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Healthy You

Habits & Weight Management: How to Make Positive Life Changes

November 8, 2018 12:00 PM with Dr. Ashley Rolnik

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Picking up a bad habit is very easy, and breaking one or overcoming a fully-developed addiction can seem impossible. Whether it’s quitting smoking, cutting down on stress eating, giving up alcohol or tackling unhealthy compulsive behaviors, identifying causes and finding the right solutions takes a lot of time and effort, and can be a major stressor. Not sure where to start? Join Dr. Ashley Rolnik, NorthShore Health Psychologist, who will take questions on habits and addictions, provide insight into the different ways they can be addressed and share tips you can use in your everyday life for making good choices. 

Ashley Rolnik - 11:58 AM:
Thank you all for joining me today. My name is Ashley Rolnik, and I am a licensed clinical psychologist at NorthShore. My specialty area is behavioral weight management. I am excited to chat with you all about healthy lifestyle changes and weight management today.

Ben (Evanston, IL) - 12:00 PM:
Welcome to the Habits & Weight Management: How to Make Positive Life Changes chat. The chat is now open and you can submit your questions at any time

  Susan (Chciago, IL) - 12:01 PM:
As a last resort for smoking cessation have you had some success with hypnosis?
Ashley Rolnik
I often have folks ask about hypnosis for smoking or weight management, and it may be a helpful tool in the toolbox for changing behaviors. Hypnosis is a great way to promote the relaxation response in the body. Many patients find it difficult to quit smoking as it has been a coping strategy for stress. Hypnosis may be a great way to cope with stress instead of smoking.

  Tonya (Chicago, IL) - 12:05 PM:
What can I do to break old eating habits? I have started going to the gym at least 4 times a week. The problem I have is eating junk food candy etc.... anything sweet. I have noticed I'm not a big eater when it comes to food I just have to have the junk food. What can I do to break this cycle?
Ashley Rolnik
Great question! Sugar is incredibly addictive! Studies show that the brain can crave sugar, just like a drug. Beginning an exercise program is a great start. Many of my patients find that regular exercise improves mood and has the potential to decrease stress. Stress can contribute to unhealthy eating, so going to the gym will be helpful. Another thing to try is making sure that you are eating regularly throughout the day. Sugar cravings are even more difficult to manage on an empty stomach. I generally recommend trying to not go more than 4 hours between eating and to try to incorporate 3 meals per day with 2 snacks. Also, make sure that you are eating healthy food that you enjoy and try new things. Don't feel as though you need to eat salad if you hate salad! There are many healthy food options out there and forcing foods that you dislike will only make it harder to stay on track with your eating goals.

  Rebecca (Chicago, IL) - 12:12 PM:
How can we support friends/family to quit smoking or break unhealthy habits without nagging or bossing? What are some of the factors that keep people addicted?
Ashley Rolnik
Great question! Support from family and friends can be incredibly helpful. People do not respond well to nagging/bossing, and a better strategy is to find ways to support their goals in a positive manner. Have a co-worker who is trying to lose weight? See if they would be willing to take a walk with you during their lunch break. Is your spouse struggling with eating? Don't bring junk food into the house and make sure the refrigerator is stocked with healthy food choices. Is your friend struggling with their blood sugar level? Instead of going out to dinner to spend time together, what about going to the movies or some other activity not centered around food? Broadly speaking, there are social, emotional, psychological, biological, and environmental factors that trigger eating and other unhealthy choices.

  NCAP (Chicago, IL) - 12:21 PM:
I am a single mother with 2 small children 5 and 2 years of age. I am 240lbs and 5'6. I understand I am obese but I do not have time to work out. I generally don't eat a lot of carbs/sugars. But my main problem is emotional/stress eating. I literally reach out for carbs when I'm stressed. I have realized that about myself so try to switch it up for a large bowl of salad. With winter I am guessing I would hesitate towards the salad. What can I do to manage my problems? I want to be healthy.
Ashley Rolnik
I applaud you for wanting to make some changes. Thinking about ways to decrease stress, which can trigger emotional eating, would be important. It may be helpful to try one of these strategies when you are about to engage in emotional eating: delay if possible (try to wait 20 minutes and see if the urge passes), distract yourself (reading a book, calling a friend), use positive self talk, or leave the situation that is causing distress (if possible). Mindful eating may also be helpful. Try to slow down your eating, chew slowly, savor each bite, use all of your senses, and avoid distractions. Avoid multi-tasking while eating and try to sit down and only focus on eating. If you find yourself struggling, you may want to reach out to your primary care doctor, a dietician, or psychologist to help better manage emotional eating. At NorthShore, my colleagues and I run a program called "Jump Start" that discusses behavioral weight management strategies, including emotional eating.

  Katie (Chicago, IL) - 12:32 PM:
I tend to have an all or nothing mindset when it comes to allowing myself "treats". I binge once I give in to treats/junk and since I already "messed up" my diet I might as well do it big! What are some tips to help combat that mindset? When would it be helpful to see a specialist, like yourself, in a situation like this, especially when the weight does not come off even when eating healthy and well-balanced meals (with no "treats")?
Ashley Rolnik
It sounds like you may be having what we call "all or nothing thinking" - often times I will hear statements such as, "I had one cookie, so I might as well eat the whole bag!" Psychologists help examine "thinking errors" - such as all or nothing thinking - and help people to reframe their thoughts in a more adaptive way. At home, some tips to try are to try and catch these thinking errors as they are happening and ask yourself how realistic the thoughts are. Eating one single cookie will likely not affect your eating plan, but eating the whole bag might derail your progress. If you make an eating mistake, move on and keep going. If you are having trouble reframing these thinking errors at home, do not be shy about reaching out to a professional. They are there to help with this!

  Katherine (Northbrook, IL) - 12:40 PM:
What are your thoughts on doing juice cleanses, for weight loss? Do they work? Are they safe?
Ashley Rolnik
The majority of the "quick fix" diets and juice cleanses have not been shown to be effective and can be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions. From a behavioral perspective, juice cleanses have the potential to cause a rebound effect with eating. Most people feel deprived during and after a juice cleanse, which may lead to overeating or even binge eating afterward. Even if some weight is lost during a juice cleanse, this effect is not longstanding and there are no long term benefits. A much better option would be to eat regularly throughout the day, try to incorporate protein into your meals to keep you full, and be mindful of portion sizes. With weight loss, slow and steady tends to be more beneficial over time. I typically recommend a goal of no more than 2 lbs of weight loss per week.

  Om (Winnetka, IL) - 12:48 PM:
Does diet soda really help you diet? Zero sugars or calories sure does sound like it would help lose weight...but it's still soda, right?
Ashley Rolnik
Diet soda is a better option if you have diabetes. However, researchers disagree on the safety of aritfical sugar substitutes noticed and there is some concern that these sweeteners can contribute to medical problems. In terms of weight loss, switching to diet soda would certainly decrease calorie consumption but there is some evidence that diet soda can still contribute to weight problems. Moderation is key, and a great strategy is to try and increase water intake.

  Julie (Libertyville, IL) - 12:56 PM:
supposedly it takes 21 days to build a new habit- yet I have been doing Weight Watcher for a couple of years - yet I so easily succumb to temptation.- what is it that causes me to so easily slip back to old behaviors?
Ashley Rolnik
It might be helpful to think about the factors contributing to the temptation. Do you find that you are more tempted in social situations? Or after a long day at work? Once you have pinpointed some factors, think about potential ways to modify these factors. If you noticed in social eating situations, try to have a healthy snack before the event so you will not feel as tempted. If you tend to snack after work, how about making sure you have a meal prepared ahead of time for when you get home?

Ben (Evanston, IL) - 1:00 PM:
That's the end of our chat, thank you Dr. Rolnik for all your expertise.
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