Affiliate Spotlight: Cynthia F. Smith-Dick, MS

Our Affiliate Spotlight series highlights the Lifestyle Transformation providers across the country.  Read on to learn more about Cynthia in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Hi my name is Cynthia. I received my Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Capella University.  As a therapist, I specialize in treating individuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, trauma, anger, low self-esteem, emotional distress and life stressors for teenagers. The therapy techniques that I have found to be most effective include mindfulness, solution-focused therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy focusing on restructuring thoughts.  In our therapy sessions, we promote behavioral transformation by encouraging a positive outlook and the adoption of new attitudes and feelings.  Our therapy sessions are safe, nonjudgmental environment to help you heal from past pains, get out of unhelpful coping patterns, and increase mental and emotional wellbeing.

Whether you’re going through anxiety and depression, a hard relationship, or trying to overcome an addiction - I have the tools and professional experience to help you get ahead.

My vision/my hope is to help you overcome the daily obstacles and challenges you are facing. We all go through storms in life and sometimes we need someone to help us get beyond those storms. The first step can be the most difficult, allow me to help you. I would like to empower you to reach your personal goals. My goal in treatment is to help you tap into your own strengths to reach those goals! My hope is to help people work through these trials so that they may thrive, not just survive.

I am excited to be a part of LifeStyle Transformation.  LifeStyle Transformation is a food addiction treatment program that offers life-changing transformation that meets your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  It will be an honor helping you with your journey to healing and wellness! With the challenges that we may encounter, life can seem overwhelming to manage effectively. There is hope for you and I can help you navigate your way through. My passion for providing a meaningful experience that will start with me listening to you, empathizing with your feelings and empowering you with effective tools to help you move forward.

Contact Cynthia to join the Las Vegas Lifestyle Transformation program.


Kids and Junk Food: 9 Ideas to promote healthy food choices with kids

Junk Food Monster and Little Girl

Studies show that this generation of kids will not outlive the life-expectancy of their parents[1]. With childhood obesity rates at 17%, one in six children are affected[2]. Before we jump in too quickly to put all the blame on their parents, let’s take a look at this short 1½ -minute video about fast food marketing targeting children.

Big Burger is Watching: Fast Food Marketing Undermines Parents

Like the mom in this video, parents can’t follow their child around and shield them from every bit of advertising thrown at them. But what can they do to minimize the effects of fast food marketing on their kids and promote healthy eating habits?

Little girl staring at fast food ad on tv

Here are 9 Simple Ideas to Promote Healthy Eating:

1.       Start your child early on fresh vegetables and fruits. This can be difficult with picky eaters but not impossible with consistency. One couple uses a “token” system wherein their young children receive a token for every vegetable eaten with amazing results! The tokens can be exchanged for a small item at a toy or dollar store. Some may call this bribery but I think it’s just creative parenting.

2.       Have healthy snacks in the house: Fruit smoothies, salsa and chips, veggies and dip, hummus and crackers, bananas and peanut butter, yogurt without processed sugar (add your own stevia or fruits). Post on Facebook to ask what others are doing and share your ideas and commitment to healthier foods for kids.

3.       Limit access to junk food: Keep unhealthy foods out of your home. If it isn’t there, the kids will eventually stop asking for it. Consider fast food and treats as a “sometimes” food and not a regular stop.

4.       Plan ahead. If you are going to be carpooling your little soccer players around, plan to have some healthy afterschool snacks available in the car. This will eliminate the excuse to stop for a quick order of fries to tide them over until dinner.

5.       Set an example. Every day in America 50,000,000 people eat fast food[3]. How is your fast food intake? If kids know you are eating out they may interpret this as “When I am grown up I am going to eat out whenever I want!” Probably not the message you want to give.

6.       Find a reward for good behavior that is not sugar. A trip to the library. A game with mom or dad. A sticker. No chores for a day. Pinterest has over 1000 ideas on how to reward kids[4].

7.       Comfort your child without using food. When comforting a child, talk to them in a loving, nurturing voice. This is how they will learn to self-soothe and regulate as future grownups rather than turning to food for comfort.

8.       Eat Dinner as a Family (and without electronics). Research shows children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, commit suicide, get pregnant or develop eating disorders. They also tend to have healthier eating habits. The amount of time children spend eating with their families is the single biggest predictor of academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. [5]

9.        Gear up for the complaints. You may get a push-back from the family at first but don’t give up. Change happens with consistency over time. Be positive, make it fun and they will thank you later (probably in their thirties).

While fast food marketing changes will take time, we as parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbors can all work together to promote better health in our children through providing alternatives to junk food, setting a good example and through legislation[6] As a grandmother, I am recommitting to healthier snacks when the littles ones are with me. Will you join me?






[5] Jayne A. Fulkerson, Ph.D.a, , , Mary Story, Ph.D.bAlison Mellin, Ph.D.bNancy Leffert, Ph.D.c,Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D.bSimone A. French, Ph.D.b Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors Journal of Adolescent Health, Volume 39, Issue 3, September 2006, Pages 337–345

Taveras, E. M., Rifas-shiman, S., Berkey, C. S., Rockett, H. R., Field, A. E., Frazier, A. L., . . . Gillman, M. W. (2005). Family dinner and adolescent overweight. Obesity Research, 13(5), 900-906.


The Automatic Nature of Food Addiction and What Can be Done to Help

She shared that while she was on her way to group she felt stressed and anxious; she had to tell the group that her relationship with food that week had been horrible. Her car seemed to automatically take her to the drive-thru of the nearest fast-food restaurant. Even though she had already eaten, she ordered food and said “we would like two orders of fries” so that the server would think she was ordering the large amount of food to share with someone else. After paying for the food, she pulled into a remote part of the parking lot to eat where no one would see her. She said she didn’t remember actually eating the food but remembers throwing out the wrappers, carefully removing any signs of her binge. Bloated and uncomfortable, the all-too-familiar collection of self-loathing comments began once again: “What’s the matter with you? You said you weren’t going to do this anymore! You’re pathetic. I don’t know why you even go to that group. You will never be anything but fat! You’re never going to get control of this.” As her thoughts grew louder, she reached into her purse for M&Ms to drown out the voice in her head.

The group nodded their heads in acknowledgment. They knew, all too well, the automatic nature of food addiction.

Trigger Food Hooked on Certain Foods

The addicted brain lives in impulsivity and compulsion. The person with a food addiction eats without conscious awareness of how much or even when they are eating. They reach for a cookie on the counter without knowing that they are doing it. They eat while watching TV and eat past satiety until the show is over, without realizing how much they have consumed. In treatment, one of the things we look for is the slowing of automaticity through comments like: “I was on my way to the pantry to get the potato chips and I said to myself ‘I shouldn’t be doing this, it’s not going to help me get what I want.’” Even though she may have eaten the chips anyway, the fact she was able to recognize what she was doing was new; her brain was starting to heal.

Brains chemical reaction to eating

But how does this automatic response happen? And what can be done about it?

Compulsive eating and certain highly-palatable foods release a neurotransmitter called dopamine into the prefrontal cortex. This “feel-good” brain chemical opens the pleasure pathways in the brain that help us to numb out from the stress of life. While dopamine is essential, when we are stressed it hijacks the brain and we feel compelled to pursue “the cookies” even though we committed not to or even though we know it would not be good for us.  Since willpower resides in the prefrontal cortex, when we flood it with dopamine the one thing we can NOT do is access willpower. Reaching for or seeking food when stressed has become automatic.

The addicted brain needs structure to decrease this automatic response and to heal from food addiction. In Lifestyle Transformation we have identified 8 categories of activities that, when performed, consistently aid in restoring the prefrontal cortex to its pre-addicted state and help the individual to live more intentionally. We call these categories the Cor-Conditions because of their positive effect on the dopamine-damaged prefrontal Cortex. With a healthier, better functioning brain, a person addicted to food can begin to access the will-power necessary to overcome food addiction.

People addicted to food can choose small, daily goals from the Cor-Conditions. They should be simple and attainable goals so that they do not become overwhelmed. An addicted person does not need to work within each of the categories every day but should strive to balance their participation with them throughout the week. We have seen optimal recovery when the addict completes 6-7 goals a day. Performing these daily goals consistently over time helps the brain heal from addiction and/or develop positive behaviors that increase intentional living. 

The following are suggestions for daily goals in the eight “Cor-Conditions”:

  • Purposeful Activity[1]: recovery reading, taking a walk, preparing a food plan for the day.
  • Mindfulness[2]: techniques like staying present and aware of food during the meal instead of watching TV.  Prayer, visualization, yoga and meditation are also very helpful.
  • A Healthy Relationship with Food: Working with a registered dietician to develop a healthy nutrition plan using a non-restrictive model[3] is very beneficial.
  • Connection[4]: Connection with others releases oxytocin, an important hormone that aids in recovery from addiction. Healthy relationships provide support.  Learning to reach out to others for support is an important recovery principle. 
  • Movement[5]: Exercise can help return dopamine to normal levels. Individuals with obesity can work with a physical therapist to develop a safe program for increased activity.
  • Service[6]: Long recognized in Twelve Steps as an important recovery principle, service has a positive effect on recovery from addiction.
  • Play[7]: Many who struggle with food addiction have lost their ability to play because of weight imposed restrictions or self-consciousness about their body.  Play and recreational activity is important for a well-balanced life.
  • Music[8]: Studies have shown listening to music has a positive effect on the brain
[1] Blum, K., Chen, A., Giordano, J, Borestn, M., Chen, T. Hauser, M., Simpatico, T.,Femino, J., Braverman, E., Brah, D., (2012). The Addictive Brain: All Roads Lead to Dopamine, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44 (2), 134–143.
[2] McGonigal, K. & Buczynski, R., (2015). The Neurobiology of willpower (it’s not what you expect). National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioral MedicineWebinar Session
[3] When working with a registered dietician, clients should request a non-restrictive approach as the addicted brain will register the restrictive nature of the diet as a compulsion. The Healthy at Any Size or Transtheoretical Model of Change are two dietetic models that work well alongside food addiction treatment.
[4] Wilkinson, L., Rowe, A., Bishop, R., Brunstrom, J., (2015). Attachment anxiety, disinhibited eating and body mass index in adulthood. International Journal of Obesity (2010) 34, 1442–1445
[5] Horn, S., (2015). Sweating it out. Exercise and addiction recovery.
[6] Pagano, M., Krentzman, A., Onder, C., Baryak, J., Murphy, J., Zywiak, W. & Stout, R., (2010). Service to others in sobriety (SOS). Alcohol Treat Q. 2010 April 1; 28(2): 111–127.
[7] Brown, S., & Vaughan, C. (2009). A Review of Play, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 43.2, 57-59.
[8] Blum, K., Chen, T., Chen, A., Madigan, M., Downs, W., Waite, R., Braverman, E., Kerner, M., Bowirrat, A., Giordano, J., Henshaw, H., Gold, M. (2010) Do dopaminergic gene polymorphisms affect mesolimbic reward activation of music listening response? Therapeutic impact on Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). Medical Hypotheses 74 (2010) 513-520.

What You Should Know about Choosing the Best Weight-loss Method

If you haven’t been successful in your weight-loss efforts, you are not alone.  Two-thirds of Americans are overweight.  Studies show that 95% of diets and weight loss programs fail. Recent neuroscience research has shown us that when someone overeats, their brain acts almost the same as someone addicted to gambling, sex, or the like. 

For many people, losing weight is not about willpower—it is about addiction. Diets do not treat addiction.  Diets treat “How you eat”, not “Why you eat”.  Again, diets do not treat food addiction.

Watch us on this special assignment segment “Choosing the Best Weight-loss Method

Thank you to ABC30 News for showcasing the recent trends in weight-loss efforts and the real effects of adding treatment for food addiction to these efforts. 



Is My Struggle with Food an Addiction?

Many of us have tried losing weight, repeatedly. Some have had weight-loss surgery, lost a significant amount of weight, and found it creeping on again. We may succeed in losing weight and even keeping it off for a time, but often, the weight returns, plus more. When we gain weight again, we beat ourselves up with critical self-talk like “If only I had more will power.”, “I just need to be self-disciplined”, “If I wasn’t so lazy.” or “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?”

Researchers have said 95% of diets fail. But why? For many who struggle with weight, it’s not about will power– it’s about addiction.

Addiction? Seriously? How can I be addicted to eating?

When we eat compulsively our brain produces dopamine. While dopamine is an important and helpful neurotransmitter in moderation, a flood of dopamine can cause a euphoric, mind-numbing effect. The next time we feel stressed, lonely, frustrated or bored, our brain says “Wait, I know what to do with that! Pass the cookies.”

Too much dopamine is addicting, and we can produce it all by ourselves. The brain on dopamine looks the same as the brain on compulsive gambling, pornography, shopping and even compulsive dieting. This is a called process addiction and it is an addiction to dopamine. If we begin to deal with difficult emotions, relationships and situations with food, we run the risk of developing a dopamine addiction.

Consider this definition: When we use certain foods or overeating to numb or alter the way we feel and cannot stop this pattern even at the threat of potential health issues – that’s addiction!

Diets do NOT treat addiction.

2/3 of Americans are overweight. With that brings a host of health-related issues like heart disease, GERD, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and diabetes. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Current research shows that one in ten adults in the U.S. currently has diabetes. The projection is that one-third of all adults in the United States will have diabetes by 2050. Additionally, 18% of our children are overweight with the projection that this will be the first generation of children who will not outlive the life-expectancy of their parents!

Something must be done to turn the tide of obesity in America and we can! But we must stop treating addiction with diets. Treat the addiction and then you can see success with a medically-sound weight-loss program!

Want to go to Hawaii? The high price of fast food


Do you want to go to Hawaii? Is there some other fun place you would like to visit? Do you think you can't afford it?

Maybe you can.

Let’s look at how much we are spending on fast food. One study reports that the average American spends $1200 a year on fast food. 70% of us eat at fast food establishments three times a week and seven percent eat out every day.[i]  Other studies show a correlation between the rise of obesity in the United States and the increase in the availability of fast food[ii].

Why do we choose fast food?

Consider that the majority of fast food options are processed foods. They are high in fat, sodium and sugar and are often called highly palatable foods (meaning we like them). These foods cause cravings that make us desire them. Have you ever craved a Big Mac or an order of fries? Sure, most of us have or do but do we crave vegetables? Not likely. We can easily get sucked into fast food but we have to make a conscious effort to train our brains and palate to want vegetables.

We pick up fast food when we drive home from work. We grab a taco for the kids (and ourselves) to hold them over until dinner as we carpool them from school to soccer practice. We order pizza on the weekend. We head out for lunch when we are working instead of packing a lunch. One study shows that Americans spend $936 annually just on lunch! [iii] More than one third of our kids eat fast food every day[iv]. It is an interesting correlation that one-third of our kids are also overweight[v].

Does this mean we should never eat out? Of course not. You can find some healthy options at some fast food establishments but realize that the portions and calorie count may be enough for 3 meals and not just one!

When I first became involved in working with individuals who are addicted to certain foods or to compulsive eating, my husband and I decided to decrease our eating out. We made a decision to dine out only once a month and decided that every time one of us suggested eating out we would take the amount of money we would have spent and put it in a jar marked “vacation”.

So we started our little experiment. It wasn’t long before we were both amazed at how often we had been eating out and learned how much we had actually been spending. At first it was hard. The highly-palatable foods produced in fast-food establishments nearly screamed our names but we kept at it. Soon, we felt excited as we watched the jar fill and our motivation increased. At the end of our 12-month experiment, we took the money we had saved and went together on a great and memorable road trip to Arizona where we visited friends and hiked our way around some beautiful sites in this country.

In 2014 Americans spent $198,000,000,000 on fast food. Count the zeros. Projections are that by 2020 that amount will be in excess of$232,000,000,000[vi]

Maybe our money could be better spent somewhere else…

… like Hawaii.

[i] 2016, How Much Money Do Americans Spend of Fast Food.

[ii] What are the statistics behind obesity and fast food consumption?

[iii]2013, Lunchtime: Americans Spend Nearly 1k Eating Out for Lunch.

[iv] Newsweek (2015). More than one-third of American kids eat fast food everyday.

[v] Overweight and Obesity Statistics

[vi] The Statistics Portal, Statistics and Facts about the Fast Food Industry,


Why Can't I Stick to a Diet?

As a therapist specializing in food-addiction treatment, I have heard the stories. She stayed home from her high school reunion too embarrassed to attend having gained weight after having a couple of kids. He feels mortified on a plane when he realizes his overweight frame takes up part of the seat next to him. She longs to play with her grandchildren but finds it too difficult to get up from the floor. He hates using a C-pap machine but he has sleep apnea and snores so loudly he keeps his wife awake at night. She has Type-2 diabetes and pushes out the images of people with missing limbs, blindness and fear of stroke from her mind. At 23 she sits at home on a Friday night believing that if she could lose weight someone might ask her out on date, might even love her.

Steps to Overcoming Food Addiction: Setting Your Bottom Lines

An important aspect in the recovery process for any individual is in establishing a bottom line; identifying the behaviors which you will no longer take part in. It’s a limit that you set for yourself for the best chance of maintaining your sobriety.

Food Addiction Versus Eating Addiction

While it is common to hear people call themselves ‘chocoholics’, or claim to be ‘addicted’ to one particular food, eating addiction is far different. An eating addict becomes addicted to the process of overeating rather than a specific food itself. 

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