June 14, 2012

Put Food To Work For You

Dave and Kate were talking about diets and food during their lunch break. “I need your advice,” Dave said. “I’ve got to lose this extra 20 pounds around my belly. What should I do?”

“Whoa, you’re asking me?” Kate asked jokingly.

“Yup. You look trim and healthy, so I’m sure you can help me. I’ve tried pills and diets. The pills are too dangerous. The diets are too confusing and too many rules, and I was annoying everyone and myself by always talking about being on a diet. Besides, I couldn’t follow any of them long enough to help. What’d you do?”

“It’s hard work,” Kate said, “but not impossible. I put in the work and the food works for me. I learned everything I could about nutrition. This is what I found: eat the right food in the right amount at the right time, and it’ll take care of you forever!”

“That sounds exciting. But what does it all mean?”

“Eat the right foods – carbohydrates like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fiber, fats like omega-3 foods, and lean protein.” Kate said. “Eat the right amount, too – learn the food thresholds. All foods are good. It’s going over the threshold amount that’s bad – eat over the threshold and some foods will cause inflamed arteries and fat bellies.” 

“What’s a food threshold?” Dave asked.

“At a certain low level no food is dangerous, even the toxic puffer fish, but above that level, that puffer fish can kill you,” Kate said dramatically. “Many types of common carbohydrates and foods containing saturated fats have low threshold levels, especially processed foods and sugary drinks. Try eating one french fry or one potato chip, or one sip of a smoothie?” Kate shook her head. “It’s so easy to go over the quantity threshold with these foods that I just try to avoid them most days, and that strategy works for me. Fortunately, there are many healthy foods – like spinach, vegetables, and omega-3 foods – that have such high thresholds you can eat much more of them and be safe.

“So, you’re saying to keep healthy,” Dave said, “I should eat the right foods in the right amounts, and they will protect my blood vessels, my heart, and provide the high energy I need to have an exciting, productive day.”

“You got it! That’s it,” Kate said as they returned to work.

There are five steps for successful nutrition management. Dave’s lunch with Karen illustrates the first one: learn everything you can about foods and continue to learn because new information about healthy foods becomes available every day. Learn about the good carbohydrates like vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and fiber. Learn about the carbohydrates that in low amounts can cause an insulin surge and cortisol release, which leads to increased fat deposition and to high triglycerides, which in turn causes inflamed arteries. This is the so-called glycemic effect of foods. Saturated fats at high levels cause inflamed arteries, which contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Learn about healthy proteins like quinoa and whey isolate, and be careful about the company some proteins keep like the fatty fried skin with the chicken or the darkened portion of fish. Learn to eat to your high-energy level, when you just start to feel full, rather than to your over-stuffed, low-energy level.

Second, understand your nutrition inventory and diagnostic process. Body weight is the easiest, but when you add weight circumference and percent body fat measurements, you’ll have a more complete picture about your health-risk zone. Understand the diagnostic process for the diagnosis of weight-related complications such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Third, know your management and treatment options. There are many approaches for weight loss including pills, diets, and weight-loss programs. Know the benefits and the risks, including the long-term, 20-year risk. Know the benefits and risks of medications used for treatment of overweight-related illnesses.

Fourth, monitor your nutrition status. Use weight, waist circumference, and percent fat measurements. Write them down or keep track of them with a computer. Ask yourself three questions. 1.) Are you improving? If so, stay the course. 2.) Are you the same? If so, give it time and repeat the question. 3.) Are you worse? If so, meet with your nutritionist to find out why, or if you have a medical condition, you may need to go see a doctor, even go to the emergency room.

Fifth, create a healthy and empowering environment for healing by healthy eating, regular exercise, and a regular sleeping schedule. Use the power of your mind. Approach the situation in a positive way. Use visualization, compassion toward yourself and your body, and controlled breathing. Your mind has a powerful influence on your health, and your body has an almost unlimited ability to heal itself. You need to learn how to let this happen. You can manage your nutrition better than anyone else. Your chance of success is unlimited.

There are more stories like this one in the new “Boss” book by Dr. Epler: Food: You’re the Boss.

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