LAURIUM Managing obesity can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. The key is to find ways to make long-term behavior changes in eating that fit your lifestyle.
Patricia Koskiniemi, family nurse practitioner at Aspirus Keweenaw, said behavior modification is an effective program for patients to cope with and manage obesity.
"What I do is help patients find a way to lose weight and keep it off into the long-term through behavior changes like eating, and thinking about how and why they eat foods while also incorporating exercise," she said. "The important thing is to clarify what behavior modification is because a lot of patients think it's going to involve a diet, and it does to a certain degree, but there's often different ways for losing weight."
Aspirus Keweenaw Family Nurse Practitioner Patricia Koskiniemi educates a patient on the “Idaho Plate Method” which aids in portion control.
The behavior modification program is available to patients 65 and older who have a body mass index equal or greater than 30. It is an intensive six- to 12-month program during which patients are expected to lose six pounds.
"With the decrease in six pounds, these people have much better blood sugars and fewer burdens on their disease," she said. "They have fewer complications from diabetes."
Aspirus Keweenaw's diabetic clinic refers patients to Koskiniemi. Often, the hardest part for patients is figuring out why they eat as much as they eat.
"Part of this can be cultural. But, the goal is to help patients understand what a normal portion size is and how they can fill up their plate with vegetables or engage in activities where they're not falling back to eating out of boredom," she said.
Koskiniemi works with patients to create a program that incorporates exercise, hobbies or other activities that can help manage stress.
"A lot of it is simply asking yourself why you're eating as much as you're eating," she said. "Then we find ways to control that."
Also important is understanding the difference between starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables and managing portion control.
Portion control has increased significantly over the last 20 years, Koskiniemi said, and that makes a big impact on how many calories one consumes in a single day.
"What I tell patients to do when they come in is to do a food log for one week," she said. "That way people start to notice how much they're eating, when they're eating and why."
Koskiniemi said the behavior modification program, for the first month, involves patients finding out where they are in their eating habits and what triggers cause them to eat. She works with patients to create a method that fits their lifestyle.
"Most people will tell me it makes a big difference coming here every week or every other week," she said. "Depending on what stage they are, they like to come in and talk and get that encouragement. They're always surprised by the problems that crop up."
Behavior modification is about making a conscious effort to change eating habits.
"The big thing is to not make this punitive," Koskiniemi said. "One of the most common things I hear people saying is they feel bad for eating or that they are a bad person because they eat, and that often sets people up for failure."
Koskiniemi discusses the "Idaho Plate Method" with patients to help them with portion control while finding a healthy balance of proteins, fruits, vegetables and dairy.
"Behavior modification is not a magic bullet. It does take some work from both participants," she said. "The goal is not to lose weight quickly, but to change the behavior of how you eat and why you eat in order to maintain your weight and carry that though your lifetime," she said. "We stress that it's not about getting skinny, it's about getting healthy."
For more information about the behavior modification program, call Aspirus Keweenaw at 337-6560.
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