Aren’t you glad summer is finally here? Warm weather, sunny days, long evenings to sip iced tea; what’s not to love? Another great thing about summer is all the fresh fruits and vegetables. In the winter, it can be expensive to feed a family with healthy choices. Many times frozen or canned is our only option, which is much better than nothing!
Archive for the ‘Food and Health’ Category
More great stuff from the Fooducate Blog:
Diet soft drinks have been around for decades. You would expect them to help people lose weight. But the world’s obesity epidemic is just getting worse. There are many factors that lead to weight gain, but could the consumption of diet drinks, which have far less calories than sugary beverages, actually be a negative factor?
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University reviewed the eating and drinking habits of 24,000 adults…
For the rest of this thought-provoking post, click here
Have you ever seen that on a bumper sticker? I love it and pass it on every chance I get. My version for my patients is “TV melts your brain.” I hope no one believes me (though I like making teenagers wonder) but I do think TV is a terrible health influence.
Holding down a couch isn’t the world’s best exercise, oddly enough. Worse, the food commercials we see actually work! Advertisers know this well. During the commercial fest that runs every February with occasional breaks for football, pizza companies know just how much more business to expect based on how many commercials they run.
Perhaps the worst effect TV has on our health choices is how distracting it is. Like most men, when the TV comes on, I tune out everything else. I love my wife, find her interesting and quite beautiful, and enjoy talking to her and looking at her. The crazy thing is that anything on TV can keep my attention off her no matter how hard I resist. We’ve learned to find seating without a view of the big screen at restaurants if she wants me to make eye contact.
To some degree, that’s how everybody is. TV is a great distraction. TV watching has been proven to cause us to snack even when we know we’re not hungry. How terrible for my waist is that!
My advice: limit TV watching to at most 2 hours daily and NO EATING on the couch — no exceptions. The chance of me eating beyond my needs and not even remembering it is too high. Just say no!
I come back into the exam room, keeping my best poker face, sit down and turn to face her. She’s on the edge of her seat, nervous and barely able to contain herself, maybe not even sure which answer she wants.
“Congratulations,” I say. She lets out her breath and smiles, huge.
Once the adrenaline settles down and she can hear me again, we start talking through the changes she can expect and the ones she needs to make. I give her a very short ‘safe’ list of over-the-counter medicine she can take if needed. She gets a prescription for pre-natal vitamins. I remind her to avoid all alcohol and really put the screws on for her to quit smoking.
“Yes.” “Ok,doc.” “Mmm-hmm.”
Then I hold my fingers up about half an inch apart. “This is how big your baby is right now. It’s brain, bones, muscles, everything have to grow and the only food your baby gets it what you eat. Do you want your baby to be made from McDonald’s and soda pop or from healthy food, organic vegetables and fruits? Now is the time to decide.”
The light that goes on, the Aha! moment I get to see is pretty cool, let me tell you. This is often one of the conversations that feels like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
What I’ve realized over the years is this is true for all of us, all the time. Every part of our bodies and brains is being constantly re-made, day by day. The trillions of cells that make me are not the same ones that made me even a few years ago. Some of our cells are not the same ones they were even yesterday!
Our bodies are constantly repairing and replacing cells by the billions and the only raw materials we have to work with is what we eat. So, you are what you eat. I am what I eat. Everybody is the peculiar mix of Big Macs, broccoli, Guinness, apples, Twix, Doritos, salmon, and whatever else they eat – and nothing else!
Just take that in for a moment. Think back to what you ate today or yesterday. Cocoa Puffs? It’s in there. Chardonnay? It’s there too. Fast food, snacks, sodas? Yes, yes, and yes.
One of the best ways I know to change your life is simply to become aware. Mindless eating, mindless couch-sitting, and mindless sleep-skipping are pretty popular ways to feel like absolute crap. Just being attentive to what I eat, what I drink, how active I am, and whether I get to bed early enough can help me actively choose to feel better. If I go around on auto-pilot, I’m likely to grab chips for a snack, conveniently forget to run, sit at the computer way too late and feel like I deserve.
Be aware of your choices – you are making the you of tomorrow. Choose Health!
Recently, the arsenic-in-my-apple-juice brouhaha heated back up. Not long after, the FDA put the hammer down on many of the companies selling hCG for weight loss. For a guy with food and weight on the brain like me, the connection is obvious.
As a society, we are consuming factory-made food and drink, getting way too big by doing it, then running to chemicals (yes, hCG and other homeopathy or ‘all-natural’ products are chemicals) for a quick fix. Look how well it’s working!
What I see every day are heavy, unhealthy, unhappy people desperate for an antidote. What I see less often is a heavy, unhealthy, unhappy person desperate enough for a change. Guess who ends up better off?
I tell patients over and over, day after day: “There is no quick fix. There is no magic pill. If anything really worked, would anybody still be fat?”
Overweight is about calories, folks. There is no way to dodge this issue. The FDA link above has a short, blunt video exposing the hCG diet plans for what they are.
Yes, people lose weight on them. No, hCG has nothing to do with it. Then why do they work?
500 calories a day!! That’s the diet plan they recommend! No surprise, when you eat like you live in a concentration camp, you lose weight. The problem is, cutting your calories to this point can cause serious problems with your body including passing out or having an irregular heart beat. Definitely not try-it-at-home stuff here.
Rather than looking for the quick easy fix that doesn’t exist, change is needed. Changing our food and drink to match what our bodies need for health is the only way to be healthy. My motto is absolutely true: Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!
Try it, you’ll see…
Reading labels is a must-do for anyone interested in eating healthier. Unfortunately, the labels are designed by food company pet lawyers (or so it seems) and can be a little hard to decipher. Food Truths, Food Lies has an extensive section on “learning your food” – the first few lines of this all-important section are reprinted here:
A big part of being a family doctor is paying attention to the little things. I do that pretty well. If you ask my wife she might tell you I pay a little too much attention to detail sometimes. When it comes to food, though, this is a good habit to get into.
Thirty years ago, we had no way of really knowing what we were putting into our bodies. More recently, the federal government has started paying attention to how heavy we are all getting and made rules about labeling food that are at least a step in the right direction. You may have seen this labeling, though you have to be looking for it to find it. The front of the package you see in the grocery is fair game for advertising and may say almost anything.
“Zero grams trans-fat” “Whole grains for your heart” “Now 30% leaner” “Lose weight and feel great”
You know what those labels say. The shelves are packed, there are little coupon dispensers and sale cards and bright lights everywhere, you’re tired and hungry and just want to get some groceries and get home to dinner. The last thing most people do is turn over the colorful, pretty package and look at the scientific stuff on the back.
Problem is, that’s what I plan to teach you to do. The way the laws are made, this is about the only part of the package that has to tell you the truth. Unfortunately even here the food companies have figured out ways to lie and mislead. We’ll talk about those ways a little later. For right now, the most important thing is remembering to turn the package over and look at the Nutrition Label.
The law that makes food companies do this also says what has to be shown and where. That at least makes our learning a little easier, since once you learn where to find the information on one package, you can be sure that the next package will have (almost) the same information .
Go to your cupboard or pantry and pick up some packaged grocery item. Fresh foods generally don’t have to list this, so a banana won’t tell you what you want to know, but the banana pudding next to it will. Some practice will make this label reading seem easier and easier until it’s second nature for you like it is for me. Now is when we have to start looking for the lies I talked about earlier, though.
Some law made the food companies tell you how many calories, carbohydrate and fat grams they used. What that law didn’t do was make them list the quality or the quantity of the ingredients they used. The simple test for the quality of ingredients used by a food company actually requires two steps.
Step one, do you recognize the words in the list of ingredients? If not, do you really want someone doing a chemistry experiment in your intestines? Step two is then deciding if you really want those ingredients to be what you are made of. Remember Truth Four: You are becoming what you eat.
There you have it, another taste of Food Truths, Food Lies!
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!
- 10 Nutrition Label Improvements the FDA MUST Implement (fooducate.com)
- FDA Creating New Nutrition Facts Label (huffingtonpost.com)
I just saw Lois yesterday. I have to admit, I was surprised to find her smiling when I walked in the room – coming to see me doesn’t usually put a smile on her face.
The fact the scale showed 40 pounds off in the last 4 months may have something to do with her smile. Her diabetes had really gotten out of control, needing over 150 units of insulin a day to keep her sugars from being sky-high.
Now? She’s cut her own dose back to 30 units and I told her to cut it back even more. I think she’ll be able to stop the insulin altogether soon!
When I started her on the insulin shots a couple of years ago I promised her she could fix this and come off it if she changed her habits. I can’t say I really had much hope she would, but wow has she proved me wrong.
She finally joined Weight Watchers (the only diet program I ever recommend since it’s the only one that is a forever life change and not just a quick fix.) Her daughter is doing it with her and has lost even more weight, probably preventing diabetes completely for herself.
It turns out that reading and re-reading my book is what spurred her to make the change.
She said, “When I read that thing it’s just like you’re sitting there beside me, telling me how it needs to be, nagging me to do better!”
“Perfect!” was my response. That is exactly what I want my book to be, an extra-long, face-to-face conversation with me about food choices and health.
For Lois, it looks like that “long conversation” is working – way to go!!
I recently read a debate between a Ph.D. nutritionist and a physician about whether a person can be fit and fat. This is an old argument that has lots of heat and emotion involved and not much logic or reason. These experts argue about whether an overweight athlete is healthy but never really agree on how athletic or active this imaginary person is or even what they mean by healthy.
In the end both agreed that being normal weight was a good idea and exercise is good for you. Amazing! The MD said what I’ve always said: show me this person and we’ll talk. After 15 years of examining thousands of patients a year, I don’t think I’ve met anyone in this category.
Debates aside, the fun links were at the bottom of this story. A stomach-filling diet drink, a rejected diet pill, and a petition by Public Citizen to ban two more. A lot to chew on, eh? (insert my wife’s dramatic groan here.)
Stomach-filling Diet Drink
The drink has a chemical called alginate that is liquid in a drink but changes to a gel once it hits stomach acid. Interesting idea though it doesn’t sound that safe, really. Intestines blocked with gel-sludge could keep surgeons way too busy.
Seriously, this may have a future, since much of the trouble with eating less is the hunger people dread. The recommendation I give is to eat apples and drink water to relieve the hunger pangs. The pectin in apples actually does this same thing, thickening in the stomach and providing a full feeling. My guess is the drink will cost a bit more than an apple.
Rejected Diet Pill
The diet pill Qnexa was getting some positive attention after news of the 10% weight loss people had in experiments. Now it’s getting more attention but of the bad kind. There were people with psychological problems and heart problems while taking the experimental drug. Not many doctors would be surprised by the news since those are the problems the ingredients can cause too!
There is an enormous market and demand for weight-loss drugs, which means the drug companies will keep working at it. The company that owns Qnexa says they will keep trying to convince the government of the drug’s safety. My hope is that the FDA will do their job and protect patients. Combining the ingredient in Adipex with a seizure drug and hoping its safe sounds like wishful thinking to me.
I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t prescribe Adipex. I get at least one request a week from someone desperate for some kind of help. I try to refuse gently and reasonably, but I still see the frustration and disappointment.
“Adipex isn’t safe,” I say. “It isn’t safe, it doesn’t work and I have to carry extra malpractice insurance just to prescribe it.”
That’s the best answer I could hope for — it means someone just listened! There is very little proof of phentermine (Adipex) working in the short-term and none at all that it works over the long-haul. If it works, most people lose 10-15 pounds over 3-6 months.
Once it is stopped, my experience is that everyone goes right back to their old eating habits and gains all that weight right back. Nothing really changed. If a person won’t change their attitude and approach to food, if they keep eating like an American, they should expect every fad diet and diet pill to fail, Adipex too.
The safety part of phentermine is my biggest problem with it. That whole “Do no harm” vow sure can slow a doctor down. There may not be much proof that it works but I think there’s plenty of proof that phentermine can cause mental problems and permanent heart damage. That’s why my first insurance company after graduation required me to pay for a policy rider if I prescribed medicine for diet and weight loss. They were so sure I would be sued for prescribing these medicines they wanted me to pay more ahead of time!
That’s actually when I started looking in-depth at these drugs and came to my decision not to prescribe them. The drugs in this family work by the same effect on the brain and all have the same risks to the brain and the heart. Two of the drugs have already been taken off the market: Fen-phen and Meridia. I think that phentermine should have been withdrawn too, but it is so old the FDA rules that apply to it are a little hazy about safety so it has stayed around.
Public Citizen wants them Banned
This ABC News article is about the other weight-loss drug type available, the fat-blockers Xenical and Alli. There have been complaints about both drugs in the public since they came out. Like the other diet pills, these don’t really work and don’t change the person, plus they offer the nifty side effect of “flatus with discharge” according to my epocrates app. For those not in the know, this is also called “oily anal discharge” or “anal incontinence.” However politely you say it, this is pretty gross.
The Public Citizen complaint to the FDA says they cause worse problems too, like pre-cancer in the colon and vitamin deficiency. Again, plenty of bad effects, underwhelming weight loss (10-15 pounds for all of them) and no permanent change in weight or health. Not a very good deal, especially when you consider how much these pills cost and that insurance won’t pay for them.
There is one other diet pill on the near horizon. Contrave is still working its way through the FDA, with a solid “Yes, maybe” from them in December 2010. Whatever they decide about this medicine (other than high blood pressure and seizures it seems pretty ‘safe’) it’s still good for only about 10 pounds. The company can sell it to us with a straight face, saying “If you take it for a year, you’ll probably lose 10 pounds.” Seriously?
Expensive, bad side effects, crummy results — how about learning some new habits and finding joy in feeling well and eating healthy? Come on, try it, you’ll like it!
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!
I want to get into food in a way I’ve never seen another author do it. I want to help teach people to know their food. I want choosing the right foods to be as natural as choosing the right outfit. If I had my way, this teaching would be done and learned by the time a kid was about a third grader. Everyone would know their food like they know their alphabet and multiplication tables.
Nutrition education, deeply known and acted on, would solve many of our problems with weight (and maybe bankrupt McDonald’s and a few other deserving companies along the way.)
Unfortunately, if you’re old enough to drive to the bookstore and browse this introduction, you’re probably past the point where it’s easy to learn new habits – what we often call “adulthood.” Now, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of good things about being an adult besides having a driver’s license and a credit card, and adults are absolutely capable of learning new habits.
It’s just not easy. It’s not. Simply put, adults learn facts much more easily than children but learn behaviors much less easily than when they were children. That makes a book like this so important. The facts need to be learn-able and the reasons to learn them plain and the motivation to change obvious.
I’ve talked to thousands of folks that want to lose weight and learned some things from them and about them along the way.
First, change only happens when someone wants to change. Whether it’s quitting cigarettes or Burger King or excess TV, “it’s a free country” as I remind my patients and myself every day. I have never and will never make someone lose weight and probably can’t even make them want to lose weight. The best I can do is coax, teach, encourage, inform, and support.
That’s the best this book can do too. If there is no “want to” in you right now, please look elsewhere for it. These pages will not make you do anything. What I hope I can do for you and with you is to open your eyes to habits, wrong information, and bad thinking about our bodies and the food we need to keep them in good working order….
From the Introduction of Food Truths, Food Lies. Order here from Amazon to read on!
One was almost angry, the other almost completely resigned. Two still-young women in my office in back-to-back appointments recently, both with one thought on their mind: “That scale can’t be right!”
Both are busy moms with teens at home, days filled with errands, work, worry and everyone’s needs but theirs. These ladies are why I (usually) love being a family doctor and get excited about helping people. These ladies are why I (sometimes) loathe being a family doctor and feel exhausted at the end of the day. See, frustration all around.
Both Sara and Tara (not their real names) are here to see me about their weight. These women aren’t asking me for a way to lose ten pounds either. Both are about 100 pounds away from being healthy and they know it… and they hate it.
Sara really just wants Adipex. Tara tried reading Food Truths, Food Lies but got discouraged by the challenge and quit. Sara tried an app to count calories and is sure she doesn’t eat more than 1,500 a day but still gains weight. Tara struggles with her normal-sized husband bringing home chips, cookies and other bad snacks even when she asks him not to.
See? Frustration. How do I help them? I’m not sure.
Sara hasn’t read my book yet, hasn’t yet found out all the ways her food habits are making her feel sick and gain weight. I don’t prescribe Adipex (ever!) for a whole bunch of reasons but I did agree to check her thyroid along with some other hormone and vitamin levels. I asked her to read my book — she really has a lot to learn about diet and nutrition. I’ll see her again in a few weeks, we’ll go over her lab tests and I’ll start trying to help her change 30+ years of eating habits that are making her sick.
Tara is easier to talk to but harder to help. I’m afraid she has given up on herself and is just calmly waiting for me to tell her she’s got diabetes, bad cholesterol, or whatever else will eventually go wrong. Which brings me to the real source of our frustration. I can’t make anybody want to change. I just can’t.
The good news is that Sara can absolutely lose weight and take control of her health without ever taking Adipex. Tara can absolutely find new hope and energy in little changes like eating a high-protein breakfast and skipping the orange juice and soda pop. All of us can always change, improve, and renovate our health with two little words: “I will.”
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!
- Health Buzz: U.S. News Ranks the Best Diets for 2012 (health.usnews.com)
- Why I Lost 50 Lbs. and Why I’m Never Looking Back.. (yourasswillfollow.wordpress.com)