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Episode 101: Food and Mood: Learning How to Eat, Not Just What to Eat with Jenn Trepeck

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, Jen Trepeck joins me to talk about the reasons why we tend to reach for unhealthy foods so easily, and what we can do to navigate these foods with our kids without creating "fear foods."

We start by discussing the foods we tend to overeat and why they're so difficult to resist. Jenn will share tips on how to navigate these foods with our children and teach them healthy eating habits.

Next, we'll talk about the importance of not just knowing what to eat but how to eat. Learning how to balance our meals and listen to our hunger cues is crucial for a healthy relationship with food.

Jenn shares a suggested day of eating and how to balance our meals to ensure we're getting all the nutrients we need, as well as explores her thoughts on intermittent fasting.

We also dive into the impact diet has on our mood and how we can make small changes to our diet to improve our mental health.

Jenn Trepeck has been described as a "force of nature" in the wellness space, has been recognized as one of Podcast Magazine’s 40 under 40, and was nominated for the 2022 International Women’s Podcast Award for Visionary Leadership. She is an Optimal Health Coach, Podcaster and Business Consultant.

After graduating from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Jenn founded Better Life Now LLC while working full time in hedge funds. After over a decade of coaching clients, Jenn started Salad with a Side of Fries Podcast to help pay it forward and reach a larger audience to teach the nutrition education we are all supposed to know but no one ever taught us. Jenn implements revenue generating wellness programs in doctors' offices, salons and spas to further expand impact and help change the state of healthcare as a Certified Transitions Lifestyle Coach and Consultant with nutraMetrix Custom Health Solutions.

Join us for an insightful and informative discussion on healthy eating habits, and learn how to make small changes to your diet that can have a big impact on your overall health and well-being.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [1:10] Why we reach for the 'unhealthy' stuff so easily

  • [2:45] The foods we tend to overeat

  • [4:00] How to navigate these foods with our kids and not create "fear foods"

  • [7:20] Learning not 'what' to eat but 'how' to eat

  • [11:55] A suggested day of eating and how to balance your meals

  • [18:40] Learning how to check in with ourselves and our hunger

  • [21:45] Jenn's thoughts on intermittent fasting

  • [25:45] How diet impacts mood

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Jenn

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View Transcript for this Episode

Natalie: food and mood science-based tips and tricks for achieving wellness without sacrificing your favorite.

Natalie: Hi friends, it's Natalie. So glad to have you here today. I wanna talk about how food impacts our mood, and yes, it most certainly does. Be honest with me. How often do you reach for chips? Ice cream, maybe chocolate when you're stressed or busy, or how about those salty french fries?

I'm so guilty. I'm with you on all of this. I particularly go for salt when I'm stressed, but there are those times where I have to have chocolate, sometimes even salty, dark chocolate. I have an expert today who's gonna tell us what this all means and wait until you hear some of her ideas for overcoming this type of eating.

We're gonna explore the role of. Salt and fat in making some of these foods we love so much, so irresistible. Also, how our taste buds adjust to these things over time and how kids are affected by these type of addictive tastes. And we're not gonna just talk about the problem today. My guest from about to tell you about has solid solutions for us, like when to eat, what food groups are most important, and how to make it all easy.

you are going to love Jen Treck, Jen's podcast Salad with a side of fries. It clears up myths, misinformation, bad science and marketing surrounding nutrition and what she's gonna share with us today is really going to help. So, buckle up. Let's get started.

Let's get past stress eating and let's use food to feel.

Jen, thanks for joining me today.

Jenn: Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to chat.

Natalie: Okay, so we talk a lot about food. I talk a lot about nutrition, but mostly I like to talk about being healthy and sometimes we go right for the stuff that's not healthy because we think it's gonna help our mood. ,

Jenn: we think we have the best intentions we want it to, right?

It maybe works for a hot second and a half , and then

Natalie: we taste really good when I'm

Jenn: eating it. , right? And then sometimes before we're even done, we're going, oh no. Yeah, why did I do that? Right? Uhhuh, , Uhhuh, . And the interesting thing is, ? Well, a few pieces. I mean, a lot of the foods that we gravitate towards, especially when we're stressed and you know, looking for escape and a lot of the things that we associate as comfort foods and all of those things, yeah, have chemicals in them that turn off =our brain's ability to know when we're full.

So it is not a coincidence. that you can't have just one. What was that? Pringles, right? Once you pop, oh yeah, you can't stop. Remember that? Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Mm-hmm. , no coincidence, right? . So it's not our lack of will. It's not that we, you know, are lacking or have some moral failing. It's these foods are formulated.

For our taste buds and our brain to not. , they can turn off our ability to know when we're

Natalie: full.

So let's talk about what some of those foods are. I mentioned chips because Yeah, I go for salty crunchy when I just, maybe some of it's emotional, but let's talk about other things that have those chemicals that we tend as we tend to go to for comfort.

Jenn: Sure. Well, that perfect balance of the salt and the crunch and the whole Right, and the fat and the sa like mm-hmm. , it hits all the right spots on the. . Mm. For the brain to go More, more, more. Yep. More definitely. Right? Yep. , sugar and salt and fat are all addictive. Tastes. Yeah. Which means they're also acquired, so that means that we learn they taste good.

Mm-hmm. , it also means that our bodies adjust. The more we have them, the more we want. and the more we have them, the more it needs to be. We have a higher threshold for something to register as sweet or salty or fatty or something. So you know the people who start with like one Splenda in their coffee and then fast forward they're at three four, right?

It's cuz our taste buds have adjusted one no longer taste sweet. We need more in order to hit that same threshold. Boy

Natalie: that's. , right? Yeah. Yeah. That's why my, that's why my son eats a lot of candy . Yeah. . I find little wrappers under pillows in his room. I'm like, what's going on here? And there's three and four wrappers and so, you know, all the Halloween candy we're still dealing with.

Right. But, and for kids that, that can really be a problem too, because they might be getting sugar, you know, a little bit here and there, but does it happen the same way for

Jenn: kids? Absolutely. Mm-hmm. ? Yeah. So, Again, part of it is about what we're used to. Part of it is also, you know, with kids, the conversation that we have around it, I have a kids and family program and it's a delicate balance to not create fear foods.

Yeah. Or to not create, you know, a disordered relationship, but also to enjoy within reason. Right. So sometimes it's like, , are you done with dinner cuz you want dessert or like, are you really full? Yeah. I often say to people too, like if the only thing that sounds good is a cookie, we're probably not stomach hungry.

Natalie: Oh yeah. That's good. Yeah.

Jenn: Right. If you need broccoli, we're hungry. . Yeah. You know? Yeah. And we have hormones so similar to the way we can become insulin resistant. , right? We know that to be diabetes. We have hormones that tell us when we're hungry and when we're satisfied. Those are called graylin and leptin.

Hmm. And the same way we can become insulin resistant, we can become resistant to those hormones, so we might not respond. So think about all the times we've been told to eat less and move. , our body is sending us the hunger signal and we're going, la, la, la, la, la, la. Like, I'm not listening to you. I was told to eat less.

Mm. Right. Yeah. We're not responding to the graylin and we are creating or contributing to over time a resistance to this hormone. Hmm. That can happen with kids too. So it's also a balance of saying, you can stop eating when you're full. , but also learning some of those signals of saying, am I hungry again in 30 minutes?

Am I hungry again in an hour or do I just feel like eating?

Natalie: Yeah. . That is so interesting. I, I mean, really good body awareness. And that's one of the other things I wanna talk to you about is learning to listen to what we are really needing. Are we eating ? And sometimes we like to say in our family, like, it's fine to indulge every once in a while.

Yeah. But know that you're doing that for fun, not for nourishment.

Jenn: Well, it's just a different kind of nourishment, right? We're nourishing something other than. energy. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Yeah. this is sort of one of my pet peeves with the whole like, wellness culture these days. Mm-hmm. because I feel like it's made it's made food the enemy.

If we're looking for something, anything other than fuel. Yeah. And let's just be real, like find me a culture that doesn't use. For connection or celebration. Right. Or grief or j Right. Every emotion. . Yeah. In every culture. Right. Right. Uses food. So to try to pull that out entirely is also, uh, in my world, I think a bit misguided.

Right. And to your point, I think it's a lot about the awareness. Mm. and understanding, and then I'm a big fan of how versus what. Right. So

it's not what to eat, it's how to eat, tell. So we could eat, tell about that. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, Taking a step back, whether we are burning fat or storing fat is a function of blood sugar.

If our blood sugar is too high and if our blood sugar is too low, we're gonna store everything we eat as fat. Hmm. So, Our objective is to keep our blood sugar in this middle zone where we're never storing fat. Now, that also is when we are metabolically healthy , which, and the research now shows us that metabolic health is connected to complete overall health.

You know, our immune system, our cardiovascular health, our cognitive health, all these pieces. so we wanna keep our blood sugar balanced. When we start our meal with something high glycemic, something that will spike our blood sugar. Like we sit down at the restaurant and we start with the bread basket , which is so American.

Oh yeah. We're human, right? We live in this world, and by American. We have then, you know, transported that around the world, . Oh, oh, sure. True. Yeah. So, even if what we ordered for dinner or any meal right. Is like textbook steamed fish and vegetables. Mm-hmm. , our body's gonna store that steamed fish and vegetables as fat.

Natalie: Because we started with the

Jenn: high glycemic. Exactly. Because it's like flipping a switch. that high glycemic start right has now spiked our blood sugar. and we're gonna store the steamed fish in vegetables as fat. If we don't eat all day, whether on purpose or because we just had a really busy day , and we sit down to eat our body in its infinite caveman wisdom says, oh, it must be a time of famine.

You're not gonna kill me. I will survive. I'm gonna take whatever you give me. I'm gonna store this fat, and the next time you don't eat, I'm not gonna die. Right. I got something there. Oh, wow. So we don't eat all day. We sit down at the restaurant. We eat the same textbook, steamed fish and vegetables. We store it as fat.

Oh boy. So think about, you know, Thanksgiving in America is another one, right? We have this big meal and then we wait a while and then we do dessert. Mm-hmm. dessert separately is like sugar bombing our body. Mm-hmm. , the way we can blunt the impact of something higher glycemic is protein. Fiber and quality fat.

So if we eat a great quality nutritious meal and have our dessert immediately after, or have the bread with the meal mm-hmm. instead of first. Mm-hmm. , it's like blunting The impact, yeah. Of that. So like if you think of high glycemic foods as the color red and low glycemic foods as the color, We mix 'em together and we get pink.

Pink. Not as red. As red, not as white as white. We're somewhere in the middle. If we do more of the white stuff, the less of the red stuff. We get a lighter pink. Yeah. Right. So it's even for our kids, like, cool, let's have two of the minis. Yeah. Right after dinner. Yeah. And onward, right?

Natalie: But not right after school, an hour before.

I'm about to give you a healthy.

Jenn: Right. Well, so likely what's happening, right when we're likely there's low blood sugar, they're actually really hungry. Absolutely. Yeah. Right. So it's, Hey, if you're actually really hungry right now, let's have X, Y, or Z. Yeah. And keep those for, you know, right after dessert or whatever.

Right, right. Again, if the only thing that sounds good to. is the candy bar. We're probably not actually hungry. Mm And so it's just sort of, it's thinking through, well what, what do we actually need in this moment? Mm-hmm. , one of the things that we teach our kids and families is fridge first. Food is found in the fridge.


Natalie: have threatened, I haven't done it yet, but I have threatened to put a lock on the pantry. Yeah. Because the, when they come home, the first thing they do is raid the pantry, which is all of the sugary things or cereal or chips. Right, exactly. Fridge first.

Jenn: I love that. Fridge first. Food is found in the fridge.


Natalie: Okay. Will you walk me through then? a good day, and I'm focusing right now on fueling myself with protein, so, great. I've got all these little tricks. I wanna ask you what you think of 'em in a minute. Okay. But, okay.

But give me a good day. Give me a, just, okay. And everybody's gonna vary in what they like.

Jenn: Exactly. You need the

Natalie: balance of the order

Jenn: in which you do things. Okay. So this is probably less specific than you want it to. , but , that's okay. We'll make, here's how we do this. Here's how we do this. Protein and fiber at every meal. Okay. Makes you moving fat. No big deal. Okay? Okay. Protein and fiber at every meal makes you moving fat.

No big deal. Protein is clean. Lean protein, I don't care what you want it to be. Fiber is vegetables and sometimes fruit. And a meal is really every time we eat, meal, or snack. The only difference is how much we have at a time. The other thing you want a couple times a day is quality fat. One day I'll figure out how to get the fat into the fun sentence, but for now, , protein and fiber at every meal.

Okay, so breakfast might look like a veggie omelet. Mm-hmm. or eggs with a salad. I'm a big fan of a breakfast salad. , you're gonna think I'm nuts. I'm telling you, just try it every time. My clients are like, you want me to what? And I'm like, just, just trust me on this one. Okay? Whatever greens you have, throw 'em in a bowl.

Okay? Whatever veggies you have, chop 'em up. The body loves variety. Mm-hmm. . So anything. You got a little bit of all of it, right? Throw it in the bowl. Cook your eggs so that the yoke is still running. Put 'em on top of the salad. The running yolk becomes like a creamy salad dressing. Oh, yum.

Natalie: So like a, like a, a over easy egg.

Sure. Or, or even scrambled, but something that just where it runs


Jenn: little bit. Yeah. And throw a running yolk creates, A salad dressing. You can add a little bit like I like to, you could do everything. Bagel seasoning you could do. Um, I like to use nutritional yeast cuz it kind of tastes like cheese but adds a ton of protein.

Yeah. Um, you could add a little bit of avocado to it. You could add, um, a little balsamic vinegar cuz then the vinegar with the egg yolk is, Dressing. Oh

Natalie: my goodness. Sounds delicious. So this is your delicious breakfast salad and when? Vegetable breakfast salad. When you say grab whatever you've got, you're talking about like some spinach, some mushrooms, carrot, celery, like

Jenn: you name it?

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Natalie: See, I do that with stir fry at night often. Yeah. Whatever I've got. Just throw it in an add an egg and some rice maybe or something. Yeah. But I've never thought about that for breakfast. I don't know if I could get my 13 year old son to do it. How would you get a kid to be okay with.

Jenn: Okay, so maybe not quite the breakfast salad as I just described it.

So for the kids, we'll do what we call like an omelet muffin. Mm-hmm. . So use your muffin tin, scramble some eggs. Chop up a ton of veggies, stick the veggies in all the muffin tins, and you could do different flavors, like do this one with like sundried tomato and feta, and do this one with, you know, a little bacon and cheddar and whatever, veggies in any of.

pour your, you know, scrambled eggs, you know, raw into them and bake them. They do take a little while to bake, so do like a whole tray, then stick 'em in a Ziploc, put 'em in the fridge, right? Grab a couple in the morning, heat 'em up, throw them on top of a plate that's lined with raw spinach. Mm-hmm. or something.

So it's just adding a little bit more veggie and texture and whatever. And you'll be surprised, like kids will eat it. .

Natalie: Wow. Yeah. But to focus on the fiber and the protein that sustains them through lunch. So now let's get to

Jenn: lunch. So lunch and dinner, you're the same thing? Yeah. Protein, fiber, quality, fat.

Natalie: Okay. Quality fat. You're, I, I am imagining you're saying like olive oil.

Jenn: Uh, olive oil. Avocado oil. Okay. Avocado. By the way, a serving of avocado is half of the avocado. A serving of nuts is like a small handful of nuts. Yeah. Yeah. Everybody thinks they're eating too many nuts. I promise you. The nuts aren't how we got here.

right? . Like if we're in a place of counting almonds, we're in a really good spot. Right? so, maybe on your salad you're doing. , you know, adding nuts or walnuts. I think I find few things more satisfying than walnuts. So like I could add walnuts to something and it becomes infinitely more satisfying. Yeah, yeah.

Right. Yeah. And sustains us or a snack, walnuts and raspberries together, actually walnuts and any berry. I feel like it's such a delicious snack. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Right. So, which brings up. You know, we're gonna build all our meals the same way. We're gonna build all our snacks the same way. Make it easy, right?

Yeah. So here's how we wanna think of it in terms of getting through a full day. I want you to eat something within like an hour to 90 minutes of waking up. , don't start with coffee. Okay. An hour tonight. Many minutes. Okay. I'm

Natalie: already in trouble. Right? All right. Really, really, even if it, like, I do put like whole milk in my coffee to give

Jenn: myself like more, yeah.

It's more of a function of what happens with, the caffeine and our hormones on an empty stomach, especially for women. So, okay. That explains a lot. Just eats something right? . So just eat a little something. so a meal is gonna last us four to five and a half hours, depending on how much we have.

A snack is gonna last us like one to two hours, depending on how much we have. Okay? We wanna finish food two to three hours before bed. . So within that, we can figure out what it's gonna look like for us. So a lot of people are like, I'm not a breakfast person. Like, don't make me breakfast. Okay. But we gotta get something in our system.

Mm-hmm. to let our body know that it is safe and that it can burn fuel. Right. It's not a time of famine. Yeah. So maybe you start with a snack rather than starting with a big meal. If we start with a snack, that we know is gonna last us maybe one or two hours. We're just sort of shifting that a little bit, right?

Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So we start with a snack, maybe a couple hours later, we're having a bigger breakfast, which might mean that our lunch is actually a little bit later. Yeah. Yeah. Totally fine. It's more about saying, okay, does this timing make sense based on how much food I have? Yeah. So when we're sort of figuring some of this out, it might make sense to set an.

You started to talk about before, like checking in with ourselves and figuring out what we're feeling, right? Mm-hmm. set an alarm. If I ate a snack, right, and I'm gonna need another meal, maybe I'm setting the alarm for an hour. When the alarm goes off, it's like, how am I feeling? Do I feel like I need food?

Okay, I'm cool. I'll set it for another hour. Or sometimes at that hour we go, I don't need it right now, but I could probably use it in about a half hour. Right. We can set that next to one.

Natalie: That's certainly something I've learned is to get ahead of the hunger, because by the time I'm hungry, first of all, it's when we all make bad decisions.

Right? So to just get ahead of it, to have a handful. And that's even, and maybe, maybe you feel differently, but Yeah. Okay. So I should be hungry about not, but I'm not. But if I go ahead and have that handful of almonds, , I'm gonna be okay. Come lunchtime, I'm not gonna be eating the bad thing.

Jenn: Right. And that's chemical too.

Hmm. Right. It's not that we suck when we're hungry. . . It's that our blood sugar is low. Mm-hmm. , our body is saying, I need fuel. Our brain is saying, I need fuel. The fastest way to get fuel to the brain is with a higher glycemic choice. Yeah. Which means that the C. . The candy, the bread. Yeah, the pasta. Yeah. Are all gonna look more appealing Yeah.

Than the vegetables and the protein, because that takes a little bit longer. Mm-hmm. . So it's chemical that those things look good to us, recognizing that. Right. So I used to work in hedge funds. I built my coaching practice on the side, and I worked in hedge funds. when I was, you know, in the process of all of this.

So I remember before learning everything , I, Monday mornings, they had a, um, free breakfast in the kitchen that was like the mini pastry things. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. and some fruit. And then, Fridays was free pizza and salad for lunch. So inevitably Monday morning, like we all do, right? Monday is like the universal start day of anything.

So Monday morning, come into the office and I'm like, I'm not gonna eat the things. Right. Walk in the kitchen to get some water. And there they are. Yeah, they're calling your name. Oh, they have a voice. You know that voice. I know . I know. So they're screaming at me. And I remember the day that I was like, wait a.

I get why that's really appealing to me right now. because I woke up however long ago. Right. I've gotten ready, I commuted to the office. Now I'm here. I still haven't eaten anything. I'm hungry. Mm-hmm. . That's why, that's really appealing. Mm-hmm. So what I actually need to do is go eat the thing that I brought and then if I still want the mini croissant, , I'll deal with it then.

Mm-hmm. . But let me at least just start with the thing that I brought. Yes, yes. And then lo and behold, I'm like, I don't really want that. Yeah.

Natalie: Oh, I, so I so see that that's so

Jenn: common. And I think for me, the big shift, right, was like in understanding some of these things about the hormone side of it and the blood sugar side of it.

Mm-hmm. and what it was like all of these food decisions. Switch from being emotional to intellectual. Mm-hmm. . Yeah.

Natalie: So, um, a few episodes ago, I did a deep dive into, maybe you saw it on intermittent fasting, and I know it's all the rage and I know people who are very successful with it. I've gone in and out of, but I feel like when I do that, I'm like, another hour.

Okay, another hour. Like it turns into a mental game of can I make it and. I've been okay. Not making terrible decisions, but I'm really struggling through that. Yeah. Do I have a feeling you're gonna say not a good idea? ?

Jenn: I'm not the biggest fan of intermittent fasting, especially for women. We'll come back to that in a second.

Here's the fasting. I like two to three hours before bed. It's about an hour and a half after waking up. Okay?

Natalie: So go to the office and eat. When you get there. You don't have to eat right when you. .

Jenn: Yeah. Like within an hour, an hour and a half of waking up. Mm-hmm. , we're gonna get some