For some, it may feel all but inevitable that chronic disease lurks in the future. Not only is our environment saturated with chemicals, a history of familial illness can seem to loom like a life sentence. However, as renowned preventative medicine specialist Dr. David Katz discussed with RadioMD hosts Andrea Donsky and Lisa Davis, your DNA is not necessarily your destiny. Dr. Katz presents a science-based argument that the choices you make today will directly impact your health in the future, specifically your risk for chronic disease.
While there is no 100 percent guarantee that following his advice will prevent chronic disease, Dr. Katz implores you to “think of your body as the vessel and you’re the captain: you control the ship and sail, but not wind and wave.” Thus the actions you take today can indeed profoundly impact your course in life, despite any ‘winds and waves’ that may come along.
The keys to optimal health are nothing unfamiliar or radical: eat optimally, exercise, avoid tobacco, control your weight, get an ideal amount of sleep, manage stress and cultivate healthy relationships. Evidence shows that by adhering to these keys to optimal health, there is an elimination of 80 percent of chronic disease risks, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke and dementia. Dr. Katz notes, that although this approach is not a guarantee, “it is quite incredible and more powerful than anything in all of organized medicine.” For those who fear that their genes are really what determines their risk for chronic disease, Dr, Katz reveals that this same intervention – optimal changes in lifestyle and diet – can in fact change the behavior of your genes. He elaborates: “In the genomic age, we have people thinking that DNA is destiny. To a far greater extent, dinner is destiny.” Behaviors are what really shape fate, yet despite this incredible potential power, the problem is that most people know they have to make improvements, but just don’t know how to do it.
Dr. Katz brings clarity and understanding to this topic in his latest book, Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well. This book is designed to give the reader a skill set that will help them make these improvements easily and effectively. As Dr. Katz highlights, “willpower” is the desire to want change, but without being taught how to do it properly, it is not so easy to accomplish. The book is 300 pages of information designed to provide the “skillpower” it takes to make these life-changing modifications. He provides a great example for those who suffer from a sweet tooth: the willpower approach to fixing a sweet tooth is “don’t have dessert,” any many of us know that this approach usually doesn’t last long and is ultimately ineffective. Dr Katz’s “skillpower” approach is more complex, but in reality is really quite simple. Since many commonplace foods have stealth sugars hiding within (like salad dressings, sauces, crackers, chips and bread), by “trading up” to the better option without the added sugar, gram after gram of sugar (and calories) is removed from the daily diet. Importantly, Dr Katz notes: “taste buds are adaptable little fellows; when they’re not with the foods they think they love, they learn to love the foods they’re with. And if you stop bathing them in all that sugar all day long, they come out of their coma – they go through rehab – they become much more sensitive to sugar, and all of a sudden that dessert you thought you loved and couldn’t give up, actually starts tasting too sweet.” Thus, many of the desserts that once took incredible willpower to avoid will become unpalatable and too sweet; with Dr. Katz’s “skillpower” approach, an individual doesn’t need to lean so hard on willpower to make incredible life-changing adjustments.
Dr. Katz’s book teaches us how to love the food that love us back. No longer must it be a decision between the pleasure of good food and the pleasure of good health: both are certainly attainable. As our taste buds are “retrained”, it becomes challenging to eat the foods that were once so difficult to abstain from. There is a large body of science indicating this adaptability of the taste buds, and with Dr. Katz’s expert advice, it is easy to learn to love the foods that are actually good for you. His skill-based approach helps an individual identify the more nutritious option, understand how long it will take to habituate to new foods, and eventually learn to prefer food that is healthy. Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well helps level the playing field between those who may have vast wealth and resources they can employ in order to attain better quality food and expert trainers, and those who may not have the time or money to ‘outsource’ their health.
Despite the evidence to support this revolutionary advice, Dr. Katz questions, “can science-based sense prevail in a sound-bite world?” Unfortunately, it is all too easy to sell ‘magical thinking’ when it comes to heath and diet. So-called experts will blame meat or wheat or sugar as the ultimate culprit causing poor health, however, science shows it is really the overall pattern that matters. Undeterred by such destructive and faulty information that easily grabs attention, Dr. Katz points out that “all we need to do is treat our health about the same way we treat wealth.” Most of us have enough sense not to look for silly “get rich quick” schemes; we work hard to take care of our wealth, seek expert advice, and cultivate it in order for it to grow and be shared. Dr. Katz’s “skillpower” approach to diet and lifestyle enables an individual to navigate the world as it is and substantially ‘disease-proof’ themselves. Dr. Katz encapsulates good health with these profound words: “It is a great prize and it is within reach.”