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  • Linda D. Bradley, MD

"Are You Digging Your Grave With Your Fork?"

This year take on an oath and pledge. Make a promise to yourself to try one new healthy habit each week and stick with it. Annually, we all make resolutions usually related to our financial, spiritual, educational, or physical health. I want you to think about your most important possession: your health. It’s the most important asset that you possess and it trumps everything else in life. Health makes wealth. Healthy individuals make stronger communities. It’s just as simple as that.

Are you digging your grave with your fork?

Each of us can improve our lifestyle choices on a daily basis. Yes, you can make successful changes. How? By making conscious choices about what you select to put in your body. What’s in your refrigerator or handbag? Real food or junk food? Chewing tobacco or cigarettes? Recreation or prescription drugs? Are you consuming too much alcohol? Becoming more intentional about what you do will make a difference.

Each week write down one new healthy resolution that you would like to accomplish. Sure it sounds like homework. Putting your thoughts on paper and checking off your accomplishments are more often associated with success than just day dreaming about your goals.

Each of us can be the cure. You can cure or modify your risk for premature death and disability by: exercising, losing weight, controlling hypertension, stop smoking, wearing a seat belt, removing firearms from your home, and managing stress. It is as simple as that. Seventy percent of health care dollars are spent on diseases related to obesity, smoking, and diabetes. Almost all of which are controlled by individual choices.

When it comes to eating and losing weight, Michael Pollan sums it up best with seven simple and liberating thoughts: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Since reading his best selling book, In Defense of Food, I have changed my eating habits one meal at a time. Having embraced his recommendations, I would like to share them with you.

How does this doctor want you to become an empowered patient?

  • Eat home cooked food more often. Make enough so that you can have it for lunch. Why? Not only will you save tons of money, but you will cook with less salt, fat, and sugar than a similar meal eaten at a fast food or chain restaurant.

  • Don’t eat standing up. Stop eating in your car; rather eat at a table and not in front of a TV. Chew your food more slowly. Why? When you are distracted you eat 50% more than when you are aware of what you are eating.

  • Don’t drink your calories. Did you know that each twelve ounce can of Coco Cola has 10-12 teaspoons of sugar? Imagine coming to my home and watching me prepare lemonade with a similar amount sugar!! Eating an orange rather than drinking orange juice is actually healthier for you. Because fruit has loads of fiber, less calories, and great phytonutrients compared to juice. Fiber makes you fill fuller longer, decreases the hunger urge and will add fewer inches to your waistline.

  • Eat four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables daily. I mean fruit in its own skin. Fruit with curves. Apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples, berries, or any fruit in season. If you can’t get fresh fruit, buy it frozen. Read the package label and only purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugar or salt. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the height of the season and have high vitamin content. So go ahead, cut up an apple and put a little cinnamon on it for additional taste and antioxidant health benefit. During the winter months, I always keep a piece of fruit in my car. After a long day at work and long commute home, eating a pear or apple on the way home keeps me from feeling ravenous when I walk into my house.

Dig out of the grave, forkful by forkful. Make a conscious choice of what to put in your body. These choices embody the essence of taking care of self: self care reform. Do for yourself what government, doctors, religious community, or friends can not do for you. Forkful by forkful you will see a difference in your health. Make the extra effort to learn more ways to become healthy, including learning to cook. Advocacy begins with you. Personally, speak to the owners of your local grocer and request that more fresh, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables be stocked in the produce aisle. Boycott stores that don’t listen to your requests. Self care reform means that you choose what to put on your fork. Self care reform means you choose to make an old family recipe more nutritious by trying a new spice or condiment that enhances flavor, thereby using less oil and fat. Finally, self care reform means that you will share your new wisdom with your friends and family. Self care reform is transformative. Taste it…you’ll like it.

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