|Photo courtesy of www.fatbellyexercises.com
As featured in the Real Nutrition section on WebMD
By David Grotto, RD, LDN
As promised, I offer you part deux of Houston, I Don’t Think I Have a Problem…yet…
Some of you were kind enough to share a bit of your own weight management struggles with me last week, and I really appreciate that. But I couldn’t help but sense that there are those of you who are still quietly waiting in the wings, hovering between pre-contemplation and contemplation, trying to figure out if you even have a problem or not. And if you do realize that you have health problems, many of you might be figuring out what your problems might be and then pondering what you can realistically do about them. All of this can be quite a pain and perhaps you are feeling one of those big “why bother?” moments coming on. You’ve been down this path before and the odds seem like they are always stacked against you. You lose a pound only to gain back two. I get it…totally frustrating. Is it even worth trying anymore? Do we have a hope of ever getting back to the glory days state of health we once enjoyed?
If you read The Fat Trap by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times, you may have come away with the feeling that when it comes to losing weight for many of us, the only real “losing” that will be happening in your future will be that of hope…a total downer for sure. But thankfully, in come the cavalry of science, common sense and hopefulness.
I read a very eloquent retort to Jessica Parker-Rope’s article from David Katz, MD, MPH featured in the Huffington Post in which he pointed out that when we ask: “Our bodies: with us or against us?” we are asking the wrong question. I asked the optimistic yet pragmatic Dr. Katz to weigh in on our ‘health state of the nation’ and to also expound upon some of the challenges and solutions that he discussed in his article.
Have we thrown in the proverbial towel? Are we in the right mindset to make serious changes at this time? What will it take before we act?
Dr. Katz: The one word answer is passion. When enough of us are passionate about this cause, we will turn the tide. I’m not sure we’re there yet – but I think we’re getting there.
You spoke of an “optimal environment that works with our natural traits and tendencies” in your rebuttal to the Fat Trap featured in the Huffington Post. Describe what you mean by an “optimal environment.”
Dr. Katz: Up to a point, we might contend that a Stone Age environment is optimal for our native traits. But that point would be a life span of about 40 years, MAX! One of the problems with invoking our native Paleolithic environment is that Stone Age humans died at 20 on average, and rarely made it past 40. Still, that is the environment to which we are adapted – so it’s a starting point. The true optimal is a modified Stone Age environment: one in which food is direct from nature, there’s routine physical exertion, clean air and water – enhanced by protection from the elements and predators and pathogens. In essence, we need wholesome food close to nature, the conditioning daily exercise native to our animal vitality, adequate sleep, avoidance of toxins, control of stress and loving relationships in our lives. These are our native tonics.
How do we go about achieving this environment?
Dr. Katz: Incrementally – one paving stone, sandbag, program practice, and policy at a time. We don’t need a Stone Age environment to get exercise every day – but we need incremental modifications of the built environment and daily routine to move us in that direction. We don’t need mammoth meat or Stone Age plants to chew on – but we do need to eat more plants and foods closer to nature in general. We have the means at our disposal to do that—we just need to apply them.
Do you feel our present dietary guidelines are appropriate? What would happen if we actually followed them re: rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, longevity, etc.?
Dr. Katz: They are appropriate – although not optimal. Let’s acknowledge that they are devised by government agencies with a need to keep large corporate interests placated. The Dietary Guidelines are openly a blend of science and politics, not pure public health science. But despite their limitations, they are much better than the typical American Diet. So yes, were we to better approximate them, rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis and so on would come down substantially. If we got to truly optimal diets, exercised routinely, and avoided tobacco – we could eliminate fully 80% of the entire chronic disease burden. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished!
Do you feel that the food industry is doing enough to change the environmental landscape? If not, what needs to change here?
They are not doing nearly enough. What needs to change is that they must take responsibility for creating the prevailing preferences for copious additions of sugar and salt and fat. As is, they tend to throw up their hands and argue they are just trying to keep the customer satisfied. But they had a hand in creating the palate that prevails in the USA—in essence, they cultivated the addictions and now provide the fixes! They should work a whole lot harder to help cure the addictions. They should stop using marketing to distort accepted truths about nutrition (what on earth is “enhanced” water?). And they should embrace measures of nutritional quality developed by objective 3rd parties, not their own hired guns.
What changes would you like to see to promote more physical activity?
Dr. Katz: Programming adapted to every setting and ability level. Programs that fit into every school and work day. Ways to be active all at once; in small doses; in planes, trains and automobiles. We are not going back to the Stone Age, so we have to engineer solutions that fit into the modern world as it is. Our ‘abe’ for fitness program is an example of what I mean. So is our school program, ABC for Fitness.
Is there enough consumer awareness to drive change? Is it out of our hands at this point? Have we reached the point where we can no longer decide for ourselves what’s best for us?
Dr. Katz: Consumer awareness is not enough – but consumer passion is [enough to drive change]. It is not out of our hands. Demand trumps supply and if every loving parent and grandparent in the country came together around causes devoted to protecting the health of children, no special interest group could withstand our collective might. We have the power – but we need common cause. It begins with common understanding – so we professionals have our work cut out for us. We must cultivate the common will so we come together to pave the way.
I think what Dr. Katz proposes will take nothing short of a massive collective effort requiring many intricate wheels to turn simultaneously to work. I agree that we do have many of the tools, the power, and the knowhow at our disposal to make real change for the better happen. But I do wonder, as Dr. Katz mentioned, if we have enough passion to pull it off. Your thoughts? Do we have what it takes to turn the boat around?
Is It Too Late?Posted: January 17, 2012 in Interviews, News, Uncategorized
Tags: David Katz, diet, dietary guidelines, exercise, Fat Trap, Stone Age