I think it’s more what you eat than how much

If there’s anything good about Obamacare, it’s the trend to educate people and make us all more responsible for our own health. Sure, everybody knows somebody who doesn’t take care of themselves, eats to excess, drinks too much alcohol or stimulants, resists physical activity and ignores dental hygiene.  More likely, we all know people, including ourselves, who live a reasonably healthy lifestyle, but slack off in one or another area.

Unfortunately, I also wince at the word “educate”. I remember the way they used that word in China in the 1960’s – “re-educate”  – meaning, brain washing, changing the way people think already.  Many times, the idea may sound harmless, but it’s the actual information they are pouring into our heads that’s questionable.

In the article below, the bariatric team from Enloe supposedly offers some suggestions to avoid overeating at holiday time. As usual, they suggest smaller portions – one woman even brings up the old advice to use a smaller plate. They also try to tell us, change the emphasis from food to other activities. Like going to the movies? A walk in the park? That’s the best advice they come up with. I find it lacking.

Bariatrics is the medicine of obesity. The emphasis really isn’t on prevention, it’s on intervention – stapling your stomach so you can’t eat as much food. So, I guess I shouldn’t expect them to come up with the greatest advice for avoiding obesity. They’ll tell you, “oh well, I know you  tried, now here’s what we’re going to do…”  It’s covered under Obamacare, so I predict this surgery will soon become a lot more common, and I believe people will have it more than once. 

Here’s why telling people to eat smaller portions won’t work – smaller portions of garbage isn’t any better for you than large portions of garbage. And then you’re sitting around a bunch of other people stuffing it down while you pick over your dinky helpings.  People need to be thinking as much about what they’re eating as how much.  What I found helpful in losing weight – and I never put those 15 pounds back on, thankyouverymuch – was, eat foods you can eat a lot of, and then you won’t be so hungry around the other delicious fattening foods. I’ve actually walked away with half a great dessert left on my plate, and a lot of times my husband and I will split a piece of dessert. 

Of course my family teases me (a la Homer Simpson, “you don’t make friends with salad, you don’t make friends with salad!”)  when I plop a big bowl of mixed  greens on the table and tell them to dig in. The eat it anyway, and lately, my son is taking a bigger portion. He actually complains now when I don’t serve salad.  

Growing my own lettuce has really helped. I have at least four or five different types in my little tubs, and I think half the appeal is how pretty it looks. The other day I got some incredible spinach at Safeway, and I’ve been dicing it up and tossing it in with the greens, along with chopped celery and carrots. I’m working on growing my own celery and carrots too. 

Thawed frozen peas and par boiled green beans or brocoli are great on a salad too. And don’t forget garbanzo and red beans. I keep canned beans on hand for salad, they only take a rinse and a quick boil to be ready. 

I like my home-made dressings, but I have never been able to make an Italian dressing that was worth writing home about. Lately I just pick up a pack of Good Seasons. Yes, it’s got sugar in it, but I put sugar in my dressings too. It’s easy, cheaper than bottled dressing, and I think it tastes better  than bottled dressing because I use good olive oil. Of course, I also enjoy sprinkling olive oil and basalmic or red wine vinegar over my salads, that’s just as good for me. 

When I make a creamy dressing, I substitute yogurt for some or all of the mayonnaise, it’s so good.  I’m still making my own yogurt, it’s so good. I use a little snatch of the last batch to culture the next, so I know the cultures are good. Every now and then I make a new batch with the store-bought cultures to give it a little kick in the pants. I still love Nancy’s and Brown Cow and even Dannon, but I have found, all yogurts are different, and mine is the best because I can make it myself.

I like taking responsibility for my own health. My family is a different story. It’s always touchy, telling somebody they need to do something. I begin to tell my husband about something and I start to hear my own voice – eeeeccccchhh! What a naaaaag! I can only suggest. I chirp like a little bird at them about what I’m doing, I make them smell and taste my food. Sometimes they like it and it catches. If I get my husband in the right mood I can get him to drink a cup of my smoothie with me. If I try not to be too domineering with my kid, I  can get him to eat a stick of broccoli with his dinner.  

And now, my older kid who does not live with me anymore grows an incredible vegetable garden. He and his girlfriend not only try different foods at home, but they eat all kinds of food out and about. They like Vietnamese, which is typically a pretty healthy high vegetable diet. I won’t take credit for all of that, but I will take credit for teaching him to experiment with food. And his dad deserves credit for doing a lot of the cooking in our house. It wasn’t that way when I was a kid. A dad might BBQ, and he might help mom get  the bigger cuts of meat out of the oven and divvied up, but he didn’t fuss with food. My husband likes to cook, so does my older son. Learning to cook for yourself helps a person avoid the worst kind of foods – over processed packaged cooked-for-you foods. 

I don’t agree that food can’t be the center of a good holiday celebration. Keeping foods simple is a good thing. I recommend a huge green salad, maybe throw some chopped roasted nuts on there. Be sure to use at least one crunchy vegetable like carrots or celery. Make a fruit salad on the side, toss it with a little yogurt and honey.  Put nuts in that too.  Make salad your main dish, have a responsible helping of meat, and keep the starches down to a small portion, and I believe you will find yourself satisfied without having to get your stomach stapled.  

Frankly, rereading the story below, it comes off to me as an ad for bariatric surgery

Enloe’s Bariatric Buddies give tips for a healthy holiday season

By KATRINA CAMERON-Staff Writer

POSTED:   12/08/2013 09:52:59 PM PST

CHICO — The holiday season is here, which means it’s time to gather with friends and family for eventful meals.These dinner gatherings may involve traditional warm, comforting meals, but Dr. Marty Grant, life coach and retired psychologist, says some holiday traditions might be unhealthy.

“We tend to get hung up on what we’ve always done as a family to connect with each other,” Grant said. “So people will feel comfortable that the tradition will continue, and not all traditions are healthy traditions.”

Some unhealthy traditions include the sweet holiday desserts and quantities consumed during these seasonal gatherings, she said. Those who are determined to lose weight should be open to new, healthier rituals to celebrate with loved ones.

“It’s a matter of not focusing on the food, but instead on the relationships,” Grant said. “Do something different; start some new traditions.”

Grant had bariatric surgery, a procedure performed to lose weight, 10 years ago. New holiday traditions were needed after taking on the lifestyle change, and she’s teaching the Bariatric Buddies, a support group at Enloe Medical Center, how she did it effectively.

“For people in a program like this, it’s a lifestyle change,” the life coach said. “It’s choosing to eat to live, rather than to live to eat. It’s a credibility to oneself.”

She suggests thinking in terms of portion sizes, watching sugar intake and making the holidays about interpersonal interactions, rather than the food.

Knowing when to correctly identify hunger is also important during the holiday season, as some people may confuse so many things with hunger, said nurse Joy Todd, coordinator of bariatric service.

“Food hits our reward system and it releases dopamine,” Todd said. “There’s a reason why we reach for it when we’re feeling sad or anxious, because it works in our brain to make us feel better.”

Grant has presented at Bariatric Buddies meetings as a guest speaker to share her tips for a physically and mentally healthy holiday.

“I think that people going through this now are courageous,” Grant said. “It’s a huge step and a huge commitment to oneself.”

Nell Stephens, a bariatric buddy leadership member, had her bariatric procedure seven years ago. Because she isn’t able to eat as much as before, she uses portion control as her primary healthy-eating tool.

“Having had the surgery — and not being able to eat as much and using portion control as a tool — I ask for a salad plate, and that becomes my dinner plate,” Stephens said.

Like Grant suggests, Stephens and her family have implemented new holiday traditions, she said. Her family enjoys going to the movies and going out to the park after holiday meals to take the focus off the food and put it back on the experience of being with loved ones.

Those who have had bariatric surgery will discover that it’s a constant process to find ways to stay healthy, Todd said.

“The long-term success is really embracing all of the lifestyle changes,” she said. “We have a commitment with being with those people all along their journey.”

The hospital received a three-year designation in 2007 and 2010 as a Center for Excellence with bariatric surgical director Dr. Ludwig, from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Surgical Review Corporation.

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