A famous African proverb states, “If the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when the diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” These words settled deeply in my mind as I battled the consequences of eating primarily processed and packaged foods. My painful joints from inflammation and chronic fatigue from hormonal imbalance showed me no mercy. Undoubtedly, my food choices tasted good but did my body no good. Yikes!
As a family physician with little nutrition knowledge, I knew there was a better solution to achieving optimal health. Still, I was confused about which nutrition plan is the best, with so many out there. The conflicting information from thought leaders, influencers, and even health providers and physicians didn’t make it easier. One moment, coconut is good, and the next day it isn’t good. Once a patient told me that her nutritionist told her to continue to eat pork and red meat when she voluntarily decided not to because she noticed she felt better without it. The question she asked was: where would her protein come from? My patient was left so confused, and without any sense of direction, she started eating pork and red meat, which further increased her lipid profile.
The conflicting information from thought leaders, influencers, and even health providers and physicians didn't make it easier. One moment, coconut is good, and the next day it isn't good. Click To Tweet
I sought a better understanding of how our bodies function in the presence of different food groups. I was enlightened by the research behind the numerous eating patterns (intermittent fasting, time restrictive eating), eating plans (flexitarian, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian), and diets (Mediterranean, Keto, Atkins, etc.). Furthermore, I discovered Lifestyle Medicine which emphasizes the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPB) as the foundation for Optimal Health. When selecting the best nutrition for you and your family, you must research the evidence from reliable sources and apply the information to suit your needs. I fully embraced a predominantly WFPB nutrition plan because numerous data demonstrate how increasing my intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds prevents, treats, and reverses chronic lifestyle-related diseases.
The harm that we create, which I must confess, I was guilty of in my home after understanding the power of a predominantly whole food plant-based nutrition plan, was expecting extreme and immediate changes all at once. I learned the hard way when I removed whole milk from my home after studying the evidence and how it affected me personally by worsening my allergies. My children and husband threw a fit. I had to backtrack and gradually weaned them off whole milk by showing them the scientific evidence and comparing how they felt with milk alternatives which were better tolerated than my first approach. Now, I understand that our journey to optimal health through lifestyle habits is a marathon, not a splint. And to sustain these nutrition habits consistently, we need to realize that not all one size fits all for several reasons, some of which are our genetic and cultural dispositions. We must understand that different people adjust to nutritional plans at different timeframes, even if their health demands it.
“We must understand that different people adjust to nutritional plans at different timeframes, even if their health demands it.”
It was a learning curve for me as I used this same approach to introduce more plant-based foods into my home and encourage my patients to do the same. I perceived that creating a no-judgment zone helps for a smoother transition to eating a more WFPB diet, unlike the negative approach, which involves food shaming, received from some of my colleagues thinking this method would cajole people from eating.
I was shocked when a colleague told me I wasn’t worthy of being called a diplomat of Lifestyle Medicine because I wasn’t on a 100% plant-based diet. Even worse, my patient was afraid she would shorten her life if she were not 100% plant-based. Please let me know if you consider this practice “First, Do No Harm.”?
I was shocked when a colleague told me I wasn't worthy of being called a diplomat of Lifestyle Medicine b/c I wasn't on a 100% plant-based diet. Even worse, my patient was afraid she would shorten her life if she were not 100% plant-based. Click To Tweet
Do you know what this patient can afford or their living situation? Did you seek to understand first and direct accordingly, or did you make a general judgment? A typical example of such a scenario was when one of my patients mentioned that she couldn’t get more plant foods because she lived with a friend who did the cooking. These are actual life barriers that I am pleased to share would be eliminated in the next ten years, given the initiatives coming from the World House and other organizations to end Hunger and improve Nutrition and Health in America with emphasis on the underrepresented communities. The worse of all is when people verbally attack you when you do not follow their diet plan. I do not have issues with these different plans, but my concerns are when you DO HARM by imposing your lifestyle eating patterns without expressing love but criticism.
My goal with this article is to beseech you, not to make nutrition more complex than it already is. Yes, present the evidence but meet people where they are and don’t pull a guilt trip on people to change their eating style to yours. This concept applies to every individual, regardless of their profession or community. First, Do No Harm with your opinions about nutrition. People need to feel confident with their food choices and not feel bullied into fitting into a box.
I have discovered that most people have a strong opinion about their nutrition plan, which is okay; after all, we live in a diverse world. I want to emphasize that whatever nutrition plan you follow, check your health markers regularly to ensure your nutrition plan serves you. Do the blood test – don’t guess your way into good health! The question to ask yourself is, are your health markers such as blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure elevated? If there are, do your due diligence and inquire about a healthier nutritional option. Whatever you choose, feel good about it and make sure the food that loves you back.