Our shameful legacy

Multiple messages from patients and friends this week have inspired this week’s blog. The first was from a patient seen in our office this week who had just returned from travels in Europe and recognized what many people do when the travel abroad: Americans stand out like sore thumbs, the reason, the American obesity rate. What stood out the most to me are the words she used to describe how she felt while witnessing just how much Americans stand out in foreign lands, “it is shameful.”

The next was a text I received from a patient while sitting in an infusion center receiving treatment. “Why is it that all the people getting chemo eat McDonald’s during treatment?”

The final one, a text from a friend and patient spending the day at Disney World, “After a day at Disney, a couple of observations…..Good God WE R FATTTT.”

We act perplexed as a nation at ideas such as the French paradox, or the quandary of the Mediterranean diet. These populations seemingly eat all the wrong things, by our collective body dysmorphic, eating disordered way of thinking in America. They eat bread and cheese, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with red wine yet have much lower rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. While it is true Europeans do not fear the foods that have become sacrilege in America i.e. carbs and fat, they eat them in portions that would make us bristle if they were served to us in a restaurant. To illustrate this point just picture in your mind, as an American, your idea of a plate of food served in a “gourmet restaurant.” Most of us picture large plates with appetizer sized portions as an entrée, and our knee jerk reaction is that we are getting ripped off. Get the picture? Therein lies the problem we have to overcome in this country. The breads and cheeses eaten by our European counterparts are in small portions, savored over prolonged meal times, accompanied by fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables and enjoyed in the company of friends and family. Eating in many cultures, as it was once in ours, is a time to relax, enjoy the intimacy of fellowship with friends and family. How many meals did you eat last week that come close to that description? And no, that meal you ate with your family in your car after driving away from the drive through window doesn’t count.

While is seems I am beating a dead horse at times in my blogs about weight, I do it because for me it is a microcosm of our culture. As a nation we have lost accountability, especially when it comes to our health and as health care providers we have lost the will to tell our patients in so many words, you are overweight and unhealthy, and it is mostly your fault, and if you really wanted to improve your health you could. When an overweight patient brings in their overweight kid because they are concerned about the early signs of diabetes in their 12 year old, it is not politically correct for me to tell them that it is their fault that their kid is overweight and that someone needs to be the adult and control what that child is putting in his mouth and how much physical activity he is getting. Although on occasion I have said just that. Those patients usually don’t come back.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on our new detox program. We have teamed up with a company called Ortho Molecular to provide a comprehensive liver detox program which will be available starting next week through our office. My staff and I are undergoing the detox this week and will provide updates on our progress as well as a more detailed description of what the program entails through our blog.

Until then, Stay Healthy and Live Well…. Dr. Mike

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Dr. Michael Heim

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