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 ‘Mindful Eating’ Category
If it hasn’t come clear yet, I’m kind of into organic. If I am what I eat, I’d rather not be a pile of pesticides and petrochemicals, you know? This NYT op-ed piece addresses the main (only?) argument against organic, that it’s only for the wealthy. Critics say that to feed the world we need all those chemicals and feedlots. Here’s hoping they’re wrong, for all our sakes.
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!
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)
Do I date myself with the Guns N’ Roses reference?
I’m having a recurring theme come up in my conversations this week. Plenty of folks had lost weight last summer, maybe to quiet their nagging doctor? I’m starting to see them back for routine or urgent problems and I often notice the scale creeping back up.
I try to help people find the line between shrugging it off and beating themselves up over it, but that can be hard. What I want people to know are just a couple of simple things. I think these 3 thoughts should be kept in mind by anyone trying to change their diet or lose weight.
1) Realize the time it takes. We live in the fastest paced culture around. Drive-thrus, microwaves and the MinuteClinic make patience and perspective hard to remember. What I continually remind my patients is that the weight didn’t come on overnight so it can’t come off overnight either. Whenever you read an ad for a quick solution to health or weight, RUN! They’re either flat-out lying to you or peddling something harmful. Nature doesn’t do anything rapidly and trying to force your body into rapid weight loss will backfire, I promise.
Instead, be patient with yourself and your body. The little choices every day add up, so keep making good little choices and you’ll be amazed where you can end up!
2) Water first. I go over this topic in detail in Food Truths, Food Lies, but in a nutshell: Your body can’t tell thirst from hunger. So what does this mean? Drink water before eating anything, ever. A cold glass of water and 5 minutes may completely fix any craving you’re having. Even if it doesn’t, the water will help decrease the amount of food it takes to be satisfied. Drink up!
3) Think before you eat. This ties right into #2. Eating without thinking is probably America’s biggest “bigness” problem. Snacks and convenience foods are way too convenient. A recent study showed we eat an average of over 550 calories per day more than Americans did 40 years ago. Do the math: this is plenty to explain our weight problem. Think before it goes into your mouth and pare back those needless calories that won’t even be enjoyed. After all, how can it taste good if I eat without even realizing it?
Most of all, be kind and patient with yourself while making health changes. All you have to do is make healthy choices today. Keep it up and it will become a habit. Keep healthy habits and your body will thank you for it. I promise!
Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!
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)
1As always, what we eat makes us. Another study shows the long-term effects of our food choices. Here the choices made in high school make ripples years later.
I really am what I eat- and so are you!
If you want your child to avoid health risks later in life, it appears that eating a healthier diet early in life can have some beneficial effects, at least in young adult women.
Researchers studied 230 women aged 25 to 29 years old who had previously (nine years before) participated in the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC). The DISC was a randomized controlled clinical trial that limited total fat intake to 28% of daily calorie intake and increase fiber consumption by promoting a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Although few participants in the follow-up study met the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease, the participants who had undergone the earlier intervention had significantly lower systolic blood pressure readings and lower fasting plasma blood glucose levels compared to the control group (no earlier interventions).
The conclusion was that dietary intervention at an early…
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I’ve got a scraggly tree I planted a few years ago that desperately needs pruning. A house down the street has beautiful 30-year-old maples in the front yard that look like somebody took good care of them when they were young trees like mine. It’s an inspiration.
I think I can do this – I’ve never done it before, but I think I can do this and make it look good for the future. Of course, I don’t know that I’ll be in this house or even around to see my work thirty years from now, but building for the future is important.
I realize that a lot of what I do at the office is building for the future too. Someone’s cholesterol I try to help with nutritional counseling and a prescription isn’t going to affect this person today or tomorrow or next week. It’s going to have an impact 10, 20, even 50 years from now and it’s the future we’re working for together.
The weight that I’m helping someone else come to grips with, it’s not really affecting them too much right now. Maybe it slows them down a little, maybe it makes their knees hurt a little more than they should, but again it’s really the future we’re worrying about when a patient and I agree to work on health goals together.
That’s one of the things I most want to communicate to my patients too. This is about the future, their future. It’s about how their day-to-day life is going to be decades from now. The choices they make today are absolutely what’s going to decide how they feel, how they function, how they live, whether they live.
So I’ll keep pruning here, fertilizing there, maybe giving out a little butt-kickin’ here or there where it’s needed, knowing this is the future that I’m helping my patients build. It couldn’t be more important.
Eat Healthfully, Live Fully Healthy!
I’ve had many patients ask me about my weight and eating habits over the years. Many assume that I’ve never had to worry about my weight and am just naturally slim. The truth is that I have terrible genes related to weight and other health issues.
I have family members on both sides that weigh over 400 pounds. No one on either side of my family seems immune to struggle with weight and many have more struggle than success.
Personally, I have gained over 15 pounds in one month and know I could become overweight if I’m not careful. The month I gained so much weight was my first as an intern at the hospital. Anyone who has every watched ER or Scrubs has some idea how much we make our brand-new doctors work and I was no exception.
The hospital I worked at was very generous with our food allowance. There was no real limit on how much or how often I could hit the cafeteria. So, exhausted and stressed, that’s what I did! The omelet and waffle station was my favorite (this was before the whole gluten thing came up) and I paid as little attention to my diet as most 20-somethings.
By the end of my first month I had worked over 400 hours, eaten a bajillion calories and gained 15 pounds. I’m not a big scale-watcher, so the first hint of a problem was when I swapped the blue pajama scrubs for slacks to do my first office rotation. They didn’t fit!
Oh, I squeezed into them and made it through the day. Right then, I made a decision. I had fit that waist size since college and couldn’t afford new pants. So, no more waffle-and-omelet 3,000 calorie breakfasts. It took about three months but I lost those 15 pounds, fit my old pants again and latched onto my “weight alarm system.”
Ever since then, if I feel my pants start to tighten, I review my eating habits, find the problem and fix it before I have a “bigger” issue! That’s what I mean by not buying new pants. I firmly believe we all need to have something outside ourselves that will warn us if we head the wrong way. For me, my waistband works great. I encourage you to find your warning system and let it keep you healthy!
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!
Continuation of a two-part post translating money budgeting tips to healthy food choice/diet advice. The original article from The San Francisco Chronicle has 6 tips and #4, 5, and 6 are right here!
4) Increase your income rather than simply decreasing your spending. This was the one bit my ‘money man’ @PeteThePlanner objected to, since it can just send people back to the work-spend-work treadmill that is such a soul-killer. Ms. Mueller suggests taking on a part-time job to help ease the budget. Will the resulting overwork just make me feel even more deprived and deserving of the splurges and lifestyle that ruin a budget in the first place!
Interestingly, this is a piece of advice I am reluctant to teach in the food and diet realm too. Despite what Richard Simmons and Tony Little would tell you, I do not think exercise is the path to weight loss. I go into detail about this in my book, Food Truths, Food Lies, but in brief: It takes moments to eat or drink hundreds of calories and hours to burn them off.
The math is pretty simple and not knowing this leads to great frustration for millions. “Why isn’t the Ab-Roller making me skinny?!?” My painful but true answer: “Because it can’t.” Getting a part-time job to make ends meet is equal to planning to hit the treadmill to make up for a banana split. Who is really going to spend the 3 hours it takes to burn those 1,200 calories? And if I do put in that much sweat and effort, don’t I deserve a reward? More ice cream! Oops.
5) Spend money on maintenance. The SanFran article goes into the wisdom of keeping your stuff in good working order to prevent financially disastrous repair bills. You know, skipping the $30 oil change to “save money” then paying for the $2,000 engine overhaul. Not smart.
As a Family Physician, I believe this wholeheartedly. Fixing the diabetes or heart attack or cancer is so much harder than keeping our bodies healthy and whole in the first place. Avoiding obesity by being aware of food choices and calories is so much easier than struggling to lose those 50 deadly pounds. Please don’t neglect your amazing body! Doing that will always come back to haunt you.
6) Don’t panic about your non-existent savings account. In her last turn-it-all-on-it’s-head piece of advice, Ms. Mueller gives us permission to not panic about a lack of savings. Yes, it’s important, she says, but “If you take money away from paying off an interest-bearing debt in order to put it in a savings account, you’ll likely be losing money…” In other words, priorities matter. Some things are always more important than others. For her, paying off high-interest credit cards is numero uno.
For health, I think this means needing to accept where we are while working to change. If you have diabetes, please don’t stop your medicine so you can concentrate on weight loss. If my cholesterol is already dangerously high, quitting my medicine so I can use the money to buy organic at Whole Foods would be crazy.
Yes, health is always improvable. Yes, we should all want to be well. Yes, the effort is worth it. None of these truths mean I should stop doing the little things to pursue some grand health goal.
As a bonus tip, Mueller ends with the advice to stop being so secretive. She thinks using positive peer pressure is a great idea to help us stick to our budgets. If you’re going to make a change, tell someone you trust. Let them help you stick to it when it gets a little tough, as it certainly will.
For health and wellbeing, ditto. Join a group (Weight Watchers is great,) challenge a friend to join you, blog about it — make it known. We humans are social critters and having support is crucial in any worthwhile endeavor.
The last piece of advice that we always need? Get going!
Change Your Food, Change Your Life!