Gluten Free For Good


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The competition was fierce (see prior post), but in the end, the brownie sundae took the crown. It didn’t seem to matter that it’s now winter and half the country is experiencing record lows, people have an unrestrained and almost delirious passion for ice cream.

I’m a nutritionist, but half the time I feel like an investigative reporter or an underpaid research geek. My last post and your amazing response sent me into overdrive.Β I’m obsessed with books, obsessed with research and my office is a study in organized chaos. And although I’m not proud of this, I’ve had an intimate relationship (a serious love affair) with since 1995. I’m a charter mistress. Talk about insatiable appetites – I have one for books. And damn that Amazon, their one-click ordering with free shipping makes it nearly impossible for me to resist. My UPS guy just shakes his head. I’ll get to why and how this ties in with brownie sundaes in a moment, but for now, let’s just say this whole dang thing with over-indulging is complicated business.

The brownie sundae was the hand’s down favorite, followed by the bacon cheeseburger and the chocolate cake. It’s no surprise that raw broccoli came in last. Other than being the choice of some of my hyper-healthy readers, it had no chance against ice cream and chocolate. I like broccoli, but when I’m craving a blissful treat, raw cruciferous veggies don’t jump to mind.

Why is that? Why do we choose to pig-out on ice cream and not bok choy? Who obsesses over Brussels sprouts?

Not me.

Studies show that we’re more apt to crave fat, sugar, salt and more fat, sugar and salt. A few of you did said you might choose the broccoli if it was covered with cheese sauce. And a few others mentioned that I failed to include nachos. You’re right, chips or cheese fries should have been on my “tempting foods” menu. But no one suggested parsnips or beet greens.

We’re almost three weeks into the new year and many of us started 2010 with intentions of eating better, losing weight and exercising more. I did, and right now I’m doing fairly well with my intention, mainly I believe, because I’m focusing on something that trumps the feel-good sensation I get from eating tempting treats. I have a goal and it has nothing to do with conventional dieting.

Diets are bad and they don’t work. Changing what you eat, how you think about food and replacing the buzz you get from over-indulging with something physical, is good. And don’t count on the food industry to help you out. In fact, be very suspicious of them, very suspicious indeed.

I grew up in Colorado and back in the 50s and 60s, hardly anyone was overweight. I look at old photos from my parents’ generation and from when I was a little girl and everyone appears to be a “normal” weight. Our serious weight gain has happened in the last couple of decades and along with it, a rapid rise in lifestyle-related diseases. Two new studies suggest that 2/3rds of adults are now overweight or obese. Check out these guys in the photo above. These are many of the men who lived in a small Colorado mountain community where my dad grew up. The photo was taken sometime in the 1940s. My dad is 4th from the left in the bottom row. Healthy looking guys, right? Fit, handsome characters. If you took the same sampling now, many would be overweight and out of shape. We don’t exercise as much and we eat totally different foods from what these guys ate.

There’s a variety of reasons we’re becoming a nation of overeaters, one of them being what is available to us now. Ridiculous “foods” that weren’t around back then. Quick-fix breakfast cereals that turn milk weird shades of pink and purple. Ding Dongs that never spoil. Irresistible brownie ice cream sundaes that are absolutely loaded with sugar, fat and salt and designed to make you want more. That kind of food gives us a sweet rush of dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter. We like that feeling and seek out the foods that give us that high. In fact, so much so that we often can’t think of anything other than the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table or the brownie sundae on the menu. Add in the perceived depravation of having celiac disease (no gluten means less treat options) and all the sudden that gluten-free brownie sundae at the chain restaurant (I won’t name names) takes on monumental importance. If you feel deprived, you think you need and deserve the “reward” even more. The food industry knows this and has figured out the right mixtures to make us obsess over the brownie sundae or double whopper with fries. Fat, sugar and salt. It’s “almost” not our fault. We can “almost” blame the food industry, much like we blamed the tobacco industry. They are a sneaky bunch and they want you to want more of what they’re selling. Here’s the catch though, if you believe it’s not your fault, you have no control.

Power to the people, as Flo says on the Progressive ads! We get to choose.

Now, what do we do instead of overeating and then dieting and depriving ourselves? This one’s tough because we have imbedded in our neural pathways the delicious dopamine spike we get when we eat the tempting foods. It’s hard to replace that with a handful of raw broccoli. That doesn’t work for most people. We need something that trumps the buzz we get from the fat, sugar and salt. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. No pill, no diet, no magic formula. We have to take control, retrain our neural patterns, adjust our lifestyle habits and change our perceptions. We have to find something physical that makes us want to eat better. That’s especially hard when there’s a donut shop, a burger joint or a chain restaurant on every corner. It’s way too easy to get the fix, just like it’s way too easy for me to hit “one click ordering.” (Ooh, but I get so excited when I do that.)

Does this make sense?

Yoga helps me overcome the food part because it connects me on a deeper level with my body. I have a greater respect and appreciation for what’s going on inside, even on a cellular level. I feel stronger, healthier and have more energy. I like that, it feels better than eating the brownie sundae.

I feel better, I look better, so I continue to eat better. And on it goes.

I’m taking a 4 week arm balancing class right now from one of my favorite yoga instructors. A 4 week inversion class will follow. It’s hard to do these poses if I weigh just 5 pounds more than my normal weight, it hurts my wrists and I find I’m not strong enough to hold that much weight upside down (or sideways). Five extra pounds is too much. That’s my “tipping point.” I need to weigh less and that is my motivation, that is my reward. Yoga trumps my desire to eat high-calorie, low-nutrition food. Most of the time, anyway.

Maybe this will add fuel to your motivational fire. Here’s the breakdown of what’s in that irresistible brownie sundae that is served at a major US restaurant chain.

Calories: 1911
Carbohydrates: 135 g
Dietary fiber: 13 g
Total fat: 153.8 g
Saturated fat: 88 g
Protein: 26.9 g
Cholesterol: 426.3 mg
Sodium: 401.4 mg

So, skip the brownie sundae and take a yoga class. Or ride your bike to the farmer’s market and buy some broccoli. You’ll feel much better if you do.

P.S. Forgive me Lord, for I have rambled.

1. Nutrition Action Health Letter (Dr. David Kessler)
2. Deconstructing the Vanilla Milkshake

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16 Responses to “Tempting foods part 2”

  1. Alta says:

    Wonderful post. I do like that you’ve included what works for you as a motivating factor. I think everyone’s motivation is different. I have a more general sense – I feel better, clear-headed, when I’m eating right. When I succumb to the sugar, I am trapped by it – consumed by it. I would rather feel the clarity of mind and comfort in my own body when I fuel it with nourishing foods. (I have to remind myself of this sometimes though!)

  2. Teresa says:

    I think I’ll skip the brownie (too fattening for me) and have a gluten free granola bar instead.It satisfies my sweet tooth and has a lot less calories.( I usually make my own) πŸ™‚

  3. Have you read “Mindless Eating?” by Brian Wansink? He goes into extreme detail about how the food industry is very clever in all their formulations and marketing. Reading it and just being aware I think can help people make better choices-I hope!

  4. Cid says:


    Yes I agree with the others, fabulous post and good to see everyone joining in.

    After years of yo-yo dieting which is terrible for the body, I’ve worked out that over eating and bad foods in general are addictive and readily available. People know it’s cheap enough to indulge in some chocolate etc and nearly every shop sells it.

    As for me, well the last of the Christmas pantry stuff has all but gone (yippee) so temptation is slipping away.

    I’m with you on the thrill of on-line shopping…. I received a cook book the other day I’d forgotten I’d ordered! Amazon, what a winning business notion. Lethal.

    Good luck with the upside down yoga Melissa (crazy woman πŸ™‚ ) of course I’d join you were it not for the danger of receiving a couple of black eyes every time πŸ™‚


  5. Melissa says:

    Alta — so true, everyone’s motivation is different. I also agree that feeling better and thinking better are motivation enough, although you do have to keep reminding yourself of that while staring down that ice cream sundae! Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it!

  6. Melissa says:


    Homemade granola bars are the best! I make my own as well (sometimes). Then you can make them truly healthy, as half of them out on the market are nothing more than a candy bar of a different name!

  7. Melissa says:


    No, I haven’t read that book. Thanks for the tip, I’m always interested in the reasons people overeat. Everyone is different and understanding the complications is important (as a nutritionist). I did order the book by David Kessler, but haven’t read it yet. Looks fascinating.

    I appreciate your comment and the book suggestion (oh, no — another book!).


  8. Melissa says:


    First off, I’m waiting for some help from you so I can thank your friend for the Christmas gift. πŸ™‚ Please let me know how I can connect with her. Let’s see, what can I tempt you with? Maybe I can arrange for a visit from our Manly friend to evaluate your hot tub potential.

    I have such mixed feelings about First off, I love the ease with which I can buy books. I also like the option of buying used books. They are always “like new” and so much less expensive that I can justify my over-indulgence. Having said that, I feel the best thing is to support the small independent book stores, but the ease and low cost that Amazon provides often trumps my good intentions.

    I bet I could have you doing handstands in no time. You need to come and visit me!

  9. Cid says:


    I’d love to visit but I would be disruptive in yoga class…. I might eventually get to the handstand after patient training…. whether I’d ever get back up again is doubtful πŸ™‚

    Mr Patio from Manly has already rated my hot tub potential and for the first time, has had to admit defeat… I think he looked a bit frightened, can’t think why. I was on my best behaviour and sporting my latest craze for all things tribal and mud clothish. I looked spectacular but alas the dye wasn’t fast…. which was more than can be said for him as he made for the hills like a roadrunner πŸ™‚

    I’m looking forward to seeing your photographs by the way and in the meantime I’ll get that friend of mine to hurry up and send word.


  10. Tosh says:

    I love that picture!

    And I am 100% curious as to the real reason why the waistlines have grown.

    If it is the post WW2 industrialization and the mass production of foods, refrigerated trucking and a federal highway system to cater to the rapid shipment of these carefully crafted processed foods that wreak havoc on our neural pathways (and with it the proliferation of national brands) than will the local and organic foods movements ever be strong enough to counter balance these marketing masters?

    I love that you are learning arm balancing poses! That is on my list of future things to tackle! Having baby number two in June must come first though!

  11. Tosh says:

    I love that picture!

    And I am 100% curious as to the real reason why the waistlines have grown.

    If it is the post WW2 industrialization and the mass production of foods, refrigerated trucking and a federal highway system to cater to the rapid shipment of these carefully crafted processed foods that wreak havoc on our neural pathways (and with it the proliferation of national brands) than will the local and organic foods movements ever be strong enough to counter balance these marketing masters?

    I love that you are learning arm balancing poses! That is on my list of future things to tackle! Having baby number two in June must come first though!

    ps – check out

    can’t always find everything but you can get used (and new books) from independent retailers (albeit not necessarily local to you)

  12. Melissa says:


    Mr. Patio from Manly? You in tribal, mud clothish attire? We sure have created a colorful cast of characters, haven’t we? Ahh, nothing better than a good friend with a grand (if not a bit dramatic) imagination. It makes life interesting! Thank you.


  13. Melissa says:


    Thank you! I really appreciate your comments. Yes, I love that photo as well. And you are so right in your assessment of things. We just have to support our local farmers and organic food producers.

    Thank you for the tip. I had never heard of them (which surprises me).

    And congratulations on the upcoming birth of baby number 2. Very cool! It’s indeed a magical ride, isn’t it. Enjoy every minute (well, most of them anyway) as they grow up way too fast.

  14. Love the photo! For so many years, all “THE studies” showed that our parents and grandparents were so much unhealthier … now they are finding out it’s not the case at all. Like we needed a study to tell us that … with the high incidence of disease today and so much more (like artificial sweeteners, HFCS, GMOs, etc.). It’s a big topic.

    I’m not at all surprised that the brownie sundae took the crown! BUT, OMG on that nutritional (or lack thereof) breakdown.

    I like your mind-body connection. It’s very true. Similarly, one doesn’t find motivation (for anything) without taking action. Then that action leads to another, and so on.

    Thanks as always for your sound information and inspiration!


  15. Kathy says:

    Wow, that’s a whole day’s worth of calories in one treat!

    You are right, we need to think about what we eat and what it does for or To our bodies. I have to
    admit, I am very
    addicted to chocolate myself though. It’s a struggle.

  16. Catherine says:

    Thank you for this great blog, Melissa. Concerning junk food cravings afer a big workout….I have also read that indigestibility of toxic foods leave residues of these foods in our cellular structures. When we exercise and, thus, detox, the posions and residues leave the cells and go to into the lymphatic fuild and circulate through the brain before being eliminated from our bodies. The brain is stimulated by these residues and, thus provocative cravings and compulsions are evoked. The desire to relive the pleasure from eating such a food can be irresistible. So, our cravings are not helpless feelings that we are having, it is a real physiological event happening in our brain. After reading this, I am better able to not give in to the craving and understand that the cravings will be less and less if I eat healthier and healthier. I have fewer cravings the more raw food I eat. Anyway, thought I would share this information that has helped me.
    Cheers, Catherine

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