When you’re starting to build better eating habits through a new diet or a weight loss program, the road to success is often paved with obstacles. I call these obstacles the five levels of resistance.
Think of the last time you tried a nutrition or exercise program. Were you able to sustain it? What factors prevented you from following the steps needed to achieve and maintain a healthy weight? Maybe it was physical—food cravings were just too hard to resist or maybe it was emotional—your loved ones doubted you and you felt you didn’t have enough support to push through with your plan.
In addition to physical and emotional barriers, there are three other levels of resistance when starting a diet plan or building a new health habit in general: social, intellectual, and spiritual. Let’s go through these five levels of resistance one by one:
Physical Level of Resistance
Physical resistance refers to your cravings and food addictions. As we change our diet, the addictive qualities of some of the foods we eat start to surface. There are several addictive parts of our diet, and one of them becomes more apparent when your blood sugar goes up and down. Any food or beverage that makes your blood sugar go up and down is going to be triggering an addictive response in your body.
When you consume white sugar or white flour, your blood sugar will go up and you’ll feel your energy surge while satisfying your cravings. It will eventually go down and that crash will leave you feeling sluggish and tired later on. This is going to trigger cravings. Sugar also releases dopamine, which is associated with the brain’s reward or pleasure system. Activating this system can trigger food cravings and addiction.
Stable blood sugar keeps our cravings and emotions that lead to those cravings at bay.
There are several things in our diet that can make our blood sugar spike. White sugar, white flour, white potato, white rice and any finely-ground grains will cause your blood sugar to go up and down. Eating white rice and white potatoes by themselves will also give you that effect.
It’s not uncommon to find people who are addicted to dairy and cheese. In my medical practice, I have a special interest in treating people nutritionally and a lot of my patients find that dairy is one of the hardest foods to completely give up. That’s because dairy triggers addictive cravings with chemicals called casomorphins. These are actually related to morphine, a pain reliever that can also be addictive.
So how do you get rid of these food addictions? It starts with being aware of the addictive qualities of foods that you eat. I'm not telling you to give up cheese though there are definite health benefits to doing so, but be aware that it has an addictive quality to it, so you can think about it before you have another serving. In my practice, it takes around three weeks for people to get over cheese. Know that this also increases your release of insulin.
The higher your insulin levels, the higher your risk for developing serious diseases like cancer because it's creating this hormonal balance in your body that is not conducive to optimal health.
To learn more about factors that contribute to your food addictions, I recommend that you read The Pleasure Trap by Douglas J. Lisle.
When you get this big dose of calories, fat, and sugar, all the pleasure centers in your brain light up. A prototype food for that is ice cream, because there's nothing more pleasurable than eating ice cream. Evolutionarily, this is a calorie bomb to us and our bodies evolved to want to eat as much as possible as we might not get the chance again with a famine and feast cycle.
Emotional Level of Resistance
There are emotional barriers to changing your diet. We all have certain foods that we eat on an emotional basis. We also have patterns of behaviors that we don't want to give up that cause us to feel good, like certain foods that we eat. The best way that I've found to get through this barrier is finding better alternatives to food. This is something that a lot of people don't spend a lot of time on, because they think you just have to get rid of the food altogether.
Let’s take cake as an example. Is there a way to make a cake that won’t cause your blood sugar to go up? Is there a way to make a cake without cheese and dairy?
Yes, there is. There's almond flour and there are all kinds of low-glycemic types of baking flours now. I use almond flour when I'm in the mood for a cake and I can very easily make that, so that's one way. Now, the substitutes aren't always going to be perfect substitutes, but you can always find something that is going to make it a little bit better and your taste buds will soon appreciate their taste.
Understand the emotional aspect of your food choices a little bit deeper. Know how and why you choose certain foods. Do you reach out for chocolate bars when you’re stressed? Do you eat pizza and ice cream to relax and reward yourself on a Friday night?
Social Level of Resistance
Social resistance talks about relationships and how these are going to affect the decisions we make and the strength we have when it comes to making decisions. When you’re starting a new diet, fitness program or any major project that you know will change your life for the better, be careful who you tell about it.
We may be excited to share things that work for us, but not everyone is going to be supportive and receptive. There is this inertia where all the people around you are moving in the same direction. When you start going in a different direction, some are going to push you along in the same direction they’re going. Some may want the best for you, but they may not know how to support you. This is why I often tell people to not tell others about their plan until they ask you.
When people start noticing you’re looking happier and better than before and ask you what it is you’re doing, then that’s the cue for you to share with them your secret. Each time you feel tempted to share, remember this quote from former American football player, coach and analyst Lou Holtz:
“Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” Well, the same thing goes with personal transformation - don’t share it unless people ask you.
Live as an example of what works and there will be no shortage of people who come to you for help. Becoming a missionary for this is not the way to go, trust me on this. It invites negativity that you don’t need when you are walking on a new path.
The only person you should definitely talk to when you are making big changes to your diet and lifestyle is your doctor, especially if you’re diabetic or if you’re taking medications for diabetes or high blood pressure.
If we find something amazing that helps us or changes our lives for the better, we serve others best by being an example and waiting for them. You can maybe drop hints, but waiting for them to approach you and ask for what it is that you're doing is the best thing to do.
Intellectual Level of Resistance
The intellectual level of resistance is what we set for ourselves when we don't think we're capable of fully getting through all the contradictions about diet advice. There may be a lot of information about what food to eat or to stay away from, but there's enough knowledge that everyone agrees on that you can go with.
One of the most important points that the majority of people agree on is to increase the veggies we eat. Another point is we need to watch our portions. We also need to make sure that we are not eating any rancid oils or rancid fats. See previous article on what you should know before buying olive oil.
Know that you are fully capable of making the right choices and the changes that you want to happen. You are capable of sufficiently understanding these information available to you on an intellectual level, so you can make decisions and have them resonate on all the different levels of your being, including on a social level where you can explain to people when they start questioning you. You can then start understanding why you're making these decisions on an emotional level and physical level and make other decisions that would be beneficial for you.
For my patients who have chronic autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and lupus, I always mention that there are lifestyle changes that they could make, but most people aren't open to those. And we have to honor the decisions that people have made for themselves, because we're all responsible for ourselves first and foremost. If people aren't open to making those choices, then we need to honor that decision.
Spiritual Level of Resistance
The spiritual level of resistance is only a barrier if we haven't enlisted the spiritual aspect of ourselves in our health journey. We often have a misconstrued self-image of who we are and some of us don’t see that we are a lot more than just our bodies. The more we identify with the non-physical aspect of who we are, the more malleable our physical aspect becomes.
When we realize that our consciousness, our soul, or our spirit is so much more than our physical self, then we can enlist that and acknowledge that we have a lot more control over our own self-image than we think we do. We can use that knowledge to be able to change and mold ourselves into who we want to be. If we want to be a more perfect vessel of that, that means that we're going to work hard to make sure that our bodies are in their healthiest state.
Health is much more complicated than just eating healthy, but we can do our best to make those decisions for ourselves and we do that by manipulating our self-image, acknowledging that we are more than just our physical body and we are capable of transcending that and making the changes that are necessary. When we acknowledge that our spirit is connected to our body, we want that connection to be as healthy as possible.
If we enlist each five levels: physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual, we get an amazing synthesis of things that make it so powerful. It's like a solid and secure rope that has five different strands. It may take time to be consciously aware of these five levels, but you can begin tomorrow by just starting to notice how you feel after you eat cheese or after you eat white flour or potato.
When you notice how you feel and what your cravings are like in two to four hours after you eat these things, then you can make a decision to change that snack the next day. Instead of having those snacks, you can have a handful of nuts that have no impact on your blood sugar or some blueberries. Most of the small berries also don't have an impact on your blood sugar, surprisingly. Pick foods instead that you know aren't going to make your blood sugar go up and go down and notice it. Pay attention to how your body feels. You can do this exercise on all the five levels.
To get more insights and tips for healthy weight loss, I invite you to join our Weight Loss Awakening Friendship Group on Facebook.