Hey so this week we’re going to talk more about CBD. There is so much buzz about CBD and there is a huge knowledge gap, so here’s a little bit of information to help you navigate that.
CBD is a cannabinoid, like THC. It’s found in the Cannabis Sativa plant, which is called hemp when the levels of THC are negligible (usually less than .03%). Hemp and cannabis are genetically the same plant. Cannabis strains are different types of cannabis that have been selectively bred, and they look and smell different from each other and have different effects.
Industrial hemp is cannabis that is bred not to contain THC, but they can still contain CBD and other cannabinoids. These plants tend to be low-resin, meaning you need a lot of plant material to extract any quantity of medicine. Using industrial hemp for medicine can be problematic because the cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator, it sucks up heavy metals and other toxic shit from the soil. (Fun fact: Hemp was planted near the site of the Chernobyl disaster to help remove radiation from the soil.) So when you couple the fact that you need a lot of plant material to extract a small amount of CBD with the fact that hemp is a bio-accumulator, there’s potential for products with really high concentrations of some very poisonous stuff.
So, tip #1: Buy CBD from organic hemp grown in the US. It should say this on the label or website. If the label just says “hemp oil”, don’t go for it, it could be anything. There are a growing number of strains that are high CBD and high resin, which is awesome. More resin = more medicine per plant and less chance for toxic levels of contaminants.
Tip #2: Ask for lab test results. Reputable dealers will have their lab test results available to confirm the levels of CBD and other cannabinoids in their product and it may also show whether its free of contaminants and mold, which is great.
Cannabinoids work best together. THC works better with CBD and other cannabinoids in the mix, and CBD works the same way.
Tip #3: Look for something that says “full spectrum” or “whole plant”. This means that it contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant. Some products contain CBD isolate, which still has medicinal value but is difficult to dose. CBD has what’s called a bell-shaped dose response, meaning a small amount might be effective, but a larger dose will have no effect, and eventually a much high dose will have an effect again. This makes it harder to find the dose that will work for you. Taking several cannabinoids together helps lessen this response, which allows the user to have a much broader dose and still be effective. Plus, those terpenes and minor cannabinoids have medicinal value too, so, bonus!
Tip #4: Look for CO2 extraction. There are several ways to extract cannabinoids from cannabis. They all involve using a solvent, and cheaper extraction methods use ethanol or butane. These aren’t so great because they can degrade the medicine and leave behind harmful residue. CO2 extraction can only be done using laboratory equipment, so it costs more. But it extracts more medicine, leaves nothing behind, and provides a better tasting, higher quality product.
I use and recommend NuLeaf Naturals (and I’m an affiliate), but there are lots of high-quality products to choose from.
If you’re in the Twin Cities and want to learn more, I’m hosting a meeting about CBD with Ellementa on June 27th at Nina’s Coffee Cafe in Saint Paul. Tickets are $10; click here to get yours. I hope to see you there!
Questions? Leave them in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome back to week 3 of DIY month here at the NW blog!
Today we’re talking about dosing, and this information is so important.
Those of you who are new to cannabis, or for those who are new to using cannabis for wellness, this information will help you find the right dose to feel amazing and avoid an unpleasant experience.
Cannabis is bi-phasic, which means that its effective at very small doses, then loses its effectiveness as you add more. You’ve probably read the mantra, “start low and go slow”, and for good reason. Most people simply take too much cannabis, particularly if you started using as a young person. Now, let me say that I love being high. I love the psychoactivity, I love the dreamy awe. But I experience that at much lower doses than I initially thought. And if I add a bit more, I’m often disappointed in the result.
So what’s a good dose? And how do you dose when using legacy market (illegal) cannabis?
Let’s begin with onset and duration.
There are several ways to ingest cannabis; smoking, vaping, edibles, tinctures, and topicals.
Smoking has the fastest onset, as the cannabinoids pass directly into the bloodstream from the lungs. Take a small puff, and wait 5 minutes before taking more. The tendency (at least for me) is to puff away while it’s burning, but it’s easy to miss that low-dose sweet spot, so put it out and take your time! Effects last an hour or two.
Vaping has a fast onset also, and I recommend the same level of patient self-awareness when you begin. There are a couple of ways to vape: with a pen and cartridges, and with a dry-herb vaporizer. I prefer the to vape my buds in a Firefly 2 dry-herb vaporizer. Vaping flower retains terpenes and cannabinoids, it tastes fantastic, and you actually ingest higher amounts of THC than smoking, because it doesn’t burn off. Plus you can use the ABV (already been vaped) plant material to infuse oil after!
I do not use or recommend cartridges. I know some are made with safe ingredients, but I live in a prohibition state and I have no idea what’s in the vape carts available to me. Many contain propylene glycol, and I just prefer to keep things simple.
The process for new users is the same as smoking; take a small puff, wait five minutes. Effects last a hour or two.
Edibles are their own game. They go through the digestive system and are processed in the liver. There the THC is converted to 11-OH-THC, a metabolite of THC, which feels much stronger than THC. Onset is 1-3 hours, and it depends on what’s in your stomach when you ingest. Always have some food before you take an edible, it slows onset and helps you have a more consistent experience. Start with 2-5mg, and be prepared to wait a long ass time to feel anything. Unlike other ingestion methods, you can’t expect consistent results from edibles, so take them in a comfortable place until you’re familiar with how they affect you. They last 3-6 hours, which is great for insomnia or pain relief, but less great if you’re feeling really anxious from taking too much. Low and slow, man.
Tinctures are taken either sublingually (under the tongue) or swallowed. Swallowing them will create effects like an edible; it will have a slow onset, last longer, but have somewhat unpredictable results. Sublingual ingestion is quicker, with an onset time around 15 minutes, and effects last an hour or two. Take 2-5mg, and hold it under the tongue for 3-5 minutes. It’s easy to titrate (adjust your dose) because it comes on pretty quickly, and unlike edibles, when you find your goldilocks dose it will offer a pretty consistent experience each time you take it, as long as you use tinctures sublingually. Dr. Sulak from Healer.com recommends sucking on gummies or lozenges instead of swallowing them to keep the medicine in the mouth longer, which allows more of it to pass through the membranes of the mouth directly into the bloodstream.
Topicals are applied to the outside of the body, and will not produce a high. THC and CBD absorb through the skin and provide local effects only
If you’re new to cannabis:
Start with 1-5mg. You might not notice any effects the first couple of times you use cannabis. This is common. Don’t up your dose until you’ve given your body enough time to adjust. This process of finding the right dose can take a week or longer. Take your time and have fun with it!
But Jess, I don’t know how much THC is in my weed! How do I figure out how much to take of that homemade infused oil or tincture I made last week? Good question. You can do that 2 ways.
You can do some dosage math, using the national average THC% as a base number. I believe it’s around 15%. So, the infused coconut oil recipe I gave you called for 14g of flower, 15% of that is 2.1 grams or 2100mg of THC in the recipe. You infused 14oz of coconut oil which equals 84 tsp. 2100mgs THC divided by 84 tsps equals 25mg/tsp. Thats a little over 3mg in ⅛ of a tsp.
(If that didn’t make sense, don’t worry! Here’s a dosage calculator from wakeandbake.co.)
So, start with 1/8tsp dose. I personally add it to coffee or tea and drink it that way. I’d avoid using it in a recipe until you have an idea of how this dose affects you.
When you do use it in a recipe, you need to know how many servings the recipe will make, and the dose you want each serving to contain. Then work backwards. Your brownies make 12 servings, and you want them to be ½ tsp each. ½ times 12 servings equals 6 tsps or 3 tbsps total infused oil in the recipe. Replace that much butter or oil in the recipe with canna oil, and make up the difference with regular oil or butter. So if your brownie recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, you’d first convert that to tablespoons. ½ cup equals 8 tablespoons, so you’d use 3 tbsp of canna oil and 5 tbsp of regular.
If you made the tincture, you’ll need to measure your alcohol to figure out the dose of your product. The recipe doesn’t call for that, because I don’t do that. But I don’t do dosage math, either. Why? Because every bag of legacy market cannabis I buy is different, so I need to check the dose every time I make a new batch of oil or tincture. Plus I don’t really care how many mgs I'm taking. I focus on how I feel.
So, here’s how to titrate, or figure out your dose when you don’t have the numbers.
Start with a very small dose: 1 puff if inhaling, 1/8tsp for infused oil, 1 drop for tincture. Keep a log of your experience. Check in with your body before you use, and at intervals. Ask yourself how you feel emotionally, and in your body. Are you anxious? Are you relaxed and calm? Are you tense or in pain? Are you excited? Are you hungry? Do you have dry mouth? Is your heart beating fast?
Healer.com provides these great worksheets for titration when using by inhalation and tincture.
I do it with a post-it on the fridge. Jot down how you feel before you use, and how much you took. Then for edibles jot down your notes every hour or so, noting when you no longer feel any effects. If using a tincture; keep a log starting after 20 minutes, then 60, and note when you longer feel anything. It may take you a few tries to find the right dose, don’t worry about it.
What if I took too much?
If you notice your heart is racing and you feel anxious, you’ve taken too high a dose. Fortunately, cannabis is not toxic, so no matter what you will be fine. The first thing to do is remain calm and just breathe. Take a few slow deep breaths and see if you can interpret your heart racing as excitement rather than fear. Know that your body is having a reaction to cannabis, and that is all that is happening. Your fear is coming from your body, not an actual threat. Try and distract yourself with tv or sleep it off, if you can.
You could try chewing on a black peppercorn. It contains the phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene, which binds to the same receptors as THC. This might be the reason it helps.
If you have some, CBD will counteract the anxiety response to THC. Studies show a dose as low as 15mg of CBD will help. You could take an oil sublingually or smoke some high CBD (and low THC) cannabis. Anything you have to swallow, like an edible or a capsule will take too long to be effective. In my own experience, a half dropper of CBD oil under the tongue helps me feel better almost immediately if I’ve had a bit too much. It makes things sharper and helps me feel in control again. Which brings me to…
THC and CBD are like a power couple, they work best together. They enhance the medicinal benefits of each other, and CBD mitigates the unpleasant side-effects that THC can produce.
CBD is an appetite suppressant, and using the right dose completely stops the munchies from being a thing for me.
Its neuroprotective, and helps lessen short-term memory loss from THC. Im noticeably sharper when I dose CBD with my THC. I don’t forget shit, Im clearer, I don’t get stuck in my thoughts.
And lastly, CBD helps with anxiety and paranoia from THC. Until recently it was thought that CBD blocked the high of THC, but it turns out it just stops the anxiety and mental fogginess.
So, consider taking CBD with every dose of THC, they are a powerhouse of positive effects when taken together. Most people like a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
And if you still find you’ve had a bit too much, add more CBD for nearly instant relief (when taken sublingually or smoked, not swallowed).
Thanks for reading, I hope this is helpful to you! If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or shoot me an email at email@example.com
I used the following websites to inform this post:
Today we’re talking about making infusions and tinctures at home. These are great options for folks who want to use discreetly, or who want to avoid smoking, who want to make their own edibles, or just save shitloads of money. Doing this is home is easy, my friends!
Okay so last week we talked about decarboxylation, and that is the first step to any of these methods. All of these recipes call for decarbed cannabis.
Let’s start with my old faithful, cannabis infused coconut oil. I use this every single day. It’s potent and long-lasting, and super easy to make. I don’t recommend this to anyone who is new to cannabis because it has a slow onset (1-3 hours), lasts a long time, and doesn’t offer a consistent experience. Because you eat it and it get metabolized in the liver, lots of variables can alter the experience. So 5mg today might feel completely different from 5mg tomorrow. Many a day has been ruined by over-consuming edibles and then having to wait hours to feel better. We’ll talk more about dosing next week, but the rule of thumb is, always start low and go slow.
Cannabis Infused Coconut Oil
So easy and so economical.
Next I’ll give you the basics for making your own tinctures. Tinctures are great because the onset is quick (about 15 minutes), they are discreet, and sublingual dosing is simple and consistent. I recommend tinctures to anyone who is new to cannabis. You can take very small doses and can expect a relatively consistent experience from it. Meaning, a 5mg dose (sublingually) will offer a consistent experience from day to day. Which as I mentioned isn’t the case with edibles. More on that next week!
- Add herbs to your tinctures!
- Try 2 tsp each chamomile and valerian for a sleep tincture, or 2 tbsp turmeric and ginger for pain. Use any method you choose.
I learned these methods from Corinne Tobias' book, Dazed and Infused and her website wakeandbake.co.
Next week we’ll talk about dosing your infusions and tinctures, and what to do if you’ve had too much. Stay tuned!
Questions? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month is all about easy, fool-proof methods for making your own cannabis products at home. I'll teach you how to make infusions and tinctures, how to dose them, and ways to use them! It's going to be awesome.
But first, decarboxylation.
Decarbing is the process of heating raw cannabis to convert cannabinoids from their acid form to their more active form. Raw cannabis contains THCA and CBDA, heating them converts these to THC and CBD. Raw cannabis does have medicinal benefits. THCA has shown helpful for patients with epilepsy, nausea, and as an anti-inflammatory. CBDA may be used as an anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, and anti-cancer. So if psychoactivity isn’t your thing, consuming raw cannabis is an option. That said, you can customize the level of psychoactivity you get from decarbed cannabis also, more on that later when we cover dosing.
Here’s the thing about decarbing. It’s a complex process. You want to heat the plant material enough to convert all of the THCA to THC, without burning off valuable cannabinoids and terpenes. I’ve included the method that I use myself, it’s from wakeandbake.co. Corinne tried several at-home methods of decarboxylation and had the results lab-tested. This was the most effective method she tried.
If you want perfect decarbing at home, consider Ardent’s decarboxylator. Its small, super simple, not smelly, and will get you all of the potency with none of the fuss. Click here and use my discount code NOWELL for $30 off!
I use cured flower, but decarboxylating fresh flower preserves more terpenes, which have their own medicinal benefits.
Once you have decarbed, you can use your cannabis in so many ways! Use it to infuse oil, butter, honey, milk or cream. Make a tincture using alcohol or glycerin. Sprinkle it on food. Grind it up and put it in capsules. Smoke it. (That’s right, according to Ardent, decarbing before smoking will increase potency.) Or use it to make topicals.
A word of caution here, if you use the method below, it’s significantly smelly.
Okay, lets get decarbing!
Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below or email me at email@example.com.
Hey there guys!
It’s been crazy around here for a while. My husband made the incredibly difficult decision to leave the doctoral program he’s been working on for 8 years and take a job. It’s a huge transition for our family, and I’ve been focused on taking care of my family and myself.
But I’ve got lots of exciting news to share!
I’m now an Ellementa leader for Saint Paul, and I can’t wait to meet and support more women locally who love cannabis. I plan to start hosting gatherings this summer.
I’ve also been so fortunate to meet some incredible cannabis advocates here in the Twin Cities lately. I attended a fantastic event with the MN Campaign for Full Legalization, who are working so hard and just totally killing it. If you live in Minnesota, check them out, donate, or become a sustaining member so they can keep doing their incredible work. I will also appear in a video for Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation (MRMR) that will air in mid-May. It’s my first time doing this kind of thing, and it was super scary, but working for legalization is important to me so I went for it!
I’ve got an e-course in the works with a couple of other amazing women. It’s for moms who want to use cannabis to take back their health and their lives. We’ve chosen to focus on the tools and skills that made the biggest impact on our own lives, and condensed them into a short e-course. I’m very excited about this project, stay tuned!
And I’m launching a brand-new 8-week coaching program! It’s called Higher Self, and it focuses on using cannabis and mindfulness to create self-acceptance and self-compassion. I believe this is central to creating any kind of change in your life. Our culture values self-hate as a motivator, we think we we’ll become lazy slobs if we stop shouting mean things to ourselves and feeling guilty about everything. But that isn’t true, my friends. When we can accept all part of ourselves, we can gently begin to make lasting changes. It’s so much simpler than trying to create change while in conflict.
Here’s an example:
If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise. But when your desire to change becomes hateful and painful, then going to the gym means facing that pain. It’s no longer simply a decision to do what’s healthy for you, it’s a battle. You must face your shame, hear the voice in your mind shouting at you that you’re worthless and fat and horrible. That shit doesn’t work. My goal is to help you root out your limiting beliefs, stop self hate-speech, and make choices that serve you.
I’m offering a beta version of this program ahead of the launch, to work out any kinks and get feedback. I’ll take 4 applicants through the 8-week program for just $125. It includes 8 weekly 1 hour sessions by phone, and email support between calls. You are welcome to apply whether or not you are an experienced cannabis user. I will help you find the dose and product that feels good to you, and psychoactivity isn’t necessary. The program will officially launch May 13th for $499. If you’re interested in applying for the discounted beta version, schedule a free breakthrough call here. There’s no pressure. We just talk about your goals and expectations, I answer your questions, and we get to know each other a bit before deciding whether or not Higher Self is for you. I’m making this offer here and to my subscribers first, then I’ll extend it to my followers on social media Monday, May 6th.
Last but not least,
I’ll be focusing on DIY projects here on the blog during May, so check back on Mondays for recipes and tools for making cannabis products at home.
I wish you all well, and hope you have a fantastic week!
Ever wonder what actually happens inside your brain when you get high?
In short, a whole fucking lot. WAYYY more than I realized when I decided to research this topic. The bottom line is that so many things are at play here; so many systems are affected, and there are tons of variables. I’m realizing that I cannot give the clear and uncomplicated explanation I had hoped for how cannabis affects the brain.
But I’ll share what I’ve learned:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and reward. It is released when you expect a pleasurable experience and helps you remember the experience so you to seek it out again. It drives us to seek out what feels good. Plus, a bunch of other things.
The neurotransmitter GABA is an inhibitor, and maintains a refractory (cool down) period for the neuron, moderating the amount of dopamine it releases. In this way GABA has a huge affect on mood.
When you consume cannabis, THC blocks GABA, which overrides that refractory period, so your neurons pump out dopamine like crazy. The intense activity excites nearby neurons and triggers them to fire as well.
But there’s SO MUCH more to the story. We’ve got CB1 receptors all over the brain and body, and these receptors affect several different neurotransmitters in different ways, depending on the cannabinoids and terpenes involved, and on each individual’s brain. Plus Phytocannabinoids can trigger other receptors than those within the Endocannabinoid System, and directly affect their neurotransmitters.
Anandamide makes us feel great, but its a very fragile molecule, and it quickly broken down by digestive enzymes. THC makes us feel high in the same way as anandamide but its stronger and lasts much longer. And CBD affects the reputable of anandamide, so more of it can circulate in the brain. In fact, studies found a link between a higher happiness baseline and a genetic mutation that leads to low concentrations of FAAH, the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. So people with more anandamide are happier.
This makes us feel awesome, and affects all the areas of the brain and body with receptors for THC, our Endocannabinoid system.
Isn’t that cool?
I love learning about the brain. How cannabis affects it, what happens when you meditate, why I want to eat so much sugar. It’s so exciting and empowering to find out why.
What about when you get too high? Like, way too high. Your heart is racing, your mouth is like a desert, you feel like you can’t breathe or move from where you are, you are panicking. Well, as I said THC inhibits GABA. And too little GABA can cause anxiety, and restlessness.
Low levels of THC inhibit Glutamate-releasing neurons, which decreases anxiety, but at higher doses It inhibits GABA-releasing neurons, which causes an increase of Glutamate, which in turn causes anxiety.
THC affects 3 different parts of the brain with respect to anxiety. The Amygdala, which is an old part of the brain, hippocampus, which gives us contextual information about anxiety signals, and the prefrontal cortex, which is our higher brain, and governs executive function. A study was performed in mice that gave isolated does of THC to these areas of the brain, and concluded that: the amygdala expresses anxiety at any dose of THC, but the hippocampus and PFC experienced improvement of anxiety at low doses. At higher doses all regions expressed increased anxiety responses. So, everyone will experience anxiety at high doses of THC. How much of this response you experience depends on how many receptors you have in these areas of the brain. Lots of CB1 receptors in the amygdala = a stronger anxiety response that will be harder to overcome with other parts of the brain.
I’ve just read about how CBD does not affect the psychoactivity of THC, which is news to me. But I did also see that it can dampen THC’s tendency to make us anxious and CBD definitely helps reduce memory loss from THC. CBD changes the shape of the CB1 receptor, making it harder for THC to bind to it, but still doesn’t seem to conclusively affect the high. I can say from experience that when I’ve had too much THC, CBD brings everything back into clarity for me in seconds. It sharpens my mind and helps me feel back in control. I wouldn’t describe the feeling as less high, I still feel euphoric and good, but my mind is clear and focused.
I’m continuing my research into brain science with this book: The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below!
Brain Science, guys.
Hey Guys! This month I’m we’ll be diving into brain science. Specifically, we’ll be learning about neurotransmitters and how they affect our moods and behavior. I had the whole month planned out but I gotta say, I got in a little over my head. This stuff is complex. But I am obsessed with brain hacking and I am so excited to have a better understanding of how this all works so I can share it with you!
I've been reading a lot about what happens in the brain when we use cannabis, but research is limited and there is so much conflicting information out there that I’m having a hard time nailing down exactly what is going on. I've got an idea of how cannabinoids affect neurotransmitters, but I need more information. So, I did what I do, and I got some books.
Im telling y'all this because I like to publish every Monday, but I'm not satisfied with my understanding so far, so I'm postponing till next week.
I’ll be reading up all week, so if you’ve got questions, ask away!
And if you know about cannabis and neurotransmitters, or can recommend a book on the subject, I’d love to pick your brain!
Let’s talk about the importance of letting go in the process of habit-building. Releasing habits that don’t serve you is just as important as starting healthy ones. Without this step your habits will be in conflict, and we want habit changes to be easy to sustain.
Let’s use weight loss as an example. You can add healthy foods to your diet and start exercising, but if you don't examine why you overeat in the first place, you will be in conflict. You’ve got to let go of some things; not just behaviors but beliefs as well.
Let’s consider some examples:
I let go of drinking alcohol in the evening.
I let go of feeling responsible for others feelings.
I let go of wasting my time in avoidance.
Can you feel how freeing that is? It’s not forcing, it's a release. And releasing that which isn't serving you frees up so much energy for the things that do.
When you are ready to let go, fist consider how this habit has served you. Express gratitude to yourself. Perhaps you have felt that everyone’s happiness was yours to provide; your sense of self-worth is linked to being of service. You have worked hard to keep everyone happy, even at the expense of your own health. See the goodness in that. You are a good person. You want to help others. It’s a beautiful thing! But helping others in this way isn't serving you. And loving yourself means creating boundaries. Others’ happiness isn't your responsibility. It’s time to let it go.
Can you feel the difference between letting go and adding habits?
You’ve probably got some goals kicking around from the new year. Consider what you can let go of to help you move those goals forward. Maybe it’s negative self-talk. Maybe it’s spending time with someone who enables you to stay the same.
Think it over, then take action! Commit!
I’d love to hear in the comments, what are you letting go of?
Book Review: Bright Line Eating by Susan Peirce Thompson, PhD
I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with food. I’ve changed my whole life with cannabis, reconnected with my sense of self-worth, and am committed to my health and wellbeing, but I still often feel like I’m not in control with food. I read Intuitive Eating earlier this year, and was so sure it would be the answer for me. It helped me notice and reject diet culture, and see the importance os body awareness and rebuilding trust with your body. Its an amazing plan, but as I began the process of making peace with food and eating what I was really craving, I found it too hard to stop. I gained back every pound I’d lost. I just need that structure. I finally stepped on a scale for the first time in nearly a year, and I’m back at my heaviest. It’s maddening.
When I started studying to be a cannabis coach, I learned a lot about the brain. The way we are and the things we do are caused by events happening in the brain, and we can change them.
I’ve learned about neurotransmitters and the types of behaviors they cause. If you haven’t, listen to The Life Coach School podcast episode #239 Neurotransmitters. Brooke Castillo explains neurotransmitters in a really simple, digestible way. She mentions specifically how sugar and flour affect dopamine levels.
Then I came across the book, Bright Line Eating. It’s like the missing piece I needed to find to help me understand my own issues with food. It’s an eating plan for those of us who are really susceptible to food addiction. This plan is very scientific and makes a lot of sense to me. To understand how it works, we need to understand what’s happening in the brain.
The premise is this: our brains have not evolved to handle the modern diet. Specifically the super proceed foods, flour and sugar.
These foods wreak havoc in two, super-destructive ways.
The author likens the process of resisting this response to the following:
Imagine you run up 10 flights of stairs. You may decide to breathe slowly the whole time, and you will succeed at first. But after a while your body will take over and you’ll breathe the way your body needs you to. This is the same as resisting your body’s hunger. And all this is caused by too much insulin which blocks the hormone Leptin.
So, you have too much hunger.
You also have overpowering cravings. This has to do with a different part of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. This is the seat of pleasure, reward, and motivation. Food and sex release dopamine, which activate this part of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that encourages us to seek rewards. It encouraged early humans to hunt for food for survival. When an early human found a concentrated or calorie-dense food source (like berries), their brains would take notice and remember to seek it out again. But those concentrated foods have become more concentrated, widely available (heck, hard to avoid, really), and addictive in modern times. The constant stimulation caused by these concentrated foods causes the brain to downregulate and remove dopamine receptors. It means you don't feel the reward anymore, so you need to add more and more stimulation. It looks a lot like drug addiction. Addicts don't use to feel great, they use to feel normal. The reward becomes not feeling bad. The in-between is craving. Sound familiar?
The flour and sugar we eat so much of today is refined and concentrated. The author likens it to other concentrated white powders: cocaine and heroin. Coca leaves give you a lift, but they aren't addictive. But when you refine the plant down into a powder you end up with cocaine, which is addictive.
So these super-concentrated foods are flooding our brains with dopamine, encouraging us to seek food all the time. This causes our brain to down-regulate the dopamine receptors, which creates a cycle of always wanting food and never being satisfied. In the book she describes a pattern noticed by doctors who treat eating disorders. Their overweight patients report feeling hungry when they sit down to eat, feeling slightly less hungry half way through, but then they get hungrier as they continue to eat and are as hungry as they were when they sat down at the end of the meal.
The answer? Completely cut out those concentrated, calorie-dense foods and your brain will heal. You won't be subjected to irresistible cravings, you will lose weight, many people feel their moods stabilize. As a person who has struggled with binge eating since the mid 2000’s and depression all my life, this is a big deal.
Some interesting facts:
Of the obese who try to lose weight, 99% fail. Most who succeed in losing weight will end up gaining it back. The average dieter makes 4 or 5 new attempts each year. It could not be more clear that dieting doesn’t work. We can't just will ourselves thin. Why?
The same part of the brain that controls willpower also governs our ability to focus, make choices, and regulate our emotions, and these resources are finite. When you’re tired, and you’ve made 10,000 decisions, and you’re trying not to lose your shit on your kids, you are using this part of the brain. It's called the anterior cingulate cortex, the seat of rational decision making. This area of the brain is also particularly affected by changes in blood sugar. It doesn’t work well without enough glucose. So when the day draws to an end and we’re tired and have low blood sugar, we won't make good decisions. It’s not willpower, its your brain.
The plan is more specific than just cutting out flour and sugar. It’s a totally regulated plan that you do not break from. That’s why its called bright lines. The bright lines are boundaries. It’s a commitment. But, if you could be free from food addiction forever, wouldn’t you do almost anything? I would.
I don't follow the plan to the letter, at least not yet. I simply cut out sweeteners of all kinds, most flour, and use a calorie-counting app to stay accountable.So far I’m two weeks in and I feel fantastic! I have tons of energy and almost no cravings at all. I feel in control for the first time in a long time. If at some point this isn't easy to maintain I might commit to the Bright Lines eating plan as written. The science seems really solid.
Have you read or followed Bright Line Eating? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
Building Awareness of Self-Talk
Let’s talk about the way we talk to ourselves.
Let’s face it, it's not good. We flood our minds with thoughts; about our bodies, parenting skills, worth, finances, etc. All the time. Here’s the thing. The brain strengthens in the areas that you use it. Have you heard the phrase, ”What you resist, persists?” Active resistance is actually concentrating your attention on the very things you don't want. You are telling your brain that this thing you don’t want is very important and to look for more of it.
Let’s look at how that relates to self-talk.
When you are constantly telling yourself you are terrible, you are telling your brain you are terrible. It gets easier and easier to think it, because you are strengthening those neural pathways. It gets HARDER to disagree with those thoughts, because they become so automatic, we may not even realize we are having them. This is a great reason to hire a coach. We are trained to identify this type of thinking and help you see it and stop it. Your brain is trainable, and you can fix it. All you need is a plan, and practice.
Shauna Shapiro, PhD, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University has some interesting videos about the effects of meditation on the brain. She says you can actually raise your happiness baseline by mediating daily on positive, loving things. And it’s because you rewire the brain to think those things more.
I think a meditation practice is super valuable, particularly meditating on self-acceptance and love. But changing your self-talk is an all-the-time thing. You’ve got to build an awareness about the kind of things you are saying to yourself. Pay attention. Many of us, especially women, habitually shut down and avoid negative feelings. We stay super busy, we eat, we drink, we medicate. Anything to avoid them. Notice when you are in avoidance, and tune in to your thoughts. Managing your thoughts will literally allow you to feel however you want.
Okay, so you noticed you’ve been scrolling on your phone for half and hour because you’re avoiding something. You focus on your thoughts. You realize you’re worried about something you said earlier and you’re telling yourself everyone hates you and you're fat. Don't judge yourself for thinking it. Celebrate the awareness and the opportunity to change!
Acknowledge your thoughts. Then let them go; gently, lovingly. Say instead, I no longer believe I’m a horrible, fat monster. This acknowledgment piece is important. You're not shutting down the old thought and avoiding it or judging it. You are saying I no longer believe this___.
Next, create new thoughts. And I’m not saying affirmations are the answer here. Your new thoughts need to be believable to you. So a new thought may be just a bit kinder than the old one. I now believe I’m an ok, overweight human. Say it to yourself whenever you notice that thought:
I no longer believe I am a horrible fat monster
I now believe I am an okay, overweight human.
Do it and over and over. As you notice yourself getting more positive, amp it up.
Say I am a badass woman in a normal body. With amazing hair. Love on yourself!
Another tool for checking negative thoughts is body awareness. Take a breath and notice icky feelings in the body. A tension in the chest, or butterflies in the stomach. When I feel those things I pay attention to my thoughts. Then I usually realize Im hating on myself.
Your brain is an incredible thing, my friends. Taking responsibility for it and mindfully working to create more positive thoughts creates epic change in your life.
Does any of this resonate with you?
Let me know in the comments!
I am Jessica DaCosta, I'm a proud cannabis enthusiast, advocate, and mom of two.