Are Stress and Nutritional C-R-A-P Slowly Killing You?

"Let food be thy medicine" —Hippocrates (father of modern medicine)

A balanced and healthy diet is crucial to good health and overcoming stress.  In his forthcoming book called entitled Stress Pandemic, lifestyle and stress expert Paul Huljich shares a simple and holistic approach to nutrition, paying added attention to the effects of what we eat on our neurochemistry.  "Ensuring that we are supporting a healthy neurochemical balance is a vital and proactive step toward managing our stress," Mr. Hulijch asserts.  "When you feel tense, stress eating or emotional-eating is triggered like an automatic response. That's especially so if your body reacts strongly to stress-released hormones."

A 2010 study from the University of Michigan showed that when levels of the stress hormone cortisol were boosted in healthy, non-stressed adults, they ate more junk food.  When people feel stressed out, most either stop eating altogether or binge on high-fat, high-sodium products such as chocolate, doughnuts, potato chips and other snack foods.  And when combined with America's growing portion sizes, people grow sicker, gain weight and develop bad habits that can endure a lifetime unless they say "NO" and take charge of what and how they eat. 

Bad eating habits start young so where else to begin teaching kids about good nutrition outside of home but in this nation's schools?  Thankfully, people like Michelle Obama are championing this crusade.  Hoping to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity, the Obama administration recently announced its long-awaited changes to government-subsidized school meals, a final round of rules that adds more fruits and green vegetables to breakfasts and lunches and reduces the amount of salt and fat.  "As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat and ensure that they have a reasonable balanced diet," Mrs. Obama said in a statement. "And when we are putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria."

About 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day. The new rules are a major component of Mrs. Obama's campaign to reduce the number of overweight children through exercise and better nutrition.  The announcement came months after the food industry won a vote in Congress to block the administration from carrying out an earlier proposal.

"Children born in the year 2000 or later are not expected to outlive their parents," stated Dr. David Katz of the Yale Preventive Medicine Research Center at a nutrition conference in April.  Why are our kids so sick? One reason is that they eat too much bad food.  In March of last year, Dr. Katz quoted in a Wall Street Journal article that a "poor diet in kids is more dangerous than alcohol, drugs, and tobacco combined!"  If you can believe it, the top 3 foods consumed in America are hot dogs, white bread and coffee. And the marketing industry is capitalizing on our society's obsession with eating junk food, evidenced by an announcement made last week by 7-Eleven, the nation's largest convenience chain, of a low-cal line of Slurpees!  The move comes at a time when companies have been marketing everything from "Spam Lite" to "skinny cocktails" aimed at calorie-conscious consumers.

Mr. Huljich believes that as a society we must revolutionize the ways in which we eat beginning with cutting out all the C-R-A-P (an acronym for coffee, refined food, alcohol and processed food).  He also does not endorse the use of fad diets, counting calories or choosing to eat certain food groups over others.  His approach to a healthy diet, which is outlined in detail in his forthcoming book Stress Pandemic, is a balanced and practical one, which first identifies and bases his diet on the good foods and eating patterns in your life while eliminating the bad ones.  "The human body is designed to thrive on a variety of foods therefore I feel a more holistic approach to diet is far more effective and supportive to overall health and well-being than any of those revolving popular diet fads can ever be,” Huljich states.  "When you go on a fad diet and exclude any of the necessary nutrients, you're putting yourself at risk for illness."  It is precisely as Gary Taubes warned in Newsweek's recent cover story "The government has spent hundreds of millions telling Americans to exercise more and eat less.  But the country is getting heavier every year. It's time to change the way we think about fat." 

A balanced eating plan supports all of the body's functions so that it can absorb and use nutrients efficiently and effectively. Health maintenance promotes physical fitness and disease prevention such as the risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.  We are a nation trying to find a cure yet not looking closely enough at the symptoms.  By finding the courage to and wisdom to look at the root cause and going back to basics, we can learn how to master our stress and live longer and healthier lives.