Cheese is one of the most frequently eaten foods in America, the home of obesity and overweight. For health reasons, many individuals are decreasing their meat intake but when it comes to cheese, “no way”! What makes cheese so difficult to eat in moderation or to avoid? It provides the combination of fat which helps you feel satisfied and salt which tantalizes your taste buds. It also contains compounds called casomorphins which are derived from the protein found in milk called casein. Casomorphins attach to the opiate receptors in the brain and trigger the brain to release dopamine, which leads to feelings of reward and pleasure. It is no surprise that cheese consumption has sky rocketed. In 1909 the average American ate less than 4 pounds of cheese per year. Today, an American eats more than 33 pounds annually. It has become a multi-million dollar industry to promote tasty and cheesy high fat foods to the public.
The rising amount of cheese consumed in the United States is directly associated with the obesity epidemic and leading cause of death, heart disease. Cheese is very calorie dense and the majority of calories come from fat. Most of the fat is saturated fat which leads to insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol levels. The typical sodium content per ounce ranges from 175 mg (cheddar) to 450 mg (parmesan) for those concerned about their blood pressure. So why do we eat it? If you are eating cheese for the protein or calcium content, choose healthier choices such as nuts.
Interested in alternatives to cheese?
• Try sprinkling roasted sunflower seeds or chick peas on your salad
• Mix nutritional yeast into your pasta sauces or meat-less meatball recipes
• Find a recipe for cashew cheese or try vegan cheese
• Squeeze fresh lemon on your cooked vegetables for flavor
• Take cheese out of your sandwich and add avocado, roasted red peppers or hummus
It is still important to watch the calorie content when choosing your foods. Good luck!
Carol Penfield MS, NPc is a nurse practitioner and certified personal trainer who specializes in Lifestyle Medicine at Emerald Physicians in Yarmouth. She offers private appointments as well as shared medical appointments for weight loss, which are covered by insurance.

Want to know the “key” to successful weight loss?

Step by step approach to permanent weight loss.

What is the secret to successful weight loss and what does it take to keep from re-gaining? The answer is at Chatham Health and Swim Club, where participants have literally lost a ton of weight. Carol Penfield, owner of the Chatham Health & Swim Club, has applied her specialized medical expertise to help both members and non-members successfully lose weight. Her unique “Weigh to Better Health” team weight loss program not only works; it has also led to a healthier community. Since 2010, during three 6-week programs, 293 participants have lost 1,956 pounds while simultaneously raising over $38,000 to support primary care at Fontaine Medical Center. The enrollment fees for all the participants have been donated to the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation in order to benefit the health of others in the community.

Carol Penfield, who is an independent nurse practitioner, applies the fundamental principles of a new medical specialty called “Lifestyle Medicine”. Lifestyle medicine offers proven strategies for converting knowledge “I know I need to lose weight” to action “here is my plan”. Solutions to changing exercise and eating habits must be very individualized. For example, a person who enjoys crunchy foods will not be satisfied with a low fat yogurt, or someone who grew up eating comfort foods will not adhere to eating celery!

Three [out of many] principles of the Lifestyle Medicine approach specific to treating obesity are as follows:
First, you must set appropriate goals by asking yourself the following questions:

• Why do I want to lose weight? Choose health-related goals that are achievable and measurable; rather than “because I want to look good” since only 1% of our population is ever truly satisfied with their appearance.

• How important is it, and how motivated am I? You should objectify your answer by using a scale of 1 – 10 (1 = not confident and 10 = very confident). If your confidence level is below 5, then the goals should stay small and be made weekly.

Second, routine exercise MUST be practiced. 95% of people who lose weight and keep it off exercise at least 5 times weekly for an accumulated amount of 60 minutes. Addressing specific barriers to exercise such as pain, time, or finances is critical in order to attain exercise adherence.

Third is accountability. Most individuals underestimate their daily dietary intake and overestimate their activity level, leading to gradual weight gain over the years.
Diet logs and the use of pedometers are excellent examples of objective recording. Reporting in to a group, coach, or medical professional such as Carol Penfield has been documented to improve outcomes.

Most New Year resolutions start to dwindle by the end of February. Successful gains in health will not be sustained by just a resolution once a year. There is another answer…Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle Medicine practices have been proven to be extremely successful nationwide by achieving measurable gains in health [including weight loss] over time. Common and critical conditions are treated, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and back pain, as well as obesity. Carol Penfield’s Lifestyle Medicine practice, located on the campus of the Chatham Health and Swim Club, is the first such program on Cape Cod. She helps her patients find that delicate balance when creating attainable goals, in order to minimize discouragement and build confidence. The practice offers on-going individual and group support as well as weekly on-site or electronic check-in options, and is covered by most medical insurances.