Monday, 29 February 2016 21:13

Can the Psychology of Eating Change Your Metabolism?

Emily Rosen, Institute for the Psychology of Eating


1. Stress can put weight on – relaxation can take it off.

It’s fascinating how stress, fear, anxiety, anger, judgment and even negative self-talk can literally create a physiologic stress response in the body. When stressed, we generate more cortisol and insulin, two hormones that have the unwanted effect of signaling the body to store weight, store fat, and stop building muscle. We actually change our calorie burning capacity when we’re stressed. What’s even more incredible, though, is that as we learn to smile more, ease into life and breathe more deeply, the body enters a physiologic relaxation response which creates our optimal day-in, day-out calorie-burning metabolism. Stressful weight loss strategies such as impossible to follow diets, overly intense exercise programs, or tasteless low-calorie food can also create the kind of stress chemistry that ensures our weight will stay put. It’s time to relax into weight loss.

2. Happiness is the best digestive aid.

When you eat during anxiety or stress, you’re likely to experience such symptoms as heartburn, cramping, gas, and digestive upset. When the stress response is activated, the body automatically shifts into the classic fight-or-flight response and the digestive system actually shuts down. From a biological perspective, when you’re fending off an angry gorilla, you don’t need to waste energy digesting your breakfast. So, you could be eating the healthiest food in the world, but if you aren’t relaxed while you eat, you are not metabolizing receiving the full nutritional value of your meal.

3. Overeating – it’s simpler than you think.

Most people think they overeat because they have a willpower problem. Well, here’s the good news – you don’t. The problem for a majority of overeaters is that they don’t actually “eat” when they eat. When we aren’t fully present to a meal, aware of its taste, or simply feeling nourished by the food, the brain, which requires taste and satisfaction to trigger specific metabolic processes, misses out on important cues. The brain literally thinks it didn’t eat enough, and it screams – “Hungry!” You can dramatically decrease your overeating by increasing your awareness and presence at every meal.

4. Slower eating means faster metabolism.

One of my favorite nutritional questions to ask people is “Are you a fast eater, moderate eater, or slow eater?” The act of eating fast is considered a stressor by the body. Humans are simply not biologically wired for high speed eating. So when we do eat fast, the body again enters the physiologic stress response, which results in decreased digestion, decreased nutrient assimilation, increased nutrient excretion, lowered calorie burning rate, and a bigger appetite.

5. Make sure you have enough Vitamin P – Pleasure!

All living organisms are programmed at the most primitive level of the nervous system to seek pleasure and avoid pain. If you’re eating and not paying attention, the brain will drive you to seek more pleasure via overeating. But if you’re stressed while eating, the excess cortisol in your system actually de-sensitizes you to pleasure – so you need to eat more food in order to get the pleasure you are seeking. If you want more pleasure from food, you don’t need to eat more. Simply breathe, relax, enjoy, pay attention, and the body will naturally experience the pleasure it seeks, which, in turn, fuels digestion and assimilation.

6. Emotional eating – it’s not the enemy.

We are emotional beings – rich, complex, juicy, unpredictable feeling-filled creatures. We love, we celebrate, we laugh, cry, we break down, we rise up… So how could we NOT be emotional eaters? We love food. We love our favorite restaurant. Some of us love cooking for others. Some of us are passionate about nutrition. It’s time to get over it – if you’re human, you will bring emotionality to the table. Underneath the quest to eradicate emotional eating is often found a hidden desire to eliminate uncomfortable feelings. Yes, this experience called uncontrolled emotional eating can be very painful. But it’s not the actual problem – it’s a symptom that’s pointing to something deeper.

7. Get rid of toxic nutritional beliefs.

Finally, many of us have absorbed toxic nutritional beliefs that are as harmful and debilitating as any of the toxins in our food. It’s very common for people to believe that “food is the enemy”, or “food makes me fat”, or “fat in food will become fat on my body” or “my appetite is the enemy”. Such beliefs create a relationship with food and self that’s filled with tremendous suffering and pain. Think about it – if we believe that “food is the enemy”, then we are constantly in a fight or flight stress response whenever we eat, or even think about food. Such a powerful stressor can cause all the problems of stress-induced digestive shutdown, decreased calorie burning capacity, and an inner life that’s seldom at peace. 

Friday, 05 February 2016 10:06

This past January the 8th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released.  Keep in mind these guidelines are intended to be used by health professionals, however any educated person is capable of interpreting the information. There is a user-friendly website which makes browsing the report easy at

Anyone interesting in the key recommendations without having to read the whole report can view two pages: (1) About this Chapter and (2) Key Recommendations located in chapter one.  The latter section lists the healthy eating patterns Americans are suggested to follow while the former section lists more general guidelines:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan
  • Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount
  • Limit calories from saturated fats, added sugars and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all

The short version of the report shouldn’t be news to anyone—Americans continue to overeat salt, fat, sugar and calories overall.  Most people also exceed the requirement for protein. At the same time we are not meeting the recommendations for fruit, vegetables, or dairy.

Chapter 2 contains a variety of interesting statistics and charts depicting current dietary patterns. Chapter 3 discusses the socio-economical model and strategies for health professionals and policymakers to assist in improving the American diet.

Perhaps the most valuable section in the report is the appendix which contains meal patterns per calorie level, exercise recommendations, food sources of specific nutrients and food safety guidelines.

Applying the Guidelines to Your Life

The dietary guidelines can be overwhelming and may come off as vague to those lacking a foundation in nutrition education.

I could go into detail on each key recommendation, but that would drag on too many pages. I will provide a basis for assessing your own nutritional intake.

First, put in the effort to assess where you are right now in your eating habits. What food groups do you get in weekly? What food groups are you lacking? How many times a day does food cross your lips?

Record your dietary intake for at least 2 weekdays and one weekend day.  If you ready-prepared food (restaurant, take-out, deli) regularly make sure that is at least one of the days you record. Input this information into an app or site that will calculate the nutrient composition and calories (, MyFitnessPal, etc.)

Most apps will show if you are meeting your needs for fruit and vegetable intake or eating an excessive amount of junk food/beverages. You may also want to take a look at your caloric distribution. If you are trying to lose weight and consuming >50% of calories from carbohydrate you may want to replace some grains and added sugar with non-starchy veggies and healthy fat (avocado, nuts/seeds, coconut oil, etc)...yes fat is nutritious and increases meal satisfaction as well as satiety.

If you are interested in calories, visit to input your data in the calorie calculator. This value will give you an estimation of how many calories you should theoretically consume to maintain, gain, or lose weight. The formula used is Mifflin St. Jeor and is intended for the healthy if you have cancer, are recovering from surgery, etc. this value probably doesn’t apply to you.

Compare your average caloric intake from your food log with your estimated needs to evaluate how many calories you could add/subtract to meet your weight goals.

Remember the numbers are estimations and nutrition therapy needs to be individualized to each person’s specific needs and lifestyle. It is both easier and more effective to improve what you eat than how much you eat. Feed your body nutritious foods most of the time and love yourself through the rest.

If you are truly concerned or struggling, consult a registered dietitian.

Friday, 05 February 2016 10:04

Friday, February 5th is the American Heart Association's National Wear Red for Women's Heart Health Day!

 In conjunction with this we are encouraging a "red out" of all of our Alcona Health Center sites as a fun way to show our support for women's heart health.  Site supervisors have been emailed a couple of different posters that you can use to decorate your lobbies and employees are reminded to wear red that day if they wish to participate!

Here is an excerpt from the website with more information... "Go Red For Women® started more than 10 years ago because the American Heart Association learned that more women were dying from heart disease than men. Now we’re the world’s largest network of women fighting to protect ourselves from the dangers of heart disease and stroke. And we’re making a difference! Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year—more than all cancers combined. But we may change that because 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Join us and be a part of the movement that is making a difference in the health of women in your community."

Tuesday, 24 November 2015 15:18

Welcome, welcome!

Yes, it is true. AHC has entered the grand world of blogging. We may not post every week, but we have certainly made a goal to post every month. It is here that you will find out the latest AHC information- whose who and where’s it happening-without walking in the clinic and ask the receptionist.

So who is who and where is it happening?

Let’s start by introducing your local registered dietitian and Wellness Program Manager, Denise Thompson. Denise is responsible for enrolling participants in the programs offered by AHC, so if you are interested in signing up for a class she’s the gal you call. And please call! We are always happy to walk in to work and see our voicemail filled with people looking for education or fitness classes.

Let’s take a peek at what classes AHC offers…

Intermittent Programs

Chair Yoga – Thurs. 12:30 – 1:30 in Ossineke

  • Gentle yoga class to encourage flexibility and safe movement around the home with yogi and PTA, Desiree Nowaczyk
  • This is a 6-week class which occurs 1-2 times per year, based on Dez’s schedule. Only available in Ossineke.

Tame Your Pain Class: Thurs. 12:30-2pm in Alpena

  • This 8-week chronic pain class is offered 4 times per year. For AHC patients only or with Shari’s authorization.
  • This self-management class provides education and gentle yoga-based movement to cope with chronic pain. Various tools and resources are provided.
  • Led by Shari Froelich FNP, Desiree Nowaczyk PTA, and Denise Thompson RD.

Dining with the Doctors

  • 1 hour luncheon or dinner various times of the year. Speakers vary. A light meal is included and is typically soup, salad, and coffee.
  • Register with Lynn Gonzalez at the Harrisville Library: 724-6796

PATH - Personal Action Toward Health

Offered in Alpena, Ossineke, Lincoln, and Oscoda

  1. Chronic Disease PATH – A self-management support class for people struggling with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, depression, poor sleep. Includes methods to improve medical, nutritional and emotional health as well as quality of life.
  2. Diabetes PATH – A PATH class specifically for diabetics. Includes all the benefits of chronic PATH plus blood sugar management, medication management, nutrition and meal planning. Great for newly diagnosed diabetics as well as diabetic veterans.

Each class utilizes 7-day action planning/goal setting, positive thinking, communication techniques, meditation, healthy eating, and brainstorming for cessation of poor habits.

Diabetes: The Journey:  

  • 6 week introductory course to diabetes self-management with Barb Kacel FNP-BC, CDE in the LincolnSite
  • For AHC patients or with Barb’s authorization.

A Matter of Balance

Offered in Oscoda, Lincoln, Alpena and Ossineke

  • 8 week course for individuals with a fear of falling, at risk for falling, or who have want to improve balance and physical ability.
  • Addresses concerns related to falls and increase awareness of fall hazards in and out of the home, tips to stay active.
  • 5 weeks of chair exercise to increase strength and balance plus one session with a physical therapist for Q&A.

Continuous Classes

Senior Boot Camp: Mon and Thurs at 9:00am in Lincoln

  • $3 charge per class with Jan Klein
  • This is an enjoyable class where you get to use exercise balls, free weights, and yoga mats to get fit!

Zumba Gold: Tues at 9:00-10:00am in Lincoln

  • Low-impact chair exercise to fun, upbeat music with Jan Klein

Arthritis Foundation Exercise Class

Monday and Thursday 10:15-11:00 am in Lincoln

Wednesdays 11am-12pm in Ossineke

  • This is a chair exercise class for people with chronic pain, arthritis, post cardiac rehab or those new to exercise.

Interested in hearing what the community has to say? Here are a few reviews.

On A Matter of Balance: “My left ankle has been [stiff] since 1998. Since I took this class I am finally able to move it again…it’s made me so happy I’ve been crying”

On Tame Your Pain: “I met new people and really had fun and discovered I am not alone in this “pain” lifestyle. I feel like I became liberated. I can go out and do things and attend classes or events.”

On Diabetes: The Journey: “Barb is an excellent teacher and makes things easy to understand in lay terms. She offers much encouragement.”

The Winter/Spring Calendar for 2016 is still a work in progress and will be posted as soon as it is available.

If you see a class you or a friend would like to try call Denise at 989-736-9871. We are happy to answer any questions you may have concerning AHC’s wellness program.