Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Balance for Health

The following post is part of the Women's Health Blogfest. Visit the links following the post to read different topics from a variety of Registered Dietitians participating in the Blogfest.

Women are the caretakers, and that’s a good thing for society. However, from time immemorial they have been caretakers while most often receiving the protection and provision of their man or clan. From birthing children to being active in the marketplace and on the farm, women have traditionally been respected and cherished. Fast forward to the 21st century where countless women are no longer protected by man or clan, and often find themselves in the role of caretaker and provider. Hardly respected or cherished, women are rather “glorified” in image only, while in actuality denigrated by a proliferation of pornography. Rather than being protected, they are more commonly assaulted by their own society. From perpetual body image-obsessed advertising to the incessant focus on weight-loss fueled by Oprah’s never-ending quest to get “back on the wagon” and find the right motivation and eating plan with which to lose her next round of weight, a woman cannot wake up to a day without hearing some weight-related message or being reminded to evaluate her body. Coupled with the oft-overwhelming demands on her life, is it any wonder that “emotional eating”, depression, and eating disorders are epidemic among women?

And all of this seems to be taking a toll on the thyroid, further sapping the much-needed energy to the dregs. I am beginning to wonder if the exponential rise in abnormal thyroid diagnoses parallels the overwhelmingly stressful and incredibly imbalanced changing role of women. I’m not sure anyone has looked at it, but it would make sense that the incredibly imbalanced lifestyles women are trying to navigate might have an effect on the thyroid, an organ whose very role is central to regulating the body’s metabolism--sort of like an organ whose central role is one of balance screaming out that things are just too out-of-whack to continue.

Then there is the exercise. The women I do see exercising are often battering their bodies into “shape” in health clubs with the specific purpose of meeting a weight goal. Only very infrequently do I see women out in the beautiful fresh air and sunshine walking the neighborhood or working in the yards of the lawncare service maintained New York suburb in which I live. I doubt if the benefits associated with exercising for weight-loss outweigh the bondage to body image.

So if you are a woman and are fortunate enough to be in a family, be thankful that you can have a central role as family nurturer, shopper and cook. As for any husbands who may be reading this, if you still value the woman’s role as bearer of children and “keeper of the gate” for your children’s dietary habits and well-being, then allow her to focus on these tasks without the ridiculous distraction of trying to be supermom or supermodel. Encourage her for who she is, not who Madison Avenue and Hollywood say she should be.

And for goodness sakes, moms of daughters, make sure your own relationship with food and your body is healthy because, whether you realize it or not, you are a role model for your daughter in a body image obsessed culture. Give her a safe haven, a reason to believe she is not crazy to appreciate her body and to have a healthy relationship with food. It is a tragedy watching girls grow up today in an environment where concerns about weight and body image eclipse their emotional and physical health. Where and when will these girls learn how to feed their families, if not from the short precious time they have with their mothers now? Moms, this is way more than the short-sighted focus of how-to-be-the-best-mom-by-being-good-looking-and-popular. This is about passing on the legacy of nurturing our families and the tradition of feeding them well.

So try to create some balance in your life, even if it means changing only one thing to start. The people around you will be glad you did and our culture will be the better for it.

This post is part of the Women's Health Blogfest. If any of the links provided below don’t work, you can go to Women's Health Blogfest where you can access all the links.

Blogfest Links:

Angela White at Blisstree’s Breastfeeding 1-2-3 – Helpful Skills of Breastfeeding Counselors
Angie Tillman, RD, LDN, CDE – You Are Beautiful Today
Anthony J. Sepe – Women's Health and Migraines
Ashley Colpaart – Women's health through women
Charisse McElwaine – Spending too much time on the "throne?
Danielle Omar – Yoga, Mindful Eating and Food Confidence
Joan Sather A Woman's Healthy Choices Affect More Than Herself
Laura Wittke – Fibro Study Recruits Participants
Liz Marr, MS, RD – Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women's Work
Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT – Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business
Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full
Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog – How breastfeeding helps you, too
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD – Four Keys to Wellness, Just for Women
Renata Mangrum, MPH, RD – The busy busy woman
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD – Feeding the Appetites of the Culinary, Epicurious and Nutrition Worlds-One Bite at a Time
Sharon Salomon, MS, RD – Calories, longevity and do I care
Terri L Mozingo, RD, CDN & D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN of One Source Nutrition, LLC – Crossing the Line: From Health to Hurt
Wendy Jo Peterson, RD – Watch Your Garden Grow

Friday, March 13, 2009

Try "Beaning"!

Some of the simplest things in life can give us so much in return.

Such is the case for a simple substitution I have been making in a meatloaf recipe for 15 years--so simple, in fact, that it's easy to overlook as one of the best nutritional changes you can make to your family's diet. Just prepare the meatloaf recipe your family may have already come to know and love, but substitute 1/4 - 1/2 of the meat in the recipe with beans. I just chop a mixture of beans (usually whatever I have left over from making chile or burritos during the week--often a mixture of pinto beans, black beans and/or red kidney beans) with either ketchup, tomato sauce, or salsa (whatever the meatloaf recipe calls for) in my handy little
$10 mini chopper.

The benefits of replacing some of the meat with beans are evident, but are worth enumerating here:

1. Beans are an excellent source of protein, so replacing some of the meat with beans does not diminish the value of the protein in the meal. In fact, replacing animal protein with vegetable protein improves the health score of this meal for several reasons. First of all, animal protein (but not plant) is linked with saturated fat and cholesterol, which increases LDL-cholesterol. In contrast, the soluble fiber in beans lowers cholesterol. Second, homocysteine levels in blood (a by-product of animal protein breakdown) have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Third, strong evidence has accumulated indicating harmful "meat factors" promote cancer. Fourth, high animal protein diets (but not plant) increase urinary calcium losses, contributing to osteoporosis.

2. Beans are one of the best sources of fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble fiber. Since fiber is only found in plant foods, replacing some of the meat with beans adds fiber to an otherwise fiberless dish. Soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol and maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Insoluble fiber increases the transit time of food through the digestive tract, promoting a healthier digestive system, and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

3. Beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates of low to moderate glycemic index, providing an excellent increased source of energy from the meal.

4. Beans are a good source of calcium (for bones, teeth and muscle-nerve function), potassium (to help reduce blood pressure), folate (an B vitamin important for proper cell development in the fetus and homocysteine breakdown in adults).

5. Beans are less expensive! In this tough economic climate, don't overlook beans as a rather unappreciated jewel to help stretch the budget.

Oh, and did I mention they passed the "taste test" of my 3 boys with flying colors?

Once you try this recipe you may find yourself "beaning" other recipes too. For example, I gave "bean balls" a try on all 3 of my children when they were very young, and again all 3 liked them. I just added beans to the meatball recipe mix (which included onion, pepper and parsley--you can even add some parmesan cheese to the mix).

Start "beaning" today and begin to reap several rewards. In fact, why not share this simple and inexpensive idea with others and start a national "beaning" fad, a small step that can have a big impact on the physical health of the nation while helping people to stretch their budgets.

I would love to hear what people do with this idea--alternative ways to "mush" beans, other ways to add beans to recipes. Please share your ideas with others on this blog.

Happy "beaning"!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Registered Dietitians and the White House Forum on Health Reform

In honor of National Registered Dietitian Day (March 11) this post is part of an RD Blogfest. Links to a variety of blogs written by Registered Dietitians, the food and nutrition experts, are offered below. I hope you will enjoy the rich information made available by many of my colleagues, and seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian for your food and nutrition questions.

As a Registered Dietitian I was encouraged to hear President Obama’s comments from this week’s White House Forum on Health Reform and to see his determination to proceed with health care reform, though it is a touchy subject indeed. The exploding cost of health care is arguably the greatest threat to the well-being of individuals, families, businesses, and the American economy itself. The escalating cost of insurance premiums and health care, coupled with sinking wages, and combined with increasing numbers of uninsured Americans, is a recipe for disaster. The opportunity for RD’s to explain our services has never been better.

President Obama identified in his speech that we did not get here by accident, and that the problems we face today are a direct consequence of actions we failed to take yesterday:

“Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform nearly a century ago, we have talked and tinkered. We have tried and fallen short, stalled time and again by failures of will, or Washington politics, or industry lobbying.”

While he may have rightly focused on our collective failure to reform the health care system I think this is an opportune time to add the failure of individual Americans to responsibly steward their own health with healthy diet and exercise to the national conversation. Our collective failure may be true enough, but it is no excuse for the explosion in lifestyle disease. Lifestyle disease is not a result of too little acute care, but rather a result of one person at a time neglecting to eat a healthy diet and exercise. It should not take government or businesses having to provide programs for people to eat a healthy diet and exercise. Sadly, we may have come to the point that it does. The 77,173 Registered Dietitian’s currently in the United States are well-positioned for the change in focus that may lie ahead.

President Obama acknowledged the inevitable opposition he is already encountering:

“And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again—that at a time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to fix our health care system as well.”

Yet very few will say we should defer preventive efforts. An emphasis on prevention in health care reform may help build a much-needed bipartisan bridge. While I was sad to see it was not a priority campaign issue, a focus on prevention in health care was the one issue in the campaign that all candidates agreed on! (President Obama even mentioned “Registered Dietitians” in his campaign—imagine that!). Prevention efforts may also be an attractive way to ease the philosophical divide that separates the Obama administration and Republicans because prevention cannot be misinterpreted as “government controlling health care”.

Furthermore, in what must be a coordinated effort to fix the health care system and simultaneously rebuild crashing businesses in America, assisting employees in becoming healthier will go a long way to reducing the fear of the American business owner over health care costs. The return on investment for wellcare for businesses is significant, even lifesaving (no pun intended). I have said for 10 years that it would become more important once it hit the pocketbook, if the dis-health of the American worker (and exorbitant cost of health care) didn’t take the business down first. That time has come.

President Obama noted:

“Too many small businesses can’t insure their employees.”

But they CAN afford less-expensive preventive efforts, especially if government dollars help.

The economic crisis is multi-factorial, and whether health care can be considered a causative issue in the economic crisis or able to be dealt with as a separate issue will probably be hotly debated. But everyone agrees on prevention, and it is the obvious starting point for the collaborative work that is going to be necessary between all parties. In fact, it may be the only way to get any collaboration on the issue of health care reform.

President Obama confronted the probable skepticism he will meet with regarding whether Washington can bring about this change because of the inability to reform health care in the past. A focus on undeniably cost-effective prevention is change people can (and do) believe in. He won’t even have to convince anyone--it is a basic fact that everybody already believes in. It still boggles my mind why our health care system is so heavily weighted towards acute care given this basic fact that everybody knows (Governor Huckabee just commented this weekend on his television show that 80% of America’s health care dollars are spent on acute care). Perhaps the lopsided emphasis on acute care stems partly from a “tyranny of the urgent”, perhaps the compassionate American mindset preferentially prioritizes the sector of people in acute need, and certainly a profitable industry has been built around acute medical care. The private sector and free-market economy has allowed cream of the crop inventive genius to emerge and produce great medical advances, which in turn can be profitable, but expensive. Perhaps a bit of pride in the mix, since America’s medical genius was highly-regarded in the past, has encouraged a continuing focus on developments in acute care to the negligence of the rather unspectacular preventive care. While we are all thankful for medical advances if and when we need them, the less profitable prevention efforts must now be the focus of our health care system—at the very least we must try to better balance acute care with prevention dollars. Prevention has been under-funded for far too long by the health care industry and by the government. If the current administration is going to strong-arm some of its policies of change, perhaps they should consider requiring insurance companies to cover preventive services. Businesses who watched the bottom line erode with the medical crisis in America have had to fund wellcare with their own precious dollars. Government help in funding prevention/wellness efforts would be appreciated by all parties. With a lopsided under-emphasis on prevention by the health care industry and government, is it any wonder it is often under-emphasized by individual Americans too? The American mindset must change, and that must start with leaders. I do give kudos to President Obama and Michelle for living out their examples of healthy eating and exercise in front of the cameras (as did President Bush), and for raising healthy children, but I believe a larger impact is made when we put our money where our mouth is.

Government-funded public awareness campaigns have not been enough. More than 90 million Americans are affected by chronic diseases (HHS and USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, Message From the Secretaries). While billions of dollars have been allotted to battling the trend, the overall health of America continues to decline. 24 million Americans have diabetes, an estimated 57 million Americans have “pre-diabetes, and “adult-onset diabetes” has made a surprise appearance in children and is now common. Sixty to 75 million Americans suffer from the related disorder metabolic syndrome (Reaven and Strom, 2000). About 12 million people in the United States have coronary heart disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 1998). Co-morbidities are no longer unusual. Sixty-five percent of Americans are now either overweight or obese . . .

We are clearly in trouble. America’s health has continued to decline despite increased efforts and money designated to increasing public awareness. For the most part, people are not just going to “get healthy” because they realize they should, even though they understand that there are benefits of being healthy and dire consequences of staying unhealthy. It would seem there is more needed in the approach. While there have been excellent government initiatives at public education, they have been relatively ineffective as compared to the scope of the problem. Clearly the prevention efforts need to be more intensive. The United States Department of Agriculture and other public health organizations have accomplished the herculean job of disseminating excellent nutrition information so that Americans are largely without excuse. Irregardless, while many Americans are making significant lifestyle changes many more are not. Although access to correct, understandable nutrition information is a necessary component of behavior change, many people need practical help with HOW to apply the information and recommendations and with the formidable process of actually making the changes in lifestyle behaviors that will last. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman conceded:

“. . . putting this knowledge into practice is difficult” (HHS and USDA, Dietary Guidelines, Message From the Secretaries).

Healthy People 2010 by the Dept. of Health and Human Services reports on the significant increases and epidemic costs of diabetes as a major public health challenge, concluding:

"Several factors account for this chronic disease epidemic, including behavioral elements (improper nutrition, for example, increased fat consumption; decreased physical activity; obesity). . . and the relative weakness of interventions to change individual, community, or organizational behaviors (Clark, 1998; King, et al., 1997; Center for Disease Control, 1997).

If ever Registered Dietitians were needed, they are now.

The authors of “Prevention Makes Common ‘Cents’” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 2003 include a number of meta-analyses which provide in-depth information about specific aspects of worksite wellness programs. While it is clear that many health promotion and disease prevention programs do work and do result in significant cost savings, there are important distinctions worth noting, especially given the need to maximize every dollar in our current economic crisis. For example,

“Many studies have focused specifically on the return on investment (ROI) from worksite health promotion and disease prevention programs. One recent review identified well-conducted, rigorous evaluation studies of ROI, then documented the range of ROI estimates in these studies, and examined the factors that influenced program outcomes and ROI estimates. Findings on the return on investment for health promotion and disease management programs were reported for nine employers: Canada & North America Life; Chevron; City of Mesa, AZ; General Mills; General Motors; Johnson & Johnson; Pacific Bell; Procter & Gamble; and Tenneco. . .

For these employers, disease management programs resulted in the highest returns on investment, and the educational health promotion and disease prevention programs the lowest returns. Moreover, the more expensive programs resulted in lower returns on investment than some of the less expensive ones. The reviewers suggest the possibility that the higher costs may stem from the larger capital investments that go into on-site fitness centers or classroom-based education programs. They also point out that the typical health promotion and disease prevention program provides health education to most or all employees but usually shows savings for only a small portion of the neediest employees, whereas disease management programs are targeted on a smaller selected group of employees. They conclude that, in designing effective programs that will improve employee health and productivity and produce good returns on investment, employers should consider an array of health and productivity programs (rather than focus on the ‘pure’ wellness program) and integrate them with health and demand-management or disease-management activities.
pp. 23-24

Registered Dietitians are uniquely trained to provide the highest quality nutrition education available in these United States of America, and also administer the specific “medical nutrition therapy” (the recent term adopted since Medicare coverage for Registered Dietitians) necessary for disease management. The authors’ conclusion supports the importance of providing wellness programs (typically disease prevention programs) with the dual capability of providing disease management. In this time of economic crisis it is critical that the Registered Dietitian, the only professional uniquely qualified to do both nutrition education for disease prevention and medical nutrition therapy, be utilized to the highest degree possible. The need for RD’s has never been greater.

Prevention is key, and RD’s can be the heroes of the hour. Insurance companies will be more willing and able to expand coverage, especially with government help, if they have some measure of assurance that their insureds will be healthier longer. Businesses will not only better survive financially, their employees will be more productive, better workers. The burden on the health care industry to provide acute care to an increasing number of sick Americans will be somewhat eased. America can be a healthier, more prosperous place, but our help as RD’s has never been needed more than now.

I think President Obama gets it—not only can we afford to invest in preventive methods, we cannot afford not to any longer.
Diane Preves, M.S., R.D

I encourage you to see what some of my fellow dietitians are doing by visiting the following links:

Cheryl Harris - Me, a Gluten Free RD!
Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen - Family Nutrition ... It's our "Beat"
Wendy Jo Petersen - March 11 is our day to shine!
Rebecca Scritchfield - Big Tips from a "Big Loser"
UNL-Extension, Douglas/Sarpy County - Nutrition Know How - Making Your Life Easier

Another blog I recently became aware of is A Weight Lifted--a healthy weight loss blog for women tired of dietiting at from the folks at Green Mountain at Fox Run--A Women's Healthy Weight Loss Retreat. These folks are asking for participation in a very short 4-question survey at Go ahead, help them out, and enjoy some of the helpful information at their site.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcome to "The Seed"

Welcome to The Seed! I decided The Seed would be a fitting name for the N.E.W. LIFE blog for several reasons:

1. Though seeds are small and largely unnoticed, I hope that the seeds of thought shared here will land on good soil and bear good fruit with much increase.

2. It is time to redeem the much-maligned carbohydrates! In the onslaught of the popular carbo-phobic diets of the last decade we would be wise to remember the nutritional powerhouse of the seed, and the grains that grow from them.

3. Jesus said in John 12:24-26: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." My hope is that the sacrifices I have made for the past 18 years will yield a harvest of good results now.

Americans are suffering an epidemic of lifestyle diseases, largely a result of eating an unhealthy diet in a "land of plenty"--24 million Americans have diabetes, another 57 million have "pre-diabetes", and "adult onset" diabetes has made a surprise appearance in children; 70 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular disease; 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. We are clearly in trouble.

No doubt there will be blog entries in the weeks and months ahead describing the most effective way to support behavior change. To introduce and summarize here, the N.E.W. LIFE philosophy is not just a "non-diet approach", but the very opposite of a diet.

When people evaluate what is missing in their diet and even just begin to put in missing fruits, vegees, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish, the "fluff" foods get crowded out and people are surprised at how quickly their desires change without any all-or-nothing dietary changes. The most effective change is realized by sticking in foods, even one at a time, not eliminating foods people have been eating for years and then expecting them to eat more vegetables! Adding missing healthy foods to the diet provides for a more stable blood sugar, which defends against bingeing and craving, and the body simultaneously gets the fuel (calories) and nourishment (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) it needs to be healthier. Furthermore, behavior change and healing from underlying emotional pain is often hard work. It is futile to try to do the hard work of behavior change and emotional healing if we are not starting from a basis of health and strength. It is like knocking our head against the proverbial brick wall to try to change eating behaviors, not to mention exercise, when we are not giving our body what it needs to be healthy, and when blood sugar is low and our body is screaming for sugar. By focusing on what to stick in instead of what to cut out, our bodies, tastes, and desires change. This is the opposite of eliminating desirable foods and then expecting yourself to eat more vegetables (a plan which most people find ineffective at best).

Secondly, what has always been an optimal diet, still is, and always will be an optimal diet--it is not going to change. It is our understanding of nutrition that is doing the changing, and the broader we set our sights beyond the original 4 walls of our nutrition research labs to understand what healthy cultures around the world eat, the closer we get to understanding what an optimal diet is. Since we have begun to do that we now understand that healthy cultures throughout the world eat a strikingly similar diet (in a variety of ways) based on 90% plant:10% animal food. Not only are diets of healthy cultures predominantly plant food diets, they are high, not low, in plant fats. The traditional Greeks, who ate a 40% fat diet based predominantly on olive oil, were arguably the healthiest people on the planet in the 1960's when the traditional Mediterranean Diet began to be studied. Is it any wonder then that the Mediterranean Diet has become the prototype for the changing American dietary recommendations?

Thoughts for believers . . .

As a dietitian working with people to prevent lifestyle diseases for the past 23 years I have noticed another type of "heart disease", and I think it is growing. Over 50% of every class I teach has an out-of-balance (or outright addictive) relationship with food, often fueled by unresolved emotional pain. While I desire to help any individual become free from bondages to food, body image and the diet mentality, and although I have an extensive resume in working with the culture at large, I have a special burden for the church. Because of this, those who visit this website will undoubtedly see articles, Nutrition Bites, or entries on this blog that are intentionally Christian. While the N.E.W. LIFE Dietitians and I may clearly define our faith we are not exclusive--our compassion and desire to help extends to all individuals, no matter their beliefs, and the N.E.W. LIFE programs have been carefully developed for a diverse audience. Having said that. . .

Recently I have been amazed and disturbed at the lack of discernment of believers who engage in popular diets with as much allegience as non-believers, not even realizing how misplaced their well-intentioned efforts are. For example, most believers who are caught up in weight-loss efforts (as the culture is) do not even realize that overwhelming evidence shows that body fat, while often associated with lifestyle disease, has never been shown to cause disease and, furthermore, that in the effort to produce weight-loss individuals actually increase their risk for earlier mortality. As one who spent 15 years in an addictive relationship with food (bingeing 5x/night), body image, diets, exercise, and the scale I am not here to judge, only to share the truth which sets us free, and to let people know they can be free indeed--a topic for many future blogs to be sure. And I am not saying that if you lose weight you will necessarily die earlier! Weight-loss as a by-product of eating healthier and exercising more will not kill you. Dieting, on the other hand, especially yo-yo dieting, has been shown to be harmful. Furthermore, Americans have been duped, a large number of Christians included. People have come to believe that they must lose weight in order to be healthy (this is not true) and have largely without question followed the current popular diet in order to achieve that goal. The problem, however, is diets wreak physical, emotional, and spiritual havoc:

Diets don’t work. The diet often leaves individuals worse off than if they had never been on a diet. People generally regain the weight with more besides.

Diets offer false hope and leave people more discouraged and feeling like a failure.

Dieters often try again, and again, and soon succumb to a "diet mentality" which results in bondage to food, body image and diets.

Diets not only appeal to a "diet mentality", but also to a short-sighted mentality that is pervasive in America. We are a nation with a growing appetite for short-sighted immediate gratification, often with little or no regard for the consequences. Parents succumb to materialism as children are sacrificed. Adultery abounds with little regard for the likely consequences to the marriage and children. Gluttony is rampant while long-term health takes a back seat. Greed overrode common sense restraint for many home buyers and mortgage companies contributing to a current economic crisis and the subsequent loss of homes for millions of American families. Short-sighted pleasures of all kinds are increasingly available from erotic television and movie viewing to addictions such as pornography and gambling with no regard to the not-too-long-term affect on character. Similarly, diets may appeal to an increasingly short-sighted society since the weight will come off, but with no regard to long-term weight and health, much like a good percentage of the population has been handling finances, even families, with little or no regard for the future. So I must ask believers--are you walking in the Spirit with the fruits of patience and self-control, or are you looking for a quick fix?:

Recently the popular diet books have been filled with anti-God philosophical agendas that have nothing to do with nutrition. Popular diets have become increasingly full of non-nutrition secular agendas and the authors often boldly profess evolution upon which they base their diets right in their books. Yet many a creation-believing Christian still dedicates themselves wholeheartedly to the author’s advice. I ask myself how can this be? Did they just not read the book completely? Is it because the author is an "expert" and has offered multiple scientific, physiological and biochemical explanations? Are they even aware of "where the doctor is coming from" philosophically and/or spiritually? Do they even care??? It has frustrated me and boggled my mind for a long time, however, when I read Romans 12:2 it makes perfect sense:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Many in the church do conform to the world’s pattern of popular diets and are not able to test and approve what God’s will is. The more we conform to the pattern of the world the less discernment we have—it is God’s way and it is set in His Word. Furthermore, many a well-meaning Christian tries hard to be "disciplined" and have "willpower". I am all for encouraging individuals towards more discipline, but people have lost the discernment regarding the difference between the futility of willpower vs. the fruitfulness of discipline. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not of ourselves. Paul writes to the Colossians:

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." Colossians 2:20-23

It amazes me that Christians continue to engage in popular diets even given this truth. Perhaps it is unfamiliarity with the Word of God that is the real problem. The more one feeds on the Word of God the more discernment.

Besides the futility and physical harm of dieting, I am also concerned about what else gets "slipped in" because of a lack of discernment. For example, there are multiple carbo-phobic testimonies in the recently wildly popular book The South Beach Diet, even a "distrust" of all carbohydrates. In contrast, Jesus calls himself the "living bread". If we do not receive Him we cannot have eternal life or life as it is meant to be, in its fullest. He is the ONLY way. All other attempts fall short and are merely counterfeit and temporary solutions. So why would Jesus use the analogy of bread to describe himself if bread is bad for us and something to be avoided? It would be akin to him saying, "I am the pork of life." Interestingly, the South Beach dieters testify that they must keep bread out of their diet for the rest of their life, as if bread is the "tempter". If we come to believe we must keep bread out of our life, then could it be only one small associative step away from keeping Jesus out too since he calls himself bread? Maybe that's a stretch, but at the very least it might cast more confusion and doubt on God’s Word for using such a "useless" analogy.

Food for thought . . .

Banner Image Credit: bryljaev / 123RF Stock Photo.

Background Image Credit: bryljaev / 123RF Stock Photo.