Happy New Year!

I hope all of you Disease Proof readers have a happy and healthy New Year.  Hopefully with the opportunities good health will bring, this could be the best year of your life. 

Congratulations to everyone out there following our Six Week Holiday Challenge.  I am very excited from the wonderful stories and successes sent our way.

Please continue to send us your health success stories and comments on Facebook.com/drfuhrman.  We want to hear from you.  We want to hear about how this holiday season was different for you, how our challenge changed your health, your viewpoint, or your family or holiday traditions.  We will be publishing many of the comments here in a future post for others to read.  Let us know if you do not want your real name used if we post your stories.    

And, keep working toward the contest, because the winning success story will get an all-expense paid trip for two to our 5th Annual Getaway in Park City June 26 – July 2, 2011.  This will be the most fun Getaway ever!

Remember working towards and earning excellent health brings the opportunity to achieve more success and happiness in your life. Wishing you freedom from addictions and other disease-causing influences, and relishing in the healthiest years of your life.

 

Vitamin D recommendations have been raised, but not enough

SupplementsA few weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) surprised many of us when it announced its new dietary reference intake (DRI) for vitamin D. The consensus of the scientific community was that the previous DRI of 400 IU was insufficient, and that supplementation with at least 1000 IU would be necessary for most people to achieve vitamin D sufficiency. The IOM disagreed.

The IOM’s new recommendations:

- Recommended intake: 600 IU per day (for children and adults under age 70)

- Tolerable upper limit (amount not to be exceeded in one day): 4000 IU (raised from 2000 IU)

- Sufficient blood 25(OH)D level: 20 ng/ml

There has been a great deal of research in recent years on vitamin D’s role in a variety of human diseases. Low vitamin D status has been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline, depression, diabetes, pregnancy complications, autoimmune diseases, and even a 78% increase in all-cause mortality risk (<17.8 ng/ml 25(OH)D compared to >32.1 ng/ml). [1] However, because there are not yet enough randomized controlled trials to clearly and conclusively confirm the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for conditions unrelated to bone health [2], the IOM did not find the existing evidence for non-skeletal conditions sufficient enough to raise the daily recommendations any higher than 600 IU. The 600 IU figure is based solely on bone health - they did not take into account whether a greater quantity of vitamin D might be necessary to prevent non-skeletal diseases, even though there are vitamin D receptors in almost every cell of the human body.

Many experts are weighing in on – and disagreeing with – the IOM’s report, and there is general agreement among the experts on these points:

  • The increase of the tolerable upper limit to 4000 IU is a positive change.
  • The IOM’s definition of 20 ng/ml as a sufficient 25(OH)D is potentially low, and this could be dangerous for some people
  • The lack of randomized controlled trials does not mean that we should ignore the epidemiological evidence showing vitamin D’s importance for preventing non-skeletal diseases.

Compare my recommendations to those of the IOM:

Recommendations: 25(OH)D Vitamin D supplementation (adults)
Institute of Medicine >20 ng/ml 600 IU
Dr. Fuhrman 35-55 ng/ml 2000 IU*

*adjust supplementation according to 25(OH)D level

I agree that the IOM’s recommendations are inadequate. My recommendation is a safe, conservative amount of vitamin D which is supported by the literature. To learn more about why following the IOM’s guidelines may be risky, read my full commentary.

 

References:

1. Melamed, M.L., et al., 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Risk of Mortality in the General Population. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008. 168(15): p. 1629-1637.
2. Zhang, R. and D.P. Naughton, Vitamin D in health and disease: Current perspectives. Nutr J, 2010. 9(65).

 

Interview with a Nutritarian: Bill

It’s always fun to watch the rippling effect of those who get their health restored. This past January my story inspired Gary to get his health back. Then Gary’s co-worker, Bill, noticed Gary’s dramatic changes and was motivated. Now, almost 100 lbs lighter, Bill is so excited to be healthy and feeling great for the first time in his life! Welcome to Disease Proof, Bill. 

nutritarian male - before and after pic

What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?

My life was out of control, but I didn’t know it. The mirror was a lie for me, because I was living in denial. I had high blood pressure, and I was on meds for various things but thought, “Hey, I’m getting older and this comes with age.”  Food was an addiction and I was addicted! I ate all day and no food was off limits. I hate to think how many calories I ate and how many of them were empty calories.

 

obese maleHow did you feel then?

I felt like garbage after eating a meal. At 268 lbs I couldn’t run or participate in activities that I wanted to do. I was slowing down to a crawl, and my future didn’t look hopeful. The really sad part is that I didn’t see myself as obese, and I didn’t realize that being tired all the time was due to poor nutrition and the excess weight that I was carrying around.  It was a downward spiral that desperately needed to be stopped.

 

How did you find out about Eat to Live?

I was beginning to lose weight through eating better foods and exercising when a co-worker introduced me to nutritarian eating. He was eating more than I was and losing more weight! I was beating myself up in the gym and closely monitoring everything I ate while he was eating big meals of raw veggies, beans, fruits, and nuts. I decided to start eating high nutrient foods also and my body responded in the first few days! I was hooked!

 

How do you feel now?

I feel like for the first time in my life I have energy! I now weigh 172 lbs and I’m alert and function at a higher level than ever before. I enjoy life now! I eat foods that make me feel good and give me the nutrition that my body has needed all along. My stomach is never upset and I love the way that food tastes these days.

 

  Before Current
Weight  268 lbs  172 lbs
BP 178 / 92 126 / 62
Cholesterol  229  171
Waist  48"  36"
Body Mass Index  36  25
 Fasting blood sugar 101  95

 

Do you have any success tip(s) to share with others?

Go all the way and get yourself clean from processed foods. Do the six week challenge religiously! It works so well the first week, and each week gets better and better. By the end of my six weeks I wanted to stay on the program forever. Do this for yourself and for your family; it’s so worth it!  It’s hard for me to think that anyone could read Eat to Live or Eat for Health and not want to begin the program.

 

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you?

It has saved me from leaving this planet early and has made me a better person with more confidence and a renewed zest for life. I want to eat foods that feed my body and allow me to function at the highest level possible. This way of eating fits into my lifestyle and is sustainable for the rest of my life!

 

 

Congratulations Bill and keep up the great job!

 

Your body loves to exercise . . . and so does your mind

Dr. FerreriExercise is so much more than just burning calories. The calories burned during exercise, unless you’re a professional athlete, make up quite a small portion of our total calories burned for the day; what we eat has a much greater influence on our body weight. So why should we bother to exercise? Because burning a few calories is just the tip of the iceberg – exercise is an indispensible component of a healthy lifestyle, and has profound beneficial effects, especially on the heart and brain. So if you’ve committed to a Nutritarian diet, why not add some exercise?

 

Here are just a few of the many benefits of daily exercise:

Protects against chronic diseases.

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes by 30-50%. [1] There are clear associations between physical activity and decreased risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and this is thought to be in part due to effects on the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) system. [2] Exercise also protects against osteoporosis, as muscle strength is the best predictor of bone strength.

 

Less time spent sitting

There has been an 83% increase in sedentary jobs since 1950 – most of us are inactive for most of the day.[3] But the human body was meant to move – our ancestors probably walked up to 12 miles each day, every day.[4] Getting out to the gym for one hour is one hour you don’t spend sitting in a chair or on your couch – significant because prolonged sitting is associated with increased risk of diabetes and overall mortality.[5]

 

Makes the brain happy.

Exercise truly is nature’s mood elevator. [4, 6] In fact, exercise has such a powerful positive effect on our mental state that it is prescribed as a treatment for major depression. Meta-analyses of clinical studies have shown that exercise alone works just as well as anti-depressant drugs or cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. Aerobic exercise plus strength training works better than aerobic exercise alone, and hatha yoga (physical yoga) is also effective at reducing depression symptoms. [7-9] Exercise affects the levels of several neurotransmitters in the brain, including increasing the production of serotonin, which is associated with feelings of well-being. [10] Anti-depressant drugs are often in the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), drugs that increase the amount of serotonin in the brain – but it turns out we can elevate serotonin naturally with exercise.

Keeps the brain thinking. 

Physical activity has been consistently linked to cognitive abilities and mental alertness.[4] In older adults, regular walking was shown to decrease the risk of cognitive impairment and contribute to maintenance of brain volume [11], and strength training also produces cognitive benefits.[12] Physical activity may exert these effects in part by enhancing blood flow to the brain, which accelerates detoxification of free radicals – important since the brain is especially susceptible to oxidative damage.[4]

 

Keeps the mind focused and present.

Exercise helps to bring the human mind into the present moment, becoming intensely aware of sensations in the body, rather than daydreaming. A study published last month in Science found that the human mind is daydreaming (not thinking about its current task) about 47% of the time, and also that people rated their mood as happier when they were focused on their present activity rather than engaging in other thoughts. Certain activities were better correlated to focus on the present than others - the top two were sex and exercise. [13, 14] Certain types of exercise generate more presence than others – for example, it’s more likely that you’d daydream while running on a treadmill than in a yoga class. Mindfulness practices are known to be effective for reducing depression symptoms, and breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. [7, 15, 16] The incorporation of these two factors into physical activity results in a greater improvement in health outcomes than physical activity alone, according to a recent meta-analysis of comparisons between hatha yoga and other forms of exercise. [17]

 

Makes the heart work smarter, not harder

Exercise necessitates a huge increase in cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart over a given amount of time), because of huge increases in oxygen demands. The muscle of the left ventricle is getting a workout, and that muscle can grow stronger with regular exercise. Endurance athletes may increase their left ventricular muscle mass by up to 30%! Essentially, the heart can do less work to pump the same amount of blood. This means that resting heart rate decreases. [18] This is desirable, since a high resting heart rate is an independent risk factor for cardiac mortality.[19]

 

Natural vasodilation. Bigger, better vessels

As blood flow increases during exercise, mechanical stresses placed on the vessel walls are altered, and these mechanical stimuli prompt changes in the endothelial cells that line the vessels. Coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure patients who exercise increase their expression of eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase), a key regulator of blood pressure. In healthy individuals, the eNOS effect is not as pronounced and is transient, but it stimulates angiogenesis and vascular remodeling, increasing both the number and diameter of arterial vessels in skeletal and cardiac muscle, which results in improved blood flow to these organs. [20, 21]

 

A few more favors exercise does for us:

Builds our antioxidant defenses. [20]
Enhances sleep. [22, 23]
Protects against chronic inflammation. [24]
 

 

Here’s the best part: if you exercise regularly, you will get better at it and start to like it

Anything you practice on a regular basis will get easier over time, and the same is true for exercise. At first, it may feel cumbersome and very uncomfortable, but over time exercise will become enjoyable. Your body and mind will both thank you. 

References:
1. Bassuk, S.S. and J.E. Manson, Epidemiological evidence for the role of physical activity in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. J Appl Physiol, 2005. 99(3): p. 1193-204.
2. American Institute for Cancer Research: The Exercise Factor. [cited 2010 September 1, 2010]; Newsletter 85, Fall 2004:[Available from: http://www.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7651&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=pub_.
3. The Price of Inactivity. American Heart Association.
4. Medina, J., brain rules. 2008, Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
5. van Uffelen, J.G., et al., Occupational sitting and health risks: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med, 2010. 39(4): p. 379-88.
6. Hyman, M., The UltraMind Solution2009, New York, NY: Scribner.
7. Gill, A., R. Womack, and S. Safranek, Clinical Inquiries: Does exercise alleviate symptoms of depression? J Fam Pract, 2010. 59(9): p. 530-1.
8. Uebelacker, L.A., et al., Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. J Psychiatr Pract, 2010. 16(1): p. 22-33.
9. Saeed, S.A., D.J. Antonacci, and R.M. Bloch, Exercise, yoga, and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders. Am Fam Physician, 2010. 81(8): p. 981-6.
10. Ma, Q., Beneficial effects of moderate voluntary physical exercise and its biological mechanisms on brain health. Neurosci Bull, 2008. 24(4): p. 265-70.
11. Erickson, K.I., et al., Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Neurology, 2010. 75(16): p. 1415-22.
12. Davis, J.C., et al., Sustained Cognitive and Economic Benefits of Resistance Training Among Community- Dwelling Senior Women: A 1-Year Follow-up Study of the Brain Power Study. Arch Intern Med, 2010. 170(22): p. 2036-8.
13. Killingsworth, M.A. and D.T. Gilbert, A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 2010. 330(6006): p. 932.
14. Tierney, J. When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays. The New York Times, 2010.
15. Anderson, D.E., J.D. McNeely, and B.G. Windham, Regular slow-breathing exercise effects on blood pressure and breathing patterns at rest. J Hum Hypertens, 2010. 24(12): p. 807-13.
16. Brown, R.P. and P.L. Gerbarg, Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2009. 1172: p. 54-62.
17. Ross, A. and S. Thomas, The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. J Altern Complement Med, 2010. 16(1): p. 3-12.
18. Duncker, D.J. and R.J. Bache, Regulation of coronary blood flow during exercise. Physiol Rev, 2008. 88(3): p. 1009-86.
19. Verrier, R.L. and A. Tan, Heart rate, autonomic markers, and cardiac mortality. Heart Rhythm, 2009. 6(11 Suppl): p. S68-75.
20. Kojda, G. and R. Hambrecht, Molecular mechanisms of vascular adaptations to exercise. Physical activity as an effective antioxidant therapy? Cardiovasc Res, 2005. 67(2): p. 187-97.
21. Brown, M.D., Exercise and coronary vascular remodelling in the healthy heart. Exp Physiol, 2003. 88(5): p. 645-58.
22. Atkinson, G. and D. Davenne, Relationships between sleep, physical activity and human health. Physiol Behav, 2007. 90(2-3): p. 229-35.
23. Montgomery, P. and J. Dennis, Physical exercise for sleep problems in adults aged 60+. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2002(4): p. CD003404.
24. Mathur, N. and B.K. Pedersen, Exercise as a mean to control low-grade systemic inflammation. Mediators Inflamm, 2008. 2008: p. 109502.

 

 

 

Angioplasty and stents offer no advantage over medications alone

Our society has been falsely led to believe that only highly technological interventions and drugs are effective at treating disease. In many cases, however, these interventions merely act as band-aids – temporarily relieving symptoms while the disease process continues to progress.

Heart.  Flickr: Vintage Collective
Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a term that refers to angioplasty and stent placement procedures, is already known to have no advantage over optimal medical therapy (OMT); which refers to modest lifestyle changes plus anti-platelet, blood pressure-lowering, and cholesterol-lowering medications) for reducing heart attack incidence or cardiac mortality. This information made headlines in 2007; the COURAGE trial compared PCI plus OMT to OMT alone, and found no advantage associated with PCI procedures. [1] Since that time, literature reviews have confirmed that PCI did not decrease the rate of heart attack or cardiac death compared to OMT. [2]


Considering that PCI only treats a small portion of a blood vessel, but coronary artery disease affects the entire vasculature, this is not a surprising finding. Because of this finding, the indications for PCI evolved. Now, these interventions are indicated only for the purpose of relieving angina (chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart) symptoms in coronary artery disease patients.


However, a recent review of several clinical trials in patients with stable coronary artery disease has revealed that PCI does not lessen angina any more than medical therapy either. [3] The researchers analyzed human trials that compared either angioplasty or stent placement to OMT with respect to angina symptoms. In 5 clinical trials conducted since 2000, 77% of patients were free of angina after PCI, and 75% of patients were free of angina after OMT, suggesting that PCI does not provide enhanced symptom relief compared to OMT. [4]


We must remember that aggressive interventions like angioplasty and stent placement have serious potential adverse outcomes, such as bleeding complications, heart attack, stroke, and death. [5]  Approximately 25% of angioplasties and 21% of stent placements clog up again (called restenosis) within 6 months, and about 60% of arteries treated by angioplasty will undergo restenosis eventually.[6, 7] These data tell us that PCI is not a long-term solution. Diet and lifestyle changes, however, are long-term solutions because they remove the cause of the heart disease. A low-fat, plant-based diet plus exercise and stress management has been shown to reverse atherosclerotic plaque progression. In addition, 74% of the coronary artery disease patients who had angina and made these lifestyle changes were free of angina after only 12 weeks. [8, 9] This is equivalent to the figures cited above for OMT – except of course, without drugs.


Despite the evidence, cardiologists continue to rationalize that angioplasty and stent placements are essential for their patients. The reality is that modern interventional cardiology should be stopped and medical and nutritional cardiology should be the standard of care. Everyone who has heart disease deserves to know that they have safer, noninvasive alternatives to stents and angioplasty.


In spite of the research we already have documenting the dramatic effectiveness of nutritional interventions [8, 10-12] and the futility of angioplasty and stent placement, this obviously still has not been sufficient to change the practices of conventional cardiologists. There are too many economic forces working against it. Nevertheless, for optimal atherosclerosis reversal and angina relief, my clinical experience with hundreds of patients with advanced heart disease, (confirmed by nutritional intervention studies) demonstrates that optimal nutritional therapy (ONT), with a vegetable-based, high-nutrient (nutritarian) diet – focused on vegetables, beans, fresh fruit, seeds and nuts - is dramatically more effective than PCI or OMT. This approach has already been demonstrated to be more effective than other nutritional interventions at lowering cholesterol; if we compare the published effects of dietary interventions on LDL cholesterol levels, a low-fat plant-based diet reduced LDL by 16%, but a nutritarian diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 33%.[13, 14] This data and my results offer more evidence to suggest that a nutritarian diet is ideal and by including more greens, beans, seeds and nuts leads to even more dramatic results and long-term benefits for heart disease patients.


Of course, larger more definitive studies are needed - exactly one of the initial goals of the Nutritional Research Project. Only with better controlled and documented research results can we foster increased awareness and acceptance of the therapeutic effects of a nutritarian diet for heart disease patients.

 

 

References:

1. Boden, W.E., et al., Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med, 2007. 356(15): p. 1503-16.
2. Trikalinos, T.A., et al., Percutaneous coronary interventions for non-acute coronary artery disease: a quantitative 20-year synopsis and a network meta-analysis. Lancet, 2009. 373(9667): p. 911-8.
3. Wijeysundera, H.C., et al., Meta-analysis: effects of percutaneous coronary intervention versus medical therapy on angina relief. Ann Intern Med, 2010. 152(6): p. 370-9.
4. Relief from Angina Symptoms: Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Not a Clear Winner. Journal Watch General Medicine, 2010.
5. Angioplasty and stent placement - heart. MedlinePlus.
6. Agostoni, P., et al., Clinical effectiveness of bare-metal stenting compared with balloon angioplasty in total coronary occlusions: insights from a systematic overview of randomized trials in light of the drug-eluting stent era. Am Heart J, 2006. 151(3): p. 682-9.
7. Hanekamp, C., et al., Randomized comparison of balloon angioplasty versus silicon carbon-coated stent implantation for de novo lesions in small coronary arteries. Am J Cardiol, 2004. 93(10): p. 1233-7.
8. Ornish, D., et al., Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet, 1990. 336(8708): p. 129-33.
9. Frattaroli, J., et al., Angina pectoris and atherosclerotic risk factors in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program. Am J Cardiol, 2008. 101(7): p. 911-8.
10. Esselstyn, C.B., Jr., et al., A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician's practice. J Fam Pract, 1995. 41(6): p. 560-8.
11. Esselstyn, C.B., Jr., Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). Am J Cardiol, 1999. 84(3): p. 339-41, A8.
12. Ornish, D., Avoiding revascularization with lifestyle changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Am J Cardiol, 1998. 82(10B): p. 72T-76T.
13. Barnard, N.D., et al., Effectiveness of a low-fat vegetarian diet in altering serum lipids in healthy premenopausal women. Am J Cardiol, 2000. 85(8): p. 969-72.
14. Jenkins, D.J., et al., Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism, 2001. 50(4): p. 494-503.

 

Helpful Tips for the Challenges Ahead

In the next couple of weeks, along with the festive gatherings with family, friends and co-workers will be ongoing temptations galore. Once again Dr. Jay Benson has some more helpful tips to guide us successfully through the holiday challenges ahead.  Welcome back to Disease Proof, Dr. Benson.

 

  • Eat a healthy meal at home before going out to a restaurant or dinner party. You will be less likely to graze on unhealthy foods on a full stomach.
  • Many parties and holidays focus a lot on the food and eating. Make efforts to focus more on the other reasons to celebrate and enjoy spending quality time with family and friends.
  • If you are going to a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthy dish, and then you will at least be able to eat something healthy if there’s nothing but junk to eat.  Also, if you are hosting or planning a gathering, make the focus of the event an activity or activities rather than eating together.
  • If you have to go to a restaurant, choose restaurants that are known to have a large salad bar or a variety of salad options. Choose healthy alternatives at restaurants. Don’t be afraid to ask for a special order such as a double order of salad, a double order of steamed vegetables without salt, butter or oil, or a vegetable stir fry sautéed in water. Ethnic food restaurants may be more likely to have a variety of vegetable dishes available. Be careful, however, because these restaurants typically use a lot of oil and salt in these dishes, so be sure to special order.
  • Take healthy foods such as raw vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds when traveling. In situations such as airline travel, you will have food with you when you feel “true hunger”. When traveling far, pack bowls, silverware, a can opener, and other items to facilitate eating away from home. Then buy frozen and fresh vegetables, unsalted canned beans, and fruit at a local grocery store to create meals in the hotel room. Make sure to put a cooler in the car to keep your grocery food purchases cool.
  • Remember to eat only when hungry and stop eating before you are full. This is applicable all the time, of course, but being away from home in social environments, one may be more likely to forget this important rule.
  • In advance, make sure that your family and friends know about the exciting plan that you have for your own health. Most likely they will want to support you in any way that they can. Don’t pass guilt on others when you choose to eat differently than your family or friends. When asked, say that it is a special diet your doctor told you to be on to treat your medical problems and prolong your life. People will feel less threatened by this approach.
  • The most important strategy that makes all of your ideas work ---- is plan, plan, plan ahead!

 

All the best of great health to you and enjoy the holiday celebrations with your family and friends! 

 

How Much Rainforest Do You Eat?

Although vegetarians and vegans all have the avoidance of meat eating in common, their reasons for eschewing animal products are diverse. After all, in addition to the health benefits from abstaining from meat, many are motivated by animal suffering and certainly there are compelling environmental reasons. Meat-free followers of Dr. Fuhrman obviously do it for health reasons or a combination of health reasons and other motivations. I respect my father for providing information on nutrition and nutrition alone, without animal welfare or environmental motivations, as that is not his field of expertise.

However, I think it would be wonderful, perhaps even a necessity, if everyone understood the powerful connection our own health has with the health of the planet and the animals we share it with. My last post discussed the relationship between meat production, global warming, and world hunger. I learned much of this information at a global warming conference conducted by the World Preservation Foundation based in London. Let’s all open our eyes to the possibility here that this information may be critical for all of us.Rainforest.  Flickr: Webbaliah

It is no secret that the rainforests of the Earth are a truly magical, natural wonder. It also happens to be a place that we are massively, rapidly, and irreversibly destroying. The rainforest is home to intricate ecosystems and more unique plants and animal species than anywhere else in the world.

Amazingly, two-thirds of all known plant and animal species are found in the rainforest while rainforests themselves cover just 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Not only are rainforests home to countless plants and animals, but they are literally the “lungs of the Earth”. Rainforests are the single greatest terrestrial source of the oxygen in the air that we breathe. Keep this information in mind while reading the following statistics about how quickly we are destroying it to meet global demands for meat:

  1. We are currently facing one of the greatest mass extinctions ever to occur on Earth. Over 30 percent of the biodiversity on this planet has been lost since 1970. In the tropics, we’ve already lost over 60 percent of its biodiversity. A study conducted by the United Nations found that the rate of current plant and animal extinctions is over 1000 times the natural rate of extinction. This is by no means a natural phenomenon. The majority of these extinctions are due to abolition of the rainforest in order to grow soy and corn to feed livestock.
  2. Brazil is the largest beef industry in the world; the country produces roughly 7 million metric tons of beef every year from a total population of 165 million cattle.
  3. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 91 percent of the Amazon rainforest that has been destroyed since 1970 can be attributed to cattle raising, including the growing of feed crops
  4. Rampant deforestation for cattle-raising is becoming popular in Central America. Since 1960, more than 25 percent of the area’s rainforests have been cleared for pastures alone.
  5. The United States is the largest beef importer in the world, importing beef from Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and most recently, Costa Rica. Many US livestock companies are reported to have purchased tracks of rainforest in Costa Rica for cattle-raising, which is sold back as beef to the United States.
  6. The Cerrado, or Brazilian Savannah, is home to 5% of global biodiversity, but is being rapidly converted into farmland used to produce soy to feed agricultural animals. 400 square kilometers of the Cerrado is cut down each year to meet beef demands in the UK alone.
  7. Overstocking and overgrazing leaves the land depleted of most nutrients, which accelerates desertification. Chopping down the irreplaceable and wonderfully gargantuan rainforest trees results in the abolition of our huge carbon dioxide conversion tank and the world’s primary oxygen supply.
  8. If global warming rates continue as they currently are, within a few decades the earth’s temperature will rise 3.5 degrees C. This will be enough to complete destroy the Amazon Rainforest and further accelerate the rate of global warming, the melting of the ice caps and the rise of sea level, obliterating costal human habitats.

For those of you who have commented, “I don’t believe in global warming.”
I wish you could have been there to see live satellite photos of thousands of square miles of the forest up in smoke, with huge clouds of black soot rising into the clouds. The amount of oxygen-producing forests that already have been decimated is clearly measurable and not a belief option. Why would one deny this exists, that humans contribute to it or that the ice masses are melting? It is not a myth that humans are destroying the natural habitats, and the species of plant life that are important for the health of our planet and that this, among other human activities, contributes to global warming.

I realize there are people who have an opposing view, but the increasing demands for meat-eating by formerly underdeveloped, highly populated nations, could dramatically increase the rate of destruction of the forest, over-utilize limited fresh water supplies, and dramatically add to pollution, in addition to increasing carbon dioxide and the gradual warming of the planet.

As I write this, I think of the movie Wall-E, in which the Earth became one big wasteland and the obese, lazy humans of the future have to move to a spaceship because planet Earth is no longer hospitable. I do not speak for my father, but as a young adult interested in the future of this world, clearly, saying no to meat-eating is a simple change that we can all make to protect the world’s precious natural resources. Maybe we’ll save a few human lives too in the process.

Is pleasing Grandma ruining your health?

cookies

  • Are you currently engulfed in the sea of pleasing everyone but yourself?

  • Do you help your children and/or others reach their fullest potential, but neglect your own goals?

  • Are you afraid to “rock the boat” this holiday season and say, “No” to others ~ to the extent that you don’t take care of yourself?

  • Would you like to eat healthier, but are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings by rejecting their food; especially Grandma’s favorite cookies that she made just for you? 
  • Are you going along with the crowd to blend in at the expense of killing yourself?
  • Are you straddling the fence?  Do you want to eat for health, but are afraid of what others might think so you make compromises? 

 

A people pleaser is concerned with the expectations of others and trying to fit in, even if it means giving up personal goals to do so. Pleasing everyone is emotional dysfunction, and is usually on the side of evil, not goodness. Trying to please others, even if what they are promoting is hurtful, is a deadly snare. Gang members can torture and kill people trying to please their peer group.     

Don’t meet the expectations and demands of others if they are unrealistic and disease promoting.  Love means having the best affect on others, not acting in a way to be viewed more favorably.  The latter is weakness and self-love.     

If you are a habitual people pleaser it will take courage to change the dysfunction. Saying no without feeling guilty can be difficult, but for optimal health, you must change damaging behaviors.

Standing up for yourself and doing what is right, not necessarily what is popular or what is promoted by your family and friends, is the best gift that you can give to others!

Let’s dialogue.  In what practical ways do you need to change this holiday season in order to be emotionally and physically healthy?  (Feel free to use a nickname if you wish to remain anonymous.) 

 

image credit: flickr by jencu

Half-way there!

Dr. FuhrrmanThree weeks in and I'm thrilled, along with my teams at DiseaseProof.com and DrFuhrman.com, that almost 1500 people, most of whom were on the fence for years, have joined us in taking the Six Week Holiday Challenge. We're flabbergasted by the success of this outreach and the many hundreds of supportive e-mails and posts that we've received from those, who for their first time in their lives, are getting their health back over the holidays instead of watching it deteriorate further.  This challenge has even helped motivate thousands more, who were already eating healthfully, to do even better.  We’ve all come together in solidarity to eat healthfully throughout the holiday season. 

For those of you who are now half-way through the challenge, I’m so proud of you that you are sticking to the promise; staying away from fast food and junk food, and adding high nutrient foods and exercise instead. Can you imagine only three weeks left and then you can go back to eating junk again?! (just kidding!)  And that’s the exciting part also; with all the delicious, healthy recipes, many have found the holiday challenge much easier and more enjoyable than they could’ve ever imagined.  They now know that they can stay on the road to wellness long after the holidays are over.  I’m looking forward to hearing more of your succes stories after the New Year.

                                                     

Congratulations to all of you! 

 

Being a shining example of excellent health is an exciting personal victory and one that also enables you to help others in need.  Keep up the great work.

 

Your health is your greatest wealth.

Being just overweight, not obese, still shortens lifespan

It is becoming more widely known that obesity can lead to a premature death – but what about those who fall in between healthy weight and obese?  A 2010 study suggested that even “a few extra pounds” can be dangerous.

This study was published just a few months after another large study that concluded that waist circumference was associated with risk of death from all causes. These two studies used different methods of measurement, but they agree on a very important point – even a small amount of excess weight increases the risk of death. In the waist circumference study, even people who had a normal body mass index (BMI; calculated based on height and weight) were at greater risk of death if they had a 4-inch larger waist compared to others in their BMI category – that four extra inches of abdominal fat translated into a 16% (men) and 25% (women) increase in mortality risk over a nine year period.

Last week, another article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in which the researchers analyzed risk of death from all causes according to BMI. The data they analyzed came from 19 different studies and included 1.46 million people across the U.S., Europe and Australia. The results were dramatic. The risk of death from all causes was elevated just above the ‘normal’ BMI category and continued to climb as BMI increased. Those who were overweight but not obese were still at risk.

Compared to individuals with BMI of 20-24.9, the increased risk of death was

  • 13% for those with BMI 25.0-29.9
  • 44% for those with BMI 30.0-34.9
  • 88% for those with BMI 35.0-39.9
  • 251% for those with BMI 40.0-49.9[1]

Of course, the risk is greater with more excess weight, but the key finding is that even with a moderate amount of excess weight, there is a significant increase in the risk of death.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and about half of this group fall into the overweight but not obese category. These studies would therefore suggest that 68% of Americans are dying prematurely because of their excess weight. The prevalence of processed foods and junk food has gotten most Americans completely out of touch with hunger and satiety signals. Nutrient-dense eating, resulting in the recognition of true hunger, is an effective method for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

 

Reference:
1. Berrington de Gonzalez, A., et al., Body-mass index and mortality among 1.46 million white adults. N Engl J Med, 2010. 363(23): p. 2211-9.

 

Cooking 101 - The Eat to Live Way

With many now participating in the Six Week Holiday Challenge, it’s the perfect time to learn helpful and healthful cooking skills that are crucial to supporting the nutritarian eating style. Linda Popescu, M.S., R.D. is Dr. Fuhrman's Research Assistant; along with being the “Vitamin Advisor” for DrFuhrman.com and faculty member of the Nutritional Education Institute. Welcome to Disease Proof, Linda. 

 

Linda PopescuThere are a few essential cooking techniques that need to be mastered when you commit to a nutrient dense diet style.   While these may be old news for our seasoned Eat to Live veterans, it might be helpful to review them for those who are new to this way of eating. 

The Six Week Holiday Challenge is a great opportunity to develop and practice new cooking skills. Nutritarian cooking can be simple or gourmet. You don’t have to be a chef and have unlimited time to cook wonderful meals. On the other hand, if you do enjoy spending time in the kitchen you don’t need to stifle your culinary creativity.

Soups, Salads and Smoothies are the backbone of the nutritarian diet. Soups/Stews play a big role because when vegetables are simmered in soup, all the nutrients are retained in the liquid. It is easy to incorporate a variety of green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, onions, beans and other healthy ingredients all in one pot. A big advantage to making soups and stews is that they make great leftovers. Make a pot of soup for dinner and you will also have lunch taken care of for several days.

Many of Dr. Fuhrman’s soup recipes use fresh vegetable juices such as carrot juice for the base. Use freshly juiced carrot juice for maximum flavor or if you are short on time, refrigerated bottled carrot juice can be purchased. No- salt-added or low sodium vegetable broth is also used in some soup recipes. As a general guideline, do not use a vegetable broth that has more than 200 mg of sodium per one cup serving.  To make a “cream” soup, blend raw cashews or cashew butter into the soup to provide a creamy texture and rich flavor. Simply remove a portion of the cooked soup (2-3 cups) and blend with raw cashews (usually around ½ cup) then return the blended soup/cashew mixture to the soup pot. 

When it comes to salads, think big. We are not talking about a saucer full of iceberg lettuce. Get a big salad bowl and eat the whole thing. Experiment with a variety of salad greens: romaine, baby greens, spinach, mache, watercress, arugula, Boston lettuce or shredded cabbage. Add other interesting colorful veggies as well as a variety of beans. This eating style features creamy dressings and dips created with nuts, seeds and avocados. These whole foods supply healthy fats that complement the vegetables. Use a food processor or high powered blender when making nut/seed based dressings and dips. Gourmet fruit flavored or balsamic vinegars are also used in many recipes to add unique and delicious flavors.

Smoothies blend raw vegetables with fruit to efficiently increase your nutrient absorption. When we chew we don’t do an efficient job of releasing all the nutrients hidden within the plant cell walls. When making smoothies and blended salads, the blender does the job for you. A powerful blender such as a Vita-Mix is a good investment that will last a lifetime. It can blend nuts, seeds, frozen fruit and vegetables into creamy delicious drinks. Smoothies are great for breakfast. They are portable and require minimal time and effort.

 

Another basic technique to learn is water sautéing (also called sweating or steam frying) which is used instead of cooking with oil. It is used for stir frys, sauces, and many other vegetable dishes. To water sauté, heat a skillet, wok or pan over high heat until water sputters when dropped on it. Add a small amount of water (2-3 tablespoons) and the items to be cooked such as onions, garlic, peppers or other vegetables. Add more water as necessary and cover occasionally until the vegetables are tender. Do not add too much water or the food will be boiled not sautéed. To develop flavor, let the pan dry enough for the food to lightly brown before you add more water.

During the Six Week Challenge, use the DrFuhrman.com Member Center Recipe Guide to locate new recipes that work for you. It currently contains over 800 recipes with more being added every day. You can search for recipes by category, name or ingredient. Members can rate recipes on a scale of one to five stars and add comments. You can even sort recipes by rating so you can quickly see the recipes that are the most popular. Try the recipes, rate them yourself and share your own favorite Dr. Fuhrman-friendly creations with us.

 

Bon Appétit!


Green and orange vegetable consumption - an indicator of longevity

No matter how many different dietary theories there are out there, pretty much everyone agrees that vegetables are “good for you”. But how good they truly are has been debated – there are plenty of observational studies linking vegetable consumption to favorable health outcomes, but other studies have made headlines by casting doubt on how powerful plant foods are for preventing disease. The data from these observational studies is often flawed simply because the majority of people in the Western world don’t eat enough vegetables to have a measurable impact on their risk of chronic disease – only about 25% of Americans eat the recommended three one-cup servings of vegetables each day.[1] Also, total vegetable consumption isn’t necessarily an accurate indicator of the healthfulness of one’s diet, since some vegetables are far more nutrient-dense than others. Of course, long-term controlled trials of consumption of a high-nutrient vegetable-based (nutritarian) diet have not yet been published (with the Nutritional Research Project, I aim to fill this gap in the medical literature). Some long-term observational studies, however, do provide clear, high-quality data demonstrating that vegetable consumption is an important factor in chronic disease prevention – a recent study on serum α-carotene levels and risk of death provides such data.

Alpha-carotene is one of over six-hundred different carotenoids, a family of antioxidants that also includes β-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. Carotenoids help to defend the body’s tissues against oxidative damage, which is a natural byproduct of our oxygen-dependent metabolism. [2] Oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids is a known contributor to chronic disease and an accepted mechanism of aging. The body’s defenses against oxidative damage consist of naturally produced as well as diet-derived antioxidant molecules.

Many prospective studies in the past few years have supported the epidemiologic association between plasma carotenoids and reduced risk of disease and/or death. [3-6] However, these studies didn’t differentiate between carotenoids from food and those from supplements. Carotenoid supplements have failed to duplicate this effect in clinical trials. In fact, supplemental carotenoids are likely to be harmful. A recent meta-analysis of several trials found a 7% increase in mortality risk in subjects taking β-carotene supplements. [7, 8] Also, high serum β-carotene has been associated with decreased lung cancer risk, but β-carotene supplements may increase the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers.[9] Attempting to duplicate the beneficial effects of carotenoid-rich foods with isolated nutrients is foolish - it completely neglects the contribution of additional and/or synergistic effects of other nutrients contained in those foods.

Beta-carotene is the most widely studied carotenoid, but α-carotene more accurately reflects vegetable intake because α-carotene is not present in most multivitamins and supplements. It is also an excellent marker of high-nutrient vegetable intake, since dark green and orange colored vegetables are the richest sources of alpha carotene. Green vegetables are the highest in overall nutrient density, and of course they are the foods richest in alpha carotene.

This study measured baseline serum α-carotene and tracked deaths in the 15,318 participants over a fourteen-year follow-up period. After controlling for potential confounding factors, the researchers found a significant trend – increasing serum α-carotene associated with decreased risk of death from all causes. Those with the highest serum α-carotene had a 39% decrease in risk of death compared to those with the lowest serum α-carotene. Similar relationships were found between serum α-carotene and risk of death from cardiovascular disease, all causes other than CVD, and cancer.

Serum α-carotene % Decrease in risk of death from all causes
0-1 µg/dl (Reference group)
2-3 µg/dl 23%
4-5 µg/dl (average 4.79 µg/dl) 27%
6-8 µg/dl 34%
≥9 µg/dl  39%

Alpha-carotene itself does provide significant antioxidant benefit –but more importantly α-carotene is a marker of the thousands of additional compounds, working synergistically to keep the body healthy present in green and orange vegetables. [10]

These results suggest that not only quantity of vegetable consumption, but the type of vegetables consumed has a major impact on health. This is the main principle behind the nutritarian diet – eating according to nutrient density. This large, long term study gives much support to the concept of nutritarianism, as many foods high in α-carotene tend to be high in micronutrients overall – the foods that make up the base of the nutritarian food pyramid. And of course keep in mind, even in the highest alpha carotene group in this study, the levels of vegetable consumption as a percent of total calories are likely not nearly as high as in someone following a nutritarian diet. Also, the serum level of alpha carotene in someone following a typical Western diet likely reflects mostly carrot consumption compared to the wide variety of green and yellow vegetables that would be consumed as part of a nutritarian diet, from which further benefits would be expected to accrue from the variety of phytochemicals contained within those vegetables.

Examples of foods with a high α-carotene to calorie ratio[11]:

  • Bok choy
  • Cabbage
  • Red peppers
  • Carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • Green peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Collards
  • Broccoli
  • Winter squash
  • Peas

 

 

 

 

 

Now imagine if such a study was done on people eating the dietary quality I recommend, which would result in levels even much higher than those in the study, and imagine if a diet of this quality was done for more than 10 years and with other synergistic foods, such as mushrooms, onions, berries and seeds. Just imagine...

 

References:

1. State-Specific Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults --- United States, 2000--2009. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report September 10, 2010 November 24, 2010]; Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5935a1.htm.
2. Krinsky, N.I. and E.J. Johnson, Carotenoid actions and their relation to health and disease. Mol Aspects Med, 2005. 26(6): p. 459-516.
3. Lauretani, F., et al., Low total plasma carotenoids are independent predictors of mortality among older persons: the InCHIANTI study. Eur J Nutr, 2008. 47(6): p. 335-40.
4. Akbaraly, T.N., A. Favier, and C. Berr, Total plasma carotenoids and mortality in the elderly: results of the Epidemiology of Vascular Ageing (EVA) study. Br J Nutr, 2009. 101(1): p. 86-92.
5. Ito, Y., et al., A population-based follow-up study on mortality from cancer or cardiovascular disease and serum carotenoids, retinol and tocopherols in Japanese inhabitants. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 2006. 7(4): p. 533-46.
6. Ray, A.L., et al., Low serum selenium and total carotenoids predict mortality among older women living in the community: the women's health and aging studies. J Nutr, 2006. 136(1): p. 172-6.
7. Bjelakovic, G., et al., Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2008(2): p. CD007176.
8. Bjelakovic, G., et al., Systematic review: primary and secondary prevention of gastrointestinal cancers with antioxidant supplements. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2008. 28(6): p. 689-703.
9. Druesne-Pecollo, N., et al., Beta-carotene supplementation and cancer risk: a systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Cancer, 2010. 127(1): p. 172-84.
10. Li, C., et al., Serum {alpha}-Carotene Concentrations and Risk of Death Among US Adults: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study. Arch Intern Med, 2010.
11. NutritionData.com: Nutrient Search Tool. 2009]; Available from: http://www.nutritiondata.com/tools/nutrient-search.

 

Slaying the Sugary Beast

Dr. KlaperAs a continuation of the Six Week Holiday Challenge series, Michael Klaper, M.D., will be sharing helpful and eye-opening insights into the health damaging effects of sweets on our bodies. Dr. Klaper assists in answering questions on the Ask the Doctor forum of DrFuhrman.com, and is currently on the staff at the nutritionally-based True North Health Clinic in Santa Rosa, California. Welcome to Disease Proof, Dr. Klaper. 

 

There you are, having waded into the Holiday Eating Scene and finding yourself knee deep in Temptation City. Platters of chocolate chip cookies, lovingly-baked and fresh from the oven, coyly call to you. Servings of sherbet shimmer seductively. The creamy pie looks especially good tonight. How do you fortify yourself against these pitfalls? 

Now, I wish that I could say that if you eat a clove of raw garlic in the morning and wear a rutabaga around your neck all day, you will never be tempted by sugary desserts. (Come to think of it, if you eat garlic in the morning and wear a rutabaga around your neck, you probably won’t be getting many party invitations, anyway, so it might not be such a bad strategy after all!)

But, seriously, I have been cursed with one of the most voracious sweet tooths (is the plural of “sweet tooth” really “sweet teeth?”) in history. Until my nutritional understanding grew to a point when most sugary treats just no longer seem as appetizing to me, any dark chocolate bar or vegan cookie within arm’s reach of me was in mortal danger. Yet, they are safe in my presence now. What has armed me with such fortitude? Why don’t I eat the cookies and the devil’s food cake this year? Because I know what they are!

To arm oneself with this sword of knowledge, a little sweet chemistry understanding is called for. Sugars do taste good, and there is no problem in enjoying the naturally occurring fructose in whole, fresh fruits. The problem is in eating sugar as a food! When you are holding a cookie in your hand, a piece of cake, a candy bar, you are holding a chunk of sugar in your hand. You would not consider going over to the sugar bowl and shoveling tablespoons of the white stuff into your mouth, but here you are, actually considering eating this large chunk of sugar as a food.

If you do eat it, within minutes, your bloodstream is flooded with sugar. Soon, the structural proteins in all your tissues – the elastic fibers of your skin, the hemoglobin in your blood, the filter membranes in your kidneys, the inner lining of your blood vessels, the lenses of your eyes – all get “sticky” with sugar (the chemists say they become “glycosylated.”) In the 98.6 F metabolic “oven” of our body, the sugars and proteins melt together and oxidize, like the browning of bread crust (called the “Maillard reaction.”) These oxidized, damaged, and congealed proteins, officially called “Advanced Glycation End Products” do not function normally – the gummed-up, oxidized protein fibers break, skin cracks in the sunlight, eyes become less permeable to light, muscle proteins do not contract as vigorously, brain function dwindles – sound familiar? The aging process perhaps? EATING SUGAR AGES US!  (Remember, the acronym for "Advanced Glycation End Products" is AGE's!)

 

So, as my eyes fall upon the plate of cookies or candy, I actually flash the image in my mind of myself eating it, and simultaneously think, “This is a chunk of sugar in my hand. This stuff ages me. It makes my skin crack, my arteries stiff, and it leads me towards frailty and Alzheimer’s disease. Do I really want to eat it? Is it really worth it?”

I also know, after having indulged far too many times in the same, sugary seduction, that I am always physically sorry after I eat it. That is, it is guaranteed that within 15 minutes of eating the cake or candy, I will have that sickly, light-headed, slightly nauseated “I can’t believe I just ate all that sugar” feeling coursing through my body.

Nope. Not this time.

“Been there. Done that. Got the tissue aging. Don’t need to do that no more…”

It is said, “The truth shall set you free” - and the truth is, whether mixed with fat, as in ice cream, or baked into pies, candies and cakes, or dissolved in soft drinks, refined sugars are sweet poison. Like the poisoned apple in Sleeping Beauty, sugary treats taste good upon the tongue, but silently and relentlessly, they damage us.

Fortunately, if you look around, there is usually a safer, more wholesome way to appease your sweet tooth. There is most always fruit available at festive gatherings - but to make sure, bring some grapes or melon chunks in a discrete plastic container to munch on instead of the sugary seducers. (Of course, eating a hearty, ETL-style meal at home before you go out to party will make you less likely to nibble on handy but unhealthy treats while you are there.)

It also helps to remember that temptation is usually place-specific; that is, while the visual cue is right in front of you. I know that if I move away from the site of temptation and actively do something else for 5 minutes, my mind lets the sugary treat go to focus on the current conversation or task in front of me. I know that if I keep walking past the bakery or the sweets table at the party, the sights, smells and temptations will fade away in a few minutes. So, at the festivities, move to a different part of the room, have some of the food or trail mix you brought with you, strike up a conversation with an interesting person, and let your mind move on to something less detrimental to your health.

An especially powerful strategy that worked for me recently was to understand the power of commitment and abstinence. (I know what you are thinking, “Uh-oh, here comes the dreary part.” But read on; this turns out to be a joyful, empowering strategy.)

It began at the end of a talk given by Rory Freedman, author of Skinny Bitch. She said, “If you can do without a seductive food for a month, you will seriously reduce, or eliminate altogether, your desire for that substance. So, turn to the person next to you, lock pinky fingers with him or her, and both of you vow to help the other overcome their next food stumbling block over the next month.” The person to my left was Ann Wheat, co-owner of the Millennium restaurant in San Francisco, and without hesitation, we both locked pinkies and said, “Let’s both stop eating sugar!”

From that point on, we were “pinky buddies” - and whenever I would be tempted by a chocolate treat or piece of vegan devil’s food cake, I would think of Ann’s smiling face and earnest effort and say, “No, I’m going to stay strong because I know I will be talking to Ann soon, and I don’t want to let her – or me – down."

So, the month went by with this simple commitment steeling me through each moment of temptation. As the weeks sped by, my viewing of chocolate – and my desire for it – significantly changed. I saw it for the fatty chunk of congealed sugar that it is, and I lost my desire to eat it. Tastes certainly do change! So, another way to make your “sword” even more powerful is to make it through a month without eating your “problem” food, and see if you don’t feel less driven to eat it after that time.

Finally, if you do find yourself absolutely unable to resist tasting a given treat, and you do have a bite or a whole cookie, don’t panic, don’t regard yourself as a failure – and above all, don’t say, “Well, I’ve blown it now, so I might as well eat every bad thing in sight.” Rather, make it a reinforcing learning experience. Yes, you put it in your mouth and are eating it. So, taste it for what it is – congealed sugar on your tongue. Then say, “Yep, that tastes like the chunk of sugar I knew it was and I don’t want to eat any more of it.” It is OK not to finish the piece of cake or eat the entire gooey chocolate caramel. No penalty for that confirmatory bite – just fully taste it, decide you got the taste sensation you came for, and that you don’t need to eat any more of it. Put it down, find a healthier ETL alternative, and rejoice in your inner fortitude.

As you demonstrate this power to yourself over and over, you will find yourself to be like the mighty lion or lioness, who, as they stride through the forest, are not distracted by the frogs of temptation that croak at them from under the leaves.

Happy, healthy holidays!