Archive for the ‘Junk Food’ Category

Drink Diet Soda, Gain Weight??

In Diet and Weight, Food and Health, Junk Food on January 21, 2014 at 11:55 am

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


Kill your TV

In Junk Food on February 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Kill your TV t-shirt on doctorfoodtruth

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!

You are What You Eat

In Excercise, Family Doctor, Food and Health, Junk Food, Mindful Eating, Mindless Eating on November 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

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!


In Diet and Weight, Family Doctor, Food Diary, Food Truths, Food Lies, Junk Food, Mindful Eating, Self Image on January 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Scale on doctorfoodtruth

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!

Do Drink the Water

In Diet and Weight, Family Doctor, Junk Food on December 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

reflections in water glass on doctorfoodtruth

Something made me pause yesterday.  I filled a glass of water at the sink, something I’ve done who knows how many times.  A rare glimpse of winter sun made the water look like it was something special.

I realized how fortunate I am to be able to just turn the handle and get water anytime I want.  Billions of people don’t have such good fortune and taking it for granted is easy.

Of course, as soon as the moment of gratitude had passed, my mind went straight to nutrition as usual.

Several times a day I need to remind a patient that what they drink matters.  Choosing water instead of their favorite soda or flavored tea or sports drink or juice can save hundreds of dollars and thousands of calories a year.

The carbonation in soda pulls calcium out of bones and can cause kidney stones.  The sugar in juice (yes even the natural sugar!) causes cavities, weight gain and diabetes.  The sodium and sugar in sports drinks can help a marathon runner finish the race but is way overboard for what most of us do in a day.

How much less obesity and unhealthiness would we have if this miracle liquid from the faucet was our main drink?

Change Your Drink, Change Your Life!

Much Ado about Juice

In Diet and Weight, Food and Health, Junk Food on December 5, 2011 at 12:13 pm
apples on doctorfoodtruth

The apple juice scrum Dr. Oz started a few months ago came roaring back to life last week.  The original kerfuffle got the FDA to write emails, issue statements and even be interviewed by the Dr. Oz show according to his website.

Like most ‘crises’ this one faded quickly when some celebrity got arrested or engaged or whatever.  The debate got louder again last week when Consumer Reports published lead and arsenic levels in 10 national juice brands.  Dr. Oz may be a bit sensational but not many would accuse stodgy CR of exaggerating.

Buried in a then-unnoticed article from Consumer Reports, I found this little tidbit:

China now has become the world’s major exporter of apple juice concentrate, with America as its largest customer. Imports from China now account for two-thirds of the U.S. apple juice supply.

It turns out that China uses pesticides the US has long outlawed to grow their apples.  Seems like we just won’t learn: China has proven over and over that it isn’t a safe source for drugs (heparin), dog food (melamine), milk (also melamine) or even toys (lead).  Why would China be a good place to buy apple juice??

A different and probably louder demographic group is now lit up about apple juice, demanding government action to “protect our youth.”  Twitter (at least my little corner of it) has been buzzing about all this, stories flying around and looking more grim with each go-around.

I have an idea to bring a little sanity and safety to our grocery shopping.  Ready?


To quote this smart doctor I know (well, actually it’s just me…)

Yes, juice has vitamins – but so does the fruit! Yes, juice even has minerals and those antioxidants – but so does the fruit! Know what else juice has? Juice has more calories per ounce than Coke. Juice has more sugar than soda. Juice is easier to package and store and ship and sell than fruit. Juice is much sweeter than fruit so it’s easier to get kids to like it.

How do any of these things make juice good for you? They don’t – it’s not! Juice is good for the food and drink companies…. Let me repeat: Juice is not good for you!  Food Truths, Food Lies, pp. 33-4

Let’s skip the apple (and orange, grape, etc.) juice and eat the fruit instead.  Apple concentrate can make it across the ocean just fine, so our Big Food companies trying to make a buck will keep buying it wherever it’s cheap.

Apples?  Buy a bag and it likely came from no further away than Washington or Michigan.  In my town, I can buy apples most of the year that grew in my zip code.

Guess what?  That (American) apple is good for my digestion, waist line, world, and wallet.  Trading up from apple juice to an actual apple would be good for yours, too!

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!


In Family Doctor, Food and Health, Junk Food, Organic Food on October 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Broccoli on doctorfoodtruth

“If you have to squint to read the ingredients you probably shouldn’t eat it.”

No piece of brocoli or potato or head of lettuce was ever required to have an ingredients label.  It’s only once a factory gets involved that you have to beware of what you might be eating.

That a factory is involved in something you are planning to fuel your body with seems like a pretty bad idea.

So my rule, and the one I suggest to my patients, is that if you have to squint to read the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Humans cook.  We have for as long as we’ve been civilized, maybe longer.   Cooking and eating are some of the greatest joys of life.  I’m not raw or vegan but once you get beyond 4, 5, maybe 6 ingredients, you probably have something going wrong.

When you get “food” that has microscopic print and words you’ve never even heard of on the label, I promise you don’t want to put that into your system.  All those chemicals become part of you and stick around for who knows how long – don’t even go there.

Simple foods, whether you make them yourself or buy them from companies that don’t go crazy with additives, can make you feel much better, much healthier, and even help you stay away from me.

Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!

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!

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!

Food on a Bus

In Food and Health, Junk Food, Organic Food on August 29, 2011 at 11:52 am
Apple photo on doctorfoodtruth

I Tweeted about this last week but have been thinking about and discussing it since: Fresh Moves.  Know about it? Steve Casey, a big-hearted entrepreneur in Chicago, started Fresh Moves in 2006.

According to their website, Fresh Moves was founded in 2006 after Mr. Casey and Mr. Jeff Pinzino became aware that much of their city had been designated a ‘food desert.’  From their About page: “In the city of Chicago,… entire communities have severely limited access to fresh fruits and veggies, and therefore suffer from significant health issues related to poor diets.”

This realization was the start of something unique and powerful.  Today, their converted bus roves the streets of south side Chicago, offering organic produce to people who have literally no access to fresh vegetables and fruits.

I learned about Mr. Casey’s efforts from a blog I follow, healthbreaksloose.  A post from early August related a story of a 14-year-old boy tasting his first apple.

An apple!  At age 14… that breaks my heart.  I love apples and keep them at the office and at home for a quick, satisfying snack.  I’ve occasionally let them go bad from neglect and reluctantly thrown them away.  Hearing that a teenager less than 3 hours up the road from me had never even tasted an apple?  Gives a guy pause, you know?

What kind of economy have we made for ourselves when soda pop and McDonald’s are everywhere but eating a simple apple requires a hero in a bus to deliver?  Wow.  America, we have a problem.