The Las Vegas Shooting. A Tragedy That Frustrates Me On A Different Level

 

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Anger, sadness, and frustration are all understandable responses to the shootings that occurred in Las Vegas, NV last night. My heartfelt sympathies do go out to all of the family and friends effected by those lost or wounded as a result of this latest tragedy.

It did not take long for my facebook feed to fill up with messages of prayer and sorrow for the victims. The warmth and coming together that social media enables sometimes gets lost in the criticism of the form. And it is worth mentioning and encouraging.

However, not too many beats after the authentic sympathies were expressed, the usual gun control/ 2nd amendment disagreements ensued.

And while I understand it and I sympathize with it, I also get frustrated by it. I agree that we can and we should do more to prevent any shooting deaths let alone mass shootings. However in proportion to other threats. To things that all of us, today, can start doing something about, too many of us do not.

Image result for guns vs cancer

(From 2015)

On average 11.8 people die per minute from cancer. More people will die from cancer in the time it takes someone to wake up and drink their morning coffee than in Las Vegas last night. Currently about 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in America will get diagnosed with cancer. Further, one in four deaths in America come from heart disease.

While the NRA is a huge obstacle to gun control, reform/ legislation, they do not force anyone to smoke cigarettes, which according to the CDC is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. And while smokers may choose to smoke, the 41,000 people the CDC estimates that die due to second-hand smoke, do not. I wonder how many parents who worry about gun safety for their children smoke in their homes?

Politicians who do not enact changes to gun laws do not force you to eat processed and fast food, drink to excess, not eat vegetables, and fruits, not get enough exercise, or sleep, and so on. Cancer and heart disease combined kill well over a million people a year. Dwarfing death caused from war, terrorism, and shootings combined. But I don’t see anywhere close to the same outrage. The same calls for change to positively impact exponentially significantly higher causes of death.

Sometimes I think about if there was evidence that cancer was actually a bio weapon of terrorists, we would care more and do more to find a cure. But I digress.

Is a preventative lifestyle a guarantee? While collectively deaths could come dramatically down.  Individually, no. There is no guarantee.  But the same things that give you a better chance to avoid cancer and heart disease, also assist with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments. Aside from increasing your chances of avoiding the number 1 and number 2 killer, you can also feel better, look younger, be more productive, potentially save huge amounts of money in medical bills, and perhaps happier.

You want to change gun law? Make it harder for someone to get automatic weapons? I’m all for that. (And exploring the mental health component.) As we know this has been and will unfortunately continue to be an ongoing struggle rife with partisanship, politicization, and too much influence in the debate afforded to a powerful lobby. It doesn’t mean we do not engage it, but it is what it is.

However, for yourself, for your family, the people you love, and that love you, please take a more active role in your health and preventing these plagues from affecting you.

Cancer and heart diseases are far more likely to effect you than a shooting and they are something you can do something about right now.

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Blaming Obesity On Food Cost?

So I saw this meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a picture of a salad and a picture of a hamburger. The price underneath the burger is $1, and the price underneath the salad is $7. The meme then states, “Please, don’t write another article on obesity in America until you explain why salads are $7 and hamburgers are $1”. Of course the poster of the meme gets lots of “likes” and “anger” clicks… Hoo Ah!!
 
Except the meme is wrong. For a moment let’s get on board with the righteous anger over the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad. I say this sincerely as of course I would like healthier food to be less costly. However:
 
  • Does that mean articles about exercise, sleep, and medical/genetic conditions and how they can affect obesity should not be written?
  • Does it mean that articles about how to budget and eat healthier, or articles about maybe holding the mayo and the cheese from the “dollar” burger shouldn’t be written?
  • Does it mean that articles on the psychology of eating and or eating disorders, such as binge eating, should not be written?
No. No. And No.
 
Further, should people who are currently obese, and those vulnerable to becoming so, be encouraged or emboldened to boycott information and abdicate responsibility for their choices, or trying to become more informed, in some sort of protest because of the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad? Yeah, that would help them. #Sarcasm.
 
The meme infers cost of food is thee reason/cause of obesity.  While there is some evidence to suggest there is some validity to a connection between poverty and obesity, according to Pew Research: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together.  It can’t explain it all away.  
 
In addition, education also impacts obesity. Meaning in some instances, poor an uneducated translates to higher obesity rates than poor and educated. (See here and here.) This highlights the need for more articles/education on obesity, not less.
 
To imply that ALL obesity is because of food cost is wrong.  And to imply that low-income earners can only eat burgers is also wrong.
 
As an aside, I work with a homeless and a low-income population that get food stamps from the department of social services, or SSI and or SSDI from the social security administration… I know it is anecdotal… but I see many of them spend a lot more that a $1 on the fast food burgers they buy, not to mention the soda, candy and other poor food choices that add up and cost more than a salad.

Generally, f
ast food burgers for a buck are usually pretty small. Calorie wise, a junior cheeseburger for a $1 from Wendy’s has 280 calories. Three or four of those a day, on their own, will not make you obese. In other words, what are $1 cheeseburger eating people eating in addition? Fries? Sodas? Milkshakes? Just eliminating soda can lead to reduced weight and risk of diabetes.  Also, what are their exercise habits?  Are there metabolic issues?  Etc..
 
Other FYI considerations:
  1. You can make your own salads for far less than $7 bucks. 
  2. Healthy eating now could mean better health and less disease and medical bills later.
  3. It could also mean improved mood, self-esteem, and productivity. All of which could possibly lead to… wait for it… more income! 
  4. The burger/ salad question has no bearing on whether or not you exercise or have a medical condition or are taking medications for another medical condition that could lead to weight gain.

A moment ago I spoke anecdotally.  What is not anecdotal is over 2 billion people suffer from obesity.  Over 4 million people died from obesity related illness in 2015.  According to Dr Christopher Murray, from the University of Washington: “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.” 

Obesity needs to be covered from every aspect.  From causes, or contributing factors already mentioned such as: Cost, the psychology of eating, genetics, and medical conditions. Too other issues not discussed here: Such as access to healthy food, the media’s and Hollywood’s role, and a big one, advertising. (Think billions spent on advertising unhealthy food vs. the last time you saw a vegetable commercial.)  

They all (as well as issues I may have missed) need to continue to be explored. Given the complexity and myriad of factors involved in obesity, solutions may vary from person to person and involve a combination of lifestyle and or medicinal changes. 

Please don’t write another blog about obesity in America? Given the number of people effected by obesity and the potential health consequences… We’re not writing, or doing, enough.

12 Tips On How To Eat Healthier

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In my previous food blogs, Food, The Ultimate Trojan, and 8 Reasons Why American’s Eat The Way We Do, I wrote about the good and the bad about how and why we eat, what we eat. And if you read those blogs, you know there is a lot of not so good.

Here I will make suggestions on how to improve your diet. But not to worry, as a foodie myself, I still love the taste of food and eating. That doesn’t have to change when you eat healthier!

Recognizing the challenge that changing one’s diet can be, I want to encourage you to embrace two concepts:

Progress not perfection – Focus on what you can do, and not on what you cannot. Feel good about the progress you make. Don’t beat yourself up if you do not live up to yours, or someone else’s expectations, all of the time.

Harm reduction – A less bad choice is a positive step in the right direction. Change will come easier for some than others. It is not a competition. If you consume something that has less sugar and “bad” fat, such as trans or saturated, for many, that is a good start.

It’s about the process. Oftentimes with diet or exercise, if people do not see or feel the results they’re hoping for in a short span of time they get discouraged and give up.

In embracing progress not perfection and harm reduction, “the win” is the positive steps you are increasing and or the negative steps you are decreasing. The results will come. It reminds me of the song from the animated classic, Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other. If the Winter Warlock can do it, so can you!

So without further ado, consider one or all of the below tips to help get you on a healthier more actualized path of eating.

12- Have a cheat day – No. Not that kind of cheat day! For some people, eating healthy 6 out 7 days is too much too soon. This tip is for people who want to change slooowwwwlllyyy. If you’re eating poorly seven days a week, or however you’re eating, for you a cheat day = one day a week of healthy or healthier eating.

Give yourself one day where you improve from whatever your baseline is. For bonus points:

  1. Eat a whole foods, plant based diet. You can incorporate meals around lentils, beans, fruits vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and spices*.
  2. No processed foods on this day.
  3. if you have meat, have it at one meal and just a single grass-fed portion.

For beverages? Eliminate soda, and energy drinks. Try sticking to water, herb teas, or vegetable based smoothies/juices. Experiment with different combinations of the above. You will find something you like.

After you get consistent with one healthy cheat day a week, stretch it to two. And after you get comfortable with two, well you can see where this is going.

11- Pick one – Another way to begin your adjusting, is to pick one. Pick one bad thing to outright eliminate from your diet. And pick one good thing to add to it.

At mid-life, a good friend of mine wanted to make a conscious effort to eat better, start exercising, and lose weight. For years I unsuccessfully tried to get him off the soda. Regular or diet, I’m not a fan. But now he was ready. He gave it up cold. It was challenging for him for about a month. However, it went from challenging, to progressively easier, to him saying, “My God I can’t believe I drank that garbage for so long!”

From there, he was able to make more changes. I am both happy and proud of him because he did not get the results he was looking for right away but he stuck with it. Tried different things. He kept making positive choices. He recently turned 50 and he has reached his goals and says he feels better than he ever has.

Whether it is a vegetable, a piece of fruit, a healthy omega 3 fat food, or supplement, pick something good to add to your diet.

And if you can’t eliminate something entirely, remember progress not perfection, and harm reduction, cut down and go from there.

10- Don’t be a sucker for the latest headlines – If you do see a post you like that makes a, to good to be true claim about a questionable food or nutrient:

  1. Question it.
  2. Read counter expert opinions.
  3. Check methodology of study, i.e. – know what is being compared to what.

Borrowing from Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org, and how easy it is to make something look good, (such as saturated fat), one could claim, that based on a recent study, a diet with butter lowers your chance of having a heart attack. Well, hypothetically, if I have two groups in a study, and one group has a small amount of butter, and the other has five candy bars a day and the candy bar group has 14% more heart attacks, the designer of that study can now say according to my study butter lowers your heart attack risk.

Now cue the, “butter is back”, headlines. And if the study is not explored further? You wind up with people bathing their food in butter as if it were the nectar of the Gods! Again, don’t be suckered by headlines.

Stick with tried and true, whole foods, plant based diet, with grass-fed meat for non vegans, and whole grains. Ix-nay on the transfat, keep the saturated fats and heavily processed foods down, and get plenty of omega 3.

Trying to change eating habits can be challenging enough without conflicting information playing on our desires and food addictions. Tune out the white noise as discussed in my previous post and here is the link that includes what experts with differing opinions on diet (paleo, vegan etc.) were able to come together and agree on.

9- Portion control – According to the American Heart Association a single serving of lean meat is two to three ounces. So if you go to a restaurant and get a ten to twelve ounce steak, you’re getting four to five times that. Factor in some bread and butter and I can feel those arteries cringing. Do this several times a week or more and do the math on how you are potentially taxing your system with excess fat, sodium and calorie intake.

I’ve got a word for you… LEFTOVERS! Eat less, save money, be healthier. That sounds like win win to me.

You can do the same with sugar. Depending on your height and weight 25 to 50 grams of added sugar a day may be what is recommended not to exceed. (added sugar includes all forms of sugar except for the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and dairy) Long term, ideally you will reduce this to as close to zero as possible.

For now, portion control your added sugar. If you’re not already, start reading labels. Devise realistic goals that you can accomplish. Aside from anything else, sugar is just plain dangerous.

8- Stop Overeating! – It goes hand in hand with portion control. In addition to portion control, eat slower, and try drinking a glass of water before you eat.

Here we can also take a lesson from the Chinese. Cut your food before you eat it, and eat with chopsticks instead of a fork. This may assist you in eating slower, getting content by eating less, and digesting better!

Do you always finish what is on your plate out of some sense of obligation to those in poor countries who do not have food? You want to help starving children in another country? Donate money to them, but using them as an excuse to stuff your pie hole is not helping them! (Or you.) Of course another option is to eat on a smaller plate!

Since, in theory your mind registering the feeling of being full operates on a delay, if you wait until you feel full or “stuffed”, you’ve likely over eaten. This may not apply to obese individuals or others who suffer from leptin resistance, however you don’t know until you try, plus there are other reasons to eat slower.

7- Don’t be intimidated by cost – If you’re eating less, slower, and having leftovers. If you’re eating less meat and less sweets, then the switch to healthier foods may be negligible at worst. Far more significantly, if you’re eating healthier, you are less likely to get sick in the short-term and add to the growing statistics of people who succumb to a preventative disease.

  1. More likely to live longer. 
  2. Less likely to miss work/pay.
  3. More likely to feel better on a day-to-day basis.
  4. More likely to save on medical costs. 

6- Disassociate food from moods. For example, if you’re a stress eater, come up with new ways to react when stressed. You must have ideas in place for this to work. The next time I get stressed I will… and fill in that blank. It can be exercise, talk to a friend, write in a journal, read a book, harm reduction, eat something healthy, heck, I’ll even take watching TV if it gets you off the skittles! Same goes for boredom and other moods.

For more on emotional eating, and solutions, click here.

5- Reclaim your free will – In my previous blogs I talked about the various influences that can creep into a person’s mind, such as advertising, parents, peers and so on that corrupt your free will. I challenge you to be or become aware of them and reject them. If you do and you still want to make the same choices, then go for it. However, you may choose to go in completely different/ healthier direction, or somewhere in-between. Ways to do this are through research (more on that below), shutting out advertising, and going through a periodic detox diet to kick-start yourself.

Hypnosis can potentially be a powerful tool in reclaiming your free will. A myth about hypnosis is that you are giving up control, when in fact it, when done correctly, it is about regaining it. Unfortunately it is not regulated so it may be challenging to find a credible one but that should not stop you from considering.

4- Do your research – Research? I know, not a fun word. But I’m thinking, with all the tweeting, posting, chatting, texting, and so on, there is a little time in the day for #research!

I can maybe understand denial or the blasé mentality of, “oh it will never happen to me”, when it came to things like cancer in the early 1900’s when the odds were somewhere between 1 and 20 or 30 people being diagnosed with it. But now, according to the American Cancer Society, it is roughly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 for men.

And cancer is the number 2 cause of death. I can rattle off more statistics for heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, Alzheimer’s and more but hopefully you get the point. Mindful, conscious eating has never been more important.

U.S. News & World Report has an annual ranking of best diets that can assist you in familiarizing yourself with some of what is out there. They have different ranking for diet based on this like weight loss, cancer, heart disease etc..

When you consider the Time.Com report that Nearly Half Of US Deaths Can Be Prevented With Lifestyle Changes, it makes sense to give your diet the attention it deserves.

In this era of fake news, fact check and don’t only go to websites that confirm what your already believe.

3- Create healthy (or less unhealthy) alternatives –  For example, I love warm apple fritters. So when I’m reaalllyyy feeling the urge I will have a piece of organic Ezekiel toast with a little raw organic honey, a splash of organic extra virgin olive oil, and some organic true cinnamon. It delicious and hits the spot!

2- Have a Plan – When I facilitate groups at the mental health center where I work, I often say the worst time to prepare for an earthquake is in an earthquake! If you try to make changes on the fly, you will make things harder on yourself.

  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Try apps like Myfitnesspal.
  3. Do it with a spouse or friend.
  4. Go to meetup groups.
  5. Prep your meals in advance. Start bringing healthy dishes with you to work and holiday parties.
  6. In addition to fat and sugar, restaurant food can be load with sodium. Here are some tips to help you plan for eating out.
  7. See if your insurance offers any discounts or services that could help. (such as gym, massage, supplements or other discounts)

Until I got comfortable with my diet I would type it out and save in the draft folder of me email. Don’t eat or shop when you’re hungry for as you may have heard it is far more difficult to be disciplined in those situations.

1- Pay attention to your particular needs and health circumstances – Blogs and articles are generally… you guessed it, general. You are a specific. Consult your doctor before making diet changes as he or she will know about any health specific concerns you should consider. Perhaps as important is to consult a dietitian. As medical doctors do not receive much training in nutrition.

If you’ve read my three food blogs, or even just this lengthy one, you have an interest in diet and self-improvement. I encourage you to continue to cultivate and act on it.  Follow reading the post by writing out a list of 5 things you can do next. I wish you well on your journey.

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*If you are not used to fiber in your diet, integrate it slowly. From My.ClevelandClinic.org: Add fiber to your diet slowly. Too much fiber all at once may cause cramping, bloating, and constipation.” Don’t let that discourage you! The Cleveland link also speaks to fiber’s many benefits! And most people are lacking in it.

Disclaimers:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

This website provides links to other websites.  I have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this blog provides links to other sites does not mean that I endorse or accept any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which I provide a link, you do so at your own risk.

8 Reasons American’s Eating Habits Are What They Are

 

eat-fast-foodIn my previous post on food, I wrote about food being the ultimate Trojan. If we don’t eat, we die. Faced with that choice the vast majority of us do choose to eat.

Given the extremely high rates of obesity, diabetes, acid reflux, cancer, heart disease, and so on, and the impact food can have on those maladies, it is fair to say we may not be making the best choices.

Like other human characteristics, habits and behaviors, the conditioning and socialization of how, when, and what we eat, begins at birth. It is influenced by culture, economic class, and parenting. As we age, peers, and other social groups subliminally assert their influence as well. And of course lets not forget the billion dollar food industry, with billions of dollars at stake, prefer not to leave you’re eating choices to chance.

So with that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 8 reasons why our eating habits are what they are.

Illusion of free willPerhaps more than any country, Americans pride ourselves on our free will. The food industry, consisting of many tentacles, does in fact spend billions of dollars in advertising trying to manipulate that free will. All the commercials, magazine/ web ads, product placement and integration in TV and film, celebrity endorsements, and billboards in the middle of bum f*#k nowhere; are done so that when you get hungry and think to yourself, “hmm what am I in the mood for?” You actually think you’re spontaneously thinking of their product…. Fat chance!

Think of it another way. Would American eating habits be the same if billions were not spent on advertisements for fast and junk food? Or if billions were spent on healthy food? I submit the answer is no. Our eating habits would not be the same, in fact they would be radically different. So the question then becomes, do we… do you… want to let advertising continue to manipulate your “free will?”

Misinformation campaign We don’t all have the time or the inclination to get PhD’s in nutrition. So, for many looking for professional guidance, that leaves us in the hands of the media and “experts”.  Of course big food buys themselves some experts. Their experts don’t have to convince us. They win by confusing us with misinformation about what is good or bad for us food/health-wise. Dr. David L. Katz details this well in his post, Why ‘No Two Nutritionists Agree’ Is A Myth.

If they can confuse us, they can get us to throw our hands up in frustration. “First they say this is bad for you and then it’s good, then it’s bad, whatever I’ll eat what I want”. Unfortunately, this is an effective strategy. Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org explains it nicely in two blogs:

In the past I have written how I think the precautionary principle, should be applied to cancer prevention. Science may not yet be able to prove certain foods and lifestyles cause or prevent things like cancer and heart disease, but as I stated in my previous food blog, with over 1.2 million people dying a year from them, I believe just a wee bit of precaution is warranted.  

To be fair, just because a specific industry is funding research that doesn’t disqualify the research in and of itself, but of course it should be disclosed, and a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent.  For example, according to Rebekah’s Kearn’s piece in CourtHouse News, “The egg industry is increasingly involved in financing studies on dietary cholesterol. It funded 29 percent of such studies in 1992, 41 percent of the studies in 2001, and 92 percent in 2013, the complaint states”.

Think about this the next time you see a headline promoting health benefits of eggs while denying or downplaying any possible health risk.  At the very least, their findings are worth a deeper look, especially if you read how Dr. Greger explains how easy it is to design a misleading study.

Food is an addiction And like other addictions, there are many times when addicts are in denial. Obstacles that may be unique to a food addiction are: it is easier to hide, it is legal, and lots of people do it. In other words, a food addiction can be hidden in plain sight. And of course while we don’t have to smoke, take pills or inject ourselves, we do have to eat something. 

Speaking of denial, if food is an addiction, then like other addictions, when one is in the throes of it, it may be very challenging to get them to admit it, or do anything about it. They may also seek to rationalize and justify their eating similar to how an alcoholic may do the same with drinking.

Couple denial with the fact that we are living in an unprecedented era of political correctness, it may be deemed too offensive to point out how someone’s eating may be contributing to their weight and current and possibly future health problems.  They may drop dead prematurely, but hey, at least they won’t be offended by anyone.  

Eating for the wrong reason If nature had its way we would eat when hungry to provide vital nutrients to survive. However, we eat when we’re depressed, bored, stressed, angry, and so on.  

This is neither physically or emotionally healthy. This is an extension of food being an addiction. Further, just as smokers and drug addicts will use their substance of choice as a response to “triggers”, so to will people form associations with eating when in certain moods, time of day, activities, etc., that have nothing to do with hunger. In addition, not only are there triggers for eating when not hungry, there are triggers for eating unhealthy foods.

We also eat when we confuse hunger for food when we are actually thirsty. Drink a big glass of water and see if that satiates you till your next meal.

Cultural traditionsThere are cultural traditions, and generational beliefs, associated with food, food preparation, and eating that mindlessly get passed down from generation to generation. These traditions and beliefs may originate from a time when there may not have been the knowledge of the effects of food on physical and emotional health that we have today.

Laziness and convenienceIn our rush rush world, who has the time to cook? Who has the time to read beyond the headlines of health news? Fast food, processed food and the dying art of cooking makes healthy eating more challenging.  

Blissfully ignorant – If everyone were in the movie, The Matrix, my bet is many would pick the blue pill. Some people are so in love with their food addictions that they don’t want to know. They consciously choose denial.

If only the blue pill came without consequences such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and so on.  But it doesn’t. Knowing and ignoring this is also symptomatic of denial of a different fact of life: Death. “Those bad things won’t happen to me”.  Hopefully they won’t.  And while there are no guarantees, the percentages are such that it seems unwise to ignore the effect of diet on quality and quantity of life.

Food cost – Crapola food can be cheaper than healthy food. There are two ways to address this. One, that is the short-term view. When you consider the cost of health, disease, the effect on mood, and so on, spending a little more for food in the present can save not only money, but pain and suffering as well.

Second, wherever you are on the continuum of health/unhealthy eating, I would suggest you can do better and that limited funds is not an excuse.  I say this as someone who works in mental health with homeless and mentally ill adults that are on food stamps.  I’m with them at the market. I make suggestions, they make choices. If you don’t want to eat better, you don’t want to, but in many cases it is not because of cost. 

An example I have given many times to friends and clients is two people buy the same car off the same lot on the same day.  Owner A, changes the oil and gets routine maintenance done on schedule. He drives close to the speed limit and so on.  Owner B saves money along the way and gets oil changes when he remembers and takes the car in for service a few thousand miles after an indicator light goes on. He frequently drives well over the speed limit. Which car is going to last longer?  As the cars age, which will perform better?  I suppose if Owner B is wealthy or doesn’t mind using credit cards he can get new car parts or even a new car if and when needed. Organs can’t always be replaced.   

There you have some reasons why we eat the way we do.  Sorry to get all gloom and doom on you towards the end but the best way to avoid the negative in the future is to confront it today!

One final note is that I am specifically not addressing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia is this blog, nor did I in my previous food blog. I feel those conditions require distinct focus and attention. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with any eating disorder please seek medical and psychological attention.    

In my next post on food I will offer suggestions for those interested in making some changes.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

 

Food, The Ultimate Trojan

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According to mythology, a Trojan Horse was a huge wooden horse given as a gift. However, it was nefariously used to hide soldiers inside the horse to sneak them across battle lines, and help the Greeks win the war against Troy.

Today, more people are familiar with the term trojan virus; where something inviting, that you want to look at on your computer, is encrypted with something damaging. Once opened and inside, like the battalion of soldiers, the virus can be destructive.

So what makes food the ultimate trojan?  Unlike a wooden horse or a curious file we download, we need food to live.

The food we put in our mouths may seem like a gift and, if done consciously, food will not only enable us to live, it can give us energy, assist in making us feel better when sick, and extend our lives. However, if done haphazardly, this “gift” of food can operate like a trojan and wreak havoc on our systems.  It can sap us of our energy, assist in exacerbating or even causing depression and anxiety, it can contribute to or cause illness and disease.  

Ultimately “trojan food” can cause a premature systems failure: fatigue and moodiness at the least, and premature disease and death at worst.

We get all worked up about guns and terrorism (understandably so) but they are far less likely to kill us then our diet (combined with other lifestyle behaviors). In 2014, death by gun occurred 33,736 times, and for terrorism we lost 32 lives. This gives us a combined total of 33,768 deaths. Sad and tragic as this may be, it pales in comparison to death by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) also in 2014, for combined total of 1,206,047. That is… one million… two hundred six thousand… and forty-seven. 

Between heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, respiratory illness, good eating habits is one factor that could greatly reduce mortality and assist with other chronic conditions facing many of us, such as Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

So, friend or foe, which is food you?

healthy_vs_unhealthy_food_foodguruz-in_

To put it bluntly, it is foe for a lot of us. The average American diet stinks. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. On average we only get one serving of fruit a day? And apparently if you cut out french fries and ketchup that number goes down. Wow.

Despite all of the rhetoric about what constitutes a healthy diet, there is a basic agreement that a whole foods plant-based is good, and processed crap (including processed meat, refined carbs and sugar laden “food”) is bad.

So why do so many reject or ignore basic healthy eating guidelines and continue to stuff their pie holes with crapola?

Like big pharma, big food spends not millions, but billions, to get inside of our heads. The goal being to get us to think that what we want, our free will, is what leads us to eat food that might actually be slowly killing us.  

evil-junk-food-companies1

And like the tobacco industry big food targets our kids because ya hook um young and you have a customer for life. Google the phrase “food is the new tobacco” and see what comes up. Here is one piece.

Further, food can be addictive.  Knowing this, what do you think the makers of big food do?  Put more or less of what is addictive, like added sugar, into their version of a trojan horse?  (FYI sugar substitutes have issues of their own.)

The good news is you can retrain your taste buds.  

Confession time. Despite always being thin, I have been a food glutton for a good portion of my life.  If it wasn’t stapled down I would eat it.  In the lunch room in high school, when friends would see me coming, they would go the other way, especially if I hadn’t eaten yet.  My motto was fast food wasn’t fast enough!   The older I got, the more into health I became.  My eating habits changed out of concern for:

  • Health.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Effects of food choices on the environment. 

An unexpected surprise was that these health foods started to taste really good!  A lot of the unhealthy things I use to eat that I have once in a while don’t taste as good, making it easier to further refine my habits.  Yes I still have my weaknesses and “cheat” here and there, but I feel like I have woken up.  

This isn’t about vegan vs. carnivore.  You can make healthy and unhealthy choices, including gluttony, within each realm.  The idea is to make conscious, mindful choices.  

Do some research, (these days I feel compelled to warn against fake news sites) and if you’re the all or nothing type, make radical changes. If you’re the dip your foot in the pool type, start small.  That is what I did, and the way I eat today is practically unrecognizable from where I use to be.  

Today, when I read through ingredients on websites and food labels, I get turned off by what I see knowing that the makers intentionally spike food with addictive substances (like sugar, fat, and salt) knowing how bad they are for health.  And just like suspicious emails that may contain a trojan, I stare at it for moment, shake my head no and move on.  Not today trojan, I’m not falling for you.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

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For those interested in the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian eating, I recommend the website: http://NutritionFacts.org

One of the articles embedded in this blog is Oldways Common Ground Consensus Statement on Healthy Eating.  The committee is composed of the below persons.  Co chair, Dr. David Katz has a great health and nutrition blog for you to consider following.  He has a non-judgmental balanced perspective.

The objective of the committee was to get experts with differing opinions on healthy eating (vegan vs. paleo, etc.) together to see what they can agree on.

Chairs:

David Katz, MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Participants:

Steven Abrams, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dell Medical School, University of Texas (Austin, TX)

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways (Boston, MA)

Neal Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, DC)

T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and Founder, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (Ithaca, NY)

S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Alessio Fasano, MD, Director, Center for Celiac Research; Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Chief, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Christopher Gardner, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, CA)

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

David Jenkins, MD, DSc, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto; Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital; Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, CA)

Tom Kelly, PhD, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sustainability Institute at University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (Boston, MA) Malden Nesheim, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Provost Emeritus, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Sausalito, CA)

Simon Poole, MBBS, DRCOG, Medical Practitioner and Commentator (Cambridge, UK)

Eric Rimm, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (Loma Linda, CA)

Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President, Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nutrition at the School of Medicine, University of Athens (Athens, Greece)

 

 

Why I Started Taking Vitamins

Magnifying Glass - Healthy Living

(c)kbuntu/bigstockphot.com

And why pharmaceutical drugs are not always the answer.

When I was a teenager I was fortunate to wake up in the middle of the night with a neck spasm that was so bad I couldn’t move my neck or feel my left arm.  Why was this fortunate?  Well I was on vacation in Florida and I saw a doctor I would have never met otherwise.  He fixed my neck right away by spraying Ethel Chloride on it.  My father and I were so impressed by him that even though we lived in NY he became our go to guy for health questions and who we would see for our yearly physical.

In many ways Dr. Birzon was as western as western medicine gets.  However, he is a brilliant man, well versed in many subjects, including supplements and diet.  Areas that you would think go hand in hand with medicine and that all doctors would be schooled in, but are not.

To avoid getting sick, or to overcome illnesses like the cold and flu faster, Dr. Birzon recommended the taking of certain supplements and the addition and subtraction of certain foods.

It wasn’t until I went to college until I really took Dr. Birzon’s advice to heart.  You see I was a very sick child.  I had two near death illnesses growing up and far more cases of the usual afflictions than other kids.  From ear infections, strep throat, stomach virus’ and the flu.  It was always something.  And there were always drugs to help.  But they did nothing to prevent.

In college I started to take vitamin supplementation seriously.  The rate of illness went down and recovery was faster.  I did develop a bad case of mononucleosis my junior year, but given the severity of it the recovery was faster and the limitations were mitigated.

When I got to California, my interest in vitamins and nutrition expanded to include herbs and eastern medicine.  Over the years I have had various conditions where I have sought out both traditional western medicine cures, and something alternative.

In my mid thirties I was having pain in my colon area.  My doctor stated my prostate was slightly enlarged and he was ready to put me on medicine to reduce it.  An eastern medicine doctor evaluated me and said I need to take a good probiotic.  I tried the probiotic and it worked.  Pain gone.

Also in my thirties I saw a sleep specialist for fatigue issues.  So I took an overnight sleep study and tested positive for periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).  This is where a person experiences involuntary muscle movements that prevent a good night’s sleep.  For this I was prescribed powerful drugs, at first Tylenol/codeine, and then klonipin.  I tried them both but decided these were not drugs I wanted to be on long term and that long-term usage would be worse than the fatigue issues.  Besides one of the side effects of these drugs, which I experienced, is fatigue!!

I eventually did get my PLMD under control.  Not with drugs.  And not with supplements.  But by listening and observing my body, I was able to realize that my body temperature ran a little cold, and the warmer my sleep environment, the less I would seem to have these spasms as I would drift off to sleep.

In my forties it was time for laryngopharyngeal reflux.  This is a form of acid reflux, or GERD, that has greatly affected my speaking voice.  So much so that I double dosed on medication in hopes of solving the problem.  After four months, the medicine did not put a dent in the problem.

This has been a challenging one, one I am still fighting.  Diet and behavioral modifications have helped a little.  To date I would say the taking of digestive enzymes and going to a more green/ alkaline diet have helped more than anything else I have tried.

Most recently I had some random swelling in my fingers.  No discernible cause or accident that caused it.  Without any blood work or testing, the doctor immediately wanted to put me on ibuprofen and ice.  I tried the ice.  Didn’t work.  I tried wet heat and it did.  The ibuprofen was not necessary.   Had I taken the ibuprofen and it worked, I would have been under the false assumption that I needed it (rather than the wet heat) to deal with future swelling.

There are more tales to tell but the point I am trying to make is oftentimes drugs are a doctor’s first and only solution to a problem you present them with.  And many times they may be right.  Those two near death illnesses I mentioned earlier?  In both instances I was cured by western medicine so I am not looking to bash it.  However, I am trying to point out, albeit anecdotally, that there can be safer, easier remedies, and ways of dealing with certain health conditions.  In my opinion, pharmaceuticals drugs are not always the best solution nor should they always be the first solution tried.  Vitamins and nutrition are worth considering.

There might be a drug that doesn’t come with risks and or side effects, but I haven’t heard of them.  Some come with minor risk and side effects others potentially more serious.  You always want to know what the short-term and long-term risks are and weigh the pros and cons.

cocktail of drugs

(c)paulista/bigstockphoto.com

If I had listened to my doctors, for over a decade I could have been on an unnecessary cocktail of drugs placing a heavy burden on my liver and kidneys.  Perhaps requiring additional medication.

Vitamins are like most things in that there are good and bad product lines.  Poorly and better made.  Further, there are higher and lower doses.  In other words don’t just blindly pop these pills because they’re “only” vitamins.  Research and or consult an expert to see what may be right for you.

So, while you should always go to the doctor first for healthcare, if you dismiss vitamins and supplements out of hand without researching, you may be missing a better, healthier, or safer way to overcome illness and or avoid getting sick in the first place.

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Material placed on this Web site by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site does not provide medical advice. . The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

Jeff Schubert provides links to other non Jeff Schubert websites.  Jeff Schubert has no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that Jeff Schubert links to another site does not mean that Jeff Schubert endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which Jeff Schubert provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

Four Examples Of When Good Diet Advice May Not Be Good

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1-When I was a kid I wanted to gain weight.  I was one of those annoying skinny people that could eat whatever he wanted and not gain an ounce.  Tired of having “Malnutrition” as a nickname, I asked my doctor what I should do to gain weight.  He said I should blend a shake everyday with whole milk, raw eggs, nuts… I cut him off.

Even as a child I was more into health than the average person.  I said to my doctor, “whole milk?  Raw eggs?  What about all that fat and cholesterol?”  He looked at me and said, “Jeff I could intravenously hook you up to a bag of cholesterol and with your metabolism your numbers wouldn’t go up.”

I never did get into the raw egg thing but his point was well taken.  Based on how I would go on to eat, my cholesterol should have been over a thousand!  It has always hovered between 130 and 190 and has never broken 200.

So the good advice I was reading about watching cholesterol, while not technically bad advice, according to my doctor, didn’t apply to me.

diet2Today there is a debate going on about dietary cholesterol, the cholesterol your body creates on its own and how your number is what it is.  And in some circles, egg yolks are not portrayed as the artery clogging demons they were when I was a child.

2- Reportedly, another good piece of health advice is not to drink any liquids thirty minutes before or after a meal as it dilutes stomach acid and enzymes and interferes with digestion.  I had been adhering to this seemingly accurate piece of advice for many years.

Unfortunately I suffer from something called laryngopharyngeal reflux.  LPR, also known as the silent reflux, is similar (but also different) to traditional acid reflux.  One difference is that the sufferer may not experience heartburn ergo why it is called “silent”.

Part of my diagnosis was arrived at by implanting something on my esophagus that would transmit the acid levels to a device I was wearing on my belt.  The first observation I made was almost every time I burped (which was frequent) my acid levels rose.  A second observation was every time I sipped water my acid level went back down.

So guess who doesn’t wait a half hour before sipping water after he eats?  (I still avoid drinking while eating and before.  Unless I’m belching and then all bets are off.)

diet43- Genetically modified food and the public’s right to know which foods and are not being modified is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.  For the record I am a big advocate of the right to know.  And when given a choice, I buy Non-GMO.  I am also buying more and more organic versus hormone and pesticide infected food.

However, just because something is Non-GMO and organic, doesn’t mean it isn’t loaded with sugar or sodium.  In other words, the other principles of good nutrition do not go out the window because it has a Non-GMO and or organic label on it.

4- As Americans continue to gain weight and health conditions like acid reflux and diabetes continue to soar, it seems like every few years there is a fad to combat it. “Gluten free” seems to be the flavor of the month.  You say the word gluten to some people and they react like Simon Cowell would if he were listening to Rosanne Bar audition for The X-Factor.

For people with Celiac disease or who are allergic to gluten by all means go gluten free. For the rest of us, think about this: Gluten can be found in breads and certain grains.  If you’re getting your gluten from donuts, pies, white pasta and white bread as opposed to whole grains, than it might not be the gluten that is your problem.

diet5One potential issue with gluten free is if you start eating a lot of rice and rice based products such as pasta made from rice, or cereals and “health” bars with brown rice syrup.  The problem being is that there are reports that rice can be high in arsenic, (a poison).  And you can’t avoid arsenic with organic or non-GMO rice.  A person can start consuming too much rice in their haste to get away from gluten and create a new health problem.

No one is suggesting abandoning rice, but there are other gluten free grains you can rotate into your diet.  Quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and amaranth, just to name some.

It has been suggested that allergy testing may not pick up a gluten sensitivity so there may not be harm in trying a gluten free diet.  My take is to do some research in your reasoning for trying it, discuss it with your health provider, and if it makes sense to you, give it a go.

dietadviceWhich brings me to the fact that I understand it can be confusing and frustrating trying to keep up on healthy eating.  Frustration is only further exacerbated when contradictory information comes out.

I do think your physical and mental well-being are worth the effort of reading beyond the headlines and being informed and up to date.  Check with your doctor during your yearly physical to see how general information and health headlines of the day correspond to the specific needs of your body.

And while nothing in this blog is meant to replace the advice of a physician, I would suggest not relying solely on western medicine especially if you have a concern that has yet to be satisfactorily addressed via that path.

Disclaimer:

Before starting any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with them before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd’s Rant That Could Actually Kill You

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Irresponsible journalism as it pertains to the sports world is one thing.  It can be annoying but it is basically harmless.  Irresponsible journalism when it comes to health can cause harm, and even death.

I have fun arguing against Colin Cowherd at times in my blog.  Sometimes he can be insightful, and others he is being a shock jock just trying to get attention.  Propping up Lebron James and putting down Michael Jordan may be committing sports sacrilege to many, but again, ultimately harmless.

On his ESPN radio show this morning Cowherd wanted to rant about things that get a bad reputation.  His main point was about college basketball’s, Syracuse Orangemen’s, zone defense.  On his points here I agree.

However, he set the Syracuse piece up by using salt as his first example.  He lauded all of the wonderful uses of salt.  How it enhances the flavor of food, melts the snow, and so on.  And in truth, salt is a necessary electrolyte that you could die without.  According to the US Center for Disease Control you do need about 180 mg to 500 mg per day.

But sodium and its excessive intake by many Americans is a contributing cause to heart disease and other maladies.  In his opening salvo, the Herd didn’t mention this.  He made it sound like salt was heavenly divine–all good.  Later into his Syracuse rant he did squeeze in the following, “Eat a canister of salt and your heart will explode”.  Too little too late Colin.  A canister?  A canister sounds like a lot.  Maybe enough to explode the hearts of three families of five.  Certainly a canister is a lot more than a teaspoonful.

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According to the Mayo Clinic a teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium.  Do you know what the maximum recommended allowance of sodium is for an adult over the age of 50?  1,500 mg.  If you’re an adult under 50 it is 2,300 mg.  So with just one teaspoonful of salt a day you exceed that.  Also, according to Mayo, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day.

What’s the big deal you might say?  According to ABC News.com, a Harvard research team just released a study stating that 1 in 10 deaths in the U.S. is a result of high sodium intake.  Last I checked Herd, the Syracuse zone never killed anyone.

This was an irresponsible presentation by Cowherd.  One that I hope his listeners don’t suffer for.  One that I hope is brought to his attention so he can rectify it by providing his audience balanced information.