Five hurdles to overcome obesity

Sometimes, it seems that the more warnings we read, the more dire the situation becomes.  But, is it the fault of those who do the warning, or is it something else?

Stop-ObesityObesity, as the issue of smoking was when I was a child, is the topic du jour.  And, frankly, it is no wonder.  Those who want to eat whatever they want, without regard to their health, are doing nothing different from those who continue to smoke tobacco, even with all the culture “noise” and health warnings that have been drummed into them.

It is, ultimately, a decision in which the “eater” has to consider the benefits, weigh them against the costs, and then, change his/her own behavior.

But, there are significant hurdles to overcome.  Here are a few:

  1. The “pleasure” hurdle — the inability to deny ourselves the pleasure, fleeting as it may be, to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and in the quantities we want.  Self-denial and delayed gratification have become rare, and is bordering on extinction.
  2. The “peer pressure” hurdle — the desire not to be seen as “odd”, “difficult to please”, or “picky” when it comes to eating.  Blending in to the culture, whether it be the mainstream or one of the countless countercultures, reigns supreme in our value system, and it takes its toll in many ways, including our health.
  3. The “procrastination” hurdle — as long as we have lived, to date, there has always been tomorrow.  We may know the facts, when it comes to eating unhealthy foods, but we still have time to enjoy what we want with no immediate impact, we believe.
  4. The “health care” hurdle — With drug companies always offering newer and better drugs to counteract our unhealthy eating habits, we surrender our nutritional choices to pills.  Also, doctors seem more hesitant than ever to prescribe lifestyle changes in lieu of drugs.
  5. The “convenience” hurdle — the preference not to put ourselves to any trouble, if we can avoid, and if we can afford it.  Convenience foods, whether at a fast-food restaurant, or in convenient prepared meal packages at the supermarket, make life easier, or so it seems.

The warnings will continue, and they should.  People will hear them, read them, and believe them, and at some time in the future, it may matter to them enough to do something to help themselves without depending on the health care system to do it for them.  But, the hurdles will have to be jumped.

This article, “34% of Kids Eat Food on a Given Day, Study Says“, on time.com sorts out some of the facts and assumptions about childhood obesity and the “fast-food” component of the cultural problem.

There are giants in the land

“Some people think the plant-based, whole-foods diet is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”

~Caldwell Esselstyn

When it comes to plant-based nutrition, there are so many “giants in the land” of the enemy that it is much easier to submit to their rule in our lives than it is to subdue them.  Just ask anyone who has ever made a life change from eating a meat-based diet to one of whole foods, based 100% in plants.

assortedplantDr. Esselstyn’s quote (above) is taken from his groundbreaking book,  Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure.  It states the obvious irony: people will go to extraordinary extremes, both in health and in financial expenses, to correct, or treat, the outcomes of a poor lifestyle before they will adopt preventative one if it requires changing what they like to eat.

It’s absurd, and it’s true.  Been there, done that, with 60 years of experience!

Like anything else, however, there is comfort in numbers, and the numbers of doctors, nutrition researchers and experts, and plant-based diet adherents are growing, and this alone will turn the course toward disease prevention and away from disease treatment as the primary “fix” for health.
The benefits of a plant-based diet begin at day one when a person simply decides that disease prevention and/or reversal is their biggest health priority.  Making the decision empowers the other activities that move us physically to the better path, and it feels good just to breathe the fresh air of change.

Source for quote: The Top 100 Vegan and Vegetarian Quotes, and the aforementioned book by Dr. Esselstyn.

Why vegan? My reasons.

There have been three primary motivations for choosing to go with a plant-based diet.  I’m sure there are others, but these are my own.  These are not in any special order, and they are equally ranked.  At different times, one may be ascendant to the others, but that’s mostly because I have a particular thing in mind that day.

Day 1 sproutsHealth reasons

From my reading over several years, I believe the evidence is overwhelming, plant-based diets are better for longevity and quality of life.  The work of T. Colin Campbell, particularly, has been the most thorough and most convincing.  The diets espousing the benefits of animal protein over plant-based proteins notwithstanding, the longitudinal research of Campbell and others supports the notion that plant-based is not only adequate for protein, but is superior in every way.  For another book on this particular subject, The Protein Myth, by David Gerow Irving, is definitive.

Senseless animal slaughter

I won’t post the pictures here, but there are so many outstanding books on the subject of how we get meat, along with dairy produce, to our tables, that I believe it is morally damaging and condemnable for me to eat animal products.  One of the best books, written by Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals, opens that window into animal cruelty like no other has done for me.  There are dozens of outstanding books and films on the subject.

Environmental damage

With the evidence mounting that food shortages will become the number one global concern within my own lifetime, we can no longer afford to give up the amount of farmland it takes to satiate the appetites of a meat-eating population.  This, along with the effects of cattle raising, including pigs and poultry, upon negative climate change and water pollution, means to me that continuing to perpetuate this cycle is to commit a major crime against humanity on a global scale.

My reasons may not be everyone’s reason.  But, they have been carefully considered over many years.  The appetite was not hard to kill once the evidence was in.

12 Studies: Saturated Fat is Not Just a Heart Hazard

sat-fat-heart-hazardDr. Neal Barnard’s blog is great source of information for nutrition and wellness.  In this post, Dr. Barnard lists 12 studies that have shown the damaging effects of saturated fats in the human diet, and there are many.

Awareness has grown for many years about the dangers of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and the link they share with saturated fats.  Heart disease is one of the chronic illnesses that often accompany high cholesterol.  In this article by Dr. Barnard, other conditions such as prostate cancer, sluggish metabolism, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline, are also linked with high saturated fats in the diet.

Here is the link to the article:

These 12 Studies Show Saturated Fat Is Not Just a Heart Hazard | The Physicians Committee.

Dr. Barnard currently serves as the president for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).  They are a great Twitter follow, if you’re looking for a good source of fresh information about the links between good nutrition and good health.

@DrNealBarnard
@PCRM

A new cycle to combat obesity

Sure, most nutrition-minded people are aware that going all-in on a night of “free-love” dining at most restaurants will tip the scales against them, but still, these meals are extreme, if not downright obscene.  Yet, they are on the menu!

In an article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, some of the raunchiest, most decadent meals are measured for their calorie count and macronutrient content, and it will surprise you how extreme they really are.

What will not surprise you, if you’re one of the many folks moving towards plant-based, high nutrient eating, is that even though these meals may be extreme, they are a fair representation of “what’s for dinner” at most of the popular dining establishments in the United States.

The article highlights one meal from five restaurants (I found it interesting that all five of these are within 2 miles of my home), including Cheesecake Factory, Dickey’s Barbecue, IHOP, Sonic, and Steak ‘n Shake .  Shocking!  Other restaurants, such as Red Lobster, are called out as well.

I know people can eat what they want, and restaurants will serve what the customers are willing to buy, but I would have to think that the culprit is something more complex, more systemic: we eat what’s available to us, without much thought about the nutritional costs.

The marketing feeds the appetite; the appetite creates the demand; the demand dictates the menu; the popularity spins the marketing cycle all over again.

The only way to stop it is to create a different cycle that employs the science of nutrition at the consumer level first:

  • reject the marketing and study broad scientific evidence about nutrition
  • with some discipline, create a different appetite from the one you have learned
  • demand what you want or eat at home
  • the restaurant industry will conform, reluctantly, perhaps, until the majority are on board
  • marketing will change

It requires some advanced attention to details from us consumers, but the payoff is a healthier world, and better choices in the marketplace.

The article, cited above, appears here:

Red Lobster, The Cheesecake Factory, Sonic Top 2015 Xtreme Eating Awards ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The very high cost of salt

This is a pretty amazing study!  Salt reduction can save hundreds of millions of dollars in health care costs, according to a recent analysis from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Four states, including my own (Texas), stand to save over $1 billion annually from a salt-reduction effort:

From the study:

  • $2.4 billion for California
  • $1.6 billion for Texas
  • $1.2 billion for Florida
  • $1.2 billion for New York

Other states near the top of the list:

  • $787 million for Illinois
  • $782 million for Pennsylvania
  • $709 million for Ohio
  • $617 million for Georgia
  • $608 million for North Carolina
  • $606 million for Michigan
  • $546 million for New Jersey
  • $509 million for Virginia

Here’s a link to the summary article:

States Stand To Save Hundreds of Millions in Health Care Costs with National Sodium Reduction Effort ~ Newsroom ~ News from CSPI ~ Center for Science in the Public Interest.

And, here’s a link that will allow you to download the full 9-page report, that has a long list of resources and citations used for the analysis.

Reducing Sodium: A Look at State Savings in Health Care Costs

Listen to your body? Hogwash!

A piece of advice that should be removed from the lexicon of the self-help world is, “just listen to your body.”

Body out of control

If your problem, like mine, is fighting personal obesity, and the chronic killer diseases that arise from it, your body is the last thing you want to listen to!  It’s what I’ve done wrong for decades, and it’s the thing that put me in this situation in the first place!

I listened to my body when my taste buds were screaming for a hamburger, or a beer, or a pizza…omigod pizza!  I listened to my body when I gave up on numerous efforts to correct bad habits, like smoking tobacco, taking sleep aids to get a good night’s sleep, and vegging out on the couch every evening instead of doing things around the house, like food prep and cooking.

liarOur bodies, deceitful liars

The truth is, my body is what I made it — a very deceitful liar!

Way back when I was a child, some 50 years ago, my body had already begun its deceitful ways. By convincing me that sugary soft drinks would quench my thirst better than water, that my mom’s chocolate pie was better for my body than an apple or a handful of grapes, my body was in early training to become the liar that it is today!

I have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of people say that they gave up on healthy eating, usually specific diet plans, because their bodies were rejecting these plans by giving them headaches, a feeling of energy depletion, or some other variety of temporary discomfort.

Unhealthy food is an ADDICTION, pure and simple!  And, these temporary conditions of discomfort are simply withdrawal symptoms that all addicts must go through in order to free themselves from the addiction’s chains.

Changing the paradigm

We need a different paradigm for dealing with our unhealthy habits. Instead of listening to our bodies, we need them to shut up, and we need to listen to the science of good nutrition, and by this, I mean honest nutrition!  We need to know what’s really going on when we eat unhealthy foods.

What we find in nutritional resources is that when our bodies are calling strongly for something, chances are that it is a craving.  It is no different from greed, lust, or any of the other biggies which want to seize control of our more sound and rational decision-making processes.  They demoralize us, shame us, and harm us physically, shortening our lives and robbing us of the quality of life we want.

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live books and papers is what he calls “toxic hunger.”  It’s what drives these unhealthy appetites and causes many of our problems associated with eating unhealthily.  Addictions to food are dangerously real, and our bodies are great deceivers.

A new paradigm, when trying to relearn what to eat, is to be very suspicious of anything our bodies are telling us to do. Until we can identify the difference between a real need and a raging craving, we should depend on what our heads tell us rather than upon our stomachs.  A new paradigm requires us to embrace discipline, not an easy out, or an alibi when things get tough.

Our bodies are what we make them. Responsibly managing our impulses and discomforts is the biggest, and most difficult, step in defeating a food addiction.