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Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle Changes

Choose the Right Foods:  We have a Life-long Medical Condition

Dr Cohen’s program is based on the research finding that many people with weight problems actually have a medical condition that causes an imbalance in the levels of insulin and blood sugar in their bodies.  Left untreated it causes us to feel unsatisfied with our foods, we develop cravings, generally for the wrong foods, and then we eat too much – again of the wrong foods.  This in turn leads to chronic weight problems and the associated side effects.

It is important to understand this. It is not necessarily the case that we are lazy, weak-willed or greedy. What happens is the level of our blood sugar goes too high which in turn lifts insulin and then our serotonin and human growth hormone levels become too low.  In other words, we have a medical condition which propels us into doing unskillful things with our food and eating patterns. 

A direct outcome of this is that choosing the correct foods will make an enormous difference to our weight and health.  These are the foods that Dr Cohen lists in your Eating Plan which are the best foods for us to eat.  These food lists are supplemented with new ones added in your Refeeding Plan and a few more added in the Management Guidelines.  These foods are our medicine and we will have to ‘take’ them for life, and avoid the problem foods, in order to stay trim and healthy. 

Avoid Problem Foods:  Especially Processed Foods

Many of us crave processed foods, and they tend to be associated with emotionally charged events such as Christmas, Easter, weddings, birthdays and celebrations in general.  Classic examples are ham at Christmas, champagne at weddings, and cake at birthdays.  Unfortunately, processed foods are high in chemicals that do not agree with our body chemistry and they have a negative impact on our health and weight. 

The content of processed foods is not always immediately obvious.  For example, the innocent sounding Chicken Stock Cubes, marketed by a certain brand, contain the following ingredients, listed in order of the amount included in each cube:

Salt, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Yeast Extract (contains milk derivative), Onion, Flavours (contain milk derivatives), Chicken (3%), Parsley, Maltodextrin (from wheat), Flavour Enhancer (635), Colours (Caramel IV, Turmeric), Wheat Starch, Herb Extracts, Spice Extracts

If you read this list carefully, you will see that chicken only makes up 3% of the cube and the rest is an array of processed foods, many of which are not allowed on Dr Cohen’s Eating Plan! 

Another major problem is preservatives, which are commonly added to processed foods, tinned and bottled foods, and certain proteins (such as most minced meats).  You can add most sauces to this list - they contain a range of processed ingredients as well as preservatives.

The lifestyle changes that Dr Cohen recommends we make revolve around eating unprocessed foods.  In practice that means buying fresh vegetables; fresh fruit; fresh raw meats, fish and chicken.  It also means avoiding processed foods such as ham and man-made foods such as cakes, alcohol and chocolate.  (The Management Guidelines provide effective strategies for blocking the surge in insulin that is caused by eating these foods.)

Change our Approach to Social Events

One area of our lives that can be difficult to change is our approach to social events.  We often cope with healthy eating when we are in a routine, but face challenges when we are in social situations.  It is important to learn to enjoy people’s company without an emphasis on eating and drinking!  This requires careful planning and skilful communication with friends and family who may be inclined to ‘push’ food or alcohol onto us.  It is necessary to develop the habit of avoiding foods and drinks that are not in our food lists.  Having them upsets our body’s chemical balance and often causes hunger, cravings and tiredness.  This in turn often leads us to want more of the food or drink that caused the mischief in the first place and so it becomes a vicious cycle.  So, it is important to keep in mind the lifestyle changes when you are at social events and remember how eating the wrong foods and drinking alcohol upsets our hormone balance causing us to want more.

It is also vital to know that the feeling of being ‘deprived’ is counter-productive.  It is simply a mind state and it can be changed when you become aware of it.  During your Eating Plan stage, which is when our body chemistry is re-balanced and rapid weight loss takes place, the food lists are precise. However, we should keep this in context.  This is the first stage of the program and the chemical balance in our bodies is necessary to let the ‘medicine’ work. 

Your Refeeding Phase, which is relatively short, about two to three weeks, introduces a whole range of new foods and increased portions. Deprivation is not a feature of this stage, in fact people often complain about having too much food.

Management Guidelines are the final stage of the program and they are designed for the rest of our lives.  This is where we learn the strategies to cope with difficult situations and what to do if we gain a little weight or overeat at a social event.

Lifestyle Changes

Remember though that Management Guidelines are based on the foundation of your Eating Plan and Refeeding Plan – it is not a totally different phase.  So, we start to learn new lifestyle habits in our Eating Plan stage, expand these in Refeeding and expand them again with Management Guidelines.  It is essential that we do not think about the Eating Plan as a short term fix – it is the foundation of how we should eat for the rest of our life.

Yes, we can have some alcohol, desserts, cakes and chocolates within the Management Guidelines, but under specific conditions and in moderation, that is why it is so important to understand the lifestyle changes – they are life-long. 

The medical condition that caused you to get overweight in the first place will still be present (it cannot be cured, but it can be controlled) so you will never be able to go back to eating and drinking the way you were before.  If we go back to our old ways of eating then we will regain weight, often with “interest” – generally about 20%.   That is why it is so important to make the changes introduced by Dr Cohen’s program part of our daily lifestyle and maintain them for the rest of our life. Once we accept that the changes to our nutrition should be life-long and we come to grips with the details of how to do it, we find we feel much healthier, happier and more energetic.  It really is worth the initial effort.


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