The Occasional Junk Food

Question: Often enough, during parties or meetings, or during my travels (in and out of the airplane...), I am asked questions resembling this: "what if I have a Big Mac just once in a while? Or a Cheese Pizza once a week? Or chocolate just infrequently?"

Answer: It may seem easy to answer such questions, but is really isn't, especially when these meetings are too short to get into meaningful details. And every encounter is an opportunity to enhance someone's life by briefly introducing concepts of healthy living or at least creating a thought-provoking moment that can make a person pause to ponder the impact of our daily choices on the health of our internal and external ecology.

The last thing we want to do is "scare away" or alienate a new acquaintance, producing a greater distance between him or her and a better lifestyle. We don't want to be too "preachy" or evangelical about this topic, yet we don't want to insult someone's intelligence by being overly simplistic. I personally believe that people should be given credit for their ability to comprehend complex issues and make appropriate changes. Many doctors' attitude that "the patient will never change" stem from the inability of the doctors THEMSELVES to institute changes in their own lives, partially because they were not receptively exposed to the necessary education about health and nutrition that most of their patients were exposed to via books, internet, and popular magazines and other publications. This is why so many patients are light-years ahead of their doctors in regard to diet, supplements, innovative diagnostic tests and therapies, and home-based health measures. And the doctors are really not aware of this gap, so they just assume that there is no point in SIGNIFICANTLY educating their patients to prevent diseases by making truly-effective lifestyle alterations. They usually oversimplify the issues and avoid depth, leading the patient to conclude that these matters are not that important or obvious. As a result, we all tend to have easy excuses for our behavior, tending to justify to ourselves our daily "infringements" light heartedly, allowing their detrimental effects to accumulate...

At the same time, we don't want to induce guilt in anyone. But we must be honest and complete in assessing and responding to any question, even if it means that a certain level of complexity is required. People can immediately tell that someone is addressing them without integrity or with condescension. And if we must tell them about the nature of food addictions, we must avoid any judgmental tone- since EVERYBODY is or has been addicted to something sometime... the beginning of every positive change is achieved with the realization that something can be improved, and we all know that addictions are not a positive thing. So, one way to address the issue is to mention that these "offensive" foods are addictive just like alcohol or cigarettes are, to briefly explain the underlying mechanism for the addiction in each instance (using sound yet understandable science), and to demonstrate how even an occasional exposure to junk foods can perpetuate the addiction cycle. Then, quickly discussing the accumulative effects of metabolic toxicity and malnutrition is appropriate, if time allows it. Also, a mention can be made of the total physiological impact of consuming too many "bad" foods throughout the month, even if eating each individual food is a "rare occasion" on its own.

Another way is to instantly prove how the cumulative damage of an unhealthy behavior affects our quality of life, by simply quoting a pertinent scientific article that provides an excellent analogy to the point we try to convey. Analogies are not nearly as threatening as tackling an issue head on... Here it is: "Norwegian scientists who studied the health records of 43,000 men and women have shown that even light smoking -- less than five cigarettes daily -- triples the risk of dying of heart disease or lung cancer." This quotation, from Reuters in London (September 21, 2005), is the title of an article that will be quoted in full (followed by our own conclusion) within the Ecopolitan's December Newsletter, coming to you within several days...

If you have a nutritional or brief medical question you would like Doctor T to answer, please email us and it may be answered in a future newsletter.

If you have a nutritional or brief medical question you would like Doctor T to answer, please contact us and it may be answered in a future newsletter or article.

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