What I Wish I Had Known then….About Weight Loss

I’m excited to have released my new book How I Got Skinny Eating Fat and want to thank-you, my loyal readers, for your e-mails and positive feedback. It really means the world to me when I know I have helped you on your journey.

I often ponder about what I wish I had known about weight loss and health when I was 14 years of age. In other words, if I could go back in time, how would I redirect myself, so as not to waste 15 years of my life dieting and eating in a way that was harming my metabolism?

I tell this story in my book, that when I moved to America in my early teens, the first infomercial I saw on television was Susan Powter screaming at us to “Stop the Insanity! If you don’t eat fat, you can’t GET fat”. It made sense to me at the time, that is, in the fat phobic 1980’s, so I diligently began to avoid fat and consequently began to eat mostly sugar and starch in my efforts to lose weight.

Avoiding fat not only made me more sugar addicted than ever, it also made me hungrier with unstable moods and actually put my body into fat storing mode, as I constantly snacked on fat free, sugar laden diet foods. If the food wasn’t sweet, it was starchy, like rice cakes or fat free crackers, which we NOW know acts just like sugar in the body.

The culmination of eating this way for 15 years is that I ended up not only with cystic acne, but also with polycystic ovary syndrome and metabolic syndrome, otherwise known as severe insulin resistance. My hormones were majorly imbalanced, I was depressed and hopeless and yet no doctor ever bothered to ask what I was eating!

Anyway, here are the three things I wish I had known then about weight loss…

-Weight management is so much more than calories in/calories out. What matters more is how the sources of calories affect our hormones, namely insulin, leptin and ghrelin.

-Fat does not make you fat. In the absence of carbohydrates, fat does not raise insulin at all and is a beautiful source of smooth, long lasting energy.

- Exercise is great to your mood, but you can’t out train a bad diet. If you continue to eat foods that fatten you, it is very hard to lose weight, no matter how hard you exercise. In fact exhausting exercise drives up hunger and can encourage overeating and drinking energy drinks (which defeats the purpose!)

I have learned so many other things along my journey that I share with you in my new book. It’s available now here on Amazon.

I know you are busy, but if could write a review on Amazon and help spread the word, I would really appreciate it!

7 Simple Tips to Stop Sugar Cravings

Insatiable cravings for sugary starchy food tend to be the undoing of most waist watchers.

I personally believe that these strong cravings for insulin producing foods are the cause of compulsive eating behavior, the type that sabotages our best intentions – every time.

Insulin makes you hungry and makes you store belly fat, so every time we eat, we need to be conscious of not disrupting our insulin levels, in order to keep our mood and energy steady. Insulin is spiked with fast digesting carbs, not with protein and healthy fat.

Cravings are driven not by by lack of willpower, but by the brains biochemistry. We are either low on serotonin or dopamine and use sugar and carbs to boost these important “feel-good” neurotransmitters.  Or, biologically, we have low blood sugar, known as hypoglycaemia, which is when we tend to get “hangry” (hungry&angry simultaneously) and we need to eat ASAP, otherwise we feel like we are going to pass out.

If we feel anxious about needing to cut down on certain foods, there’s a good chance we are depleted in serotonin and dopamine.

The key to stopping insatiable cravings is really to know thy self. If you can have one bite and stop there, then allowing yourself a little treat when you get a craving is absolutely fine. Nevertheless, the best time to have it is always following real food, in the context of a meal, so you are only using the treat as a “palate pleaser”, rather than needing to make a meal out of empty calories on an empty stomach and spike insulin too high.

But if one bite of sugary, starchy foods tends to trigger you off into a bout of overeating or bingeing, then you want to do everything to not take the first bite and instead have healthier substitutes and put a clear boundary around when and how much you eat.

Here are 7 simple tips to help you stop crippling cravings in their tracks.

-If your tummy is growling and you are authentically hungry, eat a small meal. It’s important to realize that a craving is an emotional, biochemical yearning and a desire for the food to release a quick dose of dopamine, as a reward. If it is hunger, a cup of vegetable soup and a hard-boiled egg would look really good. If you get a craving that overtakes you, immediately fix yourself a healthy meal (even if it means bringing your mealtime forward). After you have some real food, your appetite will be sated and then you can decide, level-headedly, whether you can have a little something to satisfy your craving. Personally, I find a healthy hot cocoa (unsweetened cocoa powder+ stevia + whole milk) or fresh berries works a treat.

-Take a long shower. Water therapy is extremely good and relaxing and reviving your energy. I have found that enjoying a hot shower and letting the water run on your shoulder can melt tension beautifully, the same tension that may be at the root of the craving. When you get out of the shower, relaxed, rub your body with your favourite body lotion. You will find that your craving will have diminished or that you are better able to reach for something healthy.

-Get out of the house and go for a walk or a bike ride. By immediately distancing yourself from the food and distracting yourself with fresh air and street activities, you are outing yourself out of harms way. Also, by doing fun activities, the exercise will release endorphins, the feel good chemicals you need to feel good naturally, which can help turn the craving off.

-Don’t stock your trigger foods.  Whether its Haagen Daz, M&M’s or Pringles, if there are junk foods you have a particular weakness for , it may be better to get them out of your house, at least until you feel stronger. It took me years before I could actually have Nutella in the house, so give yourself time and do what is in your best interests.

-Make a hot cup of tea. Some cravings can be caused by dehydration or the need for a “time out”. Put on the kettle and pour yourself a mug of your favourite tea, relax in your favourite chair, and let yourself have a rest. Matcha, Japanese Green tea is my favorite at the moment.

-Eat more protein at each meal. If we are crashing and burning mid-morning or mid-afternoon, it may be triggering cravings because we need food that helps us go the distance. Protein and healthy fats are great for satiety which may help with cravings as well.

-Don’t starve yourself. If you become too ravenous in between meals or skip meals, it can result in rebound overeating, which is, eating in a way that feels out of control. Don’t do this to yourself. Make eating real food at regular times a priority that always comes first. This helps keep your mood, energy and blood sugar stable so you are less likely to go off the rails.

In my mind, the ultimate aim of everyone is to be able to eat a little of their favorite foods and then stop. Yet if we have yo-yo dieted for many years, getting to that place of food freedom is a process that takes time, and it begins with unprocessing our diet so we can let go of cravings naturally without needing monumental willpower.

Let me know what you do when a craving strikes. I’d love to hear in the comments!

Gastric Band Trick to Flatten Your Belly

Gastric band or vegetables?

Sounds like a crazy question, but with gastric band surgery numbers on the rise, even for young kids, did you know that vegies are a healthy secret weapon you can harness if you don’t want to eat dainty portions of anything?

If you want more, more, more when it comes to food, you may be a volume eater – in which case its non-starchy vegies to the rescue!

If you want your portions to look like a lot, to have some heft and leave you full and satisfied as you lose weight, then non-starchy vegetables are your friend. Eating lots of these can mean you can effectively eat more and lose weight, without needing to go in for surgery.

Do you know how a gastric band works? It reduces the stomach’s volume radically. As soon as the stomach is full, everything makes you feel nauseous and you lose weight as your stomach is smaller and has less space for incoming food. Well, vegetables have the same effect. They provide lots of bang for your buck and leave less room for nutritionless calories.

Besides the health benefits, vegies are great for losing weight because they make you feel full and they’re loaded with water, which makes you feel like you’ve eaten more than you actually have.

The other reason you feel fuller, faster, eating loads of vegies is that they contain fiber, which slows down the digestion into the blood stream. Fiber has a minimal impact on blood sugar and is not biologically available, which means that it is the only food component that the body doesn’t digest. So they keep you regular too.

Even better, when choosing salad greens, vegie soups and crudités, you’re picking nutrient dense foods. Loading your meals with vegetables will naturally crowd out foods that fatten you like sugary, doughy starches, as you fill up on things that’s support your fat loss goals.

Not a Vegetable Lover?

Even the most ardent antivegetable person is won over by a plate of roasted vegetables. Take a bunch of veggies – all kinds of peppers, eggplant, fennel, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, Brussel sprouts and onions – cut them up and arrange them in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and put them in a moderate oven for thirty or forty] minutes. The roasting brings out sweetness and flavour you never knew existed.

Another secret is to start with soup. A small bowl of Gazpacho, fresh tomato soup, served either hot or cold and easily made at home, is a delicious way to harness the power of vegetables to lose weight.

So, go on, do as your mother said- “eat your vegetables”!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy vegies? Let me know in the comments below!

French Food Blogger You Will Love

If you want to reignite or spark your interest in rustic French cooking in the South of France with some envy-inducing meals, you must check out French food blogger Mimi Thorisson. She makes the home food ritual and cooking look so beautiful and mouth-watering, and has her own cooking show on French TV.  I can’t wait for her upcoming book called “A Kitchen in France”. You can check out her blog “Manger” here.

How Lack of Sleep Sabotages Weight Loss

Did you know that how much (or how little) we sleep has a ginormous effect on what and how much we put in our mouths?
Have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied?

If so, then you have experienced the workings of leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of “checks and balances” system to control feelings of hunger and fullness.

Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

So what’s the connection to sleep? When you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food.

The two combined can set the stage for overeating, and is a real recipe for weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

If you have the munchies in the evenings, sometimes the best thing you can do is put yourself to bed and get some precious shuteye, which will help your appetite hormones return to normal the next day…

When you get enough quality sleep you may just discover that you aren’t as hungry, or that you have lessened your craving for sugary, doughy, starchy foods that you rely on for quick energy.

One thing I have seen is that once a person is not as tired, they don’t need to rely on sweet foods and high carbohydrate snacks to keep them awake – and this automatically translates into eating better quality foods – and smaller quantities.

So next time you feel like you can’t stop eating and nothing seems to hit the spot – don’t beat yourself up – surrender to a power nap or an early night instead…

Do you notice increased appetite when you are overtired? What do you do? Please leave a comment, I read them all:)

How to Detox from Sugar (and 7 Ways to Triumph over Cravings)

Which causes more damage? Fat or sugar? Despite 40 years of us being brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad, it turns out its excess sugar, not fat, that makes you sick and overweight.

While I lost over 30 pounds by not quitting sugar or white flour completely, I did cut way back to a mere ¼ quarter of what I used to eat to get good results and in the process cured my addictive, compulsive eating habits.

Since sugar begets sugar, cutting way back will help reduce cravings naturally without necessarily banning it completely (which can be overly daunting for most people).

I know firsthand that we tend to feel pretty bad about ourselves when we can’t control our food cravings, but being addicted to sugar and flour is not a human flaw. It’s a biological condition, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating.

But are you addicted? Addiction means you keep doing something even when you know its destructive. In other words you eat the whole row of cookies, despite knowing full well they will cause weight gain.

There are several signs that you’re addicted to sugar. You might have heard them before – moodiness, fatigue, the mid-day lull, bingeing, weight gain, and evening cravings.

But I want to give you one question to ask yourself to determine how reliant you are on sugar, and by sugar I mean flour too, because flour acts exactly like sugar in the body.  To be honest, I would say that flour is even worse than sugar, since flour raises blood sugar even more than table sugar. Even whole-wheat flour, which not many people are aware of.

The question is this;

“Are you ever NOT hungry, but still WANT to eat?”

If the answer is yes, you have to take note. Frequent non-hunger eating and an inability to stop is a sign of addiction.

If you find yourself wanting to eat certain foods–particularly sweet and starchy foods, even when you’re not hungry, those are the cravings that fuel emotional eating. We can usually stop eating carrots easily, because they are non-addictive, real food.

And the only non-hungry bodies that get cravings are addicted bodies.

Why do you get Cravings?

It could be physiological, meaning you experience hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) because you ate foods that shot your insulin too high and it resulted in a crash.

Or it could also be chemical – where you are depleted in two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine – and sugar and starch help you get a quick boost of these chemicals in the brain. If you are depleted, your brain will cry out and “hunt down” sugary, doughy starches until it gets a hit, which is why willpower fails in the face of this chemical lacking, until you boost serotonin naturally with the right food, supplements and lifestyle habits.

How Can You Stop the Cycle?

Every addiction has a cycle. Breaking that cycle generally kicks off a cycle of withdrawal.

Withdrawal is hard because you’re not just stopping habits. You’re not just letting go of your life raft or favourite junk foods. You’re fighting the pleasure centre of your brain.

That can be a tough fight. We humans are pleasure-seekers, and your brain (and body) has come to equate pleasure with sugar and starch.

Still, it’s possible to start paring back your sugar intake, coming carefully off of it in a way that alleviates withdrawal symptoms.

Here are my 7 favourite ways to nix sugar withdrawal and to triumph over insatiable cravings.

1) Start Your Day with Protein and Healthy Fats

Do you eat a syrupy waffle, toast with jam, muesli bars, cereal, soft bagel, or carton of low fat flavoured yogurt in the morning? If so, you’re kicking off the sugar craving cycle everyday!

Keep your blood sugar levels balanced, get natural energy, and give your body the micronutrients it needs for long-term health by starting your morning with a some eggs, full fat Greek yogurt, berries, nut butters or a protein pancake – with real foods that keep your blood sugar balanced and hunger pangs at bay so you can kick the sugar-craving cycle all day long.

2) Pick ONE (Healthy) Treat

Your brain will always equate eating with pleasure. It’s an evolutionary thing. If food brings pleasure, you’ll seek it out and survive.

Rather than fighting against your basic biology, use it for your good. Find a single healthy snack you enjoy and swap it in for your classic go-to sweets. Then, allow yourself to enjoy it once a day.

Focus on a full-flavored food that you truly enjoy. A handful of pistachio nuts, fresh berries and real cream, some olives and feta or super dark chocolate. Sparkling mineral water with lemon or lime is also a refreshing flavour boost for your palette and a great alternative to soft drink.

3) Fight Sugar with Fat

Fat is not a four-letter word. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Fat makes you full, balances your blood sugar, adds flavour and is necessary for fuelling your cells. Instead of a sweet tooth, become a fat tooth. Along with protein, have good fats at every meal including nuts and seeds (which also contain protein), extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocados, and omega 3 fats from fish.

4) Don’t Drink your Calories

Any form of liquid sugar calories is worse than solid food with sugar or flour. Think of it as mainlining sugar directly to your liver. It turns off a fat storage machine in your liver, leading to dreaded belly fat. You don’t feel full, so you eat more all day and you crave more sugar and carbs. It’s also the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. That includes soft drinks, commercial smoothies, juices (other than green vegetable juice), sports drinks, sweetened teas or coffees. One can of soft drink a day increase a kid’s chance of being obese by 60 percent and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80 percent. Stay away!

5) Anticipate Your Cravings – Know Yourself and Your Triggers

You know yourself better than anyone. When do you reach for the cookie jar? Be prepared for that 3 p.m. “snack attack,” with a strategic plan (i.e. tea break and a ten minute walk). Start to train your body into healthier habits by responding to that craving by adding other pleasurable activities to your day. Drink a big glass of water, go for a quick walk, call a friend. It won’t be long before you’ve established a new routine and you don’t need the cookies everyday. Your will look forward to your soothing hot tea and a walk in the fresh air.

6) Pay Attention to Food Labels

Plenty of everyday so called “healthy foods” can contain enormous amounts of hidden sugar. Worst culprits are breakfast cereals, granola bars, pasta sauce, salad dressing and low fat flavoured yogurts. Sugar comes under all disguises. Avoid terms like: anhydrous dextrose, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and malt syrup. Those are sneaky terms for different types of sugar. What’s the point in weaning yourself off of a sugar addiction, when you’re getting the same amount of sugar in something you don’t even want to be sweet? The general rule of thumb is, if you can’t identify everything on the label – put it back on the shelf.

 7) Swap Distress for De-stress

If you are stressed, your hormones go crazy. Cortisol goes up which makes you hungry, causes belly fat storage and leads to type 2 diabetes. Studies show that taking deep breaths activates a special nerve, called the vagus nerve, that shifts your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning and quickly moves you out of the stress state. And all you have to do is take a deep breath. My “Peace Process”, outlined in my soon to be released book “How I Got Skinny Eating Fat” is something you can do anywhere, anytime. Take a few moments to bring your mind back to your body by taking deep breaths – in to the count of five, out to the count of five. Five times. That’s it. Do this before every meal. Watch what happens!

I’d love to hear your comments about sugar cravings, so please leave me a comment below, I read every one of them!


If you are looking for some mouth watering recipes that are sugar and wheat free, check out Gourmet Girl Cooks. Ayla has consistently delicious tasting meals and desserts that help live a healthier lifestyle without feeling deprived. Check out her website here.