When asked about his diet, one of my heroes, Jack LaLanne, who was still in killer shape into his 80s, used to say, “Eat real food!”
Simple, right? When did we stop? We used to hunt, gather, cook, then eat. Now we order out, shovel in, binge, then diet.
We all know that we consume too much sugar and trans-fats, smoke too many cigarettes, and generally fall short of taking care of ourselves.
In fact, I seriously doubt we have a shot at balancing the budget until we learn to balance our lifestyle. Case in point: research out of Cornell revealed that obesity-related illnesses cost the U.S. nearly $168 billion, or 17% of all U.S. spending.
Those cashing in don’t want you to know about a 2010 Harvard-driven study reported at EPIINPAM this year, which found that 132,000 deaths from diabetes, 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and 6,000 deaths from cancer worldwide could be attributed to drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks, fruit juice, or sports beverages.
As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, my job is to help balance what’s gotten out of balance, and often that starts with convincing my patients to get enough sleep and, as Jack put it, “eat real food.” We absolutely MUST weed out dangerous dietary practices in order for acupuncture to have it’s balancing effect and improve long-term health.
It’s not easy—leading endocrinologist Robert Lustig’s research revealed that sugar-like products are as addictive as cocaine, and their insiduous presence in typical food items we consider staples has fooled us into thinking we’re eating healthfully.
We know what Lustig means. Often dietary adjustments in my clinic start with assuring my patients that I’m not the anti-Christ when I explain that the ingredients in their breakfast muffin are closer to dessert than breakfast, moving through the bad news that there’s not much difference between a 12 ounce coke (10 tsp. of sugar), and a glass of your favorite orange juice (8 tsp. of sugar).
As Dr. Lustig stated in a recent Daily News article, sugar consumption is down 40% since the 1970s, but high fructose corn syrup is way up. Look closer at your bread, peanut butter, and yogurt labels.
Here’s what’s happening: Overconsumption of sugary foods and drink causes your liver to convert fructose to fat, leading to weight gain, elevated LDL cholesterol and the formation of plaque in your arteries. Sugary foods have also been linked to breast and colon cancers.
This hardly means you shouldn’t ever have dessert. But sugar-laden drinks and processed foods have become a part of the fabric of our daily routine. Products sneakily labeled with phrases like, “diet,” “low-fat,” and “healthy whole grains” are skillfully placed on our shelves, intended to sound like optimum choices for you and your family.
And the numbers tell a grim story: 26 million people (about 8%, of the population) receive treatment for diabetes, and the number is predicted to hit 50% in the next 10 years.
Not only are we are the most unhealthy generation in two centuries—we are also the most obese country in the developed world. And results from a New England Journal of Medicine’s 2005 study predicted the generation born in 1990 may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Can you say addiction?!!
We need help. Really we do. Take a look at what qualifies as nutrition in your life. Spend a minute in your day to log your food consumption for a week or two. You’ll be surprised at how often you compromise, how often function wins out over quality. Take back your health, one choice at a time. You’ll realize its not as hard as it seem… I promise you.
My 5 suggestions to take back your health:
1. Start your day with a warm, protein-based meal.
This will ground your energy, as protein digests slowly and releases vital energy (Qi) throughout the body more evenly than grains/sugars, avoiding insulin imbalance and mid-morning/afternoon crashes.
2. Do not drink more water than your body wants.
This will wash out your digestive fluids, and put a strain on your filtering organs like your kidney and liver, which will weaken and cause an interruption in the natural flow of your body’s energy. Most foods are anywhere from 75-90% water. You get plenty of water, trust me.
3. Salad is not diet food.
The Chinese ascribe the stomach to a soup pot and the closer the food your eat is to soup, the easier it is to digest. Try moving your car when it’s 5 degrees outside. See what happens! It won’t budge, and neither will your “engine.” It’ll just sit there, feeling sluggish and bloated.
4. There is no such thing as “healthy whole grains” anymore.
Thank you Monsanto-like monoliths! Skip ‘em.
5. Read… read… read labels.
If it says HFCS, or any of its sneaky cousins, put it down. Ask Jack why!