For the last several months I've shifted my view about food. I see it as medicine, and my body reflects this. I'm eating healthier than ever and all my vitals are better than ever.
I get blood tests twice a year due to my diabetes. My blood pressure is typically around 92/60 mmHg. My LDL (lousy) cholesterol is usually around 108 mg/dl. Some would say a little high, yes, it's in the family, but my HDL (good) cholesterol is an astronomical 107 mg/dl. My triglycerides are 50 mg/dl. I've got a heart Al Pacino would say is "strong like bull" and my A1C (average measure of sugar in my blood over two to three months) is 5.7 percent -- that's in the normal non-diabetic range.
I'm not a doctor or a dietitian, but I am a health expert. An expert on my health, particularly what I eat and how it impacts my body. Frankly, you're an expert on how you eat and how it impacts your body too.
I think we have a tendency to look at food as something separate from us. And it is, when it's sitting on a shelf in the deli or in the freezer aisle of the supermarket. But as soon as you eat it, forgive me for stating the obvious, it becomes a part of you. And you, to a good degree, become as nutritionally healthy as it is. Double-fried cheese-flavored corn chips anyone?
I know I've written about this before, but maybe never as bluntly. But I can't shake this thought -- "food is medicine." I see the evidence everywhere I go. Like the overweight woman unwrapping her McDonald's super-sized burger and fries on the subway. Or a group of bright and slim twenty-somethings chowing down on, as David Kessler author of "The End of Overeating" says, salt on sugar on fat on salt on sugar.
That's his description for most foods we eat -- from doughnuts to goliath- sized cinnamon buns to middle America-chain restaurants' platters of artificial creamed spinach in a refined white bread bowl and triple-fried chicken with double-fried won tons and tomato-like sauce-slathered ribs. In 30 years, those twenty-somethings will be carrying around an extra 25 pounds and have three health conditions.
This said, I'm not professing to eat a perfect diet, just the value of eating one. But seeing food as medicine does make me more motivated to eat more foods that are nourishing me, than sickening me. All over America we see the proof of unhealthy foods' side effects: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, joint problems, sleep and respiratory problems, guilt and frustration.
You can't be healthy by just cutting down on the junk you eat. You've got to also pump up the healthy stuff. To that aim, here's a great list of 40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods that Men's Health magazine published. It's also the bulk of my diet.
It's not different from what we keep hearing we should eat -- lots of veggies, some fruit, non-fat dairy, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats like nuts and avocado, and beans. But what I hope you'll take away from this post is if you look at what you eat as medicine you'll think twice before you reach for artificial, chemically-treated, metabolism-messing non-food foods.
As Michael Pollan, author of "Food Rules" says, Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. That's pretty much what I do and eating this way, along with moderate portions, gives me the lipid profile I consistently get and automatically maintains my weight.
I'll also tell you, lest you think I'm a monk or a martyr, that fried calamari, occasional cheese or flourless chocolate cake, crusty bread and olive oil, most anything friends make for dinner and eating everything in my house on those occasional nights when the world tips out of balance, also co-exist with my healthy eating. Well, Pollan's last rule is, "Break the rules once in a while." Oh, and wine usually accompanies dinner. Thank goodness years ago some French marketing guy said it was healthy.
Since I've spent a lot of years transforming my tastes and habits, I offer you these tips to help you do the same. It's one thing to intellectually agree "food is medicine" and another to jumpstart a healthier diet.
-Food As Medicine Tips:
Decide why being healthy is important to you -- only to you -- and keep that front and center.
Fill your house with healthy foods and throw out the junk. If when you're hungry you can reach for a carrot instead of pretzels, you will have to.
The day you fall off the wagon is only a day. Start new the next day. What you do in a week counts more than what you do in a day.
Your history doesn't ever have to be your future.
If it's tough at the beginning, remember that in a few weeks your taste buds will change and you will lose your taste for synthetic food, sweets, salt and grease.
Talk yourself through a weak moment. Tell yourself if you're dying for a piece of cake at 10 PM, you can wait till morning to have it. Come morning you won't remember.
If you need it, eat it -- but just a little.
Go slow or cold turkey, whatever works for you.
Remember, next year you'll either be exactly where you are now, or more healthy depending upon what you do this year.
Follow Riva Greenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/diabetesmyths