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;

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!

Hair Shedding After Weight Loss

Hair Shedding After Weight Loss

“How can I prevent hair loss?” It’s a question we hear frequently from people preparing for bariatric surgery. Hair shedding is an unpleasant side effect that affects some people more than others after surgery. There are some things you can do to manage it but it’s not completely preventable for everyone.

Telogen Effluvium  (Stress-related Hair Shedding)

Most people who experience hair shedding will notice it in the first 3 to 6 months after surgery. It’s called telogen effluvium. It’s a form of temporary hair shedding that happens after stress or traumatic events. In this case, the stress is rapid weight loss.

The hair growth cycle has three phases:

  • Anagen (growing; lasts 3 to 5 years)
  • Catagen (transition; lasts 10 days)
  • Telogen (shedding; hair follicle is inactive for 3 months after hair sheds)

Normally, only 5 to 10% of your hair is in the telogen phase at any given time. However, in a state of stress, about 30% of your hair moves into the telogen phase so you will notice more shedding than normal. You might notice this when washing or brushing your hair or when you see hair in the drain or on your pillow.

The hair shedding you experience in the first 3 to 6 months after surgery will start resolving when your body feels less stressed by the weight loss. Your hair will get back into its normal cycle. You can prevent further damage to your hair by avoiding chemical or heat treatments during this time.

Nutrition-related Hair Shedding

Nutrition is also important for hair growth. We suspect that a nutrition deficiency is causing your hair shedding if it:

  • gets worse when you are more than 6 months out from surgery.
  • starts when you are more than 6 months out from surgery and isn’t connected to other major stressors in your life.
  • continues past 1 year after surgery.

Protein, zinc, iron, and biotin are the most important nutrients for hair growth. If you are taking a complete bariatric multivitamin, it will already contain the zinc, iron, and biotin in the recommended amounts:

  • Zinc 20 to 25 mg
  • Iron 18 to 45 mg (depends on type of surgery, menstruation status, history of anemia)
  • Biotin 300 to 600 mcg

Taking megadoses of biotin beyond your bariatric multivitamin will not prevent hair shedding. It can actually alter your thyroid lab values so we don’t recommend going overboard on biotin.

For protein, we recommend 60 to 75 grams protein daily for women and 75 to 90 grams daily for men after surgery. This comes from your food and beverage choices, including protein shakes. Using a food tracking app can help you determine whether you are meeting your protein needs consistently.

Other Causes of Hair Shedding and Loss

For most people who have hair shedding after bariatric surgery, it will be related to weight loss or nutrition. There are other causes of hair shedding, such as hormone changes related to pregnancy or menopause and other types of stress, such as divorce or unemployment.

Hair loss is different from hair shedding. With hair loss, the hair doesn’t grow back. Hair loss can be caused by genetic factors, medications, immune system overreaction, and harsh hair treatments. If you think you are having hair loss, you should talk with your doctor.