This month’s topic is one that is near and dear to my heart – healthy weight loss. I remembered I wrote a blog post on topics like this once, so I dug up this post from 2014 to share again. The information never gets old, and we need to keep hearing it!
“We had a typical doctor’s visit in our family this week. Our foreign exchange student, Bobby, had to get a physical to play basketball for the high school. That’s pretty much the only reason we visit the doctor anymore. He told Bobby the same thing he tells all of my kids – “you’re very healthy, but maybe just a little skinny.”
I know, I know, there are many people that would do anything to have a doctor say that about them, but it always gets me a little fired up! We were talking about it tonight at the table, while they were all ravenously eating seconds and thirds of dinner. These are not kids that are starving. In fact, exactly the opposite. They eat a LOT of food. The difference is that the food they eat really fuels them. Their bodies can recognize it as food, and that food turns into energy and health rather than pounds.
What are Calories??
Earlier in the week, someone asked me how many calories were in a cookie I made . It surprised me a little – it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the calories in anything. That’s interesting, because I was raised in the low-fat, low-cal era. Calories were everything for years, and now they don’t even enter my mind. What’s changed?
Again, at the dinner table we talked about it. They asked why they could eat so much food and stay skinny. One reason is obvious – their teenage metabolisms are cranking in high gear. But we also talked about one of my favorite concepts – the appestat.
Appestat to the Rescue
We are all equipped with a gauge that measures our appetite. When we are hungry, this appestat turns on and tells us to find food. The appestat is looking for what it is low in- nutrients, vitamins, minerals. The appestat stays on as long as it is still low in nutrients. So if you eat a big bag of potato chips, you don’t satisfy any of those nutrient needs, and the appestat stays on. It tells you that you are still needing food. (Have you ever eaten a bag of potato chips and still felt like you needed more – thank your appestat for that one.)
As long as you eat food that is missing essential nutrients, you will feel like you need to keep eating. This is how people can eat so much and say they are just eating enough to get full. Try eating four plates of a substantial salad and see if you’re still hungry. You can’t do it! Your appestat is satisfied after the first plate, and it turns off and says you are done.
Overweight AND Starving??
So the key is what nutrients are in the food, not how much food. You can be very overweight and malnourished at the same time. Read that again. Are we feeding our bodies, or are we just eating food??
After I talked about this with my kids, my daughter Liza said “we need to teach people this!!” That’s why I’m writing this blog!
Family is the Reason
Why I got interested in health and nutrition in the first place is family. I was struggling with digestive and hormonal problems, my husband was struggling with headaches and mouth sores, and my kids each had their own struggles too. We took baby steps to get where we are now, and want to help other families do the same thing.
Most of you know some about my son Luke, but maybe not the whole story. I want to share his story – as I wrote it for Green Smoothie Girl Robyn Openshaw. I want you to see what nutrition can do for someone who is starving on the standard american diet.
“One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is when people say “I try to help my family get healthy, but they just won’t eat that kind of food.” Hold me back… You aren’t punishing them by giving them healthy food to eat. You are giving them a gift. I have personal experience with a child that was literally “starving” on the typical kid diet of chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, french fries and white bread. This child is my son Luke. We adopted him when he was 2 1/2 years old. He could barely walk, he couldn’t talk- not even one word, and doctors thought he was autistic. When we first brought him home I had him tested by an early intervention center, and he tested at a 8 month old level on everything. Remember – he was 2 1/2 years old. He was so tiny. In fact, the first night I had to bathe him in the sink at our hotel because he was too little for the shower. (See photo below.)
He’s Hispanic, so most people ask what country we adopted him from. Well, Luke was from Las Vegas, Nevada. Last I knew, that wasn’t a third world country! He did have a rough start to life – he was born severely premature at 25 weeks. His birth mother was single, with very little money, and very little help. I think it’s a miracle that he lived that first year- feeding tubes, oxygen at night, surgeries… He is a fighter.
But the prematurity wasn’t the only thing to blame. In fact, most kids catch up from a premature birth by 3 year old. Luke was no where near catching up. In the short few hours I had with his birth mom, I found out what they had been eating. Things food stamps would buy – bread, crackers, cereal, bananas, peanut butter. Add in chicken nuggets and french fries and you have his entire food chart. Our first meal with him made me cry. He shoved the food in with two hands, as fast as he could eat (there was no way he was swallowing), until he was sick from eating so much. This continued for many months. He wanted what he was used to – crackers, bread, anything carb loaded and white. He was eating so much food, and was still so tiny, and so hungry.
That first night I also noticed a strange sound in his belly. We scheduled to see a pediatric digestive system doctor. He found that one of Luke’s early surgeries had failed and his stomach had moved up to where his lungs should be. He had to have major surgery to put everything back where it belonged. After the surgery, they told us his diet would be restricted. He couldn’t eat all those simple carbs anymore – they would go straight through.
This was right about the time I found Green Smoothie Girl and was contemplating some serious family diet changes, so the timing was perfect. We added green smoothies every morning, and he liked them. We also started eating more and more vegetables in every meal. He still ate ravenously, but it changed to anything green! He couldn’t get enough broccoli, green beans, asparagus, peas, lettuce… he loved them all. He started avoiding the carbs on his own – he would leave the bread uneaten on his plate. Other things started changing too. He started using sign language, then finally words! He started to grow – not a lot but a little. His motor skills improved and his behavior seemed to mellow some. Something was making a difference.
Luke still has his challenges, but food is no longer one of them. Now he is a thriving 7 year old that LOVES anything green and will eat veggies over anything else he’s offered. He turns down sweets, carbs and most meat. He is small, but he is growing, and I know that it is because he is actually getting fuel, rather than just food. He does well academically, and is not autistic. He is coordinated and has excellent motor skills. He is a different boy than the one eating the standard diet of most American kids.
If I had let Luke “not eat” the food that his body needed, who knows where he would be today. We owe it to our families to help them get the things that they need to be as happy and healthy as they are able, and they deserve. Be tough – it’s worth it! And this is coming from someone who knows.”
Watch for my Facebook Live this month – my hubby showing you how to make our Bulletproof Chocolate drink every morning – this is a change that has helped us both slim down a bit. Don’t miss it if you’re interested.
Have an amazing week!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen