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


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

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
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
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.

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


Improve Patient Outcomes: The Missing Puzzle Piece

Obesity is the fastest growing health problem in the United States. It’s also proving to be among the most deadly. It kills more Americans every year than AIDS, cancer and all accidents combined. It is the second leading cause of preventable death just below smoking. In fact, 67 percent of the population that are either overweight or obese have a greater probability of developing hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. This translates to over 300,000 deaths per year from obesity related complications. 1 

While the health costs of obesity are taking an enormous toll on population health, it remains underdiagnosed and undertreated. According to the American Medical Association, only 42 percent of adult obesity patients reported receiving any prior advice from a physician to lose weight. 2 This is a problem. Obesity is not only a chronic disease that affects over 35 percent of adults in the U.S., but it is often the root cause or associated with over 59 comorbidities. (Read more information on comorbidities here.)

Robard has helped countless physicians from large and small group practices get started with minimal effort. For example, Dr. Michelle Haendiges of Haendiges & Associates, P.C., like many physicians, was new to obesity treatment and wanted to be sure that she could add this service without any interruption of her normal business flow. Now, she believes that obesity treatment is the most rewarding thing she’s done, that patients want real help, and that the physician is the best person to do it.  In the video below, Dr. Haendiges talks more about her story and how obesity treatment has positively influenced her practice.


5 Ways to Mix Up a Weight Loss Shake

For dieters who need to lose 40 pounds or more, traditional methods of diet and exercise are oftentimes not enough. A Low Calorie Diet (LCD) has been shown to be extremely effective in jump-starting the weight loss process. Often LCDs utilize various meal replacement products, primarily shakes. And anyone who’s been on a diet before knows that the same shakes can get monotonous after the first couple of months.

Fortunately, there is a multitude of ways that you can spruce up a shake and look forward to your next meal replacement — and you can do a lot with items you probably already have in your kitchen cupboards. Take a look at our slideshow (below) that gives you five ways to shake up your shakes! Mixing it up can definitely help give you the encouragement to stick with your diet.


Three Important Things to Remember When Dealing with Excess Skin After Weight Loss

In the beginning of their weight loss journeys, many dieters think they’ll lose 40 pounds and look like Cindy Crawford. They fantasize about hitting the beach in the smallest bikini they can find to show off their new body and celebrate all of their hard work. One thing that dieters are sometimes unprepared for, however, is that they still may need to deal with some body image issues after weight loss. One such issue is excess skin.

Dieters who lose significant weight often deal with loose, sagging skin — a remnant of what their bodies used to look like. This happens because while your fat cells shrink when the weight is lost, you still retain the same surface area. The new void under the larger surface area creates a layer of skin that may “hang” because there is less tissue underneath taking up space.

In addition to the detrimental mental and psychological effects this may cause — shame, embarrassment, depression, and anger — excess skin can also put some people at risk for rashes, infections and even immobility. For some patients, once the weight is lost, the journey is not over — but that does not mean the goal is unobtainable.

For many formerly obese and overweight people, learning to love one’s body remains a lifelong pursuit with many challenges along the way. If you are currently dealing with the challenge of excess skin, it is important to remember these three things:

1. YOU DID IT! You lost the weight. You accomplished your goal. Don’t forget that you achieved tremendous success and did something that so many people struggle to realize. In addition to being at a healthy weight, you have most likely also decreased your risk for comorbid conditions that threaten your ability to live a long, healthy life. Celebrate yourself and all that you’ve accomplished, and don’t let this challenge overshadow what you have overcome!

2. Do your research. Just like you didn’t have to settle for being overweight, you don’t have to settle for excess skin that causes you physical and emotional discomfort. There are many resources available to help you work to minimize or get rid of excess skin, from weight training programs to help you build muscle mass and tighten the skin, to more involved solutions like cosmetic surgery. Speak to your healthcare provider about what he/she might suggest.

3. Focus on maintenance. Losing weight was hard; but for many, keeping the weight off can be just as difficult. Many dieters find themselves on a weight loss roller coaster, constantly losing weight and gaining it back. Don’t let the excess skin sidetrack you from maintaining your well-deserved progress. If you need help, find a provider who has a maintenance program which can provide a structure to make it easier for you to keep the weight off, such as Robard’s S.T.A.R. Maintenance Plan.

For providers who want to help their formerly obese and overweight patients maintain weight loss, the S.T.A.R. Maintenance Plan is one of many complimentary programs and services available to Robard customers. Learn more about how to start a program at your center.

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation


New Study Says Self-Stigma May Increase Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

There has been growing evidence
that weight-based stigma can contribute to negative health outcomes in
overweight and obese individuals. A new study looked closely at how
those struggling with obesity have internalized weight-based stigma and
shame, and how such feelings increase health risks, specifically
metabolic syndrome — a cluster of risk factors that increase the
likelihood of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

participants in the study were a part of a larger weight loss study in
which they completed the Weight Bias Internalization Scale — a measure
of the extent to which individuals apply weight stereotypes to
themselves. Subjects also completed a questionnaire which the team used
to determine participants' criteria for depression and metabolic

The study ultimately found that those with high levels of internalized weight bias were found to be at a three times greater risk of metabolic syndrome.
Subjects with high weight bias internalization were also six times more
likely to have high triglyceride levels, which can lead to
atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty substances in the wall of
the arteries that can raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.

act of self-stigmatizing may lead to a state of physiological arousal
that itself increases risk for metabolic abnormalities through
biological pathways (e.g., cortisol secretion),” the study authors
explain. “This state of physiological and affective stress may also lead
individuals to cope by eating unhealthy food or binge eating."

more than ever, multidisciplinary efforts in healthcare are essential
to effectively supporting patients to achieve a healthy weight. The
authors note that, “Providers can play a critical role in decreasing
this internalization by treating patients with respect, discussing
weight with sensitivity and without judgment, and giving support and
encouragement to patients who struggle with weight management.”

If you are a provider that is new to weight loss, and are unsure about how to sensitively approach weight with your patients, learn more
about how you can access Robard’s complimentary educational tools that
teach you how to get the conversation started. For dieters who struggle
with internalized stigma, try these tips and affirmations to help you develop more positive body image through your weight loss journey.

Source: Medical News Today

Blog written by Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation


5 Tips to Stay Motivated When You’re Not Losing Weight

Losing weight is easy — said no one ever! Perhaps you thought that if you exercise and eat better, the weight will just melt off and you’ll drop five pounds in a couple weeks. However, the reality is that you can work really hard, be super committed to your diet and exercise plan, and yet still not see the kind of progress you hope for as quickly as you want to see it. So is it time to throw in the towel?

No way. Remember that the journey of weight loss is a process, filled with ups and downs. A lot of factors may contribute to weight not coming off quickly; but as you work to figure it out, it’s important to have some tools that will keep you in the game mentally so that you maintain the motivation to keep going, despite slow or even backwards progress.

Take a look at our slideshow of five tips that will help you stay motivated to keep trying, even if you aren’t losing weight. If you’re doing this on your own and have a significant amount of weight to lose, finding a provider to help you can make all the difference. A provider can get you started on a medically supervised diet, where dieters lose three-five pounds a week on average.

For healthcare providers whose patients struggle with losing weight, learn more about how a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) can create fast and lasting results, and then contact us for more information here.

Blog written by By Vanessa Ramalho/Robard Corporation

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