Post holiday sugar cravings? Maybe your hunger hormone isn’t working.

fridge woman

Did you know that leptin is a hormone made and released by your fat cells in direct proportion to the amount of body fat you are carrying? When leptin is working properly, it signals to your hypothalamus – “Stop eating, you’ve had enough.” The message to your brain is, you’ve stored enough energy, you can stop eating now. So it’s leptin that controls the feelings of hunger and satiety; it also has actions related to fertility, immunity, and brain function.

Overweight people have higher amounts of circulating leptin in their bloodstream than leaner people because they have more fat cells producing leptin. You might conclude that overweight people should therefore have less hunger, eat less, and be able to lose weight more easily. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Hormones do not act alone. Leptin affects all other hormones, which means when we follow a low calorie diet we see a myriad of hormone imbalances causing havoc with fertility, menstruation, sex drive, and immune function.

So why are so many people overweight? Why are heavy people still hungry? Why do we so often gain the weight back after we lose it?

Leptin Insensitivity

Over time, when your system is exposed to too much leptin, it becomes resistant – just as you can become resistant to the hormone insulin.

How do we become leptin resistant?

  • Eating a typical North American diet, high in refined foods and junk food, causes insulin levels to ramp up thereby creating more fat cells.
  • Our bodies secrete leptin as fat cells increase and signal the hypothalamus that adequate energy (fat) has been stored.
  • Hunger and satiety should be relieved and excess fat stored for energy.
  • Too much fat storage causes more leptin to circulate in the blood stream.
  • The brain then becomes resistant to leptin; similar to insulin resistance, the body stops responding to leptin’s signals.
  • When the brain does not receive the leptin signal, it erroneously thinks the body is starving.
  • Leptin resistance is experienced as starvation causing a number of mechanisms and hormone pathways to activate, in turn increasing fat stores instead of burning excess fat
  • Exerting willpower over the leptin-driven starvation signal is next to impossible.
  • Fad diets and quick fixes that severely restrict calories cause leptin levels to drop significantly making overweight individuals hungry all the time.
  • Diet measures fail and the person is left feeling tired, hungry, and defeated, feelings that often trigger emotional over-eating.

Symptoms of leptin insensitivity:

  • Belly fat
  • Feeling unsatisfied and hungry all the time
  • Constant sugar cravings
  • Night time eating
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Elevated evening cortisol – please read my blog on adrenal fatigue
  • Thyroid imbalance symptoms despite a normal TSH result

6 fixes right here, right now!

  1. Eat Protein: many studies indicate that a higher protein intake can reduce weight. This may be linked to reducing leptin insensitivity.
  2. Add Fat: specifically Omega-3 and healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, or butter from grass-fed cattle.
  3. Eat Soluble Fibre: for example legumes, wild rice, oat bran, etcetera, will improve your gut health and may protect against obesity.
  4. Get Physical: activity may help to reverse leptin resistance.
  5. Sleep: poor sleep has been linked to weight gain and leptin resistance.
  6. Ask your doctor to check your triglyceride levels: the best way to lower triglycerides is to reduce carbohydrate, sugar, and alcohol intake.

If this all sounds daunting know that you are no alone.  This is precisely why I developed my Body Beautiful Workshop – a comprehensive, step-by-step, 12-week method for healthy weight loss and health. The program is designed to balance your hormones, heal your gut, reduce inflammation, and enable you to shed pounds.  If you feel like you are up against a wall  struggling with your weight you won’t want to miss this workshop.

If you want to make your New Years Resolution stick while getting the support you need  this is the program for you.

12 Week Body Beautiful Weight Loss & Nutrition Program for Every Body. Click for more details.


Program Dates:

January 27th (Start Date)

February 3rd, 10th (Two week Practice Break)

March 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th

April 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th


References and Further reading:


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Nutrigal’s 10 Tips for Holiday Survival

Santa climbing drain pipe

  1. Commit to a 30-minute ritual each day that gives all your senses a break. Lower the lights and burn an aromatic candle, take a warm bath, lie down or play a 30 minute guided meditation;  do it alone and stick to it religiously.
  2. Schedule exercise appointments in writing each week. If you don’t write it down, you won’t do it. So each Sunday before the new week begins, write.  Commit to 3 days and use a buddy to help you stick to it.
  3. Take two nights per week off from socializing.  Stay at home, eat salad, whole grain bread and lean protein. Then read a book which moves your spirit.  I love “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.
  4. Make a budget and stick to it.  Overspending will only increase your stress come January.
  5. Be careful of codependent traps; remember “no” is a complete answer.  A rule of thumb I follow is: If I feel worse about myself after spending time with someone, I choose to no longer spend time with them, period.  Sometimes this means switching chairs at a function.
  6. No skipping meals. Always eat normally on the day of a party. Eating sensibly throughout the day will take the edge off your appetite and empower a bit of restraint.  This will help you to choose mindfully.
  7. Check it out. First things first. When you arrive at the party, grab a sparkling water with a twist, and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable so you can relax, get comfortable and grounded.  Most of us eat mindlessly to deal with the stress of a social gathering.
  8. Be mindful of your choices: If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, Go ahead and indulge in your personal holiday favorites, then find a seat and, slowly and mindfully, savour every mouthful.
  9. Add fun and games to parties you give. Think horseshoes, badminton, sledding, ice skating, or building snowmen. Indoors, try a spirited game of charades, Crainium or Wii, etc.  Taking the focus off food will help you stick to your healthy eating plan.
  10. Alternate alcohol with nonalcoholic beverages. Alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories, especially holiday favorites like eggnog. Cut your alcohol calories in half by alternating water or seltzer between alcoholic beverages.

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5 Achievements for Weight Loss Success

suspension bridge photoRecently I’ve been working with women who are focusing on weight loss. It is very interesting and it’s made me wonder, what is the difference between women who manage to lose weight and those that find it nearly impossible?

(Keep in mind there are complex reasons why it is difficult to lose weight. Our obesogenic society doesn’t make it any easier but I’ll save that topic for another time.)

As a nutrition coach I take into consideration each woman’s emotional, spiritual, hormonal and physiological factors. Each woman is different and needs to be treated as such. (If you are interested in some of the hormonal factors that affect weight loss, please click through for my free E-book: 5 MUST Hormone Fixes for Weight Loss. ) Most women who come to see me are complicated cases. Often, they have been trying to lose weight their entire lives and have yo-yo dieted for years. Many of these women arrive in my office with a similar mindset:

“I want you to show me exactly what to eat and how to eat and when to eat and I want to be held accountable!”

The problem with this strategy is that it simply DOES NOT WORK but the outdated “going on a diet” mentality is embedded in our thinking. Just take a look at the latest women’s magazine. Why do they have to print a new quick fix weight loss scheme every issue if any of them worked?

Let me ask, how many “free” meal plans have you tried? We see them online all the time. These plans come with all the bells and whistles: the recipes; the shopping lists; the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack breakdown; and you go to the grocery store armed with a list so long you spend $300 for a weeks’ worth of food. You bring the food home with fantastic intentions and end up eating only the simplest stuff because who the heck has time to make from scratch twenty different meals for the week? Not only does food go to waste but your fall-back is usually something boring like rice cakes, salad, and chicken. And who wouldn’t want to binge on an entire weeks’ worth of carbs in one meal after eating like that for 10 days?

The part that pains me the most is that after another dieting “failure” of this type, most women blame themselves.

What we usually don’t consider is the way we think. Many of my weight loss clients believe they are either on a diet or they’re off. They want to know everything they can do in one week and expect themselves to follow a meal plan right off the hop. What they haven’t done is look ways to balance their lives.

You cannot make changes in your life around food, eating, and diet if you don’t look at the other aspects that need changing. Many women come to me burdened with responsibility for a full time job, aging or ailing parents, teens or young adults in university or coming home from university, plus the baffling hormonal symptoms of menopause such as stubborn weight gain, itchy vaginas (seriously? what next?), brain fog, and sleeplessness. Something’s got to give!

Many women automatically take on the caregiver role and expect more from themselves than they can possibly give. They then tell me that they were unable to make the dietary changes I suggested to them because of laziness. You are not lazy! You are far from lazy; in fact you are overworked and not giving yourself the time you need to heal your frazzled body.

So, let’s have some good news. What are some of the things the women who have taken off 10 to 20 pounds have in common?

  1. They have stopped trying to be perfect. Perfectionism is a huge liability. Choosing one or two goals per week is more than enough. These goals might be simple things like making a recipe on the weekend so your lunches are covered; or cleaning out your fridge; or eating protein for breakfast 5 of the 7 days; or making a vegetable soup or stir-fry on the weekend so your vegetables are prepared for the week.
  2. They have stopped beating themselves up for making unhealthy choices. It’s natural to crave sugar or chips when you’re exhausted. Forgive yourself and ask, “What is something I can do to take care of myself?” Some achievable 10-minute self-care activities might be going outside for some fresh air; or taking a walk around the block; or listening to a guided meditation; or taking a yoga, meditation, or Pilates class.
  3. They check in weekly for support with a coach, friend, mentor, or Facebook group, or all of the above!
  4. They realize and accept that weight loss is not a quick fix. Realistically, if you want to lose weight, and keep it off, you have to get rid of the notion that following a 12-week diet is going to cure you. My successful clients realize that slow and steady wins the race. Changes are made one goal at a time. That is how it works. Go back to the small goals listed in #1. Make one goal. I dare you.
  5. They realize that weight loss is not just about food. Weight loss is a spiritual, emotional, and physiological journey. At the core of it you need to learn to look after yourself before anyone else.

You can start your weight loss by making one to two goals a week. You don’t have to follow a strict meal plan but you do need to set goals and learn to think differently about weight loss, food, and self-care.

For me, a crucial part of nutrition coaching is allowing my clients to set goals for themselves that they know they can achieve, that they know they have an 80% chance of succeeding at.

I’d love to hear from you. What are one or two things you can do this week to help kick start your weight loss or better health goals? I’ll tell you mine: I am making a crock-pot meal from my favorite cabbage & ground meat recipe given to me by a foody friend. Let me know if you’d like me to share the recipe with you. And have a great week!

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How Stress Almost Destroyed Me


Smiling through one of my darkest days with the support of my friends.

It’s the beginning of 2016 and I’m wondering what I can say that I haven’t said before to give you a better understanding of what it means to make changes that stick. How can I encourage you to take those first courageous steps? Well, I thought I would share a bit of my own transformation story. As vulnerable as I feel in sharing it, I want you to know that you are not alone in your struggle to feel better and to live a better life. I want you to feel alive and vital and in charge empowered in your life. (I dislike the phrase “in charge” because it presupposes that we are helpless victims when we are not!) I want to share with you some of my biggest Aha! moments of the last eight years (see all bolded, italicized comments).

When I started Nutrigal in 2010, I had just come off of a long stint with a job that was, for the most part, extremely fulfilling and an incredible learning experience. But in the last three years of it things started to fall apart for me. A little voice inside began nudging me, telling me that there was something else out there. I began to get the message that working each day for somebody else, following their codes, their rules, and their vision was not only soul-sucking but it was stealthily eroding my physical and mental health.

I was spending most of my time completing the duplicate and triplicate paperwork necessary in a government funded program. As a front line mental health and addiction worker my priority was the client but as it is for most corporations the bottom line was numbers. I’m not blaming the workplace. Incredible work was being done for the suffering clients but as a sensitive, somewhat empathic, person the demands of the corporate model were killing me.

The types of clients I worked with were struggling with addictions and mental health issues. I learned that not only do miracles happen but people whose lives are shattered are being transformed every day. One gentle soul worth mentioning was a young man, just out of his teens, getting sober for the first time, who came to me with the news that he had been diagnosed HIV positive. This young man climbed up that mountain of pain and fear and started a new life despite his challenges. He went out and got a degree while maintaining steadfastly to his belief that, there is more to my life than a label someone has applied to me. There’s a saying in recovery that when you get sober or clean there’s only one thing you need to change; and that one thing is everything. Nothing changes if nothing changes. But day by day, one change at a time, many of my clients were overcoming the trials of addiction and achieving great things in their lives including physical well-being, mental health, and spiritual enlightenment.

I had a beautiful office with an open window where I enjoyed the fresh air of the season. I was able to walk in the woods each afternoon and even visit horses on my lunch hour. This environment was soul giving, joy promoting, and the staff were friends sharing the common goal of our clients’ well-being. But I was about to face a huge challenge. My workplace moved from the pastoral setting to an urban environment in a new building. Windows were closed; chemicals from construction, carpeting and cleaners could not be avoided; and the noise (oh, the noise!) from the work stations, began to take their toll on me.

While some might thrive in this type of environment I certainly do not. Initially, I thought I’d get used to it but things quickly started to go downhill. For a time I tried to ignore my inner voice. Fearful thoughts like “this is the best job you’ll ever get”, “you’ll never make this kind of money again”, “nobody will hire you now, you’re too old”, plagued me. So I ignored my inner being’s calling until my body and the Universe gave me clear signs that I was off the path.

Vulnerabililty Blog

Years later, on the path.

Here is a list of the spiritual sign posts I ignored:

  1. Chronic back pain: my Chiropractor once told me that the most common cause of back pain is job dissatisfaction; hmmmm.
  2. At 3 p.m. I was down for the count: I wanted to lie down and die, in fact I couldn’t get through the afternoon without coffee and something sweet. I would pray for 5 p.m. to come.
  3. Persistent belly fat: no matter how much I worked out or how well I ate I continued to gain weight.
  4. Early morning waking: at 3 a.m. these thoughts raced through my mind, “Wouldn’t it be awful if…?”, “You should have said…”, “You must be (crazy, wrong, unworthy)”, “What’s wrong with you?”, and my all time favourite, “20 reasons you’ll get fired today”.
  5. Each day became “Groundhog Day”: and a fight to survive; my body hurt, my mind was racing, my heart pounding, and my tolerance for people was becoming nonexistent. I was on an endless loop just like the Bill Murray movie.
  6. Inability to look after myself: at the end of the day I was wired and tired. Forget about making a healthy meal; a peanut butter sandwich or cheese and crackers became my only two dinners.
  7. Sunday night “Fright Night”: by 6 o’clock at the end of the weekend panic started to set in and falling asleep was impossible without some sort of medication.
  8. Self-blaming: I blamed myself for the lack of sleep, the weight gain, the memory loss and the inability to cope.
  9. Sick every vacation: each time I took time off so did my immune system leaving me sick and in pain through-out the holiday.
  10. The pain of staying in the job became greater than the pain of leaving: but thankfully, my ability to let go of what wasn’t serving me finally forced my hand.

What I didn’t know then but I do know now is that my adrenal glands were working overtime trying to recalibrate a hormone imbalance that could not be fixed if I didn’t change my life. (If you recognize any of these symptoms you too might be dealing with a hormone imbalance caused by stress. My FREE e-book discusses solutions that you can implement now to help.)

What happened to me?

The day I left the corporate world is one I’ll never forget. I didn’t know it would be my last day ever working for a corporation. That day, I experienced my first panic attack. I threw a few items from my desk into a backpack and vowed to take three weeks stress leave. That leave turned into a two year healing journey which enabled me to look at my life, change my way of being in this world and discover what I needed to do to rebuild my life. I realized my health is worth more than job security.

I’m not saying job security isn’t important but at that time I knew if I continued in the job I was only going to get worse and I would never heal. It took a leap of faith for me to think I could be something more, to do something I’ve always wanted to do, to live my life the way I want, to be at peace with the decisions I make on a daily basis.

I started seeing an acupuncturist, a psychotherapist, a spiritual psychotherapist, a bio-identical hormone doctor, and a Naturopath. I started making changes, little by little, one thing at a time, until the transformation of my life began. It didn’t happen overnight and there were days I couldn’t do anything but lie on my back, deeply saddened. I couldn’t sleep at all and I had a mind that was so negative it constantly used words like ALWAYS as in, “it’s always going to be like this”, and NEVER as in “it’s never going to get better”. I worried I was going to become a Bag Lady and the fear of financial insecurity plagued me. But there was a little voice of hope. A little voice that said I was going to get through all this.

The voice told me: People love you. You are strong, capable, empathetic, honest, and caring. This was the turning point. I listened. This is where everything changed. People stepped up. People who I didn’t even know came into my life to light the path. One encouraged me to take life one step at a time, one day at a time, and one task at a time. And so began my journey back to hope and healing. In fact it began when I walked out of my workplace that day in 2003.

I now realize you can find great gifts in times of the great despair. During the two years it took to heal I was given gifts. I was able to visit my ailing dad and my parents weekly. I was able to find the things that bring me joy. I was able to take a hard look at the path I had chosen. For the longest time I’d felt trapped in my corporate job, attached to a weekly pay cheque, to the false security of a corporate job: I had benefits, four weeks of holidays, but was completely miserable. I knew I was destined for a better life, that I could do more for the world and for myself. But at that point I had nothing to give in fact I had nothing to give for two full years.

There were naysayers and there were supporters. When I was told by the insurance company that I had to go back to the work environment that had made me sick I finally found my voice and stood up for myself. I refused to go back. I told the disability worker that I was going to start my own business. The look of disbelief in my case worker’s eyes was terrifying.

At my lowest point I had a good friend who urged me to do just one thing today to move my life forward. Yes, I could do one thing. The first thing I did was make one phone call to my first of several business coaches. It seems small but at the time it was frightening to take that leap and commit to myself. That phone call led me to a meeting which led me to coaching which led to the opening of my business, Nutrigal.

Since then I’ve counseled hundreds of women and heard hundreds of stories similar to mine; always heartbreaking, beautiful and empowering. When women come to me they’re looking for more than a nutrition overhaul. They need hope, support, and a step by step, actionable plan with someone who cares about their recovery. We can recover from the hormonal upset of chronic stress and I am blessed to be able to show the way. Recently I put it all together in a program I call, The Body Beautiful Weight Loss & Nutrition Program for Every Body. For me, nothing is more powerful than women helping women.

Are you ready to make that one call? Contact me right now at 416-258-3596 or email me here: Contact Kelly.

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Creating a Body Beautiful in 2016

Red 2016.pngFor 17 years, as a dietitian in clinical practice, I hoped I was coming to understand the cause of persistent weight gain and its many associated health problems. I saw that dieting to lose weight didn’t work, not in the long term anyway, and I knew that going along with such recommendations as Canada’s Food Guide was not a solution either. (More on that topic in a future blog.) I realized that something had to give or I might as well cash in my years of education and find another field.
It was through my own personal health journey that I discovered: success over time is two-tiered.

  1. I need group support with other women.
  1. I need a professional, who gives it to me straight; who sifts through the proverbial baloney and gives me a step by step, goal by goal, plan.

I needed a plan; well developed, written out, with all the goodies, like what to do on Sunday to prepare for my work week, how to practice new skills, and even (heaven forbid) homework like one simple thing I can do to encourage the change I so desperately seek.

With health, it has to be like that. You see, I was an “all or none” kind of gal. I was either doing everything and feeling completely frazzled, or doing nothing and feeling like a failure. What I’ve learned is that nothing changes if nothing changes. But just what is it that needs to change? That question is how my healing journey began and why I developed my Body Beautiful Program for you.

So many weight-loss diets target one simple equation: Eat less and move more. If that was so easy the diet industry would be bankrupt and we’d all be happy eating leaves of lettuce and chicken for every meal while happily attending spin classes twice a day.

True weight loss and symptom relief require a well-designed program that takes hormone balance, mindfulness, a person’s unique situation, specific symptom relief strategies, peer support, and 2 kick-ass coaches (that would be YOU and I together). My job is to deliver a complete program that removes for you all the guesswork from planning, goal setting, and supplement recommendations. Plus I facilitate for you all the peer support you require. All you need to do is show up and be willing to set a weekly goal that you are 80% sure you can achieve. That’s it!

If you made a resolution or you’ve been looking for an answer to your weight gain or you have a sense there is more to the solution than just another weight-loss diet then the Body Beautiful program is for you.

Please visit my website to learn more about me and the services I offer to find solutions for chronic weight gain, hot-flash hell, insomnia, persistent fatigue, and mood swings.
Be sure to sign up and receive my FREE e-book:

5 Must Hormone Fixes for Weight Loss.

If you have any questions, I’m here to talk by email, in person, or on the phone. I hope you will join me in 2016 to revitalize your health and happiness!

The first Body Beautiful Weight Loss program of 2016 begins Wednesday January 27th, 2016

Register by January 15th and save $100

Regular fee $500 sign up now for $400

Join with a friend $700

Program Dates*:

January 27th – Start Date

February 3rd, 10th, (2 week Practice Break)

March 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th

April 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

*We all have busy lives. The Body Beautiful Weight Loss program allows for four missed sessions. Should you need to miss a session you are entitled to attend that session the next time the group runs. Special arrangements can be made with Nutrigal.

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Why I created a weight loss program

tumblr_mw80uuX0by1s6evqlo1_500If you follow Nutrigal, you know I’m an advocate of self-acceptance and being kind to yourself. You also know that I believe diets don’t work. Why then have I created a program for weight loss? The truth is I wish to provide a program that would have helped me all those years ago when I hated my body and went on every diet in the book only to gain the weight back and suffer the devastation of messages in my mind telling me I was a failure and a lazy person. I developed this weight loss and nutrition program to help people like me. It is for women who want to feel better, eat better, and if they need it, lay the groundwork for healing their body.

Clients tell me they just want to stop being bitchy to their husbands and family, or they want to feel enthusiastic about buying clothes again. They want to feel vibrant, not old and frumpy. My new program will change your relationship with food, your health, and your life forever. It is not just a weight-loss program. I want you to feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.

The new program offers weekly group support and ongoing online peer and professional support. I want you to end the diet cycle and stop fighting against your body. I want you to love yourself into wellness by setting achievable goals, not impossible ones. I want you to understand how your body works so you can work in harmony with it. My new program will not leave you high and dry after you lose ten pounds. It takes into account where you are in life and which hormones need balancing for you to feel well, sleep well, and have more energy.

WorkbookI decided to call my program the Body Beautiful Weight-Loss and Nutrition program for Every Body. Some of you cringe. The name reminds you of diet programs that body shame you into signing up. That is not my intention. When you love something, it becomes beautiful in your eyes. I believe every body, and everybody is lovable but when you feel disheartened, uncomfortable going out in social situations, or you stop doing things you love because you are ashamed of your body, then you certainly do not feel beautiful. I believe that every body is beautiful but not everybody feels beautiful in their body. I believe the power of loving your body, exactly how it is right now, is the best way to move towards health and wellbeing. Perhaps you haven’t given your body the time and attention it deserves because you don’t know how. Body Beautiful will show you how to get a good night’s sleep, feel satiated after you eat, have more energy, and stop feeling like weight gain and failing health is inevitable.

The Body Beautiful program does not expect you to stick to your personalized meal plan right off the hop. You will not be expected to be perfect about the program and lose weight quickly. No, each week you will create your own goal, which may be as simple as eat more protein at breakfast, or clean out your fridge, or prepare food for one hour on the weekend. Body Beautiful provides the instructions for these types of goals. When making a goal, I want you to be 80% confident that you can reach it. Each change is designed by you. You will not be given a plan and dropped into the lake. You will not be alone.

In the weekly sessions, you will learn how to work with your body’s needs. Is everyone’s plan the same? No. Your plan is your plan; your goals are your goals. Body Beautiful sets you up for success, not failure and that is why it is different. You will have all the tools you need:

  • know what to order in your favorite restaurant.
  • know what to shop for in the grocery store.
  • have recipes that I will show you how to fit into your plan.
  • have a 120-page workbook that will be your bible for the twelve weeks and beyond.
  • cook for your family and eat the same foods except with Body Beautiful you will save time and energy because you will know exactly what you need to do to prepare for the week.

5523742266_love_watermelon_xlargeWhen women sit across from me, debating whether they are willing to invest in themselves, what usually comes up is fear. On one hand, they have tried so many different eating strategies that their doctor says they are risking their health. On the other hand an inner voice is telling them they can’t do it, it’s too hard. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. You only need to show up weekly to your group with your weekly goals. The Body Beautiful group will be cheering you on. The whole group experience becomes fun, empowering, and life changing. There is no finger-wagging, shaming, or disappointment – just, okay, what have we learned and where do we go from here?

So there you have it. I hope you will join me on October 6, 2015 to start your journey to fun, confidence, and health. For more information, please click: Tell me more about the Body Beautiful Program

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The war in your gut that is preventing your Weight Loss

zombie-clipart-royalty-free-zombie-clipart-illustration-1118531Maybe you’ve just read my blog about the hormone Leptin and how it’s sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Now I need to give you a heads up about another hormone that affects your weight, calorie intake, and those darned sugar cravings. Most importantly, I want to tell you what you can do about it.

Ghrelin is a wonderful hormone that says, “Hey feed me. It’s time to eat.” Ghrelin gets your gastric acid juices flowing in preparation to eat. Found mainly in the gut, ghrelin increases before a meal and, when all things are right in the world, decreases after a meal. The gist of it is ghrelin makes you hungry and leptin lets you know you are full. Studies suggest that people with more body fat are more sensitive to the signals of ghrelin. When you crash diet the blood level of ghrelin rises and you experience cravings for high-calorie, sugary foods. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is actually a good thing. Ghrelin says, “Hey, we aren’t getting what we need. Go eat some carbs.” Ghrelin also favours the storage of belly fat since crash dieting and yo-yo dieting give the message to your system that you are starving, you better store some fat, just in case. The effect of ghrelin is one of the main reasons crash diets lead to weight gain.

When functioning properly ghrelin stimulates hunger before a meal and drops afterwards, letting you know you are full.

Excess fat may increase sensitivity to ghrelin because there may be more receptors for this hormone in a person who is overweight. This person may be getting stronger “I’m hungry!”messages than a leaner person gets.

Dieting increases levels of ghrelin causing cravings for high-calorie foods, which if indulged, lead to thwarted weight loss efforts.

Elevated levels of ghrelin also encourage the accumulation of belly fat or muffin top. This type of fat storage is correlated to hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and fatty liver.

Your gut affects your brain chemistry, hormones, and your weight.

Many scientists call the gut the “second brain.” This makes sense if you think about it. We absorb almost all of our nutrients in the small intestine and it is these very nutrients that allow our brains to make chemicals that determine our mood, the way we focus, and how motivated we are to do things. The chemical messengers in our brains determine everything we do. If our gut health is compromised, so too is our brain – ultimately, our hunger and satiety hormones will stop working properly.

Ghrelin helps manage Inflammation in the Gut.

When we eat a high processed-food diet, colonies of bad bacteria in our gut have a party and multiply. These nasty bacteria produce a toxin called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) that causes inflammation in the intestine. One of the jobs of ghrelin is to fight inflammation in the gut and clear your body of LPS.  Unfortunately, once the ghrelin hormone is elevated it signals that you are hungry for high-calorie foods, and so the cycle continues. We have already learned that people with a higher percentage of fat cells are leptin insensitive and so their brains do not get the message that they are full. When leptin and ghrelin are imbalanced, the mechanism signalling satiety is switched off and the mechanism signalling hunger is switched on. No wonder the cards seem stacked against us when we try to lose weight.

Zombie apocalypse in your gut. It is quite possible there is a war going on in your gut. On one hand, you have the super hero Ghrelin trying to make your gut better by reducing inflammation and preventing the gut from allowing toxins to enter your blood stream. On the other hand, these sneaky little critters produce LPS. LPS has been linked to blocking leptin (the satiety hormone) from entering the brain, disrupting the hormone insulin, favouring fat accumulation in the abdomen, and decreasing ghrelin to further the survival of the bacteria.

Hormones never act alone. There is a delicate balance between hormones, gut health, and body fat. Remember, your fat cells produce hormones and are affected by hormones. Bacteria in the gut have a direct effect on hormone health, how you absorb your nutrients, and your ability to lose weight.

Symptoms of the Zombie bacteria in your gut:

  • Waking up without hunger
  • Restless sleep, not waking up feeling rested
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Intense cravings for high calorie, processed, sugary foods
  • Strong desire for everything to taste sweet
  • Being satiated after a meal but hungry 20 minutes later

Follow these 5 steps to rebalance your gut flora and hormones:

  1. Eat a fibre–rich, whole foods diet. Aim for 40-60 grams of fiber every day— beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains (not whole wheat), some fruits, and lots of vegetables.
  2. Balance your meals to promote blood sugar and hormone balance. Start by limiting sugar, processed foods, and limiting your total fat intake to 30%.
  3. Take a good probiotic and digestive enzymes as recommended by your health care professional. This friendly flora can improve your digestive health and reduce inflammation and allergies.
  4. Test yourself for food sensitivities.Eliminate the most common food allergens for 12 weeks – dairy, gluten, yeast, eggs, corn, soy, and peanuts. After 12 weeks, reintroduce them, one at a time, to see if they cause symptoms. This is an effective way to identify the foods that may be causing problems in your gut.
  5. Get your vitamin D level checked and treat accordingly; Vitamin D puts a lid on inflammation in the gut and your entire system.

Many people come to me with digestive complaints, chronic fatigue, insomnia, night sweats, thyroid problems, and unexplained stubborn weight gain. No matter what their complaint or symptom my bottom line recommendations remain the same: heal your gut, eat whole foods, balance your blood sugar, eat more fibre, remove excess sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. Isn’t that a no-brainer? Not really. When you are up against a wall, and you’re so darned tired that eating breakfast is a chore, then you need support. For precisely this reason, I’ve developed my 12 Week Body Beautiful Weight Loss & Nutrition Program for Every Body. Click for more details. The next program starts Wednesday October 7th from 6 – 7 p.m. Let’s not let the zombies win!

Blog References:

  1. Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
  2. Mark Hyman, MD


  1. ^Ghrelin-Driven Weight Ghrelin-Driven Weight Gain is TRying to Protect Against Digestive Inflammation  Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol.  Hyland NP, Chambers AP, Keenan CM, Pittman QJ, Sharkey KA.
  2. ^The Story of Ghrelin and Obesity  PNAS  Ralf M. Nass, Bruce D. Gaylinn, Alan D. Rogol, and Michael O. Thorner.
  3. ^Ghrelin Raises Desire for High-Calorie Foods  Annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, in San Diego, 2010.  Tony Goldstone, et al.
  4. ^Food Cravings, Pleasure, Ghrelin, and Stress Eating   Michopoulos V, Loucks T, Berga SL, Rivier J, Wilson ME.
  5. ^Ghrelin Links NPY and Growth Hormone Activation  PLoS ONE  Guillaume Osterstock,, Pauline Escobar, Violeta Mitutsova, Laurie-Anne Gouty-Colomer, Pierre Fontanaud, François Molino, Jean-Alain Fehrentz, Danielle Carmignac, Jean Martinez, Nathalie C. Guerineau.
  6. ^Ghrelin is Intimately Involved in Digestive Tract Repair  PLoS ONE.  Wu R, Dong W, Ji Y, Zhou M, Marini CP, Ravikumar TS, Wang P.
  7. ^Ghrelin Helps Combat LPS Toxicity  Soriano RN, Nicoli LG, Carnio EC, Branco LG.
  8. ^Ghrelin Helps Protect Against Stress-Induced Leaky Gut  J Neurotrauma.   Bansal V, Ryu SY, Blow C, Costantini T, Loomis W, Eliceiri B, Baird A, Wolf P, Coimbra R.
  9. Lin, H. (2004). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 292:852-858.
  10. ^LPS Tries to Knock Out Ghrelin Activation   Stengel A, Goebel M, Wang L, Reeve JR Jr, Taché Y, Lambrecht NW.
  11. ^LPS Causes Insulin Resistance   Osto M, Zini E, Franchini M, Wolfrum C, Guscetti F, Hafner M, Ackermann M, Reusch CE, Lutz TA.
  12. ^LPS Toxicity Inhibits Leptin Entry Into Brain  Brain Res.   Nonaka N, Hileman SM, Shioda S, Vo TQ, Banks WA.

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Pesticides, Hormones, and Sperm, Oh my!

Why choose Organic Food


I often shop at my neighbourhood grocery store for the singular reason it’s at the bottom of my street and extremely convenient. The other day, I wandered around the produce section looking for something affordable and organic and was aghast to see that the once highly priced box of $4.99 lettuce was now a whopping $6.49 and the bag of organic apples that only a year ago were priced at $5.99 were now $8.99.

As a registered dietitian, I know exactly what I need to eat to be healthy. I am also dealing with an autoimmune condition, which is inflammatory in nature, by trying to eliminate substances that cause havoc in my system especially substances that disrupt my hormone balance or cause inflammation and gut dysbiosis. A major strategy of my healing is eliminating pesticides from my diet but now, I’m faced with a dilemma:

I know organic food will help my body heal.

Organic food prices are beyond my budget.

As fate would have it, I found a solution. At my business-networking group, I met a man who calls himself “a clean food entrepreneur.” Of course, I wanted to know more so I investigated his website. I then met with Anthony Cozzi to discuss the nature of his business. I was wary because I used an organic home delivery food-box system before and found I was usually stuck with a bunch of foods I didn’t recognize or understand how to use. (Remind me to tell you sometime about mistaking the hottest pepper in the world for a green pepper. My tongue will never be the same.) Anthony reassured me that I could order exactly what I wanted and even get berries in the winter months. I knew then that Anthony’s business was something I could recommend to my clients because I often feel conflicted when I tell someone that eating organic is essential to restoring their health when I know it’s so costly.

Now that there is a solution, I will give you the reasons I choose to use organic produce:

Eating Organic Reduces the Body’s Toxic Load:

Plants and animals labeled organic have not been treated with pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers from synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, growth hormones, antibiotics, or ionizing radiation. So why is this important? Let’s take a look at pesticides.

Eliminating Pesticides from your diet Promotes Hormone Health:

Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body. These synthetic estrogens can be found in plastics, prescription drugs, cleaning products, cosmetics, and pesticides. (Read labels for the following: DDT, endosulfan, dieldrin, methoxychlor, kepone, toxaphene, chlordane, and other chlorinated hydrocarbons.) In her article “Estrogens, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Lorna R Vanderhaegue writes:

“Environmental estrogens cause breast cancer, uterine cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, premature sexual development, uterine fibromas, heavy periods, infertility and in men benign prostatic hypertrophy and prostate cancer.”

Pesticides linked to Autoimmune Dysfunction:

Most people are aware of the long-term study of thousands of postmenopausal women and its revelation of the dangers of traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). What has not been publicized until recently is that the study also shows that extended exposure to pesticides may be linked to an increase in the development of autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. One analysis concluded, “These results suggest residential and work place insecticide exposure is associated with the risk of autoimmune rheumatic diseases in postmenopausal women. Although these findings require replication in other populations, they support a role for environmental pesticide exposure in the development of autoimmune rheumatic diseases.”

Eating Organic may Protect Male Reproductive Health:

It is well documented that eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables results in measurable pesticide levels in urine. A few studies have looked at the possible effect of pesticide exposure on semen quality and concluded that men who eat a high percentage of fruits and vegetable with high-residue pesticides, such as spinach, strawberries, and peppers, have a lower sperm count and a lower percentage of normal sperm when compared with men who eat produce with lower-residue pesticides.

And that’s just pesticides! I’ll cover the other substances in future blogs. But now you know why I encourage my clients to eat organic produce whenever possible.

Want to know more?

Click to book your FREE hormone focused nutrition consultation with Nutrigal.

Contact the Clean Food Entrepreneur, Anthony Cozzi at

Further reading:

Vanderhaeghe,L.R. MS, A Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormones, 2011

Amy Myers MD, The Autoimmune Solution, 2015

Terry Whals MD The Wahls Protocol: A radical new way to treat all chronic autoimmune conditions using Paleo principles, 2014

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“This isn’t going to work. You need to go on another diet.”

I am always excited by the first week of facilitating a Craving Change™ program when a new group of women comes together to help support one another in a common goal. What is exhilarating is that the women do not yet know what the common goal is. Is it another secret method of dieting? Many times, members admit to over-indulging during the week prior to our first meeting with foods they label “bad”. They join the group with the understanding that we will be discussing the whys and hows of eating but they still have the mindset that they are going to be put on another diet. These women have tried and “failed” every diet out there. Sure, they may have lost 10 lbs here and there but after all that deprivation a switch is thrown and the uncontrollable eating begins again. Back comes the 10 lbs, and a few more. It is not uncommon to hear women on the first night label themselves as guilty, out of control, or hopeless in their relationship with food. Some are surprised when I tell them we are not going to talk about nutrition. Let’s face it, we all know that eating a bag of chips for dinner isn’t the most nutritious thing to eat.

What then is this group about?

After facilitating over 20 of these groups this is what I know for sure:

  1. The group is about our relationship with our selves, which ultimately reflects our relationship with food. Revive our relationship with our selves and our relationship with food begins to heal.
  1. The biggest changes are perspective and an understanding that self-deprecation does not work. When we shame ourselves for doing something “bad”, we become like a rebellious child and end up repeating that behaviour.
  1. The most beneficial part of the program isn’t the information that the program provides but the sharing of experiences, insights, and the dynamic of women helping women.
  1. Ah ha! moments are big turning points for the women in the group. Countless times I’ve heard women say, “I had an ah ha! moment this week and know I will be changed forever.”
  1. Learning to be curious about an uncomfortable eating episode is more productive than beating ourselves up over it. For example, we ask questions like, What happened? What was going on? What was I saying to myself? What was different (or the same) this time?
  1. Women learn to question their thoughts. Many times, women get an urge to bolt from the group. This often happens when their inner voice starts whispering, “This isn’t going to work. You need to go on another diet.” This reaction is normal and usually playfully admitted to the group. Women challenge this thinking by learning to ask, Is it true? Will another diet solve my problems? Has dieting worked in the past? If I try this new method, isn’t it possible that something will change? Why do I want to run? What am I afraid to feel?
  1. During a Craving Change™ group women learn to put themselves first. Feeling frantic or not knowing how we feel can leave us desperate and vulnerable. In that moment, I suggest we ask, “What can I do to take care of myself? Is there something, anything, I can do right now to take care of myself.” We learn that self-care isn’t selfish in fact it’s the opposite.

There are many other amazing moments as these courageous women take their first steps towards permanent change. How about you? Have you got a support system to help you make changes?

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Emotional Eating

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We know that following sensible eating guidelines will relieve us of certain symptoms and will help us lose weight but what if we can’t stop eating because we use food for pain relief? Is it helpful to instruct someone to stop eating sugar when the sugar is managing uncomfortable feelings? This has been my own painful reality; damned if I do and damned if I don’t. It is called emotional eating, and most of my clients struggle with it.

Here are some of the methods I’ve tried to control my eating: eating an apple, eating celery, not having cookies in the house, not buying popcorn, working out like a fiend, restricting for as many days as I can bear, taking a walk, taking a shower, taking a bath…sound familiar?

So, what is the solution to emotional eating? Well, here is what I’ve learned since running workshops for emotional eaters. Emotional eating is not about food. Emotional eating is a tool we use to feel better. It is a tool to stuff our uncomfortable emotions. Emotional eating is how we soothe ourselves when we are stressed. Our terrible beliefs about ourselves, which remain unchallenged, feed our thoughts leading to painful emotions; these then lead to overeating, the overeating causes more negative thoughts and that fuels further overeating – it truly is a vicious cycle.

You may read articles advising you to replace emotional eating with taking a shower, going for a walk, anything to take your mind off food. These tactics may work for non-emotional eaters that are trying to lose weight, but in my experience as a Dietitian, these suggestions do not work for emotional eaters.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, but there are things you can do today to begin to make the change. Here are my top 5 suggestions to help you make emotional eating into a thing of the past.

  1. On a daily basis, stop weighing yourself because you know exactly what your mind is going to do with that information, and it’s not kind and loving.
  2. Since negative thinking leads to uncomfortable emotions, be on the alert for mean and nasty judgements you make about yourself.
  3. Join and commit to going to a support group to help you through emotionally tough times. Examples: Bereavement groups, 12 step groups, women’s support groups, Craving Change™ group.
  4. Find a buddy that you can share your feelings with when you do overeat. (By help, I mean help you reframe the situation so you don’t beat yourself up about it.)
  5. Understand that if you are in the middle of an overeating episode you can make the choice to stop and call a friend for support.

We heal emotionally when we are given the opportunity to share our perceptions in a safe setting, when we can talk without fear of judgment or ridicule. If you are like me there comes a time when you cannot live anymore with your destructive behaviour but you can’t live without it either. For me, joining a group where I felt accepted and nurtured was the best thing I ever did and the reason I continue to offer these groups to my clients. Please come and join us if you are one of the many who struggle with emotional eating.

And for those women who can control their eating but just can’t lose those stubborn pounds, join me for my next Why Weight? workshop.

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