The Most-Instructive, Most Helpful, Most Interesting Questions. From People Like You.
I get a ton of great questions from students every time I teach The RESTART® Program. So I've decided to collate the most-instructive questions and answers in one place for you. Right here.
For the most part, I've answered these questions with broad transferable concepts rather than tit-for-tat replies. I think you will find them more useful that way, helping you sharpen your thinking about food and physiology, whether you take my class or not.
1. I like to use raw organic honey and coconut palm sugar. Does that make a difference?
Unfortunately it doesn't make that much difference to your metabolism if your sugar is "special" in some way. It's still sugar. It still desensitizes your palate, making you less able to appreciate things that would taste naturally sweet to you, if you could actually taste them. Adding sugar prompts a cycle of needing to add more and more sugar to things over time in order to get the same "hit" of sweetness. You may have experienced this. It's a common feature of biology: a feed-forward cycle of diminishing returns.
Also, sugar by any name, still interrupts the body's attempts to mobilize fat for fuel. As long as the glucose train is going strong, as long as insulin has its foot on the fat accelerator, as long as your glycogen stores are full, your body will prioritize the burning and churning of all that stuff first, before it ever gets around to burning fat. Since we are seldom without sugar and refined carbs these days, our metabolic machinery to burn fat is seldom turned on. It's true that honey and coconut palm sugar do not spike insulin as much as table sugar, so they ARE an improvement, but the fundamentals of palate accommodation (hedonic adaptation) and one-trick-pony metabolism (being stuck in sugar burning mode and sugar replacement & craving mode) will remain—until you truly flip the switch. That is both the good and bad news: the switch is rusty; but switches can be flipped.
2. Will RESTART work for a lacto-ovo vegetarian?
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians can still get a lot out of the class. Eggs, whole-fat yogurt, small amounts of cheese, and fermented organic soy products (miso, tempeh, natto) are allowed on RESTART. Your cooking fats could be coconut oil, ghee, or grass-fed butter. And your raw dressing oils: extra-virgin olive oil, or avocado oil. The program is not a good fit for strict vegans. But lacto-ovo vegetarians can make it work just fine. We eat mostly non-starchy plants, after all.
3. I wonder a LOT about supplements, and which brands are good?
There are a lot of good brands out there. Go with a manufacture that has a reputation to protect.
BUT when you read the label, please notice the encapsulation method, not just the active ingredient. The active ingredient is often great, but the encapsulation technology may leave something to be desired. I know several "good" companies who use semi-synthetic cellulose, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC) to encapsulate their products. I don’t like this. And here’s why: a recent study published in Nature showed that a closely related compound, carboxymethylcellulose, disrupts the gut microbiome of mice and tilts them toward inflammatory bowel conditions and metabolic syndrome.
My advice: stick with good ol' fashioned gelatin capsules or pure vegetable cellulose capsules - no synthetics.
4. What are 5 Practical Tips to Curb Sugar Cravings?
Green tipped banana, almond butter, coconut oil and cocoa powder blended. (do NOT use a RIPE banana).
Spoonful of coconut butter, or 70 calories of some other healthy fat: Avocado, or nuts, or pumpkin seeds, or hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds, or about 8 olives, or 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, or 1.5 oz full-fat unsweetened coconut milk, or 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil or 2 tsp coconut oil.
L-Glutamine, 1-5 grams.
Substitute sour (pickles, kraut, lemon, etc). "Sweet is the absence of sour". Stimulate an alternate taste pathway.
Substitute bitter: arugula, dandelion greens, green tea. Again, stimulate an alternate pathway.
5. Are nutritional yeast and coconut flour RESTART friendly?
- If you tolerate them, nutritional yeast and coconut flour are both fine. I say, "if you tolerate them”, because depending on what kind of bugs predominate in your gut, you may find that these foods cause bloating. It depends. So here's another plug for the Food Journal...it's useful because it helps us connect the dots to our own bioindividual nutrition. No two people—not even two people with the same diagnosis—are exactly alike. Nutritional yeast is a good dairy-free way to make things taste cheesy. And coconut flour has a glycemic load of 3, which is super low, (e.g. it does not spike your blood sugar like wheat flour does).
6. I’m guessing that plantains are off the menu for the next few weeks, yes?
- Yes. Too starchy for now. Think of RESTART as an opportunity to explore the world of non-starchy veggies and find some new favs. My new favorite is leeks, thinly sliced, drizzled with butter and roasted in the oven; they come out like onion rings! Super tasty. (FYI: Ripe Plantains have a moderate glycemic load of 19. Green Plantains are a little lower at 13. But Green Bananas are best, with a glycemic load of only 8; that’s why they are allowed in small amounts on RESTART).
7. I’m craving chocolate. What should I do?
Chocolate cravings can be a sign of magnesium insufficiency. Here are some RESTART foods to help you get your magnesium:
- Brazil Nuts
8. As long as something says "gluten-free”, I'm safe, right?
- No. All items on the "What to Eat" list are gluten-free, but not all gluten-free items in the grocery store are RESTART approved. Most Gluten-Free products you buy at the store (bread, bars, etc) suffer from the same problem that wheat-flour products do: they are full of overly processed carbohydrates and sugar. The only two gluten-free flours that are low-glycemic enough to use on the RESTART program are almond flour and coconut flour. Try to eat everything else in its whole food form, i.e. whole-kernel quinoa, whole-kernel amaranth, whole buckwheat groats, and brown basmati or wild rice. And remember that grains are limited to 1/2 cup per day anyway. If weight loss is your goal, I would eliminate grains altogether and use the next 3 weeks as an excuse to explore new delicious veggies you might love. Grains will still be there when you get back.
9. I’m almost afraid to ask, but is arrowroot powder on the No-No list?
- Arrowroot powder is almost pure starch. It has a High Glycemic Index of 85, which makes it little better than cornstarch. Use it sparingly. Bake less. Cook more. Focus on getting your carbs from unmilled sources. Conceptually, what we are trying to do is avoid "acellular carbohydrates", that is, those carbs that have been liberated from their natural cellular structure by milling, overcooking, processing, etc. Instead, we want to consume plant starch only when it is still locked inside its original cellular matrix with intact cell walls and as much fiber as possible, i.e., whole-kernel grains and pseudograins, or whole roots and tubers (especially raw).
10. What Meditation App do you use?
I use the Headspace App. I love it. It offers just the right amount of structure and accountability without any woo woo or celestial music. The App is all about really good instruction, tasteful prompting, and a lot of space to practice.
Having a good meditation practice is one of the best things you can do for your digestion, because it teaches you how to intentionally engage your parasympathetic nervous system—aka "The Rest and Digest Response".
We spend so much time doing exactly the opposite—engaging the "Fight or Flight Response", or sympathetic stress response—by running here, running there, eating in the car, keeping up with social media, etc, that our digestion remains largely offline unless we intentionally calm down. You have to engage the other half of your nervous system in order to re-establish digestion as a priority. This is not optional, if you want to flourish. Meditation teaches you the skills you need to put that elusive "Rest and Digest Response" back under conscious control.
I Hope these questions were thought-provoking and helpful. I'll be adding more to the list as we go along, so bookmark this page and check back frequently. Or ask some questions of your own!
Yours in Health and Resilience,