Do you know that what you eat today matters?

What you choose to eat today medically impacts your well being. Seriously, it does.

 How did I come to this as a physician, and a women’s health provider? read on...

  Photo by Alexa Gray

Photo by Alexa Gray

First: my medical journey of seeing thousands of patients, especially women. My experiences include 1) practicing women’s health, first at Columbia Presbyterian’s Center for Women’s Health in New York City and then at the Women’s Health Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio; 2) then closing my wonderful women’s health practice to become the founding medical director of Lifestyle 180 at the Cleveland Clinic so that I could reach more individuals than clinical practice allowed for; and 3) then moving across the entire country with my family, walking away from any semblance of traditional medicine in an effort to reach even more women. 

Second: the medical facts.  In a study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Bellow et al. found that those diagnosed with chronic heart disease were more likely to be overweight or obese, smokers or not regular exercisers.  Chronic disease: think heart disease, diabetes, cancer, just to name the obvious.  And it’s heart disease that’s the leading cause of death in our country.  It’s the number one cause of death in women.  That’s you and me.

  Photo by Alexa Gray

Photo by Alexa Gray

Third: what I saw in my patients.  The stories are endless: I’ve been a physician for a while now and I’ve seen some pretty remarkable examples of how people can change their lives. Simply. Effectively. I’ve watched a patient start to eat breakfast in the morning and help stabilize her moods. I’ve watched another patient begin a stretching routine and suddenly that decades-old back pain began to fade. I’ve watched countless moms change their behavior and in so doing change their families’ behavior. How cool is it for you to change and then your child’s pre-diabetes goes away?

Fourth: my own personal experiences, especially living in Southern California. Making the time to exercise, to eat well and understand nutrition, to incorporate stress management into my life, this is not easily done.  I have certainly gone months with nary a stretch or breaking a sweat; I have made very poor food choices; and I have definitely not managed my stress well --- and I have learned that I feel better when I do incorporate this holy troika into my life.

So what is the impact of all this?

Now, this may seem obvious, but how often do you really think about preventing heart disease (or for that matter any chronic disease) on a daily basis? Unless you’ve been diagnosed with one—you probably don’t think about it at all. But lifestyle behaviors like watching your waistline, choosing whether to smoke or not, and exercising make all the difference.  For how you feel today, and how you’ll feel tomorrow.

Every day, you make thousands of choices (according to a Cornell University study, we make over 200 choices about food alone!).  In particular, I have chosen to focus on food.  Specifically, food first.  Most of us want an easy way out…pop a pill, and you’ll feel better.  Better yet, pop a few more and perhaps you’ll feel even better.  Before you know it, you’ll be taking 23 supplements, like a patient of mine.  She actually came in with a grocery bag full of bottles to show me.  Big problem: instead of focusing on getting her nutrition through food, she was focused on the latest and greatest pill.  And her health and well-being were suffering for it. 

You can live longer, feel better, be better because of the food you choose to eat.  And the food you choose not to eat. The CDC reports that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last three decades: in 1980, approximately 7% of 6-11 year olds and 5% of 12 – 19 year olds were obese, and in 2008 that number had skyrocketed to 20% and 18%.  Food choices matter.  For you.  For your children.  For our future. 

  Photo by Alexa Gray

Photo by Alexa Gray