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Your Biggest Enemy When It Comes to Cravings Could Be… Your Brain



Obesity stigma may lead many of us to believe that giving in to cravings is just a problem with overweight people and that it is solely the result of a lack of willpower and self-control. But the truth is we all experience food cravings that range from mildly annoying to completely distracting. But what makes us crave foods, particularly foods with the most fat and sugar and the least nutrition? Many studies suggest the answer lies in our brain.

Most of us have food cravings. In fact, 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men who participated in a study published in the journal Appetite reported experiencing them. Cravings are motivational states that give us the urge to seek out and consume a particular food.

Some theories suggest that cravings signal areas that are nutritionally deficient in our diets; for instance, if you are deficient in sodium, you may crave salty foods. However, that is not always the full picture. Other theories suggest that cravings for high-fat, high-calorie foods are linked to hard-wired survival mechanisms in our brains because our instinctual hunter-gatherer origins connect this type of energy dense food with our ability to sustain our bodies till the next meal.

Another reason we may crave fatty foods? Opioids. Fatty, sugary foods release chemicals called opioids into our bloodstream. Opioids bind to receptors in our brains and give us feelings of pleasure and even mild euphoria. Similarly, in a 2004 study, participants were asked to think about a favorite food. This triggered various areas in the brain and ultimately the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone also produced during sex, compulsive gambling and drug activity. That’s right… you can get high on chocolate.

Psychological factors can also influence the intensity and timing of cravings. Studies on mood have found that our emotional state normally has a greater impact on cravings than hunger. Diet influences our levels of the hormone serotonin, which regulates our disposition. Read more about whether or not you are an emotional eater here.

So what can you do about cravings? Well, first off, be gentle with yourself. Acknowledging that there is a physiological and mental component to why you crave unhealthy foods can be the first step in letting go of the shame that can contribute to overeating and giving in to cravings. Then, you can start to use various tools and tricks to control them, such as our 5 Tips to Control Your Worst Food Cravings.

Interested in learning more about how the brain and hormones influence appetite? Join us for a free webcast, “Brain Systems Underlying the Munchies,” at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Dr. Alfonso Abizaid will discuss the problems associated with dieting, as well as identify hormonal mechanisms associated with the generation of appetite, and how the motivation to eat may change under normal and during stressful situations. Register now!

Sources: Lifehacker, How Stuff Works: Science, Tufts University


Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation

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Relating Mental Health & Behavior to the Weight Loss Journey




In my experience working at the Dr. Rogers Centers, a provider of fitness, wellness and weight loss services in San Antonio, Texas, behavioral techniques are introduced to help participants modify eating and exercise habits. Weight loss program participants have access to a Licensed Professional Counselor/Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor to receive cognitive behavioral therapy to help treat their symptoms and how to think differently about food and their lives.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of thinking about how we feel and what we do. Much of this therapy involves changing our thoughts about different aspects of our lives. This therapy also utilizes mindfulness therapy to keep the participant in the present moment to help relieve anxieties about past experiences.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques can help controlling cravings and primitive impulses. Cravings and other addictive behaviors that trigger pleasure are controlled by our limbic system, sometimes called the “lizard brain.” Our primal instincts are managed in this part of the brain as well. During mindfulness therapy, breathing techniques are used to reengage the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex supports impulse control and is also responsible for decision making. Weight loss program participants can make clearer, conscious decisions about their cravings through this simple therapy.

The Reciprocal Relationship
Many weight loss program participants suffer from co-occurring disorders — typically obesity and depression, or obesity and anxiety. With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, healthcare professionals are able to treat both problems. It is important to treat both issues simultaneously as they are in a reciprocal relationship and will feed off of each other. Learning what our triggers are and recognizing our disordered eating patterns is the key to success. There must be an understanding that food is not the problem; rather, food is fuel for our bodies. The problems lie in our lifestyles, are emotional, and can even involve negative feelings towards certain foods or exercise.

Healthy Supplementation
In addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and understanding the relationship between obesity and mental health issues, a professional counselor may recommend supplements to support mental health. Exercise is one example of a “supplement.” It increases dopamine, which is the “feel good” chemical in our brains. Instead of increasing dopamine from unhealthy cravings or other addictions, exercise can be used to achieve this “high.”

Other vitamins and nutrients that are commonly recommended are:

• Vitamin D3: Important for all body functions. For brain health, it helps to release neurotransmitters that affect brain function and development.
• 5-HTP: Converts into two important chemicals: Melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin supports sleep and wake cycles. Serotonin is known for being a “happy chemical” and supports positive mood and outlook.
• Calcium: Essential for healthy brain function. Deficiencies can lead to anxiety and moodiness.

For medical professionals interested in turnkey weight loss programs that incorporate all of the elements for behavioral change for long-lasting results, you can request more information here. Also, take a look at Robard’s upcoming webcast on “Brain Systems Underlying the Munchies.” To register for this webcast, please click here.


Blog written by Gabrielle Harden, Guest Blogger



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Why You Should Discuss Exercise and Weight Loss with Your Aging Patients



In our recent blog post about 6 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise, we learned that not only can exercise help you lose weight and feel great, but it can also help improve memory and overall brain performance, and even help protect from cognitive decline. This insight is all the more important when talking to older adults about exercise and weight loss.

More than half of all 85-year-olds suffer some form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a broad term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Dementia has begun to be thought of as an inevitability of aging; however, recent research has shown that that is not necessarily true. Neuroscientist Art Kramer, who directs the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, says the best thing you can do for your brain is exercise.

In his 2010 study, Kramer found that with just 45 minutes, three days a week of moderate aerobic exercise (mostly walking), MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased, while individuals in the control group lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume. This added up to a 3.5 percent difference between individuals who took part in aerobic exercise and those who did not. Further tests showed that increased brain volume translated into better memory.

For providers working with aging patients, the strong possibility of preventing or delaying the onset of dementia-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s can prove to be a great motivator in encouraging patients to engage in more regular exercise. Approaching them about their weight is a critical step in the right direction. By doing so, they’ll start to also feel the other great benefits of weight management and exercise, such as a potential decrease in related comorbid conditions, reliance on medications, and more.

To alleviate some of the potential discomfort in having conversations about weight with your patients, Robard Corporation has produced a three part video series, “How to Speak with Patients about Obesity,” that presents multiple avenues one could take while speaking with patients about obesity. We invite you to watch this free educational resource by clicking here.

We invite all healthcare providers to learn more about Robard’s proven weight management programs, products and services. To do so, please click here and try some of our delicious nutritional products for free!


Sources: NPR, Alzheimer’s Association


Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation


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