Yesterday was my seventieth birthday, a milestone with certain consequences. On the one hand, I am truly blessed with a loving family, wonderful friends, a nice home in a beautiful community, and relatively good health for my age. On the other hand, reaching this 2 x 5 x 7 number of years in my life does bring me closer to certain realities, and you know what I mean. One of those realities relates to my relatively good health, for my age.
What I’m about to discuss is an important topic, but a difficult one for too many of us. It is the topic of weight, excess weight, and that is related to nutrition and diet. For most of my adult life, I’ve boomeranged between a little-too-heavy and uncomfortably-heavy. Fortunately, whenever the clothes are tight, I’ve been able to lose most of those extra pounds rather quickly. After a few months, the replacement fat would slowly but surely find its comfort zone on my belly, my thighs, and all the usual places. I’d be right back to trying to button the size 16 shirt around the size 17 neck, slowly turning blue as the day wore on.
Last winter, my wife and I returned home from a fabulous vacation in Hawaii where we enjoyed too many Mai Tai’s, a rainbow spectrum of ice cream flavors, and an incredible assortment of other delightful deserts along with the usual restaurant fare. The new year arrived and it was time to get back to our normal routine. Big problem! Almost none of my clothes fit. Going to work naked was not an option.
After years of experiencing the ups and downs of my weight, I finally realized the truth of what my dad tried to tell me when I was a young man. Being overweight is not conducive to a long and happy life.
We are inundated with confusing, even contradictory information about nutrition and diet. Advertising of foods, diets, and pharmaceuticals is incredible–often unencumbered by the facts, or with distorted facts intended to mislead us. It is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret all the information available to us on a daily basis.
My dad was a living example of the importance of getting our weight under control. When he was in his late 40’s (in 1958) he was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes–at the time he was seriously overweight. With the guidance of a surprisingly prophetic physician, an endocrinologist who was far ahead of his time, my dad lost weight and kept it off for the rest of his life through a strict adherence to his diet. He never again had a serious problem associated with diabetes which he managed without insulin or other medication. He lived a long and active life.
The coming of the new year, was a time of soul searching and resolve for me. I knew I could shed the pounds, I’d done it before, many times. I finally woke up to the realization that I needed to keep those pounds off for the rest of my life, or curtains! I needed help. That came from four sources: three really good books and my loving and supportive wife, Laurie. She did not have a weight problem, but she admitted she would feel better if she lost a few pounds as well. She was willing to alter our eating habits, to change when and what we eat. Working together we have been successful.
The first book I read, actually only one section related to our digestive system, was Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach by Dee Unglaub Silverthorn; 4th Edition, 2007. I studied biochemistry and physiology when I was in graduate school, and taught very basic but related courses early in my career, but that was in the last millennium. In order to figure out what I needed to do, I required a modern education. This review was very helpful.
Coincidentally, about that time I heard an interview with Dwight Lundell, M.D., a cardiac surgeon. He was talking about heart disease, but something he said got my attention. Wanting to know more, I read The Cure for Heart Disease: Truth Will Save a Nation which he authored with Todd R. Nordstrom in 2011. Dr. Lundell had performed countless heart surgeries over his career. He observed that his patients almost always suffered from inflammation. His subsequent research led him to conclude that diet was the usual cause. The inflammation of the arteries resulted in blockage and heart attacks. He contends that changing our diets could literally prevent most heart disease.
Another physician, a pediatric endocrinologist named Robert H. Lustig, M.D. of the University of California at San Francisco came to my attention. He was a guest on NPR Science Friday in January. In his practice, he deals with childhood obesity and its many unfortunate consequences. He talked about his discoveries and the new book he had just published, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. If you care about your diet, your weight, and your health, you should read this book. If you have young children, you really need to read this book right now! If you don’t have time to read a rather dense book, watch his University of California lecture available on YouTube at this link:
If that 90 minute presentation doesn’t get your attention, NPR Science Friday offers a short interview with Dr. Lustig at this link:
I guarantee you will begin to ask some important questions about your diet, the food industry and their advertising, and the role of the federal government in these issues. I heard what he had to say, I asked some questions, and I took it to heart.
Laurie and I are on the right path now. I’ve lost about 40 pounds, my clothes fit again, and I feel terrific. Laurie’s weight is back to where it was when we got married, 1.2 billion seconds ago. I realize that most of you will not want to do what we’ve done, but if you do, you will be successful. It is a big change and a big challenge to alter your diet and your life in such a drastic way. There are strong forces in our culture colluding against us in this effort. Here is my seven step plan.
- Eat real food, not food that has been manufactured to maximize shelf-life or to enhance palatability.
- Eat only enough food to balance your activity level.
- Avoid any food that has sugar added, particularly sucrose which is table sugar or high fructose corn syrup which contains the monosaccharide fructose which is converted to fat in our livers.
- Enjoy fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber.
- Don’t eat anything after dinner and don’t eat dinner within three or four hours of bedtime.
- Eat protein for breakfast, not carbohydrates.
- Get plenty of exercise.
That’s it! It’s working for us.