Choices: Overweight Doesn’t Mean its Over

Just a reminder: The Weight of the Nation streams online for free on HBO.com.

The second of this four part documentary, Choices, first reminds us that Americans have built a cheap food model as a result of being mislead through television and advertising. It is the profitable foods that are in our face the most that become our go to options as we constantly look for the more convenient way to eat.

At the National Institute of Health they are trying to look at what drives obesity through metabolic clinical research in hopes of developing better therapies to treat and prevent it. They can see the brains response to more pleasurable foods but the biological systems involved in obesity are complex and have posed a challenge to science. The sensible conclusion of most studies: Small changes in lifestyle will reduce weight. To me that means more discipline in making healthier choices driven by the desire to want to live.

The documentary reiterates much of what has been said for years about diet, exercise, and diabetes and obesity prevention. When it comes to fad diets, author of The 100 Year Diet Susan Yager, tells us these diets are meant to be temporary, if they solve the problem they will be out of business. The legitimate dieticians, doctors and researchers all have the same suggestions about this shift in lifestyle in order to lose weight. The first suggestion to prevent obesity is:  Stop drinking sugary drinks! Soda, red bull, orange juice, any sugary juice extracted from its fiber needs to be eliminated. Dr. Robert Lustig Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF says, “The sugar in the fruit is nature’s way of getting you to eat your fiber.” I agree. There is a reason that nature does not produce little sacks of pure fructose. We are not meant to ingest sugar without fiber present.

It is not breaking news that to lose weight, caloric intake must be a few hundred less a day than what your body needs to function. Those calories do not need to be all carbs/no fat/no protein, all lean protein/some fat/no carbs, or whatever the next 2012 Diet of the Mayans before the Apocalypse might suggest. Obviously nutrient dense calories would be ideal here and resisting trans fat and toxic calories are common sense. Toning down all three macronutrients; protein, carbs and fat is suggested. They talk about not going extreme with a caloric intake that is too low, starving yourself, because it will slow your metabolism and therefore burn no fat.

Scientists in this study do not agree with the Biggest Loser’s approach to intense physical activity being the primary solution to lose weight. Although exercise is just as important as diet, portion control and gradual weight loss is much more effective for the long run. What exercise does do on top of burn calories is reduce stress and raise levels of opioids, the chemicals in the brain that allow us to feel pleasure. Sugar, white flour and fatty foods also raise this level and eliminating these without adding exercise is part of the struggle while transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.

 

As far as diabetes prevention as talked about in this film, Dr. Epel of USCF conducted a study with two identical twins in their 50s to see if a lifestyle intervention could decrease diabetes. In 95% of cases, if one twin has diabetes, the other one also gets it. The patients in this study were the Daly twins. The one who was a little less active and a little more overweight got the warning of pre-diabetes from his doctor in his early 40s. He continued his lifestyle while the healthier one increased exercise and a healthier diet to prevent his chances even more. Ten years later the unhealthy twin has full on type 2 diabetes while the healthier twin does not. Doctors are suggesting that with weight loss, exercise and proper diet that he can reverse this health problem that could take his limbs if not his life someday.

The stress epidemic is in direct relation with the obesity epidemic. Part of one study is to teach the patients about bringing awareness to their food and listening to and feeling the body’s cravings for foods. Being able to see when we are eating out of stress is key in maintaining a healthy weight. Stress literally causes your body to go into fat storing mode and look for these fatty, sugary foods. When the brain is stressed it sends a message to the adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol floods the body creating enzymes in the fat cells that turn them into fat storing machines. This rush floods the brain and like the drive for a drug pushes you to look for these fatty unhealthy foods.

To sum up, no matter what you are genetically predisposed to or what your current state of health is, through a few small changes in your lifestyle you can achieve a healthy weight and prevent and reverse disease such as diabetes high blood pressure. This is a topic that I am very passionate about have began working with clients through Plant Based Body on a one on one basis. Going into their homes setting up their kitchens teaching them how to simplify cooking these healthy foods at home is how I am beginning to make this my life.

Two days ago I was laid off from the hotel I was at after 3 ½ years. I am now looking forward to pursuing my passion full time and helping those around me find the love that I have found for nutrient dense food. I have the ability to bring my 17 years of culinary experience to show them how to utilize what nature has given us and make this lifestyle that much more simple.

Obesity is Crippling our Nation

For those of you that didn’t get to watch The Weight of the Nation on HBO, I pulled out some important information on Part 1 Consequences and Part 2 Choices. Part 1 looks at a study that started back in 1972 to prove that heart disease starts in childhood, the Bogalusa Study. This is the first study to autopsy children who had died from accidental and non-cardiac causes in search of heart disease. 20% of these children had fat deposits in their coronary arteries along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Of the 16,000 participants in this study, 77% of obese children remained obese as adults while only 7% of healthy children became obese as adults.

Nine of the top ten states for obesity are also our poorest. In some of these poor neighborhoods, children have a 1 in 3 chance of diabetes. African American or Latino children have a 1 in 2 chance in developing diabetes and, they say, at this rate most will die before their parents. Overall though, unlike in the past, obesity is affecting all classes of people, not just the poor.

I learned that a diseased liver has a huge role metabolically on obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. Cryptogenic cirrhosis or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is found in 13% of normal weight children and 38% of obese children during autopsies.  25% of adults have excess fat in the liver. This disease did not exist before, in adults or children. Doctors do not know the specific reason behind it but that it only exists in people that are overweight or obese. Researchers say this modern disease could be the leading reason behind liver transplants in the future.

The statistics of health problems behind obesity and overweight individuals are endless. 20% of cancer death in men and 14% in women are related to overweight or obesity. 66% of people with arthritis are obese. You are 83% more likely to get kidney disease and 80% more susceptible to dementia if you are overweight or obese.

Type 2 diabetes mostly affects overweight and older adults and accounts for 90% of people with diabetes. Currently 25 million people in the U.S. are diabetic, another 79 million are pre-diabetic and 5 million are walking around undiagnosed.

An obese person costs $1400 more a year to insure while a diabetic person costs $6600 more a year. It comes out to $150 million dollars a year to insure overweight and people with diet related problems with half of that money coming from state funding. That means everyone pays out of pocket for this epidemic. In North Carolina and Alabama these obese employees are forced to pay higher premiums to stay insured. Also the case in some private sectors, or they will just avoid the cost all together and move the jobs to India or China. When it comes to our military, 27% of people trying to get into the military cannot because they are past the weight requirement.

So to sum up Part 1, Consequences, the next leaders of this country are dying before their parents from diseases they shouldn’t have. The workforce is so unfit that companies are moving out of the country to fill jobs. Military, police, the men and women that protect this country are not only limited on new recruits by 27% because of obesity but 3-5,000 service personnel a year are discharged for being overweight. Never mind the whole in America’s pocket the health care cost is burning through.

As a consumer, a diner in a restaurant, a citizen of this country, you have a decision to be part of this problem or make some changes to be in the solution. As a chef, a restaurant owner, anyone in the feeding people business, we also can either keep on feeding this problem or make some changes to benefit our guest’s health.  This obesity epidemic is crippling our nation.

This is preventable. This is not one of those unfortunate acts of nature that we just have to accept. This is not the product of a tsunami.”-Jack Shonkoff, MD Director, Center of Developing Child, Harvard University

My synopsis of Part 2 Choices, will follow soon.

The Weight of the Nation

I have recently joined an organization called Make Healthy Happen Miami. This outlet will allow me to get hands on with the community and voice the message from a chef’s mouth. Last night, I had the chance to few the screening of, The Weight of the Nation. A four part documentary series confronting America’s obesity epidemic, that will be airing on HBO beginning May 14 and also stream online free of charge on HBO.com in English and Spanish.

I was gritting my teeth at the statistics. Two thirds of adults and one third of adolescents are overweight or obese! With those percentages, I will reiterate this message again and again. Diet is directly related to five of the top ten leading causes of death in America including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and kidney disease. 147 billion dollars a year goes to obesity related health care costs. Need I say more? A full press release is here

For the first time in 15 years, the Obama administration has gotten Congress to pass new changes in school lunch policy. All government funded schools will double the amount of fruit and vegetables, require all grains served are whole grains, limit salt, french fries and trans fat and also set a minimum and maximum daily calorie intake based on students age. Unlike some raging parents and potato farmers, I think this is a great idea. What does it mean to Americans? The government is stepping in where they can, regulating what your kids eat and not going to let healthcare costs continue to soar because of the poor food choices that are made.

Between policies like these and hopefully future regulations on the amount of advertising of unhealthy foods on television, this costly epidemic can be reversed. In the mean time, chefs have a choice. We can get educated on nutrition, if we are not, and be cognoscente of our own health and therefore our guests. What better than the hands and artistic talent of a chef to promote and educate a healthy diet even if it is just to their coworkers and guests.

Let’s open up our eyes as chefs, consumers and diners to what we are serving in our restaurants and spending our money on. The chef will adapt to the demand of his clientele if he wants to stay in business. Additionally, diners will adhere to the slight changes in dishes such as leaving white flour and refined sugar behind and enriching menus with nutrient dense whole foods.