Monday, November 9, 2009

In Defense of Food

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. It is a very impactful piece of writing about the state of food in the US. The first section of the book introduces the concept of "nutritionism" which is the industrialization of our food. Mr. Pollan presents a clear and convincing history lesson for how we got into this mess. He then discusses the problems with the diet most American's consume. Lastly, and gratefully, he presents ideas on how to overcome nutritionism and the impact it has on the health of Americans.

Mr. Pollan includes a simple list of things each of us can do to improve the positive impact our food can have on our bodies. I'll resist the temptation to include the list here so you'll have further encouragement to read his book.

And, I'll leave you with one important thought. Most of what we eat is not actually food. Sadly the vast majority of "food" people consume are chemicals designed to pretend they are food. The best thing you can do for your health and the health of your loved ones is to eat actual, real food. How can you tell? One simply rule: If it comes in a box - it is not food.

China - The Next Target

The Wall Street Journal reported on Novartis' strategy to invest $1 billion in R&D in China. The article mentions the China market for pharmaceuticals is growing quickly and they are also contemplating health care reform to expand coverage into rural areas. The China strategy is a solid one for Novartis (as well as other pharma).

I began to wonder why China's market was suddenly so attractive. Could be a simple revenue, income and happy stockholders proposition? Could be a new market without the regulation and difficulty of the US market? Could be since Western culture has an expanded presence in China they actually now need the same medications we are taking to stay healthy?

I found this article reporting on the alarming increase in obesity in China. The growth in overweight and obese Chinese is attributed to changes in food habits, lifestyle choices and decrease in exercise.

So, let me get this straight... we introduce a Western lifestyle to a new population so then they need our Western remedies to cure them....

Is anyone else beginning to think the Western culture is a virus?

"Health Care Reform: Put down the doughnut."

Dr. Laskowski wrote an interesting piece on our role in health care reform. He talks about personal responsibility and how it is such an important factor in truly reforming our health care system. He then discusses the challenges of eating well - healthy food is more expensive, there are places in this country (inner cities) where you can't find fresh fruit and vegetables, and the unknown impact of genetics on a person's weight.

While he makes valid points it is these kinds of excuses that make it too easy for people to avoid the very same personal responsibility they must take. Yes, for some people it is hard to eat well and lose weight. However, one thing is clear - if you actually do put down the doughnut and walk more you'll be better off. One step closer to health and one doughnut bite further away from obesity.

Start small.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Doctors and Listening

I was talking to a practicing physician yesterday we wandered to the topic of his counseling patients on weight loss. He said even as a physician you have to be very careful what you say because some people are so sensitive about their weight and lack of exercise. A push too hard and the patient gets angry and won't come back. He takes the approach of gentle reminding and hints.

I continue to mull over the discussion today. I think we have to rely on our doctors to tell us the truth even if we don't to hear it. Who else tells us the unwanted truths? Are we simply happy to stick our heads in the dirt (or the bowl of cookie dough ice cream) and not face reality?

I believe that most people who need to take better care of themselves already know it. So why do people get upset when confronted with the truth?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Healthy Eating Too Costly?

This article in the Wall Street Journal shares some disturbing trends - in tough economic times our healthy eating habits are often sacrificed. The increase in sales for chips is astounding!

I find this all very curious. I wonder if our unhealthy eating habits are directly related to our budget or if it just makes us feel better. Let's face it, when the going gets tough we go for the brownies. Comfort food comes in fatty, sweet and calorie heavy varieties.

I did a quick internet search of easy, cheap meals and there are many options. Yes, doing so requires some advance planning. An hour or so on a Sunday to plan your meals for the week and some time at the grocery store and you'll have a plethora of meals for the week. You'll save the time doing the "what is for dinner" dance each evening, you'll have leftovers to take to work for lunch and you'll be eating way fewer calories.

I did a little experiment last week. I ate all of my meals at home for five days in a row and I ate basically whatever I wanted (granted my version of whatever I want is pretty healthy anyway). I lost two pounds. Two pounds with no effort other than eating in versus eating out.

Perhaps we should have an "Eat In America" week for all of us and see how many collective pounds we could all use. This causes a great deal of angst for our restaurant establishments and their revenue - many are already struggling. Perhaps they could respond with smaller portions and more healthy choices across the board.

Are you beginning to notice how everything is connected?