EATING RIGHT: “This is a totally different approach to integrating nutrition, de-stressing, and attitudes toward food,” explains Veronique Cardon, MS, director and facilitator of The CogniDiet program. “It is cognition, de-stressing, healthy nutrition, and exercise. People will feel so much better.”
“I have been on a diet so many times, but the weight always comes back.”
“I know all about calorie counting, fat content, portion control, so why am I still not losing weight?”
“I have spent so much money and so much time struggling on diets, but nothing has changed.”
“I am so tired of yo-yo dieting. I want to change my life-style.”
If these comments sound familiar, it may be time to consult Veronique Cardon, MS about The CogniDiet(TM) program. Not a quick fix, this program is not about calorie counting and getting on the scale. It is about changing one’s attitude toward food and approach to eating. It is a life-style change.
“People need to eat less and move more,” says holistic nutritionist Ms. Cardon, who is the creator and facilitator of The CogniDiet(TM) program.
With a Masters of Holistic Nutrition from the Clayton College of Natural Health and a commercial engineering degree from the University of Belgium (Brussels), Ms. Cardon worked as a nutritionist at the Princeton Integrative Health Center for four years.
Previously, she had worked as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry in New York, and gained extensive knowledge about neurology, brain chemistry, depression, obesity, diabetes, and addictions, including smoking.
In addition, Ms. Cardon had struggled with over-eating and the stress accompanying a demanding career for many years, finally stabilizing herself by following a healthy diet, exercise, and controlling stress levels.
Because of this background, she decided to share her own experiences with others and try to help them establish a healthier life-style and attitude toward food.
Her program is based in part on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “This is a science that helps people change the way they think and therefore behave. It focuses on helping people deal with anxiety, depression, and weight loss” she explains. “I studied this, and I thought if I could educate people about nutrition, cognitherapy could be adapted to focus on weight loss and alleviating stress.”
Ms. Cardon believes that we are in the midst of a “perfect storm” today. “Some of the weight problems have to do with the commercialization of food in the U.S. and the prevalence of processed food. The brain gets accustomed to this. It’s a perfect storm: the super-sizing and processing of food, and lack of activity.”
Every Five Minutes
The ongoing stress level in our high tech society today is another factor, she adds. “Long ago, stress levels rose when there was imminent danger. Stress rose when someone confronted a lion, for example, but then once the risk was over, the stress diminished. Today, people see the lion every five minutes!”
Whether it is job-related, being stuck in traffic, always being rushed — whatever the situation, people frequently find themselves anxious and stressed. And, as Ms. Cardon notes, when it’s under stress, the body craves carbs.
So, why do people eat when they are not really hungry?
You had a bad day: the boss didn’t appreciate your efforts; the kids were impossible; your boy friend found another! Maybe a little ice cream for comfort? Some potato chips? Whatever your favorite snacks to help you through the bad times and take the edge off.
These are all reasons why people eat when they are not really hungry — out of disappointment and unhappiness, also boredom and addiction. In addition, if you are in a hurry, you can pick up something on the run that more often than not is full of calories and is the least healthy choice.
Ms. Cardon wants to change this scenario. “So many people eat much more than they actually need, and the brain begins to expect it. The advertising today is all geared to getting people to want food, especially snacks. Snacks are definitely a culprit.”
“We help the client change her attitude toward food and realize that ‘my current eating habits are not good for me.’ At CogniDiet, we think of losing weight over time, not a quick fix. I encourage the clients to have a goal. What are the benefits to them of losing weight? They learn to be more centered on what is good for them generally.
“Some people are involved in too many activities, for example. What is crucial? What is important, and also, what activities and projects can they say no to? This is a way of relieving stress. Every time you do something, the brain registers and remembers it. We need to rewire the brain.”
This requires determination and dedication and a 12-week program, points out Ms. Cardon. “It’s a step-by-step program to retrain the brain, and we go slowly. During this time, I can guarantee that clients will become more attuned to their body and hunger level. They will keep a record of what activities they are involved in, what they do, and when they feel tempted to eat, even if they are not really hungry.”
It takes 12 weeks to learn new skills, she explains. Weeks one to six will focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Emotional Brain Training. There are no diet or eating guidelines during the first six weeks. We will gradually introduce some healthy nutrition tips and activity level recommendations.
“Weeks seven to 12 will help you to solidify your brain skills and teach you more about healthy nutrition and active life-styles. We will equip you with the tools to maintain weight over the long term.”
Ms. Cardon offers both one-on-one and group (six to eight) sessions. Initially, she has an interview with the client to identify goals and establish a specific plan. Once a week sessions — one hour for individuals, two hours for groups — are available.
“In the group, they learn from the other people, and they also share their own experiences,” she notes. “My clients are all women, generally 40 and up, and they have tried everything,” says Ms. Cardon. “One client said to me, ‘I’ve tried many times to lose weight, and this time I feel that I have a strong guide to help me.”
The fact that Ms. Cardon had struggled with her own weight problem as well as coping with stress resonates with clients. They know she understands their dilemma. “When they come to me, they really want to change. I’m asking them to do hard work, but they are ready, and they want to feel better. Everyone can have a plan, a strategy. We look at how she should shop and plan meals, even when she is very busy. I offer nutritional tips and also some recipes.
“During the second week, someone might report that they made one healthy nutritional decision. Maybe they had an apple instead of a cookie. I notice that the clients almost always have an ‘aha’ moment. They begin to feel better, are getting their energy and power back, and are taking charge of their life.
“The challenge is for them to find time to focus on it. This is a journey, and they must make it a priority. It’s a matter of exercising the brain. This is a life-long practice.”
Also, advises Ms. Cardon, beware of the “loving saboteur”: those friends who urge you to have that second piece of chocolate cake, pecan pie, or other desirable second helping. This is a time to focus on what is best for you.
Changing one’s eating habits of long-standing is not easy, she acknowledges, but the benefits are so important to one’s overall health and well-being.
“This is a totally different approach of integrating cognition, healthy nutrition, attitudes toward food, de-stressing, and exercise. People will feel so much better. Also, when someone finishes the program, we have an on-going support group, offering on-going encouragement.
“I really enjoy feeling that I am helping people, and that they can benefit from what I learned from the struggle I have been through. I look forward to helping even more women, and making a positive difference in their lives.”
The CogniDiet Program can be reached at (609) 921-8980; or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hours are by appointment. A pilot program is currently underway, with the full program to begin in January.