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Neighbors of Kane County

For the love of pizza

Mar 08, 2017 12:33PM ● By Neighbors Magazines

I will be the first to say, "I Love Pizza!"...Stuff your face until you can't eat another bite and don't care kind of love. From the first whiff of the herbs and dough baking, to the visage of freshly melted cheese, this mouth-watering, irresistible pie has it all. But, (and you knew that a preposition was due to arrive), like any formidable nemesis, it has the ability to disable the rational thinking part of my brain. It's so comforting, and fulfilling. Yet, at the same time, it has me feeling a bit rebellious, and even naughty.  The guilt doesn't jump on board until the next day, when I feel sluggish, bloated and annoyed by my previous dietary decision. Maybe that's what draws Americans into the pizza vortex time and time again. So many emotions. We all have foods that make us feel a bit out of control. Potato chips, cheese burgers, cookies, ice cream, or chocolate (anything). I mention this, because I do have one or two (nah, probably just one) friend who does not like pizza.

When and how do you hit the off-button? That is a fully loaded question. For the sake of conversation, let's continue to talk pizza. To be sure, many of us have worked hard to control the portion size, and that can be accomplished with ease, if you have a game plan and stick to it. Others have tried different alternatives to a bread crust. While quinoa and cauliflower have their place in our diets, I don't think they have won any battles on the crust front. We have all reasoned that if we stick some veggies on our pizza, we have created a nutritional powerhouse, and that could work, if you are eating less bread and cheese. Many pizza lovers have determined that homemade pizza is the way to go, preparing their own with less bread and cheese. There is always a way to work your fav foods into your diet successfully.

Believe it or not, this is not a lesson in nutrition. I provided patients with fun nutritional facts regularly in the family practice setting-  good carbs vs. bad carbs, blood sugar spikes and cravings, calorie counts and more. Anyone who has asked their physician has heard much of the same. I'm here to tell you that there is more to the story. It's also about your guttural connection to food- sights, smells, taste, and memories that reinforce your connection to it. Seriously, while growing up, I cannot recall a time when I was not happy while eating pizza- at parties, hanging with friends, first date and sporting events, or as a reward. Emotion is a variable that cannot be ignored when it comes to our eating behaviors.

Pretend for just a moment that you are a visitor from a far-away land, and have never seen or tasted pizza. I think it might look a bit scary...a big round self-contained plate of unfamiliar food, stretchy and stringy, hot, spicy and maybe with a crust that hurts the roof of your mouth when you bite into it. Maybe the veggies are too soggy, or the sausage is too fatty. Perhaps you are also a bit nervous in your new setting, and just don't want to expend energy on trying this food, when a piece of chicken seems a safer option.  Whatever you decide, you now have a connection to the new food, for better or for worse.

Here is some interesting news about pizza that I read in my local newspaper this week: Domino's Pizza Inc. shares are up 45 percent this year, and Papa John's International Inc. is up more than 60 percent. Meanwhile, other U.S. restaurant chains have seen sluggish traffic. The reasons offered are pizza is cheap (I beg to differ), fast and increasingly easier to get "thanks to user-friendly mobile-ordering apps and technology that lets diners order from Facebook, Twitter, and Apple TV". Convenience, convenience, convenience. Can anyone say "WALL-E"? That animated movie from 2008 gave us a glimpse into a world of consumerism, waste and the environmental impacts on humans. In the nutshell, humans became so sedentary and fat that they could only get around with the use of automated wheel chairs.

Pizza Hut is now stepping up its game by moving to speedier service. You can now order through voice commands via Amazon Echo. Wow! I don't have to use my car, my legs, or hands, just my eyes and voice. I don't have to get dressed, put on makeup, or interact with real people.  Having said that, I feel a little empty inside. I like getting out and interacting with people, and I embrace the fact that eating is about more than the food.

There are many reasons why people struggle with weight control, and our "conveniences" are not helping. Some of those reasons include eating on the run, picking at food throughout the day, underestimating calories, overindulging on health foods, using food as a reward, weekend splurging and buying into fads (magic weight loss food or supplement, fat melting exercise, etc.) Does any of this stress you out?

Take a little stress about your diet and add a bit of chronic stress caused by other life events, and your brain will release cortisol into your bloodstream. Too much of that "stress" hormone will lead to a cascade of unwanted physical changes- unclear thinking, poor sleep, digestive problems, and a challenged immune system. It's a viscous cycle!

So, what is the takeaway here? Take a pill to lower your stress level? Eat less pizza? Become politically active? Hide at home, and eat more pizza to comfort yourself? Everybody will have a different idea about what works for them, but I can tell you that having a plan, a map from which you can choose different approaches, will grant you greater success in all aspects of life. Mindfulness, moderation and balance are your friends.

A health coach can help you discover meaningful choices for your healthy life, and help you to create a plan that decreases the effects of stress on your body. Have a Happy 2017!

Suzanne Nicholson is advanced practice nurse, certified health coach, and founder of Ideal You Health & Wellness, LLC. She has lived and worked in the surrounding communities for the past 25 years, and has a strong commitment to empowering others to strive for good health. She also has a vision for improving, and enhancing the delivery of healthcare now and in to the future.