Is your relationship with food healthy?

DR. D art eating disordersBAt least once, maybe you have tried one of those “lose 10 pounds in one week” fad diets, or maybe you can’t stop chowing down at the buffet table at your favorite restaurant. Does that mean you, too, are among the millions of Americans who have an eating disorder?

At least 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetime.

Eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are not crash diets, a little phase or a lifestyle choice. They are life-threatening illnesses, and occur when your relationship with food reaches an extreme level.

Individuals who suffer from eating disorders are at the highest risk of premature death of all people who suffer from psychiatric disorders. Anyone who suffers from an eating disorder can experience uncommon emotions, attitudes and behaviors with weight loss/weight gain and food.

When most people think about eating disorders, they mostly think of anorexia or bulimia. But, what most people don’t realize is that today the most common eating disorder in the U.S. is binge eating disorder, which affects at least 2 million.

An individual who suffers from binge eating disorder experiences:

  • Feelings of being out of control during binge eating episodes, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort or eating alone because of shame.
  • Strong emotions of shame or guilt regarding the binge episode
  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amounts of food, but without trying to prevent weight gain, such as extreme exercising or self-inflicted vomiting.

Symptoms of an individual who suffers from anorexia nervosa are:

  • Intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and behaviors to prevent weight gain.
  • Self-esteem issues related to body image.
  • Inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is too low, yet most still believe they are still overweight.

An individual who suffers from bulimia nervosa experiences:

  • Self-esteem related to body image
  • Feeling out of control during the binge-eating episodes
  • Episodes or consuming very large amounts of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-inflicted vomiting, the abuse of laxatives or diuretics.

The cause of eating disorders is still unknown; however, research suggests that it may be connected to genetics, depression, anxiety or environmental triggers, such as stress, abuse or seeing thin people in magazines or on television.

Anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder needs to seek professional help, and quickly. Individuals who seek treatment earlier after developing the disorder have a greater likelihood of recovery. Without any treatment, individuals could experience all three disorders—crossing over from one to another. Eating disorders can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, call Dr. Schumacher, M.D., at (614) 299-9909 to set up an appointment.

A Change That Lasts: 6 Tips to Include Exercise In Your Routine

Go to the gym? Right. I barely have enough time to do everything else on my to-do list.

This is something I have found myself saying over and over again. But, as my body was beginning to change in ways I didn’t want and my energy level was decreasing, I knew I needed to make a change.

Where to Begin?

I will be the first to admit that exercising did not sound very fun to me. But I was dedicated to making a change. So I took the same approach to exercise as I did with eating healthier: planning. I have found that planning is essential for making a change that works and for a change that lasts.

Helpful Hints

  1. Get out that planner or iPhone! Once again, look at your schedule for the week. What are your personal and family obligations? Write everything down. You’ll be able to see the gaps in your week and where you can fit in some time for exercise.
  2. Pencil it in. This is my biggest tip! Write when you will workout in your planner. If it’s not incorporated into your schedule, chances are you won’t do it. Try working out in the morning before your day begins. You will get a spike of endorphins to start the day, which will make you feel energized! You’ll also have it out of the way for the day. However, if mornings just don’t seem to agree with you (which is the case with me), workout after you leave the office. Belong to a gym? Pack your gym bag in the car and stop there on your way home. This will help you avoid the temptation of getting home and not feeling like changing and driving to the gym.

Having trouble finding gaps of time during your day? Try these easy tips to get moving:

  1. Park your car at the last spot in the parking lot
  2. Take the stairs
  3. Take a lap around the office during your break
  4. With the help of apps, you can even find some to do at your desk
  5. Use Pinterest. Whether your goal is to complete a 5K or you just want to tone your muscles, Pinterest is a great place to find training plans and workout routines. I personally love using Pinterest to find circuit routines. You can search by target areas (abs, arms, legs, etc.) and even create boards for each. This will make life easier when you just want to find a quick routine to hit those trouble spots.
  6. Aim for 30 minutes of cardio. Take the dog for a jog. Go on a walk with a neighbor. Do a bike ride with the family. Anything to get your heart pumping! Cardio has so many benefits, including stronger heart and lungs, reduced stress, more energy and weight loss.
  7. Aim for 20 minutes of toning. Weight training is great if you are looking to tone your muscles and lose inches. Whether it is weight machines at the gym or dumbbells at home, strength training provides many benefits, including increased bone density and boosted stamina. Additionally, strength training helps control weight. As you gain more muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently.
  8. Fuel up after! During exercise, your body loses a lot of fuel. You burn through meals eaten earlier in the day and lose water through sweat. Eating after a workout is essential for the recovery of losses during a workout and for storing that recovery fuel. Generally, protein and carbs are the best things to eat. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during exercise, while carbohydrates replace glycogen and water losses during exercise. My favorite post workout snack is a banana and peanut butter. J But, you could also make yourself a protein shake. My personal favorite is a “Nutty Shamrock” (almond milk, peanut butter, banana, spinach, chocolate protein powder and ice).

Remember, our body is meant to move!

Do you have a job where most hours are spent sitting at a desk? How do you feel at the end of the day? Your muscles are probably tight, your back aches and there is tension in your shoulders. Now think about how you feel after some physical activity. Your muscles are warm, flexible and blood is pumping through your body, providing oxygen and energy to your body.

Our bodies are not meant be stationary. We are made to move! If you continue to exercise, I guarantee it will stick. Your body will get so accustomed to moving, that it will begin to crave the movement.

Since incorporating physical activity into my daily life, my body feels weird if I don’t do anything. I no longer see working out as a dreadful thing, but something that will energize me! And dare I say it, I have actually grown to enjoy exercising! And, my hope is that you will, too! Remember, it takes 21 days to form a habit. So what if you miss a few days? We all have days that are jam-packed. But don’t give up! Tomorrow is always a brand new day.

Emotional vs Physical hunger

DR. D over eat1Common Causes of Emotional Eating

STRESS. Bad day at work? Fight with your spouse? Stuck in traffic? Stress triggers the hormone cortisol, which creates cravings for sugary, high-fat and carbohydrate-rich foods. These foods give you a burst of temporary energy and create a feeling of well-being by increasing the “feel good” neurotransmitters and chemicals in your body.

BOREDOM. Preparing and eating food gives you something to do when you’re bored. It keeps both your hands and mouth busy and temporarily distracts you from feeling purposeless and dissatisfied.

AVOIDING EMOTIONS. Eating can be a way to temporarily get rid of uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or shame. Concentrating on eating can temporarily numb and help you avoid your true emotions.

HABITS. Did Mom’s mac and cheese always make you feel better? Did your soccer team always go out for ice cream after winning a game? These emotionally-based associations of good feelings with certain foods survive into adulthood and become ingrained habits.

Emotional vs. Physical Hunger

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between emotional eating and physical hunger, especially if you regularly turn to food to deal with your feelings. So what clues can you use to tell emotional and physical hunger apart?

CRAVINGS. When you’re physically hungry, any type of food that you enjoy sounds good—including healthy choices. When you are craving specific types of food—it has to be pizza or a brownie—then you are most likely eating for emotional reasons and not physical ones.

SAIETY. Saiety is the feeling of fullness we get after eating. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you will eventually feel full. When you eat due to emotional hunger, you keep wanting more and more food until you are stuffed or physically uncomfortable.

REGRET, GUILT or SHAME. When you eat to satisfy your body’s hunger, you don’t feel guilty or ashamed because you are giving your body what it needs to survive. If you feel emotionally worse after you eat, it’s most likely because you know that you’re eating for the wrong reasons.

MINDLESSNESS. Often emotional eating is unconscious. Have you ever eaten an entire bag of potato chips while watching television? Finished a pint of ice cream without even remembering what flavor it was? Emotional eating is mindless, you eat without paying attention or even fully enjoying the tastes, textures and smells of your food.

Alternatives & Solutions to Emotional Eating

So how can you help stop emotional eating? Like any habit, it takes practice to find new ways to comfort and calm yourself. But it can be done. You simply have to re-program your brain to enjoy alternatives to emotional eating.

BE AWARE. Keep track of what you’re eating—note when, where and why. You can create a handwritten food journal or use one of the many available smart phone apps. What patterns emerge? Do you always eat after spending time with a family member who always criticizes you? Do you find yourself reaching for food when you’re zoning out alone in front of the television? Measure your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10. Are you only eating when really hungry—an eight, for example, or is your hunger level more like a three?

FIND AN ALTERNATIVE. Feeling bored? Find something to do that engages your mind. Read a book, play a crossword puzzle, do a hobby that uses your hands like knitting, playing guitar or woodworking. Anxious? Take a brisk walk, play with a pet or child, squeeze a stress ball or other physical activity. Lonely? Call a friend who makes you feel better or go to a local park and people watch. Depressed or exhausted? Take a soothing bath, treat yourself to a hot cup of tea or flavored water, take a short nap.

REMOVE TEMPTATION. Don’t keep sweets and fatty snacks around if you find them hard to resist. If they are already in your house, put them in a drawer or cupboard and out of sight. Remove that candy jar from your desk at work. Don’t go to the grocery or convenience store unless you really need something and you’re in a positive mood.

SNACK HEALTHY. If you have trouble resisting the urge to eat between meals, keep low-calorie and low-fat snacks around. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and popcorn are good alternatives that contain nutrients such as fiber to help you feel fuller longer.

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. No one is perfect. If you have an episode of emotional eating, let it go and start fresh the next day. Instead of criticizing yourself over it, learn from it and plan what you can do to prevent it from happening again. Focus on the fact that you are making positive changes in your life that will lead to a healthier and happier you.

Do Genes Really Play a Role in Your Risk for Obesity?

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 2.51.17 PMIn recent years, scientists have made great advances in understanding important environmental causes of obesity. Although a person’s risk for obesity is influenced most heavily by behavioral choices, major efforts are now being directed toward assessing the interactions of genes and environment in the obesity epidemic.


What is Obesity?

Obesity is the result of a chronic energy imbalance (eating and drinking more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities). Your body then stores these extra calories as fat.

In recent decades, obesity has reached epidemic proportions in populations whose environments offer an abundance of calorie-rich foods and few opportunities for physical activity. Obesity is a major health hazard worldwide and is associated with several common diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some cancers.


The “Thrifty Genotype” Hypothesis

A commonly quoted genetic explanation for the rapid rise in obesity is the mismatch between today’s environment and “energy-thrifty genes.” These “thrifty genes” multiplied in the past under different environmental conditions when food sources were rather unpredictable. In other words, according to the “thrifty genotype” hypothesis, the same genes that helped our ancestors survive occasional famines are now being challenged by environments in which food is abundant year round.

It has been argued that the “thrifty genotype” is just part of a wider spectrum of ways in which genes can favor fat accumulation in a given environment. These ways include:

  • the drive to overeat (poor regulation of appetite)
  • the tendency to be physically inactive
  • a diminished ability to use dietary fats as fuel
  • an enlarged, easily stimulated capacity to store body fat

Not all people living in countries with abundant food and reduced physical activity are or will become obese; nor will all obese people have the same body fat distribution or suffer the same health issues. The variation in how people respond to the same environmental conditions is an additional indication that genes play a role in the development of obesity. This is consistent with the theory that obesity results from genetic variation interacting with shifting environmental conditions.


Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics

According to the Genetics Society of America, “new research suggests that the genetic interaction with diet primarily determines variations in metabolic traits, such as body weight, as opposed to diet alone. This helps explain why some diets work better for some people than others, and suggests that future diets should be tailored to an individual’s genes.”

Nutritional genomics, referred to as nutrigenomics, is the study of how food and nutrition play a role in gene expression.

Nutritional genetics, known as nutrigenetics, focuses on a person’s genetic predisposition to respond a particular way to a given dietary nutrient.

Based on a study conducted by Pathway Genomics, 179 overweight California school employees showed significant weight loss success at the end of six months when taking a nutrigenetic test compared to employees who had previously tried to lose weight, under similar conditions, without a genetic test.

By gaining genetic insight about how an individual’s diet may impact his or her risk for disease, we will have the ability to make a stronger impact on patient health by personalizing diet and exercise recommendations to help treat each patient.

By providing a holisitic view of a patient’s health, Healthy Weight DNA Insight may help:

  • Achieve a more desirable weight
  • Prevent disease
  • Improve energy levels


Genetics and Family History

Generally speaking, genes regulate how our bodies capture, store and release energy from food. Scientific evidence for a genetic basis for obesity comes from a variety of studies. Mostly, this evidence includes studies of resemblance and differences among family members, twins and adoptees.

The use of family history and genetics has made it easier to start reducing the effects of obesity in populations. Family history reflects genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures shared by close relatives. Health care practitioners can routinely collect family health history to help identify people at high risk of obesity-related disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer.


Risk Factors

Even when someone has a genetic predisposition to obesity, environmental factors ultimately make you gain more weight. Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including:

  • Inactivity. If you’re not very active, you don’t burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you burn off through exercise and normal daily activities.
  • Unhealthy diet and eating habits. Having a diet that’s high in calories, eating fast food, skipping breakfast, consuming high-calorie drinks and eating oversized portions all contribute to weight gain.
  • Family lifestyle. Family members tend to have similar eating, lifestyle and activity habits. If one or both of your parents are obese, your risk of being obese is increased.
  • Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is often associated with weight gain. And for some, it can lead to a weight gain of as much as several pounds a week for several months, which can result in obesity. In the long run, however, quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to your health than continuing to smoke.
  • Pregnancy. During pregnancy a woman’s weight necessarily increases. Some women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born. This weight gain may contribute to the development of obesity in women.
  • Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep at night can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain.
  • Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don’t compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers.
  • Age. Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase your risk of obesity. In addition, the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease with age. This lower muscle mass leads to a decrease in metabolism. These changes also reduce calorie needs and can make it harder to keep off excess weight. If you don’t control what you eat as you age, you’ll likely gain weight.
  • Social and economic issues. Certain social and economic issues may be linked to obesity. You may not have safe areas to exercise, you may not have been taught healthy ways of cooking, or you may not have money to buy healthier foods. In addition, the people you spend time with may influence your weight — you’re more likely to become obese if you have obese friends or relatives.

Even if you have a genetic predisposition to obesity (based on family history) or you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to become obese. You can counteract most risk factors through diet, physical activity and behavior changes.


If you have any concerns about your risk for obesity, please consult your doctor.

For more tips on weightloss and to hear Dr. Schumacher’s advice, visit our December blog post, “Winning the War on Weight Loss.”


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