You can spot him every morning on his 1-1/2 mile walk through the neighborhood. He is spry and walks confidently. He is a regular at the 8 AM Mass at the nearby church. Later in the day he adds a 20 minute ride on his stationary bike. Ten years ago he retired from his career as a doctor. The amazing thing is that Dr. T. is 93 years old. Yes, he was born in 1924. He grew up on on a farm in a traditional Catholic family and lived through the Great Depression, several wars, loss of his first wife at a young age, remarriage, a large family, and finally a heart attack at age 68. Being a self- disciplined man gifted with common sense, he decided to figure out what had caused the heart attack so that he could fix the problem. Before the heart attack he had felt fine, didn’t smoke, exercised, and ate a traditional meat based diet that seemed healthy enough. He did admit that he had too much stress in his life.
After his heart attack, he learned of the pioneering work of Dr. Dean Ornish, a cardiologist who startled the medical community with his revolutionary research which showed that the clogged arteries that cause heart attacks could be “unclogged” by a major change of lifestyle. The Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease, first published in 1990, focused on eating a very low fat and plant based diet, exercising, managing stress, and including love, connection, and support in one’s life. Dr. T. studied the Ornish program and liked its results better than that that of the usual medical treatment. He concluded that, while he was doing OK in the exercise and love/support categories, he was definitely not eating a diet up to Ornish’s strict standards. He also admitted that his life was too stressful. First he made some hard decisions to eliminate some of his stressors. Next he embarked on a diet free of red meat, a routine he has consistently followed to this day.
I like Dr. T., and I like his story. It inspires me and it beautifully illustrates how mind-body-medicine can work wonders. Dr. T. continues to be remarkably healthy, free of heart disease, active, alert and involved.
The diet recommended by Ornish is a plant based, very low fat, meatless diet. No doubt you have heard about many different diets: Atkins, Zone, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, and more. Maybe you have a favorite. Let me make two points about diet:
1. All of the diets I just listed are modestly and similarly effective for short term weight reduction (here is a brief literature review). So, to lose weight we can choose any diet that we like and think we can follow.
2. But, what is the best diet for life? You probably have read or seen in the media conflicting reports about what is the best long term diet for optimum health and longevity. These contradictory claims may leave you hopelessly confused and ready to abandon any effort to improve your eating habits. Low fat or low carbs? Eggs? Butter? High protein? Internationally recognized expert in nutrition, David Katz, MD, recognized how difficult it was for anyone to sort through this confusing morass of recommendations. He gathered a large and diverse panel of experts to form the True Health Initiative. Based on available science, these experts all agree that the best diet for maximum health and longevity contains…. “minimally processed, generally plant-predominant foods in balanced proportions…” That’s it. Begin with the basics. Eat less meat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Choose whole grains rather than refined carbs. There is broad acceptance among scientists and doctors about these key points. Please check out http://www.truehealthinitiative.org, which covers all elements of healthy living.
1. If you eat meat regularly, consider eating less meat. Meatless Mondays may
work for you: http://www.meatlessmonday.com. In this way you can improve
your own health and that of our planet (the environmental impact and
unsustainability of our meat eating culture is another entire topic....). You
can also involve God. Offer your lentils or beans to our loving God. I heard that
God loves beans. Really.
2. I challenge you to read one of several fascinating books that review the
long term eating habits and health of various populations around the world.
Check out: The Okinawa Program by Bradley J. Wilcox, et al; The Blue Zone
by Dan Buettner; or The China Program by T. Colin Campbell. Dramatic vigor
and longevity often was found in populations with low meat, high plant diets.
3. Remember, achieving a more healthy and serene lifestyle is a process that starts with
one step. We each can choose which step: less meat, more vegetables, more or
different exercise, more prayer, learning about Centering Prayer, etc. The secret
is to take that step.
I keep all of you in my prayers. God bless you. Donna
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do
everything for the Glory of God. 1 Cor 10:31