Food is Your Friend

BIDMC Contributor

JANUARY 01, 2015


As an engineer, Maggie Morio of Brookline has an inquisitive, analytical mind. She questions and investigates everything, including her own body. Despite her busy lifestyle, constant movement and exercise, the 68-year-old struggles with her weight. For her, overeating hasn’t been the issue.

“I’m not that type,” Morio stresses. “I pay a lot of attention. Something is wrong and I’m trying to find out what it is.”

Her physician, Jody Dushay, MD, in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC, suggested Morio participate in the new Weight Management and Wellness Program in the Center for Nutrition and Metabolism at BIDMC.

“Maggie’s body weight was an important reason why she was not feeling positive about herself and her health,” says Dr. Dushay.

In the program, Morio would satisfy her eagerness to learn the science behind energy balance, while maintaining a healthy relationship with food. People seeking to lose weight often don’t think that their relationship with food can be positive. The Weight Management and Wellness Program is based on the philosophy that food can and should be your friend.

“Most diets don’t work, or they work temporarily. They don’t teach us how to be in touch with our physiological needs and they may create a sense of deprivation,” emphasizes Joanna Radziejowska, RD, a registered dietitian in the Weight Management and Wellness Program. “We teach people how to develop a healthy relationship with food that provides positive, long-lasting results. This approach is transferrable to many aspects of one’s lifestyle.”

Why We Eat

Food is central to everyone’s life. Physically, food is a necessity! But, hunger isn’t always the reason we eat. There are important social, cultural and emotional components to eating. We eat when we are overjoyed, or when we are grieving. We eat to celebrate, comfort, cope and reward ourselves.

“Food is a way to express a full range of emotions in our society,” points out Dr. Dushay. “But that emotional component can have negative consequences.”

Acute or chronic overeating may occur for a number of reasons:

  • Distracted eating
  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating foods that trigger hunger soon after eating
  • Lack of understanding of appropriate portion sizes
  • Not hearing, or ignoring, your body’s signal that you are full

Dr. Dushay says that in some situations, people consciously override the feeling of fullness because food is plentiful and they want to partake (such as at a wedding or holiday meal). But often, it is chronic “low-grade” overeating, and insufficient knowledge about nutrition, that lead to slow and steady weight gain.

The Weight Management and Wellness Program

This program offers individuals a unique approach to achieving weight loss by providing the education, support, and tools to make it happen. The 12-week curriculum emphasizes group and individual support and monitoring. Participants learn how to make mindful choices, how to plan and prepare food, how to set realistic goals, and most importantly how to be comfortable — not ashamed — to eat. Healthy, savory, easy-to-prepare food is offered at the start of every session.

The Weight Management and Wellness Program emphasizes dramatically reducing consumption of processed foods.

“Something that has a list of ingredients that you don’t understand or can’t pronounce … is that really a food?!” questions Dr. Dushay.

She recommends keeping it simple — lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats. Stay hydrated and keep away from fried food, vending machines, store-bought snacks, and empty calories in soda, juice and sports drinks. Within that framework, individual participants work to develop a personalized eating plan that can work for them in the long term.

The Weight Management and Wellness Program also provides participants with the tools to encourage growth and success in these areas:

  • Overcoming obstacles and planning for success
  • Proper goal setting to effectively manage sleep, stress and time
  • Planning, purchasing and preparing healthy foods
  • Analyzing eating patterns and applying self-monitoring behaviors
  • Practicing mindfulness and creating a more positive outlook on life

“Having healthy food readily available is a challenge,” acknowledges Radziejowska, pointing out the hurdles of everyday life: working, raising children, commuting, etc. Planning in advance is key, she says. Understanding portions and the timing of meals can make sticking to a healthier way of eating much easier.

But, while quality, quantity, and nutrition are valuable components of the program, Radziejowska emphasizes the importance of addressing each individual’s needs — both physically and emotionally.

“Our message emphasizes wellness and positive mindset,” says Radziejowska. The aspects of an individual’s life are always addressed, including exercise regimen, sleep habits, amount of stress, support, and attitude. “We look at each participant’s individual needs.”

The Journey

Dushay calls the program an “individual journey” for each participant. She believes that each participant is more likely to succeed with weight loss and lifestyle change because the focus is actually not on the number on the bathroom scale. Instead, participants learn about eating and nutrition in the context of their whole life, and are encouraged to take credit for and celebrate every small step toward lifestyle change.

That concept really helped Maggie Morio realize that she was already doing a lot of good things and making progress. She completed the 12-week program and says it definitely helped her, because now she pays a lot of attention to not only what she eats, but how and when she eats it.

“The program was fantastic because it looked at wellness from so many points of view,” says Morio. “It’s not only nutrition. It’s not just exercise. It gives you the tools to understand how the food is processed by the body.”

To learn more about BIDMC’s Weight Management and Wellness program,call 617-667-1793.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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