Food is a Gift
When I was a boy growing up on a farm in rural Iowa, my grandmother had this picture of “Grace” by Eric Enstrom over her stove. The picture made quite an impression on me, and I think to many others who visited her home. The picture reminded all of us that food is a gift for which we were to be thankful.
Meals at my Grandmother’s house were always nutritious, appropriately portioned, and enjoyed as a family. Very little, if any, food was wasted. On the farm, the next meal wasn’t always a given.
Moving from the Farm to the City
As the years passed, and I moved off of the farm, my relationship with food changed. Food suddenly became more abundant, more varied, often less nutritious, consumed on the go, taken for granted, and many times wasted.
Urban life tends to be less physically demanding than farm life. I discovered that traveling by human power and manual labor aren’t as necessary in the city. Even in urban areas, right here in Michigan, it can sometimes be very difficult to find fresh, high quality food.
Diet and Disease
Alhough poor quality food is widely available and inexpensive, diets high in fat and low in nutritional value have been linked to a wide variety of human illness. Diets made up of mostly poor quality food can lead to weight gain and obesity. In my specialty, urology, obesity has been linked to illnesses ranging from stress urinary incontinence to renal cancer.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out our metabolism slows down naturally with aging. This means that, over time, our we require fewer and fewer calories to function properly. It is no wonder, therefore, that obesity is a major problem in the United States and around the world.
Food is a Choice
Fortunately, we can chose to make daily lifestyle choices that will help us maintain a healthy weight over the course of our lifetime. The cornerstones of preventing inappropriate weight gain are, you guessed it, diet and exercise.
When we talk about diet, we are not talking about fad diets. The definition of diet is “the kinds of food that a person habitually eats.” In order to maintain a healthy weight, the foods you eat need to have nutritional value, meaning they provide your body with something other then just calories.
For example, nuts and seeds provide you with protein, heart healthy fats, vitamin E, and magnesium. That’s quite a nutritional punch in one food. On the other hand, a can of regular soda may have the same caloric value as the handful of nuts, but absolutely no nutritional value to the body.
Move Your Body
Exercise is a bad word for some. For many, exercise evokes thoughts of discomfort, sweat, and one more thing on the to-do list. This is why the term ‘movement’ may be more helpful. If we look back at human history, we no longer have to move for basic daily needs like our ancestors did. As a result, simply moving more within our daily lives may be a good place to start. For example, you may have the choice to drive to the mailbox or walk to it or you might have the choice to park near the door of the store or a bit farther away. These choices may not seem like much at the time, but they add up.
Maintaining a healthy weight takes commitment and discipline.
There are numerous forces working against us every day that prevent us from living a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and diet, under the supervision of your primary care physician, are key. If you are like me, you may find that thinking about where your food comes from, having a grateful attitude for the food you receive, paying close attention to the portion quantity and nutritional value of your food, and taking time to enjoy meals with family and friends are important as well.
What small choice will you make today to move towards a healthy weight?