WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2017/2018

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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If our bodies are an assembly of highly sophisticated interconnected systems, it makes sense that what we consume impacts the whole organ- ism. Barbara Southcote, a health services nutritionist at Wellesley College, incorporates that thinking when counseling young women. "I provide students with medical nutrition therapy based on whole foods that nat- urally support the microbiome and discuss adding foods with an anti- inflammatory effect," she says. Microbiomes are unique to each person. "They are as individual as a fingerprint, so even healthy foods might promote inflammation in cer- tain people. It can be super frustrating," says Dr. Pardo. "You hit a [weight loss] plateau and don't understand what the problem is." A health pro- fessional can assess a microbiome through a stool sample and mouth swab. In addition, there are lab tests that can pinpoint variables within the norm. "This is at the forefront of evidence-based research. The sci- ence is there and it's irrefutable," says Dr. Pardo. The study of epigenetics is another area of excitement for researchers. "It is the science of how our genes are shaped by our environment, which includes food," says Dr. Pardo. Scientists have discovered that environ- mental factors like food, sleep, or stress trigger our genes, either silencing them or stimulating them. A person can be eating healthy food but it can be a mismatch for their distinct genetic mutation. "Stressors can cause overactive genes," she says. "We can see changes happen on a cellular level." Dr. Pardo educates her patients on this new research. She says, "We need to be thinking about their microbiome and their epigenetics, because they can be a huge barrier for someone maintaining a healthy weight." Pardo cautions that biology is not necessarily destiny, however. The fundamentals of weight loss still apply to some extent. "But the evolu- tion of the science has reinforced those core principals," she says. "It is so empowering for people to not feel like a victim of their own genetic makeup and know that there are some very simple things they can do." So, in this brave new world of cellular detective work and individual investigation, is there no place for some of the weight-loss trends in healthy eating? "Some of the big programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig still can have value. They provide a lot of tools and support systems, and they are affordable," says Dr. Shaughnessy. Other approach- es like the Whole30 diet pass muster with the experts as well, if only as a starting point for a more generally healthy approach to eating. "These diet platforms can be a great way for people to do their own self investi- gation, and they can be somewhat sustainable," says Dr. Pardo. And, of course, cutting out empty calories from highly processed foods and bev- erages gets a collective thumbs up. But the best method to bring about permanent change may be as simple as listening to the body's conversation with the brain. "We need to get people to pay more attention to the internal signals that their bod- ies are sending them," says Soolman. "We need to be able to trust our bodies to tell us when we are hungry or full." Experts agree on giving ourselves a break. "Change of any kind is difficult and slow to happen," says Southcote. "I try to encourage my students to come up with one goal or change and try it for a month and go from there." 132 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 7 / 2 0 1 8 fitness & health "trust our bodies to tell us when we are hungry or full"

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