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Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Dear Mr. President

In Family Doctor, Food and Health, Junk Food on September 29, 2011 at 11:48 am
Barack Obama on doctorfoodtruth

Yesterday, Marion Nestle (author of Food Politics) posted a link and a rallying cry.  She is an outspoken critic of our industrial food system who is nationally known and respected.  So when she calls a situation urgent, people take notice.

Her post was spurred by the possibility that some industry guidelines for how food is marketed to children will be weakened or abandoned.  Many of the largest food companies are reportedly irate, condemning the ‘rules’ as impossibly restrictive.  That the ‘rules’ are completely voluntary and were made by health and food experts from the CDC, USDA, and other agencies, seems to make no difference.  The fear that Captain Crunch may be outed as “NOT part of this nutritious breakfast” apparently strikes fear in the hearts of CEOs.

Her post includes a link to a form e-mailer allowing people to easily add their voices to the fray by sending messages to some of our politicians supporting the new food guidelines.  These voluntary guidelines are intended to stop the cartoon-junkfood link that fills Nickelodeon and every other kids TV station day after day.  As Ms. Nestle says, how angry the big food companies are getting is pretty good proof it’s a good plan.

Here is the reconstructed text of the email I wrote to President Obama, the First Lady, the head of Agriculture, and a few others involved in the debate.  Also, this is the link to do the same yourself, with the easy option of simply using the form letter provided.

Mr. President,

I am a family doctor who sees the damage caused by over-promoted, artificially enhanced food every day.  Many of my youngest patients are obese by kindergarten and pre-diabetic before middle school.  Their parents are sick, depressed, under-productive, and often headed for disability in their 30’s because of the same food issues.

No one considers it overbearing or ‘nanny state’ when children are denied vodka and cigarette packages come with strong warnings and heavy taxes. Why would we let the big food companies have abusive freedoms that Phillip Morris and other cigarette makers can only dream of?

Please resist any and all efforts to dilute the good first steps the Interagency Working Group has produced.  Consumers cannot keep pace with the complexity of food chemistry and the sophistry of food advertisements.  We need protection, and you are in a position to provide it.  Please do.

Sincerely, Dr. Eric Marcotte

If you care about the health of our children and want to see some positive changes made, click the link above and send your own message!

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Becoming Choosy

In Diet and Weight, Don't Eat White!, Excercise, Family Doctor, Food and Health, Mindful Eating on September 26, 2011 at 11:55 am
Shelled almonds on doctorfoodtruth

I believe in keeping things simple.  When I challenge a patient to change their health habits, I usually pick one thing for them to change and give them a simple, easy-to-measure goal.  Once we agree on the goal, we arrange to check on their progress in the next few weeks or months and shake hands on it.  Of course, sometimes they’re just not ready for a challenge and we agree to wait instead.

Once they see success and get a taste of how health habits directly affect how they feel, I usually encourage them to a little bigger goal.  Instead of bringing their cholesterol down 30 points or losing 5 pounds, we might aim for a bigger weight loss goal or a shift to mostly vegetables in the diet.

Again, my hope is always for an achievable goal that they believe in as much as I do.  As I remind them, I’m not going to be following them around to slap their hand or drive them to the gym.  It really is always up to the patient.

The final step, the advanced study program at my office, is learning how to markedly improve your health with proper food choice.  Learning that they can succeed is always the first step – so many people have just about given up goal-setting for their health by the time we talk.

Next comes making a substantial commitment to their health and future with a real lifestyle change: exercising regularly, avoiding beef and pork, maybe cutting the “white” out of their diet.  By the time a person has succeeded with this step in affecting their health, they come to truly believe my little mantra “Change your food, change your life!

The final, advanced step is becoming choosy about what becomes part of you.  My friend over at Small Bites, Andy Bellatti, reminded me of this with a couple of his great Tweets today:  Monounsaturated fats (avocado, olives, almonds, pecans, etc.) highly anti-inflammatory. Proof that whole foods is way to go!  &  High intakes of monounsaturated fats decrease cardiac and diabetes risk much more than low-fat approaches.

Here is what I think of as the last and still-evolving step in becoming healthy – becoming choosy with what powers your body.  Choosy to the point that I choose almonds over peanuts for a snack due to the Omega-3 content.  Choosy to the point of picking the higher calorie guacamole over salsa because I know how beneficial avocado is.  Choosy in the eggs I buy, the restaurants I frequent, and the fruit I eat.

This “everything matters” approach may be too much for some.  I don’t saddle my patients with everything I know about nutrition (which keeps growing daily thanks to friends like Andy!) but I do offer it to them.

The food choices I make absolutely make me.  There is no other way to look at it.

Your energy, sleep, mood, memory, digestion, and even personality are tied to your food picks.  Better be choosy!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

This is Your Brain on Bugspray…

In Food and Health, Organic Food on September 22, 2011 at 11:49 am
Official seal of the National Organic Program on doctorfoodtruth

Last week more proof came out that pesticides in our food are harmful.  After a Harvard study in 2010 found a link between pesticides and ADHD, all the researchers would say is “Wash your veggies.”  Really?

The new study was done by Canadian scientists about American children.  Once again, strong evidence comes up that kids who have higher pesticide levels in their blood are more likely to have ADHD.

This time, you can finally hear some experts come out on the side of organic food and start to take this seriously.  These chemicals work by paralyzing the nerves of bugs; it seems like they might be bad for our nerves and brains, too.

Unfortunately, the kids that are already at the highest risk to get ADHD because of other life issues (poverty, too much TV watching, too many video games have all been found to add to kids’ risk) are from the families least able to find or afford organic food.

In a recent post Food on a Bus, I celebrated an amazing project underway in Chicago to bring organic produce to poor neighborhoods.  Grass-roots efforts like this could be powerful to not only combat obesity but ADHD as well.

Big thoughts like this are exciting but for the here-and-now, deciding to choose organic at the grocery and asking for it at your neighborhood restaurant can make a difference too.  The power of choice can have a huge effect on big companies that really don’t care about any of this.  Asking General Mills to stop buying pesticide-laced grain for their cereal is a sure path to disappointment.

Letting General Mills play catch-up to small, ethical companies like Kashi is a much better possibility.  It could happen because you, me and our neighbors say “Enough!” and change our buying habits.  Start the change today and vote with your wallet!

Change Your Buying Habits, Change Your Life!

Rescued, part 2

In Diet and Weight, Don't Eat White!, Family Doctor, Food and Health on September 19, 2011 at 11:56 am
baked potato with butter on doctorfoodtruth

Last Monday I posted about feeling a little discouraged for my patients’ health.  The very next day, Rich (pseudonym) comes in for his regular visit and gives me a big boost. (see Rescued, part 1)

Today is the rest of Rich’s story (so far) and how he encouraged me without even knowing it.

When I give a ‘health prescription’, I try to keep it simple.  The first lesson for someone who just found out they have diabetes is one thing: Don’t Eat White.  The white carbohydrates and foods are (usually) filled with simple sugars that raise the blood sugar quickly then drop it just as quickly, making you hungry again.

To make this lesson stick for someone who is already overwhelmed, I actually say: “Be a food racist; Don’t eat white!”  Everybody gets a little startled to hear a word like this come from me so they listen better.

I go on: “White bread, white pasta,white flour, white rice, white potatoes, corn (white inside) and white sugar.   Of course, brown sugar is on the bad list too.”  Then: “Find the brown alternative instead: Whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes.”

From this simple start, I ease people into a different food world than they have lived in before.  Rich got this same lesson and took it to heart.

Over the first six months after being diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, Rich lost over 40 pounds, came off insulin and then all his diabetes medicines, and got enthusiastic about exercise.  By last week, almost 2 years into his life change, you’d hardly recognize him.

Before?  He was obese, tired, grumpy all the time, and borderline depressed.

Now?  He looks like a body builder with giant shoulders, constant energy and a little grin on his face.

He knows how far he has come and how much better he is.  We talked about his next health step, which I think should be working on more weight loss to try to get his blood pressure down without pills, too.

I don’t know if he’ll push on to that next level.   What I do know is that he has completely transformed his life, health, and body.  Knowing I had a hand in putting him on the right path is pretty satisfying, let me tell you.

For Rich, back to daily choices about his life that will decide how he feels, how well he stays, even how long he’ll live.

For me, back to helping change my little town, one person at a time.  Thanks to Rich, I’ll be doing it with a fresh reminder of why I keep at it and what’s possible.

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

Rescued, part 1

In Diet and Weight, Don't Eat White!, Family Doctor on September 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm
Needle on doctorfoodtruth

Just as my “meta-diet” was fading, patients to the rescue!

Not two days after my last post where I was Debbie Downer about discouragement in my clinic, I saw Rich (pseudonym) for his routine follow-up and got the boost I needed to get back on my meta-diet!

Rich is one of the quietest guys you could meet and admits to never being a fan of going to the doctor.  When he first came in to see me a couple of years ago, I could tell it was only desperation and his wife’s push that got him through my door.  Once we talked, I knew he was in some trouble despite being young and having an active job.  Rich was at least 100 pounds overweight and had the classic symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes.  He couldn’t drink enough, eat enough, or pee enough and seemed to be exhausted just trying.

Sure enough, his blood sugar was way over 300 that day in the office.  We had the first of several hard talks about how his life was going to go.

“Rich, you’re a young guy.  I hate to see you this sick and tired but if something doesn’t change, I can promise you it will only get worse.  Either you are going to take this diabetes thing by the horns and beat it or it will follow you around the rest of your life making you miserable.  Your choice.”

I try to tailor my approach to the patient.  I’m not always this blunt but I am always this honest.  This time, it worked.  Something must have clicked for Rich.

We talked through the “Don’t Eat White” diet I always teach as the first step for newly diagnosed diabetics.  I gave him a sugar meter and started a medicine strong enough to deal with his severe diabetes.  I also told him very bluntly that he could fix this if he lost weight and started exercising.

Wow, did he listen.  Rich may not be a big talker but he heard me that day.  When I saw him back a few weeks later for a sugar check, he had already dropped 10 pounds and his sugar was routinely staying under 150.

…Check back Monday at noon for part 2!

Ebb and Flow

In Diet and Weight, Family Doctor, Food and Health on September 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm
vegetables on doctorfoodtruth

I’ve come to realize that watching for dietary success is a lot like pursuing it.  Some weeks I see multiple success stories come into my office.  I get a great feeling seeing people empowered to take back their health.  Knowing that I’ve had a hand in helping someone turn their life around is a great feeling, let me tell you.

Other weeks are a little more barren.  Setbacks happen in our health and setbacks happen in health-watching, too.  Last week was one of those less encouraging weeks for me.  I noticed myself feeling a little down, being a little less likely to cheer someone on to trying to make a change in their life, even doubting whether my efforts were worth it.

Then I realized that my “meta-diet” (made up of multiple people’s diets – you just saw a new term be born!) is going to have ups and downs just like anyone trying to change their health habits should expect.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Changing your life is not easy.  I believe it is simple for most people but easy does not equal simple, particularly in things involving people and our complex minds.

So, this post is written as much to encourage myself as anyone else.  Success comes in waves, setbacks will happen.  None of these setbacks needs to be permanent but unless my motivation gets a kickstart from somewhere, I may let my efforts slide and stop seeing “meta-diet” success.

Just the same, if you let your effort slip away, if motivation and desire to change ebbs and doesn’t get a boost, your looked-for life changes may not happen.  Let’s push back!  No giving up now!  Keep up the effort, the goal is ABSOLUTELY worth it.  Regaining health, restoring stamina, and increasing energy are their own reward — keep trying!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

Kudos to SBux

In Gluten-free, Junk Food, Mindful Eating, Organic Food on September 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Those that know me know I love my coffee, particularly Starbucks’ bold blends (except Gold Coast – lame.) What I haven’t loved about Starbucks is their food. I even lambaste them in Food Truths, Food Lies for empty calories in their cappuccino drinks and huge bakery portions.

Like a few other unusually responsible big companies, Starbucks has recently begun to display nutrition info and offer lower calorie (usually just much smaller) treats. Unfortunately, most of what they sell is just optional calories, the ones people never remember when they are mystified by their weight gain.

Last week I had a crazy day scheduled with a practical guarantee of no time to grab lunch, so I looked through the cold case at my favorite Starbucks (yeah, Noblesville West!) Eating fast and gluten-free can be a little daunting and I often resort to handfuls of nuts.

So I was happy to find the ‘protein’ box with only one bakery item and picked one up for later. Sure enough, my prediction about the day came true but I didn’t starve thanks to my Starbucks box. Simple contents, a readable ingredients list, and a ‘keep refrigerated’ label were all good signs of real food and I wasn’t disappointed.

Half of a very crisp sweet red apple, about an ounce of red seedless grapes, a boiled egg, an ounce of (? Swiss) bland white cheese, a packet of peanut butter with honey and the baked whatsit made a total of 380 calories. Other than the complete absence of anything green, a well-rounded lunch. Thankfully, it was also pretty satisfying.

I can only guess what it might cost Starbucks in food wastage to have a preservative-free boxed lunch with a 3-4 day cold case life. That they made the hard choice and placed it anyway is impressive. Make the contents organic and the egg free-range and I’ll truly be overwhelmed, Mr. Schultz! (Starbucks CEO, not Snoopy creator.)

All in all, an excellent fast food replacement. Kudos, SBux!

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!

Some Good Pub

In Family Doctor, Food and Health, Food Truths, Food Lies on September 2, 2011 at 12:28 pm
Picture of a coca cola collection on doctorfoodtruth

While not all publicity is good publicity (in my opinion at least), I’ve been fortunate enough to get some good pub for my book (see sidebar) here lately.  The most recent is from our local hospital, Riverview.  I was interviewed recently by Jennifer Atkinson who made my ramblings sound good 🙂

Here it is, sans pictures.  For the original, you’ll need an iPhone or iPad and go to mobile.riverview.org

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy

(re-published from hospital quarterly, Riverviews)

Eat healthfully, live fully healthy is the mantra of Riverview physician, Dr. Eric Marcotte.  While most of us know that choosing the right foods are important for good health and weight-loss we still continue to struggle with these choices.

As more people struggled with the health and weight-loss battle, he found it important to spread the knowledge he had collected that had helped his patients succeed.

“I was inspired to write the book Food Truths, Food Lies by my patients,” explained Dr. Marcotte. “Years of watching people struggle with their weight and health led to my research. I looked at why Americans are overweight and what could be done about it. What I found is terrible: the average American eats almost 600 more calories every day now than we did 40 years ago. Combine this with less activity caused by television and computer time and you have our country’s current obesity epidemic.”

His research also found that two out of three adults are at least 30 pounds overweight while one in three adult Americans is at least 60 pounds overweight. “We eat so many more [calories] because our food has changed but we have not. Fast food was a treat, a novelty 40 years ago and now it’s a normal part of most people’s lives. Soda pop was served at a fountain or in tiny 8-ounce glass bottles then and now we have self-serve, free refills, and machines filled with 20-ounce bottles.”

What is the most important key to changing the way we eat? Dr. Marcotte says it is to think before you eat. “Once people start to realize what they eat and think about whether this or that is a good choice, then change can happen,” explains Dr. Marcotte. “If I know deep down that the food I put in my mouth actually becomes part of me by tomorrow and stays for years, I’ll start thinking about my food and choose to make a change for health.”

Being aware of what is added to the food we eat is vital to our health. Keep in mind, you have to eat better to feel better. Even if that means spending a bit more on organics or purchasing less processed food; the benefits that you reap will be exponential in the end.