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Eating Clean

Recently while seeing patients in my office, I had a husband and wife who came in together. Both were new to the practice. Both of them were obese and had multiple chronic diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure. During the course of the history taking part of the visit, the wife told me that they were both scheduled for Gastric Sleeve (bariatric) surgery this fall at a tertiary care center in the state. She continued to tell me that both of them were in the early presurgery phase of nutritional education and psychological evaluation. The husband proceeded to tell me that he wasn’t sure why he had gained so much weight, and that he ate just what his grandparents had eaten, and they lived to be 100 years old, were never obese, and had no medical problems. When I asked him about their life style, guessing that they were probably farmers and lived active lives, he agreed, yet vehemently stated that he exercised and was active also.
This is usually the point in any nutritional conversation that I have with my patients when I ask how many processed foods they consume. I also usually have to define “processed” to most people, and I usually simplify it by saying that a processed food is any food that has been altered in some way from its natural form. To further identify processed foods for patients, I point out that any food in a bag, box, can, frozen or preserved has been processed in some way. There are different levels of processing from fresh freezing or canning vegetables at the peak of freshness with little to no additives or preservatives, to fully cooked frozen dinners, pizzas,etc. which have large amounts of added sugar, salt, fat, preservatives, and empty calories. The former is MUCH healthier than the latter.

Processed food did not exist in the era of my patient’s grandparents. Therein lies the major difference in food consumption in 2018 and for the last several decades. As time goes on, our societal norm has become eating those things which are ready made and waiting for us to buy at the grocery store. It is easier and much quicker to do that than to prepare and eat CLEAN foods. EATING CLEAN is a buzz phrase for eating foods that are not processed, or at least heavily processed. Fresh fruits and vegetables, (emphasis on the vegetables) lean protein, whole grains, legumes, and healthy dairy and fats like olive oil or canola oil.

It made me a little sad as I listened to these two people, both of whom are in their late 50’s,tell me about what they had learned in the nutrition classes that they were now attending. They marveled at the basic nutrition that they were being taught….like they had never heard it before. Because they hadn’t. Most people haven’t. Sad but true.

In this processed food world that we live in, our society has become fat and sick. This is true for our state and the entire country. And…it is a problem with a solution that is easier said than done. We need to stop buying and consuming processed foods. Wow!! Did I just say that? Sure did, and I say that to all of the patients that I counsel for nutritional solutions to their chronic disease. Not just the obvious junk foods that are a no brainer, but all processed foods from crackers and salad dressings to frozen prepared dinners. Minimally processed foods like canned and frozen vegetables are fine especially during the winter months when fresh produce only comes from Mexico and Chile,but any foods that are moderately to highly processed should be off limits.

Oh, I know that sounds crazy! And the first few weeks of decreasing and minimizing processed food intake are difficult, not only because we can’t run to the cupboard for crackers, i. e, the convenience factor, but also because we actually need to think about what foods are CLEAN. But, after those first few weeks, the rewards are amazing as our energy levels increase, the weight starts to come off, and what is most amazing, our health starts to improve.

The mantra of the FARMacy WV program is healthy FOOD IS MEDICINE. Changing eating habits that have become just that, HABITS, is hard. No one is denying that. Life style change is difficult for any reason, whether it is to kick an addiction like smoking, alcohol, or even drugs. The first step is recognizing that you have a problem and then asking for help, and not waiting until multiple chronic diseases have taken over your life. But if they have….start making that change anyway.

The Wellness Bridge Program was developed by Judi Hladek in Wheeling, WV. She has touched many lives by teaching healthy eating to people with chronic disease over the years. If you feel that you are ready to make a real change in your life, and that you are ready to learn how to fight chronic disease by healthy eating, drop me an e-mail. Judi will contact you by phone or email and help empower you to fight the battle against obesity, heart disease, Type II Diabetes, and high blood pressure. Email me at c_greco_do@msn.com.