MountainStar Health - November 17, 2021


Always a good time to remember our blessings. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday, it is for all of us. Maybe our year didn’t go the way we wanted, but there are always many things to be grateful for in our lives. I challenge you to keep a gratitude journal every day this month. Think of at least three things you are grateful for every day and write them down, such as the ability to read and write. J This month we vote, observe Veterans Day and celebrate Thanksgiving. Have a blessed Thanksgiving my friends.

In good health,
Jennifer James

Success story

“G”, another friend I hike with, told me he had lost 35 pounds. I found this out while talking with him on a group hike in October. I, of course, asked him how he did it. He didn’t set out to lose weight, and isn’t sure how long it took, he just changed some habits. He worked from home which allowed him to move around more, not being obligated to perpetually sit at a desk. He cooked most of his meals from scratch and prepared healthier options. He also hiked 2-3 times a week, including ascending Ben Lomond three times this year and three times last year! A very simple approach but it worked for him. He looks great! His goal is to lose another 10 pounds for a total of 45 pounds lost. Good job “G”! You rock!

This is interesting that at least three people I hike with have had significant weight loss, 35-110 pounds. During weight loss and after, joining an active group is one factor we can put in place to keep our weight in check. They figured it out. If we want to be fit and at a healthy weight, we have to do what fit and healthy people do. Exercise regularly. Eat a healthy diet. Surprised?

Have you tried…pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are from…pumpkins. Try the shelled, raw version. Full of manganese, potassium and fiber, they make a nice addition to hot cereals, salads, yogurt and trail mixes. Try the recipe below for one way to add them to your diet.

Sucralose and cravings

When I would study for graduate school, I would sit at a small wooden desk that sat over a heating vent. It was warm and cozy, and I would sip a diet soda and eat windmill cookies while I studied. New research shows that sucralose (Splenda) in diet sodas can affect some of us in a way that stimulates food cravings. Not for broccoli, but for high-calorie foods. Little did I know I may have been increasing my appetite with the diet soda! And eating cookies!

JAMA Network Open published the study which enrolled 74 people. They were given diet soda or sugar-sweetened soda. The researchers then looked at brain scans, blood work, and how much the study participants ate at a buffet. They found sucralose increased brain reward activity and lower levels of a hormone that blunts appetite in women and anyone overweight. Surprisingly, the brain and appetite changes did not occur in men and those at a healthy weight. Those who were impacted craved high-calorie foods after drinking the diet soda, and ate more at the buffet. Interestingly, long-term research has shown that drinking diet soda does not decrease weight, in fact, it is associated with obesity.

What’s going on here? When the tongue detects a sweet taste, the brain and body prepare to digest sugar. When no sugar molecules actually show up, there is a disconnect. It is like an expected delivery truck shows up, but is empty. Other researchers found if they fed artificial sweeteners to lab animals, and then gave them real sugar, there was an exaggerated response with higher blood sugar levels and insulin spikes. The same thing might occur in humans. I have noticed hunger after drinking tea with a different artificial sweetener. Other artificial sweeteners may exert similar effects, prompting us to crave calorically-dense foods. Not a good strategy for weight loss. It might be a good idea to lay off the diet soda, and see if our cravings for high-calorie foods decrease. For the record, I gave up diet soda years ago.

Aubrey, Allison. (2021, October 7). Diet soda may prompt food cravings, especially in women and people with obesity. Shots, Health News from NPR.

Yunker, Alexandra et al. (2021, September 28). Obesity and sex-related associations and differential effects of sucralose vs. sucrose on appetite and reward processing. JAMA Open Network.

A tale of two ladders

The late Wayne Dyer had an interesting take on decision-making and achieving goals. I cannot remember the actual podcast, but I do remember his idea. When we want to achieve a goal, such as losing weight or being more forgiving, we can think of our choices as walking us up one of two ladders. Making good decisions, such as keeping a food diary or letting go of a grudge, will move us up the first ladder. Drinking regular soda and being harsh with ourselves, for example, would send us up the second ladder, or further away from our goal. Each decision we make takes us in the right or wrong direction. Chocolate cake every night after dinner? Wrong ladder. Wishing someone well who made you angry? Right ladder. As I like to put it, if we want to drive to Dallas, why are we headed to Pocatello?


This can be a thorny subject. Everyone has been betrayed, had their heart broken, been taken advantage of, and been mistreated. We understandably harbor anger, resentment and hurt for the events that took place. Carrying this around with us is actually not good for our health. It is like a piece of us is still out there, churning through it, generating all kinds of negative energy. This negative energy has many detrimental effects on our health and relationships. I have been learning more about the energy systems in our body, and how things can be disrupted by not forgiving others, including ourselves. We cannot fully heal and become whole. Check out the reference article below on health and forgiveness if you don’t believe me.

I remember hearing a Holocaust survivor speak. He went on to marry, raise four children who all graduated from college, had a successful career, and lived a full life. Someone in the audience asked him how he was able to live such a life after being so horribly mistreated? How did he get past the anger? His reply was, “I forgave everybody everything”.

If we are holding onto hurt and anger, (especially with ourselves), it truly is in our best interest to let it go and forgive. Easier said than done, I know. We may need professional help to get there. But, it is a gift we give ourselves and a burden that we no longer carry around. It is unbelievably freeing. Remember that those who wronged us have to lug that around, which can’t be fun either. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, it might be a good time to consider “forgive everybody everything”. Including ourselves.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, May 13). Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness. Healthy Lifestyle, Adult Health, Mayo Clinic.

Double pumpkin baked oatmeal

I am always on the lookout for new ways to use pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling). I came across this recipe, and tweaked it to make it my own. A coworker had eaten baked oatmeal before and liked it, so I thought we all might like this. I don’t like super sweet things, so you may need to adjust the syrup. Bake on!

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/4 cups skim milk (or unsweetened plant milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • 5 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
  • 1/3 cup raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries or raisins

Grease an 8x8 baking dish with oil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the oats, spices, salt and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, eggs, milk, extracts, syrup or honey).

Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Gently stir in the seeds and dried fruit.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until set in the middle and a light golden color.

Let cool for 5 minutes on a rack, then cut into 9 squares.

Enjoy warm with milk or yogurt. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

1/9 of recipe: ~155 calories, 85 mg sodium, 30 gm carbohydrate

November support groups

Mondays, 2-3 pm, Heart Center Conference Room

Tuesdays, 4:30-5:30 pm, via Webex. Contact Jennifer for meeting information.

Free to graduates of LILI class

A healthy person
has a thousand wishes.

A sick person
has but one.

Agnes Karll Schwest Krankenpfleger