makes our heart rate go up, right?  In fact, many of us measure our heart rate during the PEAK of exercise to MAKE SURE our heart rate gets HIGH ENOUGH so that we are getting adequate cardiovascular benefit.   It is similar with cortisol and exercise.  For instance, if you begin power walking a mile per day, your body will perceive this as a stressor and increase cortisol.  But, if you do it every day, over time, you body will perceive this as normal activity and will no longer consider it a stressor.  So your body will not require as much cortisol for this activity.  Now, if  you increase your walk to 30 minutes per day, your body might again increase cortisol, because it is out of your comfort zone.  But over time, 30 minutes will become routine.  So regular exercise, over time, will condition our body to require less cortisol for dealing with this perceived stressor.  So don’t avoid exercise under the mistaken reasoning that it will increase your cortisol, and that is bad.  Eating right, sleep and exercise are the primary keys to stress control.  I know, I know, I sound like a broken record, but what can I say, these three things are the absolute foundation to good health.

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Then, we must PRACTICE ACTIVE stress reduction techniques.  By ACTIVE, I mean that we can’t just hope that stress will resolve itself.  We have to actively do something about it.  You MUST take a small portion of your day to deal with stress.  And don’t say you don’t have time.  Turn off the TV for 20 minutes and you have time.  Go to a quiet place, maybe even a dark place, that is cool and comfortable.  Lock the door!  Deep breathe and stretch.  Listen to some relaxation music.  Use essential oils to help calm you.  Aromatherapy is an EXTREMELY powerful tool.  Don’t underestimate it.  I use essential oils EVERY DAY and they have made a HUGE impact on my life.  (For more information about essential oils, go to my essential oils page HERE).  If you are a spiritual person, incorporate some type of spiritual activity, whatever that means to you.  Or, get a massage, do pilates, take a detox bath.

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Or, maybe for you, an equally effective method of stress release is to hit a punching bag and sweat it out.  That’s great too.  Whatever it takes for you to release stress and feel stronger.  I have found that since I have incorporated strength training into my exercise regimen, I feel stronger overall and empowered.  My overall mood and sense of well being is greatly improved.

Find your stress reliever and DO IT every day, or as often as you can.

So, hopefully, we have found a new respect for this amazing and absolutely vital hormone.  But just as with insulin, we have to adjust our lifestyle to keep it from running amuck!

Wishing good health to you!

 

“Diabetic Normal” Blood Sugar Is NOT Normal Blood Sugar

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I was doing another post today about “normal” vs “optimal” health markers (HERE).  This subject was deeply on my mind, but really deserved it’s own post.   Although this one will be short and sweet, to the point!

I need to ask…does this chart bother anyone else as much as it does me?  This chart that makes people think that a blood sugar of 150 or 180 is GOOOOOOOD!?!?  Diabetic or not, blood sugar that is 2-3 times true normal blood sugar is NEVER GOOD!

There has become a double standard in blood sugar control.  We have “normal” and we have “diabetic normal.”  Why?  How can you call blood sugar “normal” that is causing organ damage, is contributing to heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, and can lead to blindness and amputations?  Having a second standard of “normal” blood sugar, as in “diabetic normal” is giving those with diabetes the false sense of security thinking that an A1c of 6.0 – 7.0% is healthy, that they don’t need to modify their lifestyle any further because they are in the “normal” range.  This has done a HUGE disservice to those with diabetes.

Blood sugar is only normal when it is in the SAME RANGE as those WITHOUT diabetes.  There is only ONE normal.

“Diabetics are entitled to the same normal blood sugars as non-diabetics,” – Dr. Richard K. Bernstein (Type 1 Diabetic for 60+ years).  

Yes, they ABSOLUTELY are!  And that is what people with diabetes should confidently strive for.

Does that mean that every person with diabetes can ATTAIN true normal, non-diabetic, blood sugars?  Sometimes, sometimes not.  It depends on how long they have had diabetes, what damage has been done, and whether any of the damage is reversible.* Nevertheless, true normal blood sugar should ALWAYS be the goal.  “Diabetic normal” should never be settled for unless you have reached the max benefit from lifestyle change.  Often times, true normal blood sugar for those with diabetes takes considerable effort and sacrifice.  If you are doing everything you can to achieve true normal, non-diabetic blood sugars and it is not attainable, then you can rest assured that you are still doing the best you can for your health.  But if you are not putting forth much effort because you are “satisfied” with “diabetic normal” blood sugars, then, you can expect complications.

This subject is close to my heart.  I have a dear friend with A1c’s in the 6’s who thinks that this is just fine, that there is no need to give up candy+, that there was no need to exercise because her A1c is 6.8% and she has been told that this is “GREAT” control of her diabetes.  Did I mention that she can’t feel her feet?  She was told that this is just the “natural” progression of diabetes.  NO IT ISN’T.   It is the “natural” result of ABNORMAL blood sugars that didn’t have to be settled for.  There was more that she could do to achieve true normal blood sugar.  But she has been made to think she doesn’t need to.  And it is very difficult for me to convince her otherwise.

+Her nutritionist AND doctor both told her to have her candy “in moderation.”  Could someone PLEASE define “moderation?”

It’s time to stop the double standard.

Hence, I have added my comments to the chart. 🙂

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If you are not satisfied with “diabetic normal” blood sugars that will lead to a host of complications, please feel free to read further on this website.  Or, check out these two great books (one written by a Type 1, one written by a Type 2) that are a MUST for anyone with diabetes who desires true, non-diabetic blood sugar.  It is possible!

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*Type 1 is not reversible, but one can have “non-diabetic” blood sugar with Type 1 as well.

“My Doctor Told Me I Was “Normal”

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Ever go to your healthcare provider with a health complaint, have a slew of labs done, only to be told that everything was “normal?”  If everything is normal, then why are you having symptoms of a problem?  Well, I’m here to tell you that you know your body best.  If you feel like there is a problem, you are most likely right.  Then why might you be told that everything is “normal” when it most certainly is NOT.

Normal???

Let me say that between “normal” and “optimal” there is a thousand miles. For instance, according to lab values that your doctor may use, a fasting blood sugar of up to 110 (optimal is 80-85) and a fasting insulin of up to 35 (optimal is under 5) is still in the “normal” range when in actuality, a person with these health markers has very advanced metabolic disease, has likely had it for a decade or more, and is probably 95% of the way toward their diagnosis of Type 2. But, they will likely be told they are normal. They will be told they are normal until that one visit when “all of a sudden” they are blind-sided by being told they have Type 2, when in actuality, that diagnosis was in the making YEARS and YEARS ago.

Folks, if you are relying on the answer “everything is normal” from your healthcare provider, without questioning it, you could very well be in for some bad news about your health, and soon. If you don’t know what your ACTUAL lab values are AND what those numbers MEAN, then you have NO IDEA whether you are healthy or not. Normal labs values should not be your goal, optimal lab values should. And it often takes thorough research to find out what those optimal values are.

It will also take a great deal of research in finding healthcare professionals that are knowledgeable about more than just what med to prescribe.  It takes a professional that is willing to dig into the underlying symptoms and resolve the actual cause rather than just mask the symptoms with a pill.  There are professionals like that out there, but they are hard to find.  You will find that you will thoroughly need to educate yourself and be your own advocate for your health, knowing what labs to ask for and insisting on appropriate treatment for things that are out of order.

I have had to do this myself. So I feel for your struggles. 😦

Don’t settle for “normal.”

Physical Activity = Improved Blood Sugar

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If you are not exercising to lower your blood sugar, you are missing out on one of the most powerful tools to increase insulin sensitivity and improve your blood sugar.

Many of you that know me well, know that I have been through some stressful, difficult challenges lately. My spouse having a major heart surgery, having to start a new job, along with my usual responsibilities of educating my children and keeping up my volunteer work. So I was getting really run down, not sleeping well and my blood sugars were slowly, but surely, creeping up. So I put my foot down and decided that my circumstances were not going to define me. I had to take better care of myself and, finally get serious about exercise.

I’m going to admit, a couple months ago, I NEVER imagined exercise could be enjoyable. I pretty much hated it. And I had ALL the excuses, even valid ones, to NOT do it…I’m too tired, I don’t have time, I don’t like to exercise, I’m too weak, everything hurts, you name it, I had made every excuse for myself to avoid it.

But since adding a small amount of regular high intensity interval exercise, along with strength training (the part I REALLY love) a few times per week, I have seen a huge drop in my blood sugars without any change to my diet. I was already low enough in carbs. If I were to lower them further, I would have had to eliminate vegetables, and I was just not going to do that. I just don’t feel good when I don’t eat enough vegetables. Well, now I don’t have to miss out on them.

In the past two weeks, I have not seen my blood sugar out of the 70’s and 80’s, my lowest being 79 my highest being 88 (post meal). As a bonus, I have lost 5 lbs, although that was not my intent, it has been a nice unexpected bonus. It has made me feel so much better, reduced my stress levels, lifted my mood and my mental outlook. improved my sleep and made me feel more empowered. It also helps me stay on track with what I am eating. I had gotten in the habit of snacking, nothing bad, some cheese here, a handful of nuts there. But exercise has helped me be more conscious of my habits overall and be more in-tune to doing the right things so as not to ruin all the effort I’m putting forth, lol!

I often get folks asking me what they can do to lower their blood sugar when they are already very low in carbs. The first question I now ask is “what are you doing for exercise?” What I am finding is that most people are not exercising and have no desire to exercise. Believe me, I understand.

But let’s get a fact out on the table…YOU CANNOT REACH YOUR FULL HEALTH POTENTIAL WITHOUT EXERCISE. PERIOD. Yes, I know exercise is not THE most important factor in weight loss and blood sugar control, but it is AN important factor. One that should NOT be left out.

Does this mean that you have to join a gym? Nope. While there is nothing wrong with that, I have chosen instead to exercise at home. Now, some may feel better with personalized fitness instruction. And some instruction is helpful to make sure you are safe and avoid injury. However, there are tons of fitness instructional videos and websites all over the Internet from very credible professionals who have willingly shared their expertise. Find some that work for you. Invest in a few dumbells, and/or a barbell, a mat, or even some resistance bands, and you’re ready to go. You don’t have to be a fitness expert to exercise. We, as humans, were MADE to exert ourselves physically. Don’t make it difficult.   It’s not rocket science. ;).

I am NO fitness expert.  But, often the biggest hurdle to exercise is ourselves. Once we stop making excuses, we will find a way to make exercise workable for us. Do you know how many fitness videos and websites I’ve watched and visited in the last few months? Probably hundreds. There is a lot of great instruction out there (a lot of junk too, so be discerning…when you see someone standing on top of an exercise ball about to break their neck, that should set off warning bells…move on, lol). I found things that work for me, and I do them, while each week trying to vary things up a bit to make things more challenging.

I know many of you will pass over this article. It will get very few views or likes. That’s ok. I understand. I have overlooked articles like this for DECADES! Lol! As a society, most of us hate exercise and want nothing to do with it. But you, like me, will come to the realization one day that it is just what you may be missing. So I will keep talking about it in hopes that one day, I will catch you at just the right time when you’ll be willing to give it a go! Believe it or not, you may one day, love it.

Good health to you.

PS I also want to say thanks to a special friend that has answered many of my fitness questions.  You can visit his site HERE.

Ok how about a few memes to finish this up…lol!!

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To Low Carb Purists – You Are Not Helping!

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So, I’ve danced around this subject before on my page. (My previous post “What I Support Vs. What I Recommend” HERE.)  But in my effort to be kind about it, I may have not been direct enough. So it’s time to be blunt.

Low carb purists, you’re not helping!!

Phew! That felt good to say.

I often wonder why have some become so rigid about low carb? Although the vast majority of folks out there are happy, successful low carbers (this post is not really for you…keep up the awesome work!) some have become so obsessed with low carb.

There are some people who may NEED to be strict with low carb because they have a disease which requires it, those for whom excess carbs can cause an imminent, maybe even life threatening, problem, (such as those that have no ability to produce insulin or those that are using low carb for medically therapeutic reasons) That’s not who I’m about talking about. Also, being strict with YOURSELF is not the problem. I am strict with myself. The problem is when you impose YOUR standards on others.

The majority of us don’t have imminent, life threatening conditions. Often we are using low carb to address a chronic problem. We chose low carb to lose weight, control our blood sugar without any medication, or just because it is a healthy way to eat and makes us feel great!

Yet some folks have become so rigid that they cannot accept anything but perfection from themselves (which is their choice) OR ANYONE ELSE (which is the problem), especially people they know nothing about on social media. Some of these folks LOVE to comment and are quick to set others straight about what they should or shouldn’t be doing, about what low carb IS and what it ISN’T.

And you know, often these are really genuine-hearted folks with good intentions wanting to help other people. But when one makes disparaging remarks to others, IT IS NOT HELPFUL OR ENCOURAGING. Some people probably just found this page today and it is their first exposure to low carb. So please don’t comment as if all people should be where you are NOW, when you’ve been low carbing for a decade, you’ve read 50 books on the subject, you’ve honed your program, and have learned from your mistakes over time. Give everyone the courtesy of doing the same and support them instead of criticizing them.

It’s like one time I read an article that said unless all your produce was organic, your meat grass fed and your eggs pastured, you weren’t truly paleo. Really?

Here are some other comments I have seen…and my thoughts, lol…

“Normal fasting blood sugar is below 85; 87 is NOT normal fasting blood sugar.”
My thoughts? What if a person used to have a fasting blood sugar of 300? I bet they think 87 is just fine!

“My fasting blood sugar is 81. Should I fast to get it below 80?”
My thoughts? Really? There are way better reasons to fast than 2 points in your blood sugar. You’re no longer the “before” you’re the “after.” You’ve made it…enjoy!

“Low carbers don’t eat onions.”
My thoughts? I’m a low carber, I eat onions…

“Nobody should be deducting carbs from broccoli.”
My thoughts? Are we really debating 2g of fiber?

“Almonds have polyunsaturated fat, we shouldn’t eat them.”
My thoughts? You are more than welcome to avoid them. I, however, am about to dive into a Fathead pizza.

“6g of carbs is too much sugar in a meal.”
My thoughts? Not for me…

“You let your kids eat carrots?”
My thoughts? Sure do! Try not to report me to child protective services please.

I understand wanting to be in control of your health. We ALL want that. But when I feel myself getting too opinionated about low carb, I often have to step back and ask myself “there are still war and poverty in the world, right?” There are much bigger issues than a blood sugar of 101 or whether to go by total carbs or net carbs.

To quote one of my all time favorite musical artists in song (Billy Joel)… “I believe I’ve passed the age, of consciousness and righteous rage, I found that JUST SURVIVING was a noble fight.  I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view, but life went on no matter who was wrong or right….oh…”

No need to be so dogmatic about low carb.  In the world there exists issues of much greater importance that deserve our time and energy.  Find some of those things 😉

So for those that have become so rigid, I understand you may have good intentions, but really, it is not helpful to others. I’m willing to bet that the stress you are causing yourself might kill you faster than a carrot. So, by all means, be in charge of your health, but please don’t presume to be in charge of others’ health.

This page has two guiding principles that I do not waiver on… 1) eat real, whole food 2) limit carbs to the point where you can maintain optimal health markers, whatever that means to each person. Other than that, each person will be given the courtesy of finding what is right for them…and they will be supported in doing it.

I do not promote perfection, especially in others. We are all going through struggles no one knows. A wise quote…”The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating and a terrible waste of time.”

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Problems With Mixed Insulin Therapy

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First, let me say that this post is not medical advice, nor is it designed for anyone personally. Making any type of change to your insulin regimen is something you should discuss with your primary healthcare provider. This post is meant to be a discussion of the common problems with mixed insulin therapies and how to possibly address them. You can use these concerns as a basis for discussion with your healthcare provider.

For a complete discussion of insulin therapy, please see my page “Using Insulin” HERE:

As I briefly discussed in this link, there are basically two benefits to mixed insulin therapy:

  • Cost, and
  • Ease of use.

But for control, it is not the best option.

Mixed insulins can have their place.  For instance, they are ideal for those that can only afford one vial of insulin at a time.  Or for those with limited abilities in calculating and managing their insulin doses.  They may be ideal for those that are advanced in years or those with limited dexterity, limited understanding, or even vision problems (people that may mix up insulin vials if they have more than one.)  However, if you are not bound these types of circumstances, you may consider a different, more effective regimen.

First if all, with mixed insulin, the ratios are fixed. For instance, with 70/30 insulin, you get 70% intermediate acting (used as basal) and 30% short acting (used as bolus). You can’t change the ratios. So if you need more short acting, for instance, you HAVE to take more intermediate acting too. Not ideal.

Next, because the N portion of the insulin lasts about 1/2 a day, you can’t take a mixed injection at lunch, which may result in elevations. (A lunch meal may possibly be covered by a peak in “N” insulin but this is often unpredictable.  Therefore, some people add an R injection before lunch to address this.)

But overall, it is my opinion that it is best to split insulins up and mix them yourself. They can be mixed in the same syringe (see how to HERE). That means buying a separate vial of R and N.

If your insurance covers analog insulins (or if you can afford them), many feel they are better for the simple fact that they are a little more predictable and the true basal insulins are “peakless” (N insulin has unpredictable “peaks” that could cause low BG.) But you can still work with N and R. I would, however, suggest splitting them up. How do you do that?

For instance, if you are currently getting, say, 20 units of 70/30 twice per day, that means you are getting 14 units of N and 6 units of R twice per day. If you split them up, you can use those doses as a starting point. If you are high (or low) at FASTING and BEFORE meals, this indicates that you need more (or less) N insulin. If you are high (or low) AFTER meals, this indicates that you need more (or less) R insulin. (R should be taken AT LEAST 30 minutes before a meal.) Your mid-day meal might also need to be covered with R insulin (but possibly not as much, as your N insulin might be “peaking” at that time.) Seems a bit confusing, but this is what comes with the territory in dealing with N and R insulins.

Changing to analog insulins (rapid acting and long acting) is often more predictable, as rapid acting typically last only about 4 – 5 hours (getting you from meal to meal), and long acting insulins have no “peaks” to deal with. These insulins cannot be mixed in the same syringe, however, so this would require 4 (possibly 5) injections daily.

If you have some time, HERE is a good video explaining the different insulin types and how to manage them. It also talks about how to figure out your “carb ratio” and “sensitivity factor” (or “correction factor.”)  These are concepts that everyone taking insulin should thoroughly understand.  This person does not appear to endorse a low carb lifestyle, but the information with graphics might be very helpful to you.

Once again, before making any changes to your insulin regimen, discuss it with your primary healthcare provider.

More Is Not Always Better, Neither Is Less

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Something is really starting to get to me in the world of nutrition. It is the thinking that if something is deemed “good,” then MORE MUST BE BETTER. And if LESS of a particular thing is good, then NONE MUST BE BETTER.

Somewhere in the distant past, after years of the nation’s love affair with predominantly white bread on the market, so-called “healthier” versions of bread began to gain popularity. Whole wheat and “multi-grain” breads with more fiber. Are they good for you? No! But are they LESS BAD than their white counterparts? Maybe slightly. But as Dr. William Davis’ so aptly pointed out, less bad doesn’t equal good. He makes a good point. A low tar cigarette may be less bad for you than a regular cigarette, but does that mean that low tar cigarettes are GOOD for you and you should take up smoking? No! But that is what happened to our dietary recommendations. Those “healthy grain” products became the base of our nutritional pyramid. Because if these products were better than white bread, then eating HEAPS of them MUST be good right? Well, I don’t think I need to answer that question for anyone who follows this page. I think the obesity and diabetes epidemic speaks for itself.

Sadly though, our method of thinking has not changed. We seem to think that “if some is good, then more MUST be better” and “if less is good, then NONE must be better.” As we have learned, this is not necessarily true at all times for all people.

I’ll give you a good example. I once read that you should eat an avocado per day for all of its health benefits. I’ve tried that, multiple times. And every time, I’ve ended up with wrenching gut discomfort. I’ve learned that there are certain substances in avocados that I cannot tolerate in large quantities on a regular basis. But I can enjoy reasonable amounts of avocados on occasion. I have also tried the ever popular “egg fasts” on a few occasions and felt terrible. I love eggs, I probably eat 2-3 every day. But to cut out my vegetables and eat tons of eggs? Didn’t work for me.

So, learning that fat was healthy and carbs, well, not so good, I see some adopting these views that fat is to be gorged on and all carbs are evil. “If fat is good, well, let’s just pour it in our coffee and slam down fat bombs.  If carbs are bad, let’s go zero carb.”

This is similar to the logic used in interpreting studies that people use to “prove” that meat is bad for you. (I’m about to go off on a slight tangent here…). Some who avoid animal products say there are studies that show that “meat eaters are less healthy.” Well, it’s the meat, right? (Wink wink) And then, by association, if meat is bad for you, ALL animal products are therefore, bad for you. Or is it that some of the meat eaters in the study also smoked, drank more alcohol, exercise less, and ate more sugar and wheat products vs the plant eaters in these particular studies? The law of good science states that only ONE variable can be tested at a time to prove any causative link. So you would have to take two groups where EVERYTHING is exactly the same (ie. all participants are non-smokers, all exercised the exact same amount, all avoided alcohol, all avoided sugar and wheat, all got the same amount of sleep, all had stress management support, etc) except one group added some meat to their diet and one went without. No study to my knowledge like this has ever been done. In fact, this is what makes nutritional studies nearly impossible. Because two variables will ALWAYS be involved. If you lower one macronutrient, you increase another. If you don’t replace the missing macronutrient, then the calories won’t be the same (another variable). So that is why nutritional studies are often not extremely definitive and why I’d rather see each person experiment for themselves, based on their own health markers, what is best for them. PS this does not mean that I am against plant based diets if you choose them. But you should choose them because it is your preference, not based on faulty premises.

But I’m getting WAY away from my point.

My point is, just because something is deemed “good,” that doesn’t mean that MORE IS BETTER. And just because less of something is good, it doesn’t mean that NONE is better.

And it’s not just with food that we have this skewed logic. It’s with everything in life. How about exercise? Cardio exercise is good. Is more better? Not really. Here is a great post from Dietitian Cassie talking about long periods of steady, chronic cardio being a hindrance to good health. HERE  My point? More is not necessarily better.

What about ketones. If ketosis is good for weight loss, then higher ketones equal MORE weight loss, right? So we all need to drink MCT oil by the bottle and take exogenous ketones, right?  Here is a great post from Amy Berger of Tuit Nutrition. While the article she references is great, her comments on this matter are even better.  HERE  My point? More is not necessarily better.

Or what about fasting?  It is the new “in” thing, even though we’ve done it for thousands of years.  Many have embraced “intermittent” fasting.  And that is great.  It is extremely healthy.  But “intermittent” means we do it periodically.  (For instance, many do it 2 days per week). But I have read soooo many comments about people doing long term daily fasting and they stopped getting results.  Then, when they decided not to fast permanently, they had weight regain, and blood sugar problems returned.  What happened to “intermittent?”  My point?  More is not necessarily better.

How about exercise?  We have had a HUGE emphasis lately on “exercise is not the key to weight loss.”  Why?  Because diet is the most important factor for weight loss.  And that is 100% true.  But now, that has been translated into “exercise is unnecessary, ALL you need to manage weight, is diet.”  Well, WHY do we want to manage our weight?  To be healthy?  To look better?  Well then WHY is exercise not considered necessary.  It is extremely important for all of those goals.

Even from one of the biggest LCHF proponents in the world, who’s slogan is #bringbackthefat, she posts this…good point, huh?

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Can’t we be a little more reasonable? Why must it be all one way or the other? How about getting our body good and healthy and then listening to its cues? I’m a HUGE believer in the body’s innate ability to make its’ needs known. Some days I crave more vegetables, so I eat them. Some days I crave more fat, so I eat some.  Some days I’m not hungry at all and will eat very little. Some days I’m very hungry and will eat more. I try to listen.

Now, am I saying that if your body craves sugar, then listen to it? No. As I’ve said many times, I recommend cutting out all processed food. If it has a label, it’s probably bad for you (unless it has only 1-2 ingredients, and they are all RECOGNIZABLE, lol!) So when I talk about listening to your body’s cues, I mean only eating REAL food.

Outside of that, why such extremes? I feel like in order for my lifestyle to be sustainable, it has to be something I’m willing to do for life. I’m not willing to be zero carb for life. I don’t want to be FORCED to fast forever.  I don’t want my body to accept this as my new normal so that if I eat vegetables (carbs) or I eat a third meal in a day, I have a backlash, instant weight gain and sky rocketing blood sugar!  For me, my body adapts to anything I do long term, and I stop reaping the benefits.  So I have to make constant adjustments within my healthy guidelines.

But 30g (or up to 50g) of carbs for a person (like me) with metabolic disease gives you PLENTY of healthy veggies to choose from. Then, take care of your basic protein needs (more if you are young, or physically active, less if you are overweight and sedentary.) And for those on plant based diets, up to 100g of carbs will allow you to take care of your protein needs with plant based foods (which come with carbs versus animal sources that are carb free). Then, both groups add fat until you are no longer hungry.  Don’t add fat in your drink and call it a meal. Don’t eat a pound of bacon “because you can.”  And don’t cut out all vegetables because you’ve stalled losing weight on 20g of carbs, so “lower must be better.” For goodness sake, how about exercise, how about sleep, how about managing your stress, how about getting a medical check up, how about getting off any drugs you can safely remove from your life? If you are eating only 20g of total carbs per day and you can’t get results, then less carbs is probably not the answer. You’ve got bigger problems. Find out what they are.

I don’t have all the answers. But I’m pretty sure that this type of reasoning is not the way.

Lastly, our bodies are something to be cherished, well cared for. They are designed to work hard, sometimes really hard. But they are not made to be punished into submission. Be kind to your body. It is the only one you’ll get.

Wishing you all health and happiness.

Rekindling An Old Friendship

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I have a new friend. Well, not a new friend exactly. It’s more like an old friend that has come back into my life. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to call my friend ED. I will reveal ED’s real name shortly.

ED and I used to be VERY close in my teens and twenties. We rarely ever missed a day together. Sometimes, we spent time together twice a day. Often, I turned to ED to help me deal with stress. ED built me up, made me strong. Sadly, life happened and my friend and I drifted apart. Marriage, kids, education, stressful jobs, health problems, all these things kept us apart until I decided to stop making excuses and put more work into this precious friendship. Now that ED is back in my life, I feel like I have a renewed sense of strength and vitality. I realize I can’t live without ED.

ED wants to be your friend as well and ED won’t ask very much of the friendship except a very small fraction of your time each day, but will give you an AMAZING return on your investment in the friendship.

ED stands for “Exercise Daily.”

Yes, daily exercise is crucial to your good health.

Now, in the low carb movement, we put a HUGE emphasis on healthy diet over exercise. Why? Because no matter how much exercise you do, you CANNOT exercise off the effects of a bad diet. That is 100% true. But does that mean that if you have an extremely healthy, whole food, low carb lifestyle, that you get a free pass on exercise? A BIG NO! That is what I used to think, because I lost 80 lbs with NO exercise. However, LOSING weight and REACHING health goals is far different than MAINTAINING them. It will take lifelong effort to support your ongoing healthy lifestyle.

Exercise does something far more important to me personally. Besides just wanting to burn fat or build muscle, exercise puts me in a total health-building frame of mind. It keeps me on track. When I exercise, I feel like I don’t want to “undo” any of my hard work. So I eat better, at the right times, I sleep better, I manage stress better. All of my resolves for healthy living become stronger.

Of course, then there are the actual benefits of exercise itself. (Courtesy of Dr. Mark Hyman)
What health benefits can you expect from exercise?

  • “It makes your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin so that you don’t need as much. Less insulin = less belly fat.
  • It reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol and you become insulin resistant and store belly fat. Too much cortisol also makes you crave sugar and carbs and seek comfort food.
  • If you do interval training (going fast, then slow), you can speed up your metabolism and burn more calories all day long, even while you sleep.
  • Strength training builds muscle, and muscle burns seven times as many calories as fat.
  • Exercise improves memory, learning and concentration.
  • Vigorous exercise is a better anti-depressant than Prozac.
  • Exercise protects your heart and reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Exercise reduces inflammation (the cause of almost every disease of aging).
  • Exercise boosts detoxification of environmental chemicals.
  • Exercise balances hormones and reduces breast and other common cancers.
  • Exercise improves sexual function.”

I’m sold, right?

Here’s the great part. In my teens and early twenties, I exercised for LOOONG periods of time just about every day, sometimes twice per day. I taught a 5:30 am aerobics class (for an hour) then returned to the gym in the evening for more exercise. And you know what, I still would never have considered myself strong back then. All that work. Now, with shorter, higher intensity intervals, and strength training, I can accomplish leaps and bounds more in probably 1/4 of the time.

You don’t HAVE to exercise to death. Give exercise just 1/2 hour per day of your time (that is just 2% of your day). And don’t say you CAN’T exercise. Unless you have absolutely no ability to move below the neck, then you CAN exercise. You CAN do SOMETHING. Just do what YOU can do. I’m no fitness expert. Things have changed so much since I was heavily involved in the fitness world, and we know so much more now. But keep a few things in mind:

  1. You need to get your heart rate up, preferably repeatedly in the same session,
  2. You need to sweat, preferably profusely, and
  3. You need to occasionally lift things that are heavy for you, in order to build and preserve muscles and bones.

Yes, everyone needs to do these things.

Let me help you with some of the thoughts that are going through your mind right now…

“I don’t have time.” Yes you do.
“I’m too tired.” No you’re not.
“I don’t feel like it.” Do it anyways.
“Exercise equipment is expensive.” No it is not.
“I need a gym membership.” No you don’t.
“It hurts when I do this.” Don’t do that.
“I don’t like exercise.” That’s because you only do it enough to hate it.
“I don’t know what to do.” Get off the couch, lol!
“I’m not coordinated.” It’s not a ballet. Just move 😉
“I don’t spend enough time with my kids.” Nothing better than exercising together.
“The weather is bad.” Exercise indoors.
“Exercise is boring.” So is breathing, but you still need to do it.
“I’ll start on Monday.” No you won’t.
“I’m too old.” There is no such thing.

Ok, now that we’ve gotten those things out of the way, time to make a plan. Think about what kind of exercise you’d like to do and when your going to do it. Watch some videos, find something that you enjoy. Read some fitness related information from reliable sources. Purchase some minimal equipment such as hand weights or resistance bands, maybe a mat if you need one. Find some folks that will motivate and support you.

I hope to never take my friendship with exercise for granted again.

Now, excuses and obstacles removed, get moving!

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What I Support Versus What I Recommend

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Let me first say that “low carb” is a very general term, and I chose the designation “Low Carb RN” (versus, say, “Keto RN”) for myself for a reason.

The vast majority of folks eat too many carbs. Hands down, no doubt about it. So some level of carb restriction is beneficial for every living person. In addition, the vast majority of people eat far too much processed foods. I hate to even call it food. It is more like food-like substances. So, we all need to reduce carbs and eliminate processed foods (as well as genetically modified foods). That is the bulk of my message. Reduce carbs and eat whole foods.

But then we get into the bigger questions, such as, how much carbs should people eat? Does everyone have to remove whole foods that are higher in carbs?

This website supports people at ALL levels of carbohydrate restriction that are eating a clean, real, whole food diet. My definition of low carb is <100g per day. I don’t think any human being needs more than that. But that is my opinion. My definition of low carb high fat, LCHF, is under 50g per day (with more fat), and a very low carb ketogenic diet typically being under 30g per day (with high fat – although some can be in ketosis with more carbohydrates). Your definitions may vary. (HERE is a good reference.)  Some people have chosen low carb to lose weight and reverse diabetes. Some people just choose low carb because it is healthy and makes them feel good. Some people even need to gain weight!

I recommend that all people, regardless of their weight, health status or activity level, eliminate sugar, and all processed grains, including 100% wheat elimination, for all people. Sugar and wheat are toxic. I will never waiver on that.

But then the road starts to fork. What about starchy vegetables, rice, fruit and legumes? These are whole foods. Should we eat them, and how much?

This is why I chose the generic term “low carb” to describe what I support, although what I RECOMMEND may be different. What do I mean by that? Well, for those with diabetes, I would RECOMMEND under 50g of carbs per day (some do better around 30g). I know it is the most beneficial course to take and really important to avoid complications. So I will recommend it wholeheartedly, very vocally, and persuasively, lol! But what if a person doesn’t WANT that level of carb restriction? Not everyone on this planet desires to manage their diabetes with this level of diligence. Many people I work with live in poverty and have more trials and tribulations than you could imagine. So what if I can only get someone like this from eating the typical American diet of 400g of carbs per day to switch to a whole food, low carb way of living, and they eat 75g of carbs per day. Should I abandon them or support them? I will support them. This would be life changing for them.

What if, and this is actually true, I have many who follow my page that are low carb vegetarians? Now, this is not something I would typically recommend to someone who is coming to me for dietary advice.  But, I am more than happy to honor the values of others.  I will say that I am concerned more for those that choose a vegan lifestyle vs vegetarian, due to the lack of dietary cholesterol, because I believe it to be vitally important.  Nevertheless, I can still help them to eliminate sugar and processed foods, garbage soy foods, and high sugar fruit.  This means that they will still eat some legumes, root vegetables and whole unprocessed rice (Dr. David Perlmutter on whole unprocessed, non-gluten grains HERE) and possibly up to 100g of carbs per day. Should I abandon them or support them? I will support them. This would be life changing for them.  (Vegetarian compatible with Grain Brain / Brain Maker Lifestyle? HERE.  More resources for low carb vegetarians HERE.)

What if, I have zero carb total carnivores? Lol! This is also not something I would particularly recommend for someone coming to me for dietary advice.  I really feel that some veggies are needed or at least extremely beneficial.  But, if they have found that total carb elimination is best for them and their health condition or for their preferences, should I abandon them or support them? I will support them.

Everyone has to find out what works for them, their health, their preferences and their values. I support anyone who is trying to get healthier by eating real food and restricting carbs.

What about me personally? How do I eat? And what do I recommend?

I am damaged goods. And that makes me desire to be rigid about my health, most of the time, and because I like structure and order, lol!! I also feel terrible when I DON’T manage my health with diligence. However, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I let my own stressors get me off track. But 95% of the time, I’m stringent with myself. I personally have my own way of doing things. I would say that I most closely align myself with a very low carb ketogenic way of living. But I’m not obsessive about Ketosis or measuring ketones. I identify with this way of living because I try to choose mostly keto acceptable foods.  However, I probably eat a little more veggies than most people on keto who are concerned about even vegetable fiber. I don’t rigidly restrict protein nor do I stuff myself with fat. I let my body tell me how much of those things to eat. I have eliminated most sugar (about 99% – I eat dark chocolate sometimes, and occasional berries), have eliminated all grains 100%, no starches, legumes for me either.

With that being said, I’m rigid with myself, but not fanatical as I once was. I’m a grown up now! Lol! For instance, when I cook chicken vegetable soup for my family, I use carrots and onions in it. If a few carrot slices make it into my bowl, I’ll eat them. I make banana muffins for my kids. The ingredients include almond flour, butter, cream, eggs, a healthy zero glycemic sweetener, and ONE banana for 24 muffins. Occasionally, I’ve been known to eat one of these muffins and enjoy it immensely. So basically, I had 1/24th of a banana. It’s not blasphemy, it’s just one slice of banana. It’s real food. My blood sugar doesn’t move.  But if I am in a restaurant and my salad comes with croutons, they are going in the trash, because it is not real food.

Then I work strongly on other healthy lifestyle factors. Eating is only part of the picture.

With all that being said, this is my personal choice of how I have decided to live.  While I would love to recommend this way of living to every person, (and at one time I really felt that there could be no other way that was acceptable ;), not every person wants to eat this way. I have a lot of die-hard keto or LCHF followers who are also very dedicated. And I applaud them wholeheartedly. But not everyone that follows my page is there, nor even wants to be there. I ultimately respect each person’s choice to find out what works best for them as long as it entails eating real food and keeping carbs in check.

So sometimes, you may see content on my page that is not suited to you personally.  Just keep in mind that in the world of low carb, there are many paths.  Whether you are low carb paleo, low carb vegetarian, low carb high fat, very low carb keto or zero carb, you are welcome here.

Happy low carbing to you!

Simplifying the Message – Three Simple Rules to Good Health

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Many, when they are totally new to LCHF or low carb living, are confused by the message. Should I count my macros? How much exercise should, I do? Can I eat fruit? And we, who have lived a long time with this way of living, have tons of advice that often overwhelms people, who may get frustrated and give up. We sometimes forget our own journey, how far we have come. So, for a beginner, I’d like to summarize how to start in 3 basic steps.

  1. Eat real food (without overeating it).  Real food typically doesn’t come with a nutrition label.  If it does, it may have 1-3 ingredients, all of which are ingredients that you are familiar with and can pronounce.  For the most part, food that comes in a bag, box or bottle on a shelf, is not real food.  (Some exceptions exist, like nuts, coconut oil, etc.)  You can avoid overeating by only eating only when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied (not when you have to loosen your belt).
  2. Eat to your meter.  Even among real food, there will be some foods that will raise your blood glucose too high, like most fruits, root vegetables and starches.  Keep your blood glucose regulated to normal (non-diabetic) levels.  If the food you are eating makes your blood glucose spike above normal levels, I would highly recommend eliminating it.
  3. Engage in health building activities.  Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  Exercise vigorously most days of the week, actively manage stress, build supportive relationships and make giving a priority in life.