Wellness education: Learning to improve health

MARQUETTE – Participants in the Healthy Weight Journal are learning to make diet and exercises changes a part of their lifestyles as they move forward.

As part of the program, participants take part in monthly wellness education sessions. October’s session, held last Monday, focused on reading and understanding labels, as well as recognizing fullness and devising strategies to avoid overeating.

Deborah Sergey, supervisor at the Marquette General Hospital Nurtition and Wellness/Diabetes Education Department, said that several participants remarked at the education session that they were eating less and feeling full more quickly.

Sergey said that they encourage participants to rate their fullness on a scale from one to 10.

“We really focused in on the fullness range there to try to slow down with eating and really sense your fullness before you get to the point where you’re overfull.”

Sergey said that eating more slowly helps to avoid overeating, because it takes 15 to 20 minutes before your body tells your brain that you’re full.

“What happens is, your nerve endings in your stomach have to get distended a little bit – and food does that – in order for those nerve endings to send a signal to your brain that, ‘I’ve got something in my stomach!'” she laughed. “It’s not quite like when we touch something hot and we sense the nerve endings, because it’s not as dramatic a sensation.”

Sergey said ways to slow down when you eat include avoiding distractions or doing other things – such as watching TV – while you eat, and having a glass of water as you eat. Avoiding distractions, Sergey said, will also make your food taste better, because “you’re focusing on the smell and the texture and all those things that help satisfy us and satiate us in a different way than just how our stomach is feeling.”

Drinking water is something heavily emphasized in the program. Sergey recommends that everyone drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.

Water will also help you better understand your true level of hunger. Sergey said that she’ll tell people who aren’t sure whether or not they’re hungry to sip on a glass of water and wait 15 to 20 minutes.

“If it’s true hunger, the growling and the empty feeling will come back,” she said. “But if it’s not, and you probably have some food in your stomach, the water will help fluff up that food and give you that fullness.”

The group also took the time to share strategies for staying motivated. The biggest challenge, they found, was finding the time to get all of their workouts in and making sure to plan their meals ahead of time.

“That was probably the biggest thing that we were hearing about is, you know, ‘If I don’t plan, then I just eat whatever’s around,'” Sergey said. “So they’re realizing that it really has to fit their lifestyle in order for this to be permanent changes and truly a lifestyle change, not just a diet and exercise plan that they follow for a few months.”

At the December education session, Sergey said they will, at the request of the participants, bring in a chef to help teach them cooking strategies.

“And of course we’ll gear it towards healthy cooking ideas,” she said. “So that’ll be fun. He’ll prepare something interesting, probably holiday related, and we’ll … have lots of tips on other strategies for balancing food during the holidays, because that’s a big challenge.”

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.