I was delighted to watch the Ellen DeGeneres show yesterday - yes, on the sad day when the House did not pass the Financial Bill which at least would have unclogged the banks and gotten money flowing again.
Today Ellen taught me a valuable lesson, too. While we don't share family values, we certainly do share others --including animal compassion and diet. Often times I find people who share my family values but who are sometimes insensitive and uncaring when it comes to animal suffering. This made me realize that I probably have more in common with Ellen then with them.
One of her guests this day was Dr. Neal Barnard of The Physicians for Responsible Medicine. Whoa, I thought -- how is she going to pull this off? Would an audience be responsive to his message re eating LESS sugar, processed meats, and cheese?
Having heard Dr. Barnard speak in Cleveland several years ago promoting one of his fifteen books on diet, I really should not have been surprised that together they did "pull it off." He is charismatic and presents his message in a non-threatening manner, and of course, Ellen's wonderful gift of interviewing, made the audience and me listen with rapt attention to a subject which is largely taboo. Many of us are seemingly so unconcerned about changing our lifestyles when it comes to diet.
One valuable remark Dr. Barnard made was that if we try to change something in our diet, it will take at least three weeks for us to overcome some of our "learned" thinking and behaviors. If for instance he said --we decide to drink skim milk versus whole, our initial reaction would probably be that the milk is blue. But by the end of three weeks, one is usually converted to the change and now finds whole milk tasting too much like cream. Sounds logical to me. Just think -in three weeks, you may get rid of some unfortunate food choices you have come to believe you can not dispense with and find that this is just not the case. I think people who want to latch onto a good diet should go to his internet site and buy a book which may well change not only their life style but their general health as well. Everyone in the audience received Dr. Barnard's book -- " Breaking the Food Seduction."
Maybe if Tony Snow had realized the importance of diet, his outcome would have been different. I found this Simon Chaitowitz article worthwhile, which I am reposting in full with permission:
The lesson Tony Snow's cancer can teach all of us:
By Simon Chaitowitz
Posted at PCRM and in The Houston Chronicle
As a two-time cancer survivor, I would love to see Tony Snow's tragic death last week help raise awareness about colorectal cancer. The former White House press secretary was just three years younger than me, and I know all too well how tough his battle was. Sadly, it's one that 50,000 Americans lose each year.
When famous people like Snow or journalist Tim Russert pass away, their deaths often inspire news coverage about their particular disease. That's good because it helps educate the public. Unfortunately, the articles often focus on early detection or the latest treatments.
As someone who detected her first cancer early and lives with many complications from various treatments, I know there's an infinitely better approach. It's cheaper, less painful, and comes with fewer side effects. It's called prevention. I would be thrilled if Tony Snow's death inspired a serious discussion about cancer prevention. That's the best hope any of us have for a long, healthy life.
One way we can help prevent cancer - in addition to not smoking, keeping slim, exercising and not drinking - is to eat right. But what constitutes "eating right" is often up for debate.Food manufacturers and their lobbyists like to pretend that even the most unhealthful foods - like hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats - are OK in moderation. And anyone with a pepperoni addiction likes to pretend that jogging three miles a day will keep them healthy. But late last year, the game was up.
That's when two prestigious cancer research organizations - the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research - released a landmark report on diet and cancer risk. The scientists announced that when it comes to colon cancer, there is absolutely no amount of processed meat that's safe to eat.
In fact, according to researchers, just one 50-gram serving of bacon, sausage, deli meats or other processed meat (think one hot dog) daily increases our risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent. Do the math. If your spouse or your kids are eating ham slices or hot dogs just a couple of times a week, they are significantly increasing their risk of colon cancer.
What is it about processed meats that can cause cancer? Scientists actually aren't certain. Processed meats contain plenty of fat, especially saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, salt and heme iron, which promotes the production of carcinogens. The nitrites used as preservatives, coloring or flavoring agents can also produce carcinogens - as can food preparation such as grilling at high temperatures.
Meanwhile, Americans go on blindly eating processed meats. In 2006, we wolfed down 1.5 billion pounds of hot dogs. Sixty-two percent of all Americans eat some form of processed pork, with the average person eating 32 pounds of it a year. Children are at particular risk as lifelong eating habits are established during childhood and school menus are packed with processed meats.
I wish I had known how I was risking my health by eating processed meats through so much of my life. When I finally stopped eating meat - too late to help prevent the cancer - it was because of concern over how animals are treated on factory farms. But I quickly learned that vegetarian diets could alleviate an enormous amount of human suffering as well. Now, when I see a teenage girl smoking a cigarette or a young boy eating a hot dog, I wish I had the nerve to tell them what I've learned the hard way.
Processed meats aren't the only unsafe foods - no animal products are good for us. They increase our risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and numerous other conditions. And no medicine can reduce the risk of these diseases the way a healthful diet rich in whole plant foods like beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can.
So, if there's one thing you can do to help keep your family healthy, it's to think about replacing meats with healthier choices. Then, the next time you see a headline about a favorite newscaster or politician who's succumbed to cancer, you'll know you're doing the best you can do.
Chaitowitz is a senior communications specialist for the nonprofit vegan group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org), in Washington, D.C.
I also appreciate Dr. Barnard's concerns over the years in his efforts to shut down live dog labs in the teaching hospitals, and thankfully, many of the most prestigious ones have done so by finding the alternatives which were out there all along to discover.
I will say this for Dr. Barnard - he stays with programs which he knows will benefit - in our case, diet and in the case of dogs -- hopefully, there will soon not be even one teaching hospital which uses these innocent dogs in repeated painful surgeries which finally necessitates their being put down.
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