WILDWOOD — Neeta Hillman has no problem pining down the main reason for illness in the United States: appetite control.
Americans are the focus of a barrage of advertising constantly tempting them to eat sugary snacks, splurge on red meat such as hamburgers and steaks, and finish the evening with bowls of ice cream or cake … or both. Muffins, which used to be hearty options made from oats and bran, are now little more than cakes masquerading as muffins.
Hillman, a board certified physician practicing at Wildwood, states that many Americans use food as a stimulant that, in its own way, is addicting.
“Many of us don’t eat because we’re hungry, we eat because we enjoy the ‘high,’ the euphoria that accompanies it when the hormone dopamine is released into our mind.”
She suggests that the best way to avoid temptation is not to give into it immediately.
“It sometimes comes in waves, so it will have lows and high points. Drink water (which is filling), walk (which releases other ‘feel good’ hormones), or engage in some kind of distraction. Frequently the feeling will pass,” she explains.
Bible study or scripture memorization during times of temptation is also beneficial.
Some lifestyle modification can be accomplished at home while others need a residential experience like that found in a lifestyle center.
“Frequently appetite issues are not about being hungry but is about the craving. There is some kind of emotional trigger that comes out of a stressful moment such as a hard day at the office. We look forward to going to a ‘safe’ place and have a treat.
“Unconsciously, we train our brains to be satisfied with what is pleasurable; it’s a form of self-conditioning,” she notes.
“Fast foods are incredibly addictive because of the fat they contain … especially the sweet and salty combination found in junk food and which are specifically designed to be irresistible.”
That’s why lifestyle centers require more than just a few days to break a bad habit. A controlled, protected environment helps reinforce the changes necessary to start on a new path.
“Once these habits are set in motion and reinforced over at least a week or two, they are far more likely to continue when the guest transitions back into society,” Hillman concludes.