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It’s The Food Not The Calories!

it-is-the-foodAfter attending the Food As Medicine conference in Minneapolis, I have a new perspective on weight loss and eating strategies. The faculty who taught the program asked attendees to “walk their lifestyle talk,” during the conference, and we did.

Each day began with a 7:00 am yoga or qigong class, four hours of lectures, a healthy lunch that was mostly plant based, four more hours of lectures, and ended with evening cooking demonstrations. The speakers and attendees included medical students, seasoned physicians, nutritionists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and authors. The common denominator for all of these professionals was an interest in food as medicine, successful weight maintenance and better health.

The hallmark of the conference was hearing how health plans, community health centers and hospitals were using teaching kitchens combined with lifestyle intervention programs to tackle obesity and its complications. Outcome data from a wide range of Minnesota communities demonstrated the effectiveness of these food and lifestyle enhanced programs to produce sustainable weight loss and reversal of chronic illness. This was ground breaking material given that most Americans believe that losing weight is too hard, complicated, time consuming and expensive. The sad truth is many of us try to follow a diet only to pack on more pounds.

So what foods cause us the most trouble? We have enough studies to prove that our high ingestion of processed foods, fast foods, sugar and wheat are the main culprits behind the disturbing fact that 40% of Americans are obese often with abnormal blood sugars and elevated lipids. Once blood sugars and blood lipid elevations are elevated, these patients are caught up in a “perfect metabolic storm” that can lead to fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that with a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise many of these pathologies can be reversed or significantly improved.

What are the first steps?

 1. Start with the elimination of fast and processed food. Fast food is cheap industrial food using lots of chemicalsto enhance flavor and expand shelf life (think fried chicken, pizza, tacos, hamburgers, French fries, nachos, diet sodas, sugared drinks etc.). Rarely are whole foods found in processed or fast foods. In fact, these foods are engineered to hijack your taste buds by flooding them with sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and chemicals. Industrial processed foods are nutrient poor robbing your body of essential phytonutrients, healthy fats, fiber and lean proteins you need to function at your best. We pay a high price for the convenience of fast food when it comes to long-term health.

 2. Begin to add healthy sources of dietary fat into your diet such as avocados, nut butters, nuts, coconut oil,grass fed butter, and olive oil. It is now believed the trend of eating a low fat diet begun in the 1980s to lose weigh was the beginning of decades of obesity for Americans. Now we know that foods with a high glycemic index cause high blood lipids, inflammation and obesity.

 3. Focus on eating more “slow carbohydrates” with low glycemic indexes and high fiber content. Slow carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are high in fiber and slow to digest. You fill up sooner and feel full longer. These slow carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and legumes. The cruciferous vegetables provide phytonutrients and the fiber necessary for weight loss and good health. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussels sprouts,cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, kale, Chinese cabbage, collard greens and turnips. Beans and peas are another healthy, nutrient rich, slow carbohydrate that can reduce blood sugars, give the eater a sense of fullness and reduce hunger. Grains and white potatoes are falling out a favor as they have too high of a glycemic index. As better alternatives, sweet potatoes and brown rice are considered an acceptable source of nutritious starches.

 4.  Stop consuming sugar including fruit juices, carbonated drinks, candy, ice cream, and sugary grain-based desserts. Substitute whole fruits especially the red and purple fruits- including berries, cherries, dark grapes, plums, pomegranate seeds and an occasional square of dark chocolate. Frozen fruits in a blender are a great substitute instead of ice cream.

 5.  Eliminate wheat from your diet. Wheat isn’t the grain it was 50 years ago. It has been altered to produce a higher crop yield, is highly glycemic and nutrient poor. Once consumed, the body reacts to wheat as if it were sugar. The digestion of wheat triggers your hormones to convert the wheat into higher blood lipids and bigger fat cells. For many Americans, wheat is the primary driver for obesity. If you want to lose weight, eliminating wheat will put you on a faster track for results and you might feel better off wheat as a bonus.

 6.  Add healthy proteins that include sardines, wild fish, eggs, legumes, grass fed beef, Non GMO soy, and organic chicken.

For many it may help to hire a health coach to partner up and map out strategies to implement how to switch off of processed, industrial food, wheat and sugar. In coaching, we spend big chunks of time preparing for the withdrawal of industrial and fast foods and identifying good choices for healthy eating at home and on the go. Sometimes we approach it in incremental steps. The first few days of avoiding these foods can be challenging. But clients report after the first 3 to 4 days, the cravings diminish.

One Comment

  1. Ditto to this!!! It’s not the diet, it’s the food…yes, we should really look into this and apply it to our meals and keep a healthy lifestyle and eliminate all the diseases…live longer and happier!!! Two thumbs Up!!

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