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Is Food Your Friend or Enemy?




Frequently, patients tell me they want to “change their relationship with food.”  This lofty-sounding desire is often expressed after significant weight loss following a diet, after a life-changing event or during recovery from disordered eating. Some refer to it as making “peace” with food, as if they have been at war with it all their lives. And perhaps they have.

How we change that (food) relationship — or not — greatly depends upon how we view food. Merriam-Webster.com (medically) defines food as: “Material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair and vital processes and to furnish energy.” Food is, first and foremost, the important fuel that keeps the body alive. So, it makes sense that quality “fuel” put into the body would produce a healthier-running organism.

But beyond being a source of macro and micro-nutrients, food also provides pleasure. Nature could have permanently provided us earthly inhabitants with some bland-tasting, gray-colored sustenance to meet our nutritional requirements for survival. Instead, nutrition is packaged in a plethora of delightful colors, smells, tastes and textures. Along with man-made food preparation methods, we now have a phenomenal multiplicity of choices. “Extreme variety” —with food available almost as soon as we can imagine it — is both a blessing and a curse. And one could argue that the availability of today’s super palatable convenience foods doesn’t help. So, we need to know how to reasonably combine nutrition and pleasure, calories and nutrient density. We need balance.

Next, if we want to truly improve our food relationship, we have to slow down, learn to savor and listen to our bodies. When we dismiss our bodies’ hunger signals (usually pretty discernable) and satiety signals (sometimes more like a whisper), our food behavior can move us quickly from starved to stuffed — neither of which is a positive or pleasurable experience. And while we also need to learn that mild hunger is not something to be feared (most of us are blessed enough not to experience food insecurity) our concern with seeking food and thoughts about food also should not interfere with daily life.

Lastly, food really needs to be food. It can’t substitute for or squelch our emotional expression on a regular basis. If our “default” is to eat when an emotion arises, we are no longer nourishing ourselves as intended. Food is not a persona — not our “friend” or our “enemy.” To put food back in its place, people often initially need some structure. Planning meals and snacks at regular intervals, eating a wide variety of plant foods, lean proteins, whole grains, healthful fats, drinking enough water and tracking intake are some sensible ways to start. And because food attitudes, just like emotions, can be contagious, having a good “food mentor” is not a bad idea.

So improving one’s food relationship — just like a relationship between people — involves the desire/willingness to change, which takes times and effort. There is no room for self-blame or blaming others for our personal food history because, as adults, we are each responsible for the food we put in our mouths. There is only room for learning and growing, one day at a time — one meal at a time. Sometimes we can do this on our own and sometimes, as with relationships, we need outside help. And it takes patience. But the rewards of improving one’s food relationship are very rich, and go beyond weight management to include health, a sense of gratitude, confidence, and a growing appreciation for nature. It’s never too late to start the process.


Blog written by By Rosemary Mueller, MPH, RDN, LDN, Advocate Medical Group — Advocate Weight Management



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3 Facts About Food Addiction




As the obesity epidemic continues to grow, more and more physicians are considering treatment. Obesity is recognized as a chronic disease by the American Medical Association, and even binge eating, which can lead to obesity, has been officially classified as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

As doctors work to find more effective ways to treat obesity, the underlying causes of weight gain are also being considered. While societal factors and lack of education on exercise and dieting certainly play a role, physicians should also consider even deeper causes of excessive weight in the individual, including food addiction.

Recent studies have begun to show that the pattern of weight loss and regain, combined with the inability to control eating habits, clinically presents like an addiction. The clinical presentation and symptom profile between substance abuse and food addiction is
well documented.

To learn a little more about food addiction, take a look at this infographic and download our free white paper on food addiction by clicking here.


Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation

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Healthier Concession Stand Options Yield Positive Results



When we go a sporting event, chances are we’re going to visit the concession stand during the game. The lines may be long and the prices exorbitant, but we still get in the queue for one thing: The food. And let’s be honest, no one goes to a sporting event concession stand to eat a salad. And while the options we have at these events generally don’t lead to healthy food choices, a recent study may show that a revamped concession stand menu may not only help people’s diets, but overall profits as well.

The University of Iowa and Cornell University joined a booster organization to perform a study to see what happens when healthier options were made available to people that attended sporting events at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa, for two fall sports seasons one year apart. The results? “We found that an average of 77 percent of students purchased healthier foods when they were available and that revenue also increased when a variety of healthy items were available,” says study co-author Brian Wansink, PhD, Professor and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Whether the students thought adding healthy options was important or not, an overwhelming majority — 77.5 percent — purchased at least one healthy item from the concession stand at some point in the school year. Although the study has a small sample size and is focused on one school and their students, the findings may open to the door to adding healthier items at large scale sporting events.

Millions of people go through the turnstile annually to see their favorite team or player perform, and many of them will purchase items at the concession stands. There is no guarantee that they will purchase a healthy option when looking at the menu, but studies like this suggest that just making the healthy options available could lead to better choices made by the consumer. The fact that the study also showed an increase in sales (9.2 percent of total sales went to healthier items) indicates that the healthier choices also could help overall profits. That’s big business when you’re looking at a sold out football stadium.

Until healthier choices become more readily available at these events, you can still take action to stay on track and maintain a good diet. For example, bring a small snack of your own. A simple plan like this helps to develop good habits and reinforces avoiding bad ones that could result in unwanted weight gain or stalled progress with your diet. If you’d like to start your own weight loss journey and learn how to make better health decisions, fill out our brief Find a Clinic form and we will find a weight management program near you! In the meantime, game on!


Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab


Blog written by Marcus Miller/Robard Corporation

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