How to (not) eat like a doctor

Our diets may be the most important factor affecting our health but we physicians are notorious for eating poorly. We don’t intentionally make poor food choices, but we fail to intentionally make good food choices. Most of the time, poor eating habits are tied directly to our training and work

Our diets may be the most important factor affecting our health but we physicians are notorious for eating poorly. We don’t intentionally make poor food choices, but we fail to intentionally make good food choices. Most of the time, poor eating habits are tied directly to our training and work.

a large hospital

too busy to eat well

Doctors in training- medical students and residents- have no control over their schedules so they often don’t know when, where, or what they will eat. We don’t do much better when we start practicing.

When we are an hour behind schedule (yes, we are well aware that we run late and we don’t do it just to ruin your day) and an emergency patient walks in, we just accept “there goes a decent lunch”, if we get to eat lunch at all.

I’ve learned from my patients that physicians are not unique this way. In the midst of busy lives with work, school, kids’ activities, church, clubs and just maintaining life, food often gets low priority on our schedules

a vending machine with snack food
Too often, doctors’ meals are something we eat from one of these.

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planning to eat well

So, to help you with this dilemma, I am sharing advice from another physician blogger, Mary L. Brandt, MD who writes wellnessrounds. She is a Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics and Medical Ethics at Baylor College of Medicine and pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital .

Her blog mostly addresses issues pertinent to medical students and residents but in this post she outlines a 5 step plan for healthy eating that anyone can use.

5 steps to healthy eating

  1. Make a plan
  2. Make a shopping list
  3. Shop once for the week and (when you can) prep ahead
  4. Use your day(s) off to cook things that might take a bit more time and freeze some for other days
  5. Keep a few “instant” healthy meals in your pantry
bottle of olive oil
Olive oil is a healthy choice for cooking at home.

Think this sounds like a lot of work? Well, it is, but so is being sick, or trying to lose weight after you’ve gained too much. Or as Dr. Brandt says in her post (speaking to medical students and residents remember)

“If you can learn how to take out a gallbladder or care for ill patients in the ICU don’t you think you can learn how to sauté a few vegetables???”

Dr. Mdary Brandt

Here is a link to her plan to help you start eating well-like a doctor.

Eating Well at Work 

exploring the HEART of eating well

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Dr Aletha

“How I “broke up” with junk food and fell in love with healthy eating”

( This post contains affiliate product links; purchase through these links pays a commission to this blog; thank you)
I am pleased to introduce you to my friend Pam. My husband and I met Pam and her husband in a ballroom dance class. I was immediately captivated by her radiant smile and Southern charm. Since then I have learned more about her and watched an amazing transformation in her life.

Pam and I attending a wedding at the dance studio
Pam and I attending a friend’s wedding at the dance studio

Pam graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University in 1980. With a major in Communications, she started her career as a writer and Account Executive for advertising and public relations agencies in Mississippi and in Oklahoma where she moved after marrying.  She was the Marketing Director for a large medical clinic for several years. Since 1995, she has enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom with involvement in PTA, church and community. In 2012, she was named Volunteer of the Year by her community public school system.

But despite such a charmed life, there was a struggle, one that Pam shares with many people. In this blog I have discussed the physical and emotional consequences of excess weightyou will be encouraged by Pam’s success story which she so generously shares with me and you.

“Breaking up is hard to do. ” By Pam Whitson

“I was happily married to the love of my life and should have been having the time of my life.   Sadly, my self-confidence and my happiness had been stolen, and I was the thief.

For over two decades, I robbed myself of peak energy, vitality, health and beauty by totally disregarding my intake of food.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about what I should do.  I spent money on self-help tapes, gym memberships and weight loss programs from the practical to the extreme.  I whined and wished about it constantly.  And it didn’t help knowing that I was not alone; almost half of adults are overweight or obese.

And I had occasional moments of success.  Like the time I was within four pounds of leaving the “obese” category. (Obese is a BMI, body mass index, of 30 or higher)  After months of hard work, I ran to Glamour Shots for the mid-1990s version of a sequin and big hair make-over.  On the way home from my triumphant photo session, I stopped by my favorite barbecue place and started eating my way right back to where I was before.  I gained all the weight I had lost back and more.

I joked my way through feelings of depression, because  I had an unhealthy relationship with food.    I thought about it way too much.  I ran to it for instant gratification.  I was too in love with the tastes, the textures, the sheer delight of food.  Even now, I love to grocery shop.  One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

cereal boxes in a store
“One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.”

Finally, at age 53, after twenty years of carrying way too much weight for my 5’7 ½” (1.7 meters) (yes, the half inch counts!) frame, I was ready for a change.  Really ready.  Change isn’t easy.  Change hurts.  I walked into Weight Watchers and pretended it was my first time ever.  I read everything.  I listened and participated.  I went to every meeting.  I hung around afterwards and pestered my leader for every little nugget of information I could cling to.

Pam before weight loss
Pam and her daughter

I rejoined Weight Watchers in July, 2012, with 20 pounds (9 kg) still off from a previous Weight Watcher effort. I lost 40 pounds (18 kg) in 4 1/2 months to be at goal before Thanksgiving! I learned to maintain this loss during the required six week maintenance period with Weight Watchers and became an official Lifetime Member before the year’s end of 2012. This meant a lot to me because my birthday is New Year’s Day. How wonderful to start the year at a healthy weight!

At Weight Watchers I learned I could change.  I could change what I put in my grocery basket.  I could change what I ordered in restaurants.  I could change how much I moved.

I could change my relationship with food for good.

I still enjoy food.  Very much.  Maybe even more than before because now I appreciate my food as fuel to live a healthy and active and even beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder) life!  I still enjoy the tastes, even more so because I choose only the best.  My plate is colorful with roasted veggies and fresh fruits and salad greens.  I enjoy grilled lean chicken, steak and seafood.  My carbs are high fiber, full of flavor and texture.  I no longer long for the processed foods full of white flour, sugar and fat.

By pairing healthy eating with increased physical activity, I changed my weight dropped from 226 lbs (102 kg) to 150 lbs (68 kg).  Now 70 pounds (31 kg) lighter and at a healthy BMI of 23, I feel so much happier and healthier.  But once I started eating better, even before I was near my goal weight, my self-esteem and confidence were instantly restored.  Just knowing that I had a plan gave me optimism and excitement.  I’ve been at goal for almost three years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even a crisp cookie). And I now stay about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) below goal as a safety net.

Pam on a well deserved vacation
Pam on a well deserved vacation

In addition to my daily walks, I enjoy ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, swimming and an occasional bike ride.  I wear a Fitbit and accomplish 15,000 steps a day.

I’ve been a Weight Watcher leader for two and a half years and just LOVE it! I never imagined I would do this; you might as well as told me I would become an astronaut. While helping me stay at a healthy weight, I enjoy the privilege of making new friends and helping other people be their most confident and healthy selves. Just for fun, I’ve started a Park Walking group that explores different parks in our city every two weeks. We took a summer break (Oklahoma gets real hot in the summer) but will be back on the trails in September.Along with my awesome Weight Watcher members, I’m enjoying a new healthy relationship with food for good. ”

Pam leading a Weight Watchers meeting
Pam is now a Weight Watchers coach

Weight Watchers may not be the answer for everyone, but Pam’s idea of changing our relationship with food should be a part of any weight management plan.  Our eating habits affect our health in other ways, so even if you are not overweight, using food appropriately is important.

Physical activity also has health benefits beyond weight loss. I joined Pam’s walking group and find it a fun way to exercise and make new friends. (My favorite walking shoe is Go Walk by Skechers.)  In addition to social dancing with our husbands, Pam and I are part of a ladies dance team. We performed a Western theme dance routine to the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” . That’s so appropriate for someone who walked her way from a BMI of 35 down to 25. If she can do it, so can you.

 

And if you are wondering how Pam is doing a year later, read this update –

“in love with healthy eating”

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