For most of my life, I have been taught that exercise is paramount to health. This was confirmed in PA school when we learned about chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. I encouraged all my patients to walk, run, bike, whatever they could manage to fend off disease, but I wasn’t seeing much change.
Patients weren’t losing weight or feeling less exhausted. Their labs weren’t budging. I usually ended up adding to their drug list instead of subtracting. They would come in frustrated, “I took the medicine, which makes me feel worse and I started walking, but the labs are the same”.
In my medical training, I was never taught the basics of nutrition and its effect on health, leaving me ill equipped to educate my patients on food. So I branched out on my own and began to study food as medicine and transforming my health through diet, (I had been diagnosed with arteries of a 45-year old and an autoimmune disease).
Food as medicine became my practice and my life. Half of adults in the U.S. live with one or more chronic condition. These are diseases caused by food and can be reversed through food including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol.
By 2020, 1 in 2 people will have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. This number is staggering and tragic. Fortunately, the significant changes you can make with a few shifts in your diet is really impactful.
This is the breakdown I have found from years of using food as medicine: Optimal health and weight is approximately 70% food, 20-25% exercise and 5-10% stress (though lack of health can be due to 100% stress in many cases).
Everyone is unique and these numbers vary slightly, but in general this is how it works. So you can cross-fit, run, bike all you want, but if you eat nothing but crap, you’re never going to reach your ideal health.
Dr. Hyman says it takes 4.5 miles to run off one 20-ounce soda. In order to burn off a super size meal, one has to run four miles, 7 days straight! Thirty minutes of running or swimming burns off 350 calories, one super-size meal has 1580 calories. In other words, you can’t exercise off bad food or booze.
It seems difficult, but once you start eating more nutrient-rich foods that taste great, you’ll feel a difference. You don’t have to become a vegan or a vegetarian. Just eating more simply with less ingredients has big benefits.
Even drinking water before your meals gets you feeling better fast. Small slow steps are the key to success, especially when you’re changing a habit you’ve practiced your whole life. It takes a while to shift your mentally to truly transform and adopt new patterns.