Interview with a Nutritarian: Chris

Sometimes it takes the responsibility of being a parent to wake-up to the realization that we want to “be there” for our kids; not just when they are little, but when they’re grown up too. Chris was incredibly wise, because he took the necessary steps while his daughters were young to be the healthiest dad that he could possibly be for them. What a gift he’s giving to his young family! Welcome to Disease Proof, Chris.  

     

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

As someone who always worked out or competed in sports I never had to think about what I ate.  As I got older and other things got in the way of exercising, I would gain weight fast, because I ate like I was working out.  I always thought I was eating healthy because I'd make sure I ate some kind of animal protein with dinner.  It wasn’t until the birth of my second child that I realized I’m going to be in my 60's when they are in there 20's.  I remember not being able to put my socks on in the morning by bringing my knee straight up; I had to turn it to the side because my belly was so big.  I also remember thinking, “How am I going to carry my two daughters up the stairs when they want me to carry them?”   I didn't want to be that kind of dad.  I wanted to be the athletic dad that could do anything with them, even at a later stage in life.
 
 

How did you feel then?

Being on a high protein diet continually, I experienced toxic hunger really bad and called it “hypoglycemia".  I'd get moody if I didn't eat every two hours. My days centered around eating five meals a day.  I also suffered from adult acne and would catch a few colds every year; and it was no fun looking at myself in the mirror when trying on clothes. It was difficult for me to be out of shape while playing with my one-year-old, especially since I was in such great shape when I was younger. 

 

How did you find out about Eat to Live?

After the birth of my second daughter, I adopted a whole food, plant-based diet after reading The China Study, and I was going to raise my two girls vegan as well.  My parents and in-laws thought it was a crazy idea, because they were afraid their granddaughters weren't going to grow up to their fullest potential; so I set out to prove them wrong.  I first discovered Disease Proof Your Child, and then found Eat to LiveEat to Live made the most sense to me of all the plant based books that I had read so it was the lifestyle that I wanted to adopt for my whole family.

                                

How do you feel now?

It's crazy to think that I now weigh the same or less than I did in high school!  My energy levels have never been better.  I no longer have crazy mood swings or adult acne.  I’ve lost 7 inches around my waist and it’s fun to shop for clothes again.  Sometimes I find myself looking for clothes on the rack next to high school kids. 

I started competing n running races again and have won twice in my age division while pushing a double stroller! I’ve also received a "Super Preferred" status from my life insurance carrier.  It’s fun to say that I’m 43-years-old and in the best shape of my life; and my life insurance company just confirmed it.

  

 

Before

Now

Height

5’11

5’11

Weight

190 lbs

154 lbs

Hemoglobin A1C

5.5

5.3

Triglycerides

164

82

Cholesterol

212

145

HDL

68

70

LDL

111

58

LDL / HDL ratio

1.64

0.84

 

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

 

  • Discover the “WHY”. You need to find out "WHY" you are doing this.  Mine was for my two girls ~ I wanted to be that active, healthy father for them while they were growing up and beyond.  If you have a deep emotional commitment to your "WHY" you can achieve anything. 

 

  • Choose the highest scoring, nutrient dense foods. Always find places where you can sneak in the most nutrient dense foods like using cooked collard greens instead of tortillas.

 

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

It has made me make conscience decisions about everything I put into my mouth.  If one eats for health, the weight takes care of itself.  I love not having weight issues now or ever again, and I can live life to the fullest.  Plus now I’m competing in running races again and showing my girls how fun it can be.  When my girls are older, I will be able play sports with them instead of just watching, and I know that I’ll never have to worry about having a heart attack.  I’m also eating all the anti-cancer foods to protect myself from ever getting cancer.  I know that I will live a long and active life, thanks to my nutritarian diet.

 

Congratulations Chris on achieving your goal of being the healthiest dad that you can possibly be! 

 

Think about health when faced with tough decisions

Planning in advance to eat healthfully is quite easy – but what happens when you are confronted with an immediate decision between healthy and unhealthy food – especially when you are hungry?

Here’s an example: you’re at a party where everyone is munching on chips, cheesy dips, and greasy finger foods. You see a platter of raw vegetables and fresh fruit, but you feel tempted by the junk food. Do you stick with the produce or indulge in the calorie-laden snacks?  What goes on in your brain while you’re making that decision?

Subconsciously, we assign a certain value to each food, asking ourselves, “How will each of these foods taste? How healthy is each one? What is more important to me right now, taste or healthfulness?”

Photo of vegetable platter


Photo of junk food

Decision-making is thought to be controlled by part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontalcortex (vmPFC), which also plays a role in regulating emotions and emotional reactions.  A 2009 study found that another region, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), may help the vmPFC to decide that healthfulness is more important when making food decisions.   In people who showed more self-control in their food choices, the vmPFC was activated by pictures of foods they had as healthy and foods they rated as tasty; however, in people with less self-control, the vmPFC was only activated by foods they rated as tasty, not the ones they rated as healthy. Also, those with more self-control had more activity in the dlPFC during food decisions.  These results suggest that the dlPFC may reduce the value that the vmPFC assigns to tempting unhealthy foods, helping us to exert self-control in our food decisions.1

So, can we choose to activate the dlPFC to have more self-control when making food decisions?  If so, how? 

That’s exactly the question that this research group’s newer study tried to answer. Subjects were asked to fast for at least three hours prior to the experiment. They were shown pictures of 180 different foods and asked to respond within three seconds “yes” or “no” to whether they’d want to eat the food.  Before they experiment, they were told that one of their choices would be randomly selected, and if they answered “yes” for that food, it would be served to them later. 

Before each group of 10 food photos, a message would be displayed on the screen saying either "consider the healthiness," "consider the tastiness," or "make decisions naturally." These messages were designed to shift the subjects’ attention toward either taste or health – if they were reminded to think about health, would it change their brain activity and cause them to make a healthier choice?

The answer was yes. After seeing the “consider the healthiness” message, subjects were less likely to choose unhealthy foods, and more likely to choose healthy-untasty foods.  They also said “no” to foods more often after seeing the “healthiness” message than after seeing the “naturally” message.  

What was going on in the brain? In response to pictures of healthy foods, the vmPFC showed more activity in the presence of the “healthiness” message compared to the other messages.  The dlPFC was more active in response to all of the food pictures in the presence of the “healthiness” message compared to the other messages.  This result suggests that the dlPFC was more able to help the vmPFC put more value on healthiness after the “healthiness” message.   The subjects made healthier choices when they were reminded to do so.2,3

The message here is that making the tough decisions between taste and health is easier than we think – if we can remind ourselves that health is the more important quality, we can alter the way the brain values the foods involved.  When faced with a decision between delicious healthy food and tempting unhealthy food, we can use reminders to shift our attention toward health:

    • Post sticky notes in your kitchen, or on your desk at work, saying “Choose the healthiest foods” or something similar.   

    • Make a sign that says “G-BOMBS fight cancer in every bite.”

    • When you are looking at a menu in a restaurant, or making a food choice outside of your home, remind yourself “I choose to eat healthy foods,” or “I do not eat disease-causing foods.” Write these statements on a visible card you keep in your wallet or pocketbook.

    • As Dr. Fuhrman recommends, put a sign on your refrigerator that says “The salad is the main dish!” 

According to this research, reminders like these do work.  We can train ourselves (and our dlPFCs) to use healthfulness as the most important quality by which we value foods.

 

 

References:

1. Hare TA, Camerer CF, Rangel A: Self-control in decision-making involves modulation of the vmPFC valuation system. Science 2009;324:646-648.

2. Think healthy, eat healthy: Caltech scientists show link between attention and self-control. EurekAlert! http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-07/ciot-the072611.php. Accessed August 15, 2011.

3. Hare TA, Malmaud J, Rangel A: Focusing Attention on the Health Aspects of Foods Changes Value Signals in vmPFC and Improves Dietary Choice. J Neurosci 2011;31:11077-11087.


 

Compromises are the seeds of addiction

cookies

One doesn’t just wake up one day suddenly caught in the entanglement of an unhealthy addiction. Unhealthy addictions are formed by repetitions of small, seemingly insignificant compromises of what we know to be good for us.  The danger of little compromises is they easily turn into bigger ones.

Typically, rationalizations spark the fire of compromise:

 

  • “It’s late. I’m tired ~ just a piece of toast with almond butter before bed won’t hurt me.”
  • “It’s the Super Bowl. Everyone is eating. Even though I’m not hungry, I’ll snack just this one time with everyone else. I’m not addicted to salt anymore so I can start over tomorrow; no problem.”
  • “Woah, I made way too much smoothie, and I only like to drink them when fresh. Oh well, just this one time won’t hurt to drink all of it. I hate to waste anything.”
  • “I know that I should only eat when truly hungry, but those homemade cookies left on the countertop were calling my name. I couldn’t help myself.”

 

It takes commitment to intentional choices, a solid plan, to keep one off the radar screen of addiction. 

 

Commitment is an action of the mind; a promise that’s based on knowledge. Commitment is hard at times. It’s never the easy way in the heat of a tempting moment.

 

Compromise is an action of the emotions; based on feelings, excuses and rationalizations. Compromise is easy. Any little thing is an excuse to give into impulses of the moment.

 

Perhaps it’s time to honestly evaluate our commitment or lack thereof. Are we committed to eating for optimal health, or are we eating according to feelings?

One produces freedom from addiction. The other produces captivity to it. 

In the heat of the moment, follow the plan.

Freedom to all! 

 

 

image credit: flicr by Kimberlykj