Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adapt and Adopt: Translating a Healthy Culture into a Corporate Culture of Health


shutterstock_80499238-1Principles apply across condition. One principle for any business is that it is easier to adapt an existing successful business model than to reinvent the wheel and hope it turns out as well as the thing that already works. In other words, “find success … do that.”
For our weight and health, the same principle holds true. There are entire cultures that (unlike us) have low weight, healthy hearts and longer lives. In other words, a successful dietary model exists already, with millions of people living their healthy lifestyle every day. If we do what they do, we would get their results.
However, instead of adapting and adopting their success like any good corporate strategy would advise, we have chosen to reinvent the wheel for over 40 years now with diets including the low carb, low fat, food combining, cave man, blood type, cabbage soup, and on and on.
The list is embarrassingly long, and made doubly so by their persistent failure to make a dent in the problem.

Adapt and Adopt

The dietary habits of the Mediterranean region are of the healthiest on Earth. The people are healthier and thinner, with fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But—even better—they didn’t get this way by following the diet d’jour but by living the lifestyle, they’ve enjoyed for centuries.
Like any corporation, however, translating another’s success to your own wildly variable circumstance is tricky. And the same thing holds true for the Mediterranean diet: we don’t live there; our employees don’t have 2½ hours to eat their lunch; we don’t have fresh markets on every corner or five weeks of mandatory vacation every year. Yes, they are living a healthy lifestyle—but how do we make that work for us?
1)      adopt the principles that make it successful, and
2)      adapt those for our employees.

Principles for a Healthy Culture of Health

Principle #1: “Eat Food.” This basic of the Mediterranean lifestyle avoids dietary minutia, and keeps participants from wringing their hands over the carbs in their baguettes, points are in their potatoes or calories when they take a walk. Micromanaging molecules — whether calories or carbs, points or proteins —is the very definition of a diet and is not practiced by any healthy culture. None of them.
Principle #2: If it ain’t food, don’t eat it. Communicating this principle in the break room, lunchroom, and on vending machines encourages employees to eat real food, not synthetics (that’s sugar, not non-nutritive artificial sweeteners; olive oil, not hydrogenated oil; bread, not “wonder” bread; and vegetables, not supplements). Even in America, we can adopt the Mediterranean habit of choosing items that are real food, made with real ingredients.
Principle #3: Learn to (actually) love food again. We have be coached by our culture to think that if you love your food, you eat it big and you eat it fast (think “Man versus Food”). But no healthy culture thinks this way. For them, the love of food is less about the quantity eaten and more about the quality of the food.
Finally, a key principle to the Mediterranean lifestyle is to return to the family table. Americans used to practice this just as regularly as other cultures do now, but we have somehow forgotten it. And this is too bad, because the research is clear. When people eat at a table with people they enjoy, food quality increases as high-volume consumption decreases in the process, so you control calories and so control weight.
These principles are a win, win, win, especially because they are practiced by successful cultures. This lowers risk and increases the chances that you can create a healthy culture of health.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sad, But True: Some Doctors Still Recommend Processed Food



How Can They Justify Recommending These?
The American Society for Nutrition has a stated mission, which includes the following: “… to support the dissemination and application of nutrition science to improve public health.” Fair enough, but they recently released a position paper telling us that processed food products are an essential part of a healthy American diet.

Hearing this is as perplexing as reading some kids’ cereal labels plump with sugar, synthetic dyes, and preservatives, while the front side of the box assures us they are “an important part of a balanced diet.” On one hand, most adults realize that these kinds of questionable slogans are marketed simply to sell products. In this case, though, it's an official position paper from a mainstream nutrition organization we trust, as they said themselves, to “improve public health.”

The concern begins with the impressive list of conflicts of interest of the authors themselves: owning stock in ConAgra, McCormick, Hershey; consulting for various food and beverage companies; being paid by them to speak; and taking grant money from agribusiness giant Tate & Lyle.

Beyond these relationships, the article itself makes some unusual claims. It states that to assess the quality of processed foods, we shouldn’t compare their nutritious nature to that of whole foods. This is because (per the authors) the range of nutrients to compare is so broad that such a comparison would be “not useful.” In other words, they want taken off the table a comparison of real food versus processed food products.

To evaluate the health of processed food products, then, what should be compared? Only the many kinds of processed foods themselves. In doing this, the ASN article creates a false equivalence by asserting that all processed food products — from bread, cheese, and frozen peas, to Pop Tarts and frozen corn dogs dipped in aerosol spray cheese — are all qualitatively the same.

They can only do this by focusing on the number of vitamins and minerals added to the product. They do not mention the synthetic ingredients, additive sugars, or sodium. In other words, if a collection of dyes, sugars, and preservatives (returning to the example of common breakfast cereals) has a multivitamin in it, it is on the same nutritional level as fresh frozen vegetables or cheese.

This cartoon absurdity of normalizing bizarre food inventions is dangerous because it avoids obvious issues. No matter how margarine made with hydrogenated oil is fortified, it's still bad for your heart. The nutrient content of some prepackaged foods doesn’t make their sky-high levels of sodium and sugar suddenly good for you. Finally, eating the food preservatives they laud in this paper (including hydrogenated oil, nitrate/nitrite, salt, BHT, sodium benzoate) does not reverse the link they all have to some form of chronic disease.

And this is exactly what makes this position paper so antithetical to public health. Americans eat an estimated 150 pounds of sugar per person per year, and about 70 percent of that comes from processed food products. The CDC estimates that a mere 10 foods account for more than 40% of our sodium consumption. Defending the source of most sugar and sodium consumption, when a staggering two-thirds of our population ranges from overweight to morbidly obese, is anything but serving public health.

I do understand why agribusiness and the processed food product industry sugarcoat everything they say to the public about themselves and their products. But we all should expect that by now. What’s disheartening is being let down by an institution we trusted to give us straight advice. The American Society for Nutrition endorsed the views of processed food industry spokespeople, and allowed them to speak through the invisibility cloak of scientists writing for their organization.

The bottom line is that the position of this position paper is no better than the sugar-filled, neon-colored, processed food product breakfast cereals they defend. And, like these products, the ASN is in serious need of some fortification via one key ingredient our consumer public deserves: integrity.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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