Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Are What We Eat

I see the health effects of poor lifestyles every day at work. Excessive smoking, abuse of alcohol, street and prescription drugs all cause predictable problems. But our biggest health threat is undoubtedly food. I was taught that smoking and drinking were sinful habits, but somehow gluttony never made the list. We receive daily messages in the media about the dangers of too much fat, salt, sugar, processed food and too few vegetables, fruits, whole grains which contain essential nutrients. But for many people, the advice falls on deaf ears even when they suffer from diabetes, arteriosclerosis, fatty liver disease and a host of other food related ailments.

From Feeding Frenzy

Our dietary department is small and the dietitians are kept busy looking after people with exceptional needs such as tube feeds and special textured diets. There is little time for education and “food therapy”. One of my patients who had a severe stroke recently was enjoying a fast food hamburger and a large poutine for lunch this week. Her family brought it in as she didn’t like the hospital meals. Our daughter is a RN on a cardiac surgery unit in a large teaching hospital. Patients receive little or no teaching about heart healthy diets. Instead, medications are dispensed to patch up symptoms rather than dealing with root causes of problems. We expect that people will resist lifestyle changes.

The hospital provides staff treats for special occasions. This week our newsletter reminds us to buy cupcakes for a local charity. The cafeteria has a special Halloween menu of Bat Wings (chicken wings), Spider dogs (hotdogs), Witches Brew (chili), Ghostly Cupcake and Graveyard Pudding...definitely a graveyard menu for staff, visitors and patients!

From Family Fun

Our neighbour is a middle-aged man of German background. He was raised on sausage, schnitzel, the best cheeses and rich desserts. He had an inevitable heart attack a few years ago and had a stent inserted in a narrowed artery. He was on a load of medication and still experienced angina regularly as well as negative side effects from his drugs. He read The China Study as well as books by Dr Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall and decided to eliminate all meat, dairy, fat and processed food from his diet for 12 weeks. I could not imagine a more unlikely person to try a low fat vegan diet. He lost weight his excess weight quickly and with his doctor’s blessing, was able to come off ALL his medications. He feels energetic and healthy and plans to continue his eating plan forever as he really enjoys his new food choices. He is enthusiastic as he shares his journey when people ask why he looks ten years younger and is getting so trim.

His doctor told him to write a book but he stated, “The book has already been written. You just have to read it.”

People can change. They just need to know how to do it.

Some of our backyard vegetables this summer

I wish I could go back and feed our children differently. I would have more courage to eliminate the sweets, processed foods, hotdogs, much of the cheap meat, unhealthy fast food, and the holiday excesses. We always ate plenty of healthy foods, and plenty of unhealthy foods. There are many fun and delicious ways to reward youngsters and celebrate special days that will not set them up for chronic illness. Fortunately it is seldom too late to make changes that will benefit us for the rest of our lifetime.

Easy to make, fun to eat


  1. I cannot agree with you more. There is very little education for those that want and need to revised their diets. At my request I asked to speak to a diabetic specialist and ask for some support in dietery choices. It could just help me in the right direction. The world didn't become junkies on their own so we all need help to bring us back. All your pictures look delicious. Are those purple beans? Where would I find some of those?

  2. Alright then. Since I've had potato chips for dessert, I guess I'd better go eat that apple that I also brought over for lunch.

  3. Ruth, well said. Love the photos.

  4. Mexico Mom9:34 pm GMT-4

    Please order the book you think best for Dad and I and bring it with you in December.

    We can always learn more for our 8th decade.

  5. Great post - I eat meat free a couple meals per week and am toying with more changes.

  6. So true! I have gradually adjusted my eating habits over the years and feel better now than when I was younger.


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