Developing a Healthier Relationship with Food

by Steven H. Horne, RH

Have you ever been overweight? Odds
are pretty good that you are right now. I am and so is about 70% of the American
population. I don’t consider myself seriously overweight, and I’m doing better
than I was a couple of years ago, but I’d still like to lose some more

I haven’t always had these extra
pounds of body fat. At one time, I was actually underweight (yes, it is possible
to be too skinny-which isn’t healthy either). At times I’ve gained a few pounds,
but then, it always seemed to come off on its own without me having to think
about it much. This is the first time that didn’t happen and I’ve had to
consciously figure out how to take the pounds off.

I’m going to be very blunt here, because from what
I’ve observed in myself and others, weight is about 50% emotional and 50%
physical. One thing that’s very clear to me is that when I’m happy and not
feeling stressed, I always lose weight. When I’m unhappy and feeling stressed, I
always gain weight. Part of this is that when I’m happy and feeling good, I’m
more physically active and I eat less

That’s why I don’t believe
the “diet and exercise” mantra. I’ve been close to several people who have very
serious weight problems and these people often eat less than I do and still
don’t lose weight. I’ve also observed that trying to make yourself eat less,
puts you in a constant battle of willpower trying to deny your cravings and
appetite. When you pit mind against body, the body just about always wins. This
is amply evidenced by the fact that 90% of all people who lose weight by dieting
and exercising gain back all the weight they lost (and sometimes even more than
they lost).

So, what is really going on

No one in their right mind can deny
that when you consume more food than your body burns for energy that the body
will store the excess energy as fat. That’s an obvious fact. And, no one can
also deny that if you increase energy consumption (activity), while decreasing
food intake that the body can burn stored fat, will cause you to lose weight.
(Starve yourselflong enough and you’ll get downright

However, the big question is,
“Why are we eating too much food?” It isn’t natural. The feedback from the body
should tell us when we’ve eaten enough food and shut down our appetite. How come
this isn’t happening?

For instance,
consider thirst. When there isn’t enough water in the system, it trips a thirst
mechanism, which causes you to seek out water. The volume of water in the blood
trips the thirst mechanism on, but if you had to wait until the blood level of
water normalized before thirst tripped off, you’d drink too much water, because
of the time it takes for water to be absorbed into the bloodstream. So, the
thirst mechanism is turned off by swallowing, and the body can gauge within a
few ounces whether you’ve swallowed the right amount of water to properly
rehydrate the blood.

Why shouldn’t our
appetite mechanism be just as sensi tive? I believe it is. The body knows how
many “calories” of energy it needs and what nutrients it lacks and can adjust
our sense of taste, smell and appetite to regulate our food consumption
accordingly. Try this as an experiment some time. Get some apples and start
eating them. Try to force yourself to eat too many apples. I bet you won’t be
able to do it. You’ll get to the point where your body will rebel to the point
you won’t be able to gag down another bite of apple. Don’t believe me? Try it,
then you’ll know what I’m talking

So, the fact that we’re eating
more calories than we need shows there is some kind of breakdown in the
communication system between the mind and the body. If we can fix this
communication breakdown, we’ll not only lose weight easily and naturally but
keep it off too. It won’t require willpower because we won’t be trying to
control the body via our conscious mind. Instead, it will be easy to do because
mind and body will be in harmony. So, how do we fix this communication
breakdown? I believe that there are two primary reasons for this lack of
mind-body communication. The first is what we are eat ing and the second is how
happy we are (which includes how we eat what we

munication system between the mind
and the body. If we can fix this communication breakdown, we’ll not only lose
weight easily and naturally but keep it off too. It won’t require willpower
because we won’t be trying to control the body via our conscious mind. Instead,
it will be easy to do because mind and body will be in harmony. So, how do we
fix this communication breakdown? I believe that there are two primary reasons
for this lack of mind-body communication. The first is what we are eat ing and
the second is how happy we are (which includes how we eat what we

Nutritional Density and Empty

It is very clear to anyone who looks
closely at the situ ation that refined and processed foods are the number one
reason for the increase in serious weight problems in our culture. The reason
that refined and processed foods contribute to weight gain is that the body
doesn’t just need calories. It also needs vitamins, minerals, enzymes and
numerous phytochemicals whose nutritional value has yet to be established. All
of these nutrients (both recognized and unrecognized) are present in whole,
natural foods.

Most diet programs and
books focus

only on calories or the source of
those calories. Calories come from fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Most diets
focus on trying to modify caloric intake and/or to adjust the source of those
calories (i.e., low fat, low carb, high protein, low glycemic, etc.) The
assumption is that all we need to do is adjust the caloric intake and the rest
of what the body needs will automatically be present in the diet. I don’t
believe this is accurate.

It is no secret
that my favorite research on nutrition was conducted by Dr. Weston Price, a
dentist who toured the world in the 1930’s studying traditional diets and the
health of traditional people. Dr. Price found that tradi tional people seldom
got sick, had excellent bones and teeth and tended to be socially well adjusted.
In testing their food, he found that it was more nutritionally dense than the
food being consumed by their “civilized” counterparts. For example, he found
that traditional diets contained four times more water soluble vitamins and ten
times more fat soluble vitamins than the foods most Americans were eating at
that time.

If our diets were that
deficient, compared to traditional diets, in the 1930s, think how much worse the
situation is today. The bottom line is that our commercial sources of food, even
natural foods like fresh frui ts and vegetables, are generally lacking in
vitamins, minerals and other phytonu trients. This is largely due to modern
agricultural practices which are not taking proper care of the

This is bad enough, butwhen we take
already nutrition ally depleted foods and then refine and process them, we
further deplete vitamin and mineral content. The result is an even lower
nutritional density. Refined flour, white rice, processed oils, refined sugars,
canned goods, packaged foods, etc. have all been stripped of their complex
nutritive value, making them “empty calorie” foods. Modern food manufacturers
like these processed “foods” because they can be stored almost indefinitely. So,
they fight to keep people from recognizing the truth about the dangers of these
foods to our health.

Armed with this
knowledge, those of us “in the know” go looking for bet ter food. Knowing that
“organically grown” food is likely to have more nutritional density, we buy
organic. But, even in the “health food store,” we encounter some “empty calorie”
foods. A lot of the bread is made with “organic, unbleached white flour” and we
find “organic refined sugar” in many “health foods,” too. If you’re going to
grow something organically (and therefore try to increase it’s nutritional
value) why would you want to refine it and strip its nutritional value

The Challenge of Finding Quality

So, finding good quality food can be a
challenge in modern society. As a result, the body isn’t getting all the
nutrients it needs in the foods we eat, so our appetite isn’t satisfied even
though we’ve consumed enough calories for energy. For example, one might eat
four slices of white sandwich bread (even if it is unbleached and organic) and
still feel unsatisfied, while one slice of a dense, whole grain bread might
leave one feeling full. The calorie content of a slice of whole grain bread is
about the same as that of a slice of white bread, but the fiber, minerals and
other nutrients in the whole grains make them more filling. They also lower the
glycemic load of the food (that is, how much insulin production it

This is why I can’t understand
why most of the diet books and programs completely ignore the issue offood
quality. If you lower your caloric intake of empty calorie foods, you’re only
going to make that nutrient depletion worse, leaving you even hungrier than you
were before. No wonder people can’t lose weight. The 1.5 trillion dollar
processed food industry has gotten the majority of Americans so “duped” that
they can’t see that they’re all addicted to junk

Unfortunately, taking a
vitamin/mineral supplement will only partially help, because 1) we don’t know
everything in food the body needs and 2) many of the vitamins and minerals in
the supplements aren’t that natural. (Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s true!)
So, the only real solution to the problem is that we’re going to have to start
looking for better food.

Now, I’ve been
looking for quality food most of my life, but I’m still overweight. Why? Well,
that gets us into the second major problem we have that prevents us from losing
weight-we’re stressed and unhappy.

noticed that when I’m home for a period of 3-4 months, staying organized, eating
my own home-cooked, high quality food, I always start losing weight. As soon as
I start traveling, I start gaining weight again. * Of course, part of this is
the fact that I don’t get quite the same qual ity of food I do when I’m home,
but, there’s an even more important

Traveling is stressful for me.
I’m really more of a “homebody” kind of guy, and I do best with routines and
quiet. The disrupted eating and sleeping schedules and the other pressures I
experience when I travel cause me to change not just what I eat, but how I eat
it; and how you eat is nearly as important as what you eat when it comes to

A Sure-Fire Approach to Getting

There’s a sure-fire way of eating that will
virtually guarantee you’ll gain weight, even if you’re eating
nutritionally-dense food. It’s been my standard eating pattern. Is it

Here are the rules to follow if
you want to gain weight:

1. Skip

2. Don’t stop and eat when you get
hungry; keep rushing around and pushing yourself to get things

3. When you do eat, eat quickly so you
can get back to all the things you need to get

4. When you do get something to eat, eat
it while you’re working, driving or trying to get something else

5. Come home really hungry after a hard
day’s work where you haven’t eaten regu larly throughout the day, then eat a
big meal late at night and/or plenty of snacks before

I learned this from a
“Hollywood” nutritionist, who uses this program for actors who need to gain
weight for certain movie roles. This program helps you gain weight for the same
reason that dieting doesn’t help you lose weight-it sends your body into feast
or famine cycles. Because you don’t take time to eat regularly, you get
“starved” so your appetite becomes excessive. Then, you eat more than you need
and your body “stores” the excess to cover for the next time you don’t eat.
Constant repetitions of this cycle cause you to slowly, but surely, gain

Eating Should be

This pattern of eating not only
puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster; it also shows you’re too stressed and
probably not very happy. When you’re experiencing happiness (or pleasure) in
your life, your body sends chemical messages that lower your appetite, increase
your metabolism, enhance your immune system and make you feel good. Conversely,
when you’re feeling stressed, the chemical messengers that flood your body
increase your appetite (especially for sugar and simple carbohydrates), decrease
your metabolism, reduce immune function and make you feel

In last month’s Nature’s Field, I
referred to a program called The Pleasure Principle by Dr. Paul Pearsall, Ph.D.
Finding pleasure in one’s life is important to losing weight. Dr. Pearsall also
says that the positive effects of a pleasurable experience on the body
dramatically outweigh the negative effects of stress. So, instead of seeking to
avoid stress, we should deliberately seek to create pleasurable experiences.
This is completely opposite to what most people who are experiencing weight
problems do. Because they’re unhappy with themselves, they seek to starve and
deprive themselves, or exercise to “punish”

Instead, they need to learn
to be gentle and loving with themselves and seek to indulge in experiences
(other than food) which create joy and pleasure in their lives. Pleasurable
experiences send a cascade of chemical messages through our body that increase
metabolism, improve mood, reduce stress, enhance immunity and otherwise improve
body function.

The eating pattern for
gaining weight that we just shared is the typical eating pattern of the American
work-a-holic, constantly being driven to “get ahead.” In American culture,
pleasure and joy are linked in people’s minds to money and success, which are
always “in the future.” This is a lie. Pleasure and joy are in the here and now
and are found by enjoying what is happen ing right now. But, taking time to
enjoy what I’m doing in the here and now isn’t part of the American way of life,
and that’s the whole reason Americans are drawn to “fast” food in the first
place. We’re in too big of a hurry to take time and “smell the food,” let alone
enjoy the flowers (or any other pleasant

This notion first dawned on me in
2005 when I read Mireille Guiliano’s book, French Women Don’t Get Fat: The
Secrets ofEatingfor Pleasure. I highly recommend this book because it really
changed the way I thought about food. Historically, the French have made eating
a very impor tant, pleasurable experience. Not only has food quality been
important, but taking time to really enjoy the meal is part of the traditional
French way of life.

In the book, Ultra
Metabolism, a book about losing weight by improving your health habits (and
another volume I highly recommend), the author tells of a client who said he
would not give up his hamburgers and fries because he liked them too much. The
author told him he didn’t have to give them up, but he needed to stop picking
them up at the drive-through window and eating them on the run. Instead, he had
to go into the restaurant, sit

down and take
time to enjoy them.

A short time later,
the guy came back and said that he’s quit eating his hamburgers and fries
because they tasted so bad. You see, he was in such a hurry that he was ignoring
the subtle messages his body was giving to him about what and how much he should
be eating. When we slow down and take the time to enjoy our meals, we “tune in”
to the needs of our own body and pretty soon, our body will start telling us
what is and isn’t good for it. Then, it’s no longer a question of “mind over
matter,” it’s a co-operative effort between the mind and the body and becomes
easy to maintain, since the pleasure of feeling good is pretty

How to Eat to Lose

Earlier this year, I read an article in
the newspaper which I wish I had clipped and saved. Fortunately, I remember the
gist of it. It was about a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah
who was helping people lose weight by getting them to focus on changing how they
ate instead of what or how much they ate. This guy was claim ing that families
where parents were constantly nagging kids about eating issues were more likely
to produce adults with serious weight problems than families that allowed
children to eat when they were hungry and otherwise con trol their own food
intake. Thus, they learned to ignore the messages from their own body and eat
according to the mental programming from their

Here’s where the “struggle” of
weight loss is. It isn’t a “war” between your mind and body with your mind (or
will-power) needing to win. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. You need to
become aware of the dysfunctional mental attitudes with which your brain has
been programmed and let your body win. Most of us haven’t lost our “head,” we’ve
lost our body. In other words, we are out of touch with our body and living in
our head.

Either verbally, or
non-verbally, our parents (and other significant people in our early life)
condition our attitudes towards food and eating. My own parents communicated
several messages from which I’ve had a hard time depro gramming

The first, and most difficult one
to tackle, has been, “Clean your plate.” I was thor oughly conditioned through
guilt, reward and threat of punishment to not waste food. I was told that
starving children in China would be glad to have that food (guilt). I was told
there was no dessert if you didn’t finish what was on your plate (punishment).
And, finally, food, in the form of cookies and other treats was also a reward
for good behavior.

The net result is that
I have a lifetime habit of totally ignoring the messages my body sends me that
tell me I’ve had enough to eat. I have to eat what’s on my plate because it’s a
“sin” to waste food. The only thing that has helped me change this is slowing
down and taking more time to enjoy what I’m eating. By staying connected with my
body, I can feel it is unpleasant to eat beyond the point of satisfaction. This
awareness helps me consciously “resist” the guilt conditioning that says I’m
letting food “waste.” This helps keep food from going to “waist,”

I’m not alone in my compulsion to
“clean the plate.” Research actually shows that portion size has a big influ
ence on how much people eat. If a meal is served on a smaller plate, people will
eat less because the plate holds less. Unfortunately, many restaurants in
America service excessively large portions on big plates. So, you really have to
get over the conditioning that the amount of food you’re supposed to eat is
governed by what is on the plate and tune in and let your body tell you how much
you really need.

I was also strongly
conditioned that work came before play, and that I wasn’t allowed to enjoy
myself until all my work was finished. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea,
it created a tendency that I have to keep pushing myself because things aren’t
finished. Because my work is never done (meaning there is always something on my
list left to do at the end of every day), I have developed habits of continuing
to drive myself and postpone eating or tak ing a break. This habituates the
“famine-feast” cycle that makes me eat too much at night and then skip breakfast
the next morning.

Also, the constant
internal pressure to get my work done means that when I’m finally so ravenously
hungry that I can’t ignore the fact that I need to eat, I tend to eat too fast
so I can get back to work. This is an other reason why I tend to gain weight
when I travel. Travel is stressful for me and I tend to eat too fast when I’m
feeling stressed.

However, I’m starting
to learn that the issue isn’t so much that I have stress in my life, it’s that I
wind up not taking time to have pleasurable experiences that counteract the
effects of the stress. I’ve been having to reprogram myself that my work doesn’t
have to be “finished” for me to have pleasure and fun in my life. I can
deliberately make time for eating, playing, taking a break, getting a massage,
etc. even if I’ve got a lot to do. I’m still trying to get over the guilt I feel
when I do this, but I’m getting better at it. When I feed my emotional need for
pleasure with different kinds of pleasurable experiences, I’m less inclined to
try to “feed my needs” with

Suggestions for Losing

So, here are the basics of how to eat to
lose weight, based on my own experience as well as my reading and

First, start adding
nutritionally dense, whole foods to your diet. Eat them first. Gradually, you’ll
find you prefer them to refined

Second, always eat something for
breakfast. Make sure breakfast includes some protein and quality fats. For
example, eggs, avocados, whole milk yogurt (preferably organic), whole grain
cereal with organic butter, flax seed oil or cream (but no sugar) would be good
choices, but it all depends on what you like and what feels good to

Third, eat small, regular meals
throughout the day.

Take “fast” food with you
such as fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, organic cheese or other healthy snacks
that you can nibble on when you start to feel a little hungry. In other words,
graze a little throughout the day. Stop eating when you just barely don’t feel
hungry anymore, not when you feel

Fourth, for all meals, take time to
notice the flavor, texture, color and aroma of what you are eating. Pause and
take time to really chew and enjoy whatever you eat. Breathe while you eat. Put
down your fork or spoon be tween

Fifth, if you’re going to eat it,
enjoy it! Don’t ever feel guilty about what you eat. Even if it’s not the best
food, eat it, be thankful for it, and enjoy

In addition, the following non-food
related activities will be helpful.

plenty of water throughout the

Nourish yourselfby giving yourself
pleasurable experiences each day (a massage, time with a friend, a relaxing bath
or any other activi ty that gives you a sense of pleasure). Most of us overeat
because we’re “unhappy” and trying to fill that emotional emptiness with

Get a good night’s

Become physically active. You
don’t have to “exercise” or go to the gym, just go for a walk, ride a bike,
playa game like golf or tennis, hike, garden, whatever-as long as it’s something
you enj oy. (Remember here that the goal is to find pleasure in

Don’t “beat yourself up”
emotionally over your weight (or anything else for that matter). Don’t feel
guilty and bad about yourself when you “break” any of the above “suggestions.”
That’s not the point. All of these are sug­ gestions for how to care for
your body in a way that will be pleasurable, and healthfully addictive. The goal
is to get addicted to having your body feel good. Then, it’s no longer a
struggle to do what’s good for you, it’s easy and better yet

The Bottom

So, the bottom line question is, why do
people “strug­ gle” with weight? What are they struggling with? They’re not
struggling with some external “enemy,” are they? They think they are struggling
with their body, but that’s not really true. The body is their ally. The body
wants to feel good and sends us signals trying to communicate what is making it
feel good and what is making it feel

The problem is, we aren’t

So, again, when we are
“struggling” to lose weight, what are we struggling with? We’re struggling with
our own habits, emotional issues and dysfunctional condition ing about

Struggling with these issues only
perpetuates them.

Instead, focus on finding
pleasure in your life by changing your relationship with food in a positive way.
Do this by selecting quality food, eating it slowly and enjoying it and by
seeking out pleasurable experiences other than food that will help you feel good
and be happy.

Of course, it also helps to
address specific nutritional issues that may be throwing the body’s biochemistry
out of balance and causing the person’s internal mechanisms of self-regulation
to become dysfunctional. I mention a few of these on the last page of this

Remember, all of these things
are about caring for yourself. As the title of the course I co-authored with
Deanna Hansen last year suggests, “Love Your Body BeautifuL” If you need help
doing this, consult some of the sources


Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and
Mary Enig.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally
Fallon Ultra-Metabolism by Mark Hyman

Pleasure Prescription by Paul

Weightier Matters DVD featuring Steven
Horne, Tree of Light Publishing

Transform Your
Health Booklet, Brochure and CD by Kat James

The Truth About Beauty by Kat

Love Your Body Beautiful by DeAnna Hansen
and Steven Horne

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Posted: 12/31/2006 at 10:17 AM
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Posted: 12/31/2006 at 10:17 AM
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