May 2019 - Northwest Weight & Wellness Center
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Stress Eating: A Maladaptive Food Meditation

Stress Eating: A Maladaptive Food Meditation

What does it mean to meditate? The word meditation conjures different images from popular culture but what does it really mean? Meditation is a way of moving your thoughts away from life’s distractions. These distractions are usually rooted in analyzing the mistakes of the past or the fears of the future. The natural tendency of the consciousness (or awareness) to move backward and forward in time is crucial for our survival. It is what makes humans the top of the food chain because we are able to out-think larger, stronger predators.  We don’t have too many predators to fight in our current society. Still, your wandering consciousness continues to travel from the past to the future collecting feelings of guilt, anxiety and fear. I often describe the consciousness as a tired traveler. Meditation gives this woeful wanderer a chance to rest.

The goal of meditation is to give your consciousness a chance to rest. It allows you to move forward in your life with intention instead of becoming a victim to your tired consciousness. When your consciousness is tired, you tend to be more reactive by acting without much thought.  Often people ask, “Why do I keep failing at what I want to do?”.  I think the answer is simple: your consciousness is tired and you fall victim to the unconscious, pleasure-driven brain. By practicing meditation twice a day for only 10 minutes, you can build up your consciousness and move forward with your own intentions.

There are many forms of meditation. The one that I like to implement is called mindfulness. It essentially means focusing your consciousness on the present. It is very difficult to keep your consciousness focused on the present moment, especially if there is nothing to occupy your attention. This is where the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) come into play. A positive sensation can hold your attention in the present more easily. To me, this is the primary value of aromatherapy, Epsom salt baths, self-massage, yoga, or other stretching exercises. For example, music plays heavily on our hearing sense, pulling us away from the stress of the world. It’s easy to see the positive impact music has on our minds.

Focusing on the present by using sensation can be challenging to fit into your busy schedule. You might face challenges in the first couple weeks of meditation practice, such as “I couldn’t shut my mind off” or “I keep getting distracted.” Those challenges are further evidence of the need to continue.

Another common challenge is making time for meditation, but consider this… you might already practice meditation on a daily basis with another name: Stress Eating. Stress eating is a maladaptive form of mindfulness. We are using the mechanical sensation of chewing and swallowing, the sense of smell of appealing foods, and, of course, our sense of taste to ground us in the present. From a psychological perspective this would actually be okay if there wasn’t such a high caloric and health cost to food consumption. The fact that we gravitate toward stress eating naturally illustrates the deep-seeded need for the consciousness to be grounded in the present and further bolsters the need to incorporate mindfulness as a regular intentional part of our lives.

For more information on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, visit;

Staff Spotlight: Kaitlyn Sutherland

Staff Spotlight: Kaitlyn Sutherland

Name: Kaitlyn Sutherland

Role: Lead Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Joined NWWC: July 2016

Personal Life: Kaitlyn is a Washington native and lives with her husband, Skyler (pictured with Kaitlyn). She has two older siblings and eight step-siblings! Since most of her family members live in WA, she gets to enjoy a lot of family time.

Life Before NWWC: Kaitlyn has been a CMA since 2012. Her first jobs were in primary care and obstetrics. Most recently, she was the sole CMA for a practice that specialized in sleep studies, sinus, and cosmetic procedures.

A Day in Her Job: Kaitlyn’s days revolve around patient care. She serves as a CMA for the surgeons and advanced practice providers so she prepares patients for their appointments by checking vitals, doing body measurements, and assessing for medical updates. She calls patients about lab results, completes FMLA paperwork, and helps our care team coordinate with outside providers. In her role as a team lead, she assists clinic workflow and organization to keep appointments running smoothly. She loves that she is “never not busy” in her job. Her days fly by, she’s not stuck behind a computer, and she never has trouble reaching 10,000 steps.

What Else to Know about Kaitlyn:

  • She can do your hair and makeup! In high school, Kaitlyn considered becoming a cosmetologist. Since she has many family members in the medical field, she ended up going the CMA route but she still treats friends and family to hair and makeup sessions for special events.
  • She is outdoors year-round. In the summer, you’ll find her on Lake Stevens. She and Skyler own a 21-foot Four Winns open bow speedboat. They also have a wakeboard, kayaks, and paddle boards. She spends winter snowmobiling and the rest of the year hiking.
  • She’ll become Nurse Kaitlyn in the next few years. Being a CMA has inspired her to pursue nursing so she can increase her scope of practice. She just enrolled in classes at Everett Community College to complete her prerequisites for a nursing program.
  • She is inspired by her patients. One patient who comes to mind “barely spoke when he first came in. He always looked at the ground”. Now he is one year post-op from surgery and has transformed his life. “He is going to school, he has a girlfriend, and he’s completely confident.”
It’s Not Just About Losing Weight…

It’s Not Just About Losing Weight…

When we hear bariatric surgery, the first thing that comes to mind is weight loss. But surgery is about much more than just weight loss. There are many health benefits related to weight loss that are even more important than achieving a certain number on the scale.  Let’s have a look at those:

Improvement of Type 2 Diabetes: After bariatric surgery, your stomach is much smaller so you will be consuming fewer calories. The surgery also affects your “gut hormones”, such as ghrelin. These changes to your eating habits and gastrointestinal tract can make your body more sensitive to insulin, improve your glucose tolerance, and help your pancreas produce its own insulin. Many people with type 2 diabetes notice lower blood sugars within days of surgery, even before they have started losing much weight.

Healthier Heart: Research shows that weight loss of 17 pounds can reduce blood pressure by about 8.5mm Hg systolic and 6.5mm Hg diastolic. This lightens the load on your heart. When you add in the healthy eating changes you’ll make, you will also likely improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Sounds like a win-win for the heart!

Less Joint Pain: Studies estimate that each pound of weight loss reduces the load on your knee joints by 4 to 5 pounds. This means a 10-pound weight loss feels like 40-50 fewer pounds with every step you take! Weight loss also reduces strain on the lower spine and reduces inflammation which makes physical activity less painful and more enjoyable.

Better Sexual Function:  Many people experience improvements in their sexual life satisfaction after surgery, including in desire, activity, and physical health limitations. Surgery also improves fertility among women. We’ve had dozens of healthy “bariatric babies” born into the NWWC family!

Enhanced Quality of Life: Beyond the number on the scale, you are able to enjoy a new life as a healthier you after surgery. You’ll feel more confident when you are successfully achieving your health goals. You might be wearing clothes that you haven’t worn in years, able to exercise without pain, traveling more comfortably, and having fun keeping up with your kids and grandkids. There are unlimited possibilities that come with an improved quality of life.

Whether you’ve already had surgery or are thinking about it, remember to consider all of the health benefits that come with weight loss. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s about gaining quality of life!

Staff Spotlight: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Staff Spotlight: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Name: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Role: Administrative Operations Supervisor; Billing Manager

Joined NWWC: July 2008

Personal Life: Leigh lives with her husband (pictured with Leigh) and has 3 children. Her daughter is a high school sophomore, her son is studying music at Edmonds Community College and will transfer to UW in the Fall, and her step-daughter is studying communications at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. She also has several furry family members: 3 schnauzers and a boxer/lab/retriever mix. Leigh has been working her way up the pacific coast; she grew up in California, moved to Oregon in grade school, and moved to Washington with her first job.

Life Before NWWC: Leigh was a line assignment operator with GTE for 6 years and worked for Compass Health for 13 years. At Compass Health, she started at the front desk and was promoted to the office manager of 3 separate sites.

A Day in Her Job: Leigh manages billing for all NWWC services and oversees operations related to insurance and self-pay requirements for bariatric surgery preparation. Her days are filled with emails and phone calls with patients as well as insurance representatives. She handles billing inquiries, billing reconciliation, surgery scheduling, advocating for patients’ insurance benefits, and contract negotiation with payer organizations. The insurance and patient care coordinators report to her so she fills in when there’s a need and meets with her team regularly.

What Else to Know about Leigh:

  • Leigh has an obsession with schnauzers. Neishah, a 6-month-old schnauzer, was her first rescue dog before she had children. “Neishah was my everything, my first kid.” She loves their personalities and can’t turn down an opportunity to rescue one. She might be willing to show you a picture of one of her current loves: Snazzy, Pepper, or Sherlock.
  • Leigh channels her love for cooking into an opportunity to support the community. She donates self-catered 4-course-dinners as prizes for non-profit organization fundraisers. At home, she preps meals on the weekend for the whole week. “It’s family time. My kids love to cook. My husband loves to try.” 😉
  • Leigh was a patient at NWWC before she became an employee. She had a gastric band placed in 2007 with Dr. Montgomery. She lost 150 pounds during her first year and was recruited to join the team as the front office supervisor. In this role, she discovered that NWWC was outsourcing billing. She offered to bring it in-house and has been our billing guru ever since.
  • Leigh is thinking about her fast-approaching empty nest years. “My life is my kids. We’re thinking about what we want to do when our life doesn’t revolve around our kids.” She and her husband would like to do some traveling. Will there be room for schnauzers on those trips…?