Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Holy $#!+

In Food Diary on May 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm
Excedrin Migraine for doctorfoodtruth

Too many pills, sometimes still not enough

You’ve probably figured out that I’m fixated on food and healthy choices by now.  Today I need to rant on something not as diet and weight-related as usual but very dear to my heart, nonetheless.

I just uncovered a list on Fooducate (great site and app, by the way) that has me seething.  I am a migraineur since age 9.  You know, someone who suffers from migraines.  Funny that the word kind of looks like connoisseur  – guess I’m a connoisseur of headaches, huh?

Anyway, this list is of all the alternate names for MSG.  MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a common trigger for migraines.  It is also a fake food additive used to make bad food taste better and people to eat more.  I’ve got multiple reasons not to be a fan of MSG and try VERY hard to steer clear of it.  The best reason for me is how horrible I feel during one of my many-day-long migraine episodes.

If you don’t get migraines, be grateful.  Let me tell you, they suck – bad.  Mine can make me smell horrible things that aren’t there, stumble over everyday words, have trouble remembering simple things and generally feel like @$$.

So imagine my anger when I come across this list of alternate names for MSG.  I read every label at the store and carefully choose the restaurants I patronize for several reasons.  Organic?  Great.  Gluten-free?  A must for my family with my wife’s severe allergy and my pretty severe intolerance.  Humanely raised?  Nothing else will do for Dr. Mary the Veterinarian aka my wife.  It has MSG you say?  Not in my grocery cart!

This list shows DOZENS of other names for MSG.  Dozens!  I’ve never seen anything like this, never knew that so many of these, unpronounceable chemical names in the ingredient list were really just another name for a chemical that gives me migraines and makes bad food taste artificially better than it is.  AHHH!!!!


Here’s the Beef

In factory farms, Food and Health, Organic Food on May 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm
Grazing at Sunset, doctorfoodtruth

This is not where Big Mac cows live

Cookout Weekend in the USA is here.  Memorial Day weekend always feels like the start of summer.  The public pools open this weekend here in Indiana, the Indy 500 runs on Sunday (100th time this year!) and men everywhere regress to caveman days and scorch meat over open flames.

I’ve found plenty of posts with great grilling ideas and recipes and even some tips on food safety.  I thought about writing on cholesterol and the carcinogens open-fire cooking causes in meat.  Then Dr. Mary kindly pointed out the hypocrisy, since I’ll be grunting and sweating over the open flames too.

Instead I want to talk about grilling and meat from the animal’s side.  Now don’t get me wrong, try as I might I’m no Vegan.  I have cut my meat consumption a lot, trying to stay off the cholesterol medications most of the rest of my family needs.  As an amateur tree-hugger, I know all too well about the environmental impact caused by the huge numbers of meat animals it takes to satisfy the American “meat tooth.”

Growing up on my family’s 70-acre ‘hobby farm,’ I learned first hand about animal husbandry and slaughter.  We would raise calves from bottle-feeding to open-range grazing and then finishing with our organic hay and grain.  We named them all and cared for them for years until they were ready for market.  We usually shed tears as they were individually loaded into our panel-truck and taken to the slaughterhouse 3 miles away.  One would come back to us as a side of beef to reload the freezer and the others would fetch top dollar as organic, grass-fed beef.

What a difference for the cow and for the human eating the meat compared to today’s Intensive Animal Operation aka factory farms.  The cows that end up as cheap commodity beef live their entire lives without walking in or eating grass.  From feeder calves to feed lots, the goal is to make them grow as fast as possible while burning off as few calories as possible and sell them at the highest profit possible.

These animals are kept in terrible conditions, wading in cow dung, eating corn meal laced with antibiotics and growth hormones.  Once slaughtered, the carcass is processed in a literal factory, often by mistreated illegal immigrants in unsafe working conditions.

The good news?  This is what makes McDonald’s and other chain restaurants cheap.  The bad news?  Eating this meat adds antibiotics and growth hormones to my plate.  Having it this cheap makes it likely I’ll eat it more often, getting fatter and unhealthier in the process.  Buying this meat rewards the huge companies that sell it, making sure they keep mistreating the animals, workers, and environment in a race for profit.

How can it be different, you ask?  Simple.  Make meat a luxury in your diet, not a staple.  This allows you to afford the ‘free-range, grass-fed’ variety.  Give your business to places that hold their food suppliers to high standards.  Stay away from restaurants that sell the cheap stuff.

It’s only cheap to me, not the overfed cows or the overworked meat processing workers.

It’s only cheap to me, not the neighbors of the feedlots – ever smell one?  Let me tell you, it’s ‘nose pollution.’

It’s only cheap to me, not the surrounding environment that has to cope with incredible amounts of waste.

So when I fire up the grill, I’m going to make sure the beef or chicken or pork I grill was raised humanely, fed the diet Nature intended, and slaughtered and handled safely.  You should try it too – it’s better for all of us!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

But I Don’t Eat that Much!

In Diet and Weight, Mindful Eating on May 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm
doctorfoodtruth illustration of portion size growth

portion size growth over the years

I wrote Food Truths, Food Lies after spending years trying to help my patients sort through their food and weight issues. There is plenty of research showing how bad we all are at estimating how many calories we eat. We can be off by hundreds of calories when quizzed about portion size! This universal ‘bad guessing’ is one of the biggest reasons Americans are so big.

As food portions have grown over the years, our ability to accurately judge calorie content hasn’t. I recently came across another study that looks at this issue from a little different angle.

This 2006 study is by my favorite ‘Food Psychologist’  Brian Wansink. He and his co-author used different size meals to figure out if the “who” or “what size” was more important in judging calorie counts.

It would be easy (and wrong, according to Dr. Wansink) to imagine that overweight or obese people are worse at judging how many calories are in their food. This understanding had been used to explain obesity in the past.

What Dr. Wansink found was that it is actually the size of the meal, not who was going to eat it that caused the mistake in guessing calories. Normal weight and obese people could both get it nearly right when the portion size was small. The surprising part of his results was that both normal weight people and obese people got further and further away from being accurate as the portion size got larger.

I think this makes it clear that portion ‘up-sizing’ is very much part of the problem. Choosing larger portions misleads the eater into thinking they are eating less than they really are.  If I say, “But I don’t eat that much!” to defend my weight or eating habits, I’ll always be wrong.

‘Value-sized’ portions may be one of the most important reasons why.  The ‘value’ we imagine we’re getting from these larger sizes is not about saving money. No one can eat enough at one meal to not be hungry the next day.

I fear that the only ‘value’ to be had in these jumbo portions is about our ‘value’ to some big company. How many more diet programs we’ll buy, how many more diabetes pills we’ll need, how much sooner we’ll need open heart surgery. Not the kind of ‘value’ I want to be shopping for!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

Healthy? KIND of…

In Food and Health, Gluten-free, Junk Food on May 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm
doctorfoodtruth picture of KIND bars

my KIND bar stash

For the last 2 years I’ve been on the lookout for good-tasting, convenient and healthful gluten-free snacks and dishes.  As you might guess, this is a mission prone to frustration.  I often have to settle for a Meatloaf-type solution: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

When I found KIND bars at Starbucks, I thought I had struck gold.  Gluten-free, ‘earth friendly’, made from fruit and nuts, convenient – what’s not to love?  By now I’ve got my favorite flavor – KIND Cranberry Almond – on Amazon quick order, since they’re quite a bit cheaper in bulk.  I’ve tried all the varieties my local Starbucks and Whole Foods stocks and settled on a couple standbys to keep in my desk for my brown-bag days.

So I was excited to see a new flavor a few days ago while browsing the gluten-free section at Whole Foods and bought a half-box in my fervor.  “Wow, these are great!  I should’ve bought the whole box,” I thought after my first bite.  Then my reflex label-reading kicked in (3 days too late!) and I reconsidered my “wow.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of sugar!”  14 grams of a total 40 gram bar?  Excessive.

“Wow, when did they start using all these chemicals?”  Soy Lecithin and Palm Kernel Oil aren’t exactly good for you.

Fooducate (great iPhone app) gives it a ‘B-‘ grade because of the sugar content though it didn’t object to the saturated fat content from the Palm oil like I do.

I guess it is a little too much to hope that every product a company brings out is as healthy as their others.  No more brand following for me – back to strict label reading.  “Let the buyer beware” holds true, every time.

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

Change of Plans

In Food and Health, Mindful Eating on May 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I had planned a snack-food rant for today, but I got so excited this morning (see @doctorfoodtruth feed) for a patient I had to tell his story first.

Tim and I first met a few months ago.  He had had some health concerns over the past few years and we started working through his list right away.  From our first visit I tried to gently reinforce making better choices.  He was open about his struggles to live healthfully and I could tell right away that his choices were contributing to his health problems rather than improving them.

Once we had done some simple testing I was able to give him details of how his health had been affected. Parts of the picture were a little worrisome for his future, to be honest.  Through our next few conversations, I could see something click for him, a decision made to take charge of his health.

He came in early today and gave me a great surprise to start my day.  “Twenty pounds??” I said.  I could hardly believe it.  He had been frustrated over his lack of progress 2 months ago and now he had just dropped this much weight this fast?  Wow.

“So, what are you doing?”  I asked, trying to be nonchalant.  Sometimes I see folks go on crazy crash diets or diet pills that can do real harm to their systems, so when I see a big weight change like this I like to find out why.

“I just stopped getting seconds and cut out the sugary snacks and desserts.  Nothing else really.”

Then my face lit up.  I knew he had gotten it!  He believes deep down that he is in charge of his food, his weight, and his health.

Sure enough, his lab tests confirmed how much healthier his organs have become in just a couple of months.  He has added years of health to his life and feels better every day.  Way to go, Tim!

The good news: you can change too.

Change your food, change your life!

You Were Right

In Diet and Weight, Food and Health, Mindful Eating on May 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Like most men, I love hearing those words.  Even if this didn’t come from Dr. Mary, it still felt good.  Particularly since I heard it from a very smart nurse who is also the nutritional gatekeeper for the rest of her family.

Kate is always a delight to be around, funny and open.  Like many of us, she has also struggled with food and weight for a while now.  I know she has lots of ‘book knowledge’ about health and diet and nutrition but our conversations over the past few years have shown me how little of that knowledge she applied to herself.

Today she told me that she had given her best friend and her husband copies of my book but never read it herself until very recently.  As expected, she knew everything she read – it isn’t rocket science.  The “You were right” part came as she quoted her favorite part of the book.  “Every calorie counts – you were right!”

And just like that, she sees her food and choices differently.  The weight has started to come off and even better, she knows why it came off and that it can continue.  The look in her eyes was pretty awesome, let me tell you.  A person that finally feels empowered for her health and wellness and weight gets a look of fierceness about them.   After years of struggling and losing, she knows she can win!

Go Kate!!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

Lies, Lies, Lies

In Food and Health on May 21, 2011 at 12:17 am
doctorfoodtruth picture of disgusting fast food sandwich

Clogged arteries, anyone?

You are being lied to. It happens every day, all day long. The lies come so fast and thick and have been flying for so long that they don’t seem like lies anymore. We sure don’t call them lies. We have lots of nicer names for this stuff, like advertising or menus or magazines….
Why companies or media or anyone else lies about food and nutrition is just my opinion. That they are lying is easy to prove with some simple detective work….
The lies come in many forms, like a full-of-sugar kids cereal claiming to be healthy or the ‘extra-value’ sized portions at many restaurants. The lies are so common that I think you are safe to assume that every food package, advertisement, or menu is lying to you. From what I can see, at least 99% of them are and I’ll just personally apologize to the two or three ethical companies out there when I find them. The rest? Liars….
Follow the money and you’ll have a general idea why we’re being lied to. It works, that’s why. These lies sell more food to more people than corporate honesty and openness would, so, surprise, here come the lies.
I think that if the average shopper knew, really knew what he or she was buying and actually eating, we would be a much thinner and healthier nation and the food companies would offer much leaner, healthier foods. Unfortunately, nearly every shopper at your local store is clueless about the calories in their food and just wants what tastes good or is convenient or has a pretty package in the amount that makes them feel good and full. So, this is exactly what the food companies put on the shelves.
The result of shopper ignorance and corporate greed? Millions of overweight, unhealthy, tired, and frustrated people….
If you and me and every other shopper knew that “Trans-fat FREE!” is hogwash and that portraying juice as healthy should make an advertiser’s nose grow, these lies would disappear and we would have healthier, reasonably portioned and more honestly labeled food to buy at the store or restaurant. (Food Truths, Food Lies, pp10-12)

The truth will set you free!

Food Truths

In Diet and Weight, Excercise, Food and Health, Mindful Eating on May 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Food Truth Food Lies book by doctorfoodtruth

Food Truths, Food Lies

I wrote my book to call out some Food Lies but realized I needed to start with the Truths first. I’ll come back to topics from Food Truths, Food Lies often in this blog, but I want to introduce you to the Truths today.

These are my summary of years of medical training and reading some of the top diet experts in the world.  Like anything that is greatly simplified I lose some precision in order to make it short and sweet, but I think these Truths are ones we should all learn and live by.

Truth One: Every calorie counts.

Truth Two: I can’t exercise my way to weight loss.

Truth Three: My metabolism isn’t to blame.

Truth Four: I am what I eat.

The Truths must be the basis for any serious diet change or weight loss attempt. They can be worded differently but not avoided. Anyone who tries to dodge the Truths or find a loophole to avoid them will likely end up frustrated.

Instead, if we grab hold of these simple rules to eat and live by, our diets, weights, waists, and lives can be transformed.  I have seen families changed, health restored, energy enjoyed again, and diseases conquered by the simple power you have here.  Use it!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

Bar the Gate!

In Diet and Weight, Junk Food, Mindful Eating on May 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm
Drawbridge at Doornenburg Castle

Drawbridge at Doornenburg Castle

She surveyed the battlefield. Weary from day-long work, she knew that this fight was essential. Only she could protect her castle from the horde. Only she could defend her domain from the onslaught.
It was … suppertime.

Kurt Lewin came up with the phrase ‘Nutritional Gatekeeper‘ in 1943.  He used the term to describe the person in a household that made the food and mealtime decisions of what to buy, prepare, and eat.
As my (hopefully not too sexist) heroine demonstrates, most of the Nutritional Gatekeepers in our society are women. This is truly a position of power – these people shape our health in very profound ways.

The Gatekeeper decides what is bought, what is cooked, what is eaten, what is saved, and what is thrown away. The health of the whole family hinges on the Gatekeeper’s decisions.  As a doctor, even before I knew the term I knew how important this person’s role is.

If the Gatekeeper chooses healthy meals, the whole family is likely to be healthy and lean. If the Gatekeeper does not make healthy choices, often there is someone in the family with health issues related to obesity.
I knew if I could convince the Gatekeeper to change her/his outlook and goals, the whole family could be transformed.

Well child visits are one of the times this comes up in my office. Many scientists have shown that overweight kids are much more likely to become obese adults. In other words, kids who are too high on the growth curve are very likely to end up at an unhealthy weight when they grow up.

Even though it’s hard, I talk to parents about this from the first time it is a problem, sometimes before the child can talk. I remind them of how important fresh veggies and fruits are and I make sure they know how much I hate juice for kids.

Chocolate milk? Stop it. After-school snacks? Choose low-calorie ones like apples. No more bottle in the crib (which also causes ear infections!)  No more bottle after 18 months old.

Once the child’s weight and food habits are safe to talk about I approach the topic for the rest of the family. Remember: if the menu changes, everyone wins.

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!™

Three Cheers for Coffee!

In Diet and Weight, Mindful Eating on May 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm
French Press coffee

French Press and coffee

Ah, coffee.  No matter what my stress level, the thought of French press Sumatra can bring a smile to my face.  Fragrant, full of flavor and my stimulant of choice, caffeine, coffee has been in the news quite a bit lately.

Coffee has long been linked to lowering your chances of getting colon cancer and protecting your liver; now it is being praised as an anti-oxidant, a brain-power boost and may even protect against brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Wait, wait.  Before you run back to Starbuck’s for a second round today, hear me out.  It is actually the coffee that’s good for you, not the other stuff that gets mixed in.  I get my beat-up old mug refilled with the bold brew of the day, black, most mornings after I leave the hospital.  The people in line before me?  Well, I’ve heard “Seven pump Venti Carmel Macchiato with extra whip” and “Triple Shot, no whip, Grande vanilla Latte” and plenty of other combos.  What I haven’t heard is the Baristas giving their totals in calories, though I think they should.

“That’ll be 420 calories for the Macchiato and 260 for the Latte please.”  Think that would get the attention of my fellow Starbucksians?  My order has zero calories and the Macchiato drinker just used 1/3 of her daily calories on a drink that she probably thinks had none at all.

Add in the healthy-sounding 8-Grain Roll or Apple Bran Muffin and there’s another 350 calories gone.  Here is one of the places hidden, uncounted calories can jump up and bite us, and the only solution is to count it and be mindful of what we order, eat, and drink.

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!