Monthly Archives: April 2015

What to Eat?

Nutrition is always in the news. Humans are obsessed with what they can eat, what they shouldn’t eat and which diet is best. Here in the United States where childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions there is a never ending stream of suggestions for losing weight.

And we are right to worry about what we put into our bodies. Eating the right foods is the cornerstone to any wellness plan I recommend for my clients.images

But I was bemused about two stories I saw this week that put the issue front and center. Both involved politics – one food, the other presidential.

It seems that Jeb Bush, who has not yet announced his official candidacy for president, but has been running hard for months, has adopted the well-known Paleo Diet in an effort to lose weight. In fact, he’s had some success, having lost about 20 pounds.

What struck me, was his comment that he’s “always hungry,” which is a frequent complaint among dieters. Granted Mr. Bush faces some special problems given his schedule, but dieting doesn’t mean you have to be hungry. In fact, if you are, it almost guarantees that you will not have long-term success.

Even if he loses weight now, when he achieves his goal, presumably winning the presidency, he’s sure to gain back all the weight he lost. In order to lose weight permanently, you have to adopt lifestyle changes, that you can maintain – and if you are always hungry – it’s not a sustainable plan.

And, if he really wants a healthy nutritious paleo-diet, he should stop by Mission Heirloom, in Berkeley, CA where they have raised the bar for healthy and nutritious food for everyone.

As you can see by my website, I support the Purium method, which encourages a 10-day starter diet and then becomes a much more sustainable way to lose weight without feeling that you are depriving yourself – which is why you just gain the weight back.

There are a number of other plans that can help. Which brings me to a recent article in Scientific American which takes issue with the low fat, high carbohydrate diet supported by Dr. Dean Ornish.

Dr.  Ornish is a well-known nutritional expert, who helped former President Bill Clinton, lose weight after heart by-pass surgery.

Melinda Moyer, author of the Scientific American article, pretty much lays waste to Ornish’s theories and methodology – essentially blaming his diet, at least in part, for the nation’s obesity epidemic. I don’t really want to get involved in the food fight, but here again, it would appear healthy eating, instead of dieting, is a valid position.

Ms Moyer’s theme is that by cutting out fat, Americans have substituted foods that are even more unhealthy and by eliminating whole classifications we have let people substitute all kinds of products that are not real food.

This week’s announcement by Kraft Foods, that they were going to change the formulation of the famed Macaroni and Cheese dinners, to get rid of artificial color and flavorings is a good case in point. Healthy food should not contain manufactured, make believe substances, that add color and calories for no reason.

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

The point is, we should be eating healthy food, prepared at home, with basic ingredients. I am convinced, that like the makers of the movie Fed Up, part of the cause of obesity is not just overeating, but overeating of make-believe substances designed to substitute for real food.

As Michael Pollan said so eloquently: Eat less, mostly plants, especially leaves, and don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

If we want to get healthy, we have to eat healthy, it’s really that simple.

Depression and Concussions

For the last few years the study of athletics and concussions has focused on the long-term impact on individuals who suffer multiple incidents over their careers.

But as a Sports Psychologist, pain management specialist and head injury expert, I see patients who have symptoms of depression almost immediately after their injuries. This can be true whether they suffered a concussion on the highway during an accident or on the football field, after a particularly jarring tackle.2014_Concussions

The difference is that until recently we never had a baseline reading of symptoms before the concussion.

Now a new study, done by a researcher at Penn State University, has confirmed what most psychologists and medical experts already know. Namely, that depressive symptoms can start to show up within days of a concussion.

In reading the article from Huffington Post, my biggest revelation was that the psychologist overseeing the study, was surprised by his results.

Anyone who has suffered from a concussion understands the psychological implications and, in hindsight, knows that the physical trauma can be a far easier recovery than the psychological recovery.

It is imperative that parents and loved ones understand this and make sure that help is provided. And by help, I do not mean simply medications which cover up the symptoms. Supportive, long-term Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one effective method that patients can use after their injury.

In my practice I have incorporated mindfulness, visualization, EMDR, and breath work to assist with the healing process.

We’ve already seen a marked drop in participation in football, at some levels, and an increase in concussion awareness from the NFL to Pop Warner as well as other sports. But until there is an admission that psychological recovery is just as important as physical recovery the issue will not go away.

As long as teams push players to ‘tough it out’ and return to the game before their symptoms have been treated, the more long-term damage were are doing to our children and grand children.

Toward Better Sight

This week a New York Times article described a recent study showing how brain exercises could help older citizens improve their eyesight.

The article described behavioral exercises, where people were shown various shapes against a confusing background, forcing the subjects to concentrate on the target images. The test results showed that after just a few trials (5 in most cases) the subjects improved their contrast sensitivity, or their ability to detect when one image started and another began.

Meir Schneider

Meir Schneider, Ph. D.

This can be a problem for seniors trying to negotiate stairs, but unable to tell where one step ends and another begins.

The article drew my attention because it pointed out the validity of an approach that a San Francisco eye care center has been preaching for years.

Meir Schneider, Ph. D. has been running the School for Self Healing in the Outer Sunset for years. He focuses on retraining brain and eye ‘muscles’ to heal themselves and correct vision problems. Through a series of exercises, Schneider’s rather unorthodox techniques have been able to help patients with debilitating  issues – like his own near blindness –  restore their eyesight.

Schneider, an Israeli by birth, also runs centers in Brazil, Israel and London and has trained practitioners who now run their own facilities in Texas and Petaluma, California.

His techniques are focused on exercises, which take advantage of the human body’s natural ability to heal itself. In the scientific terms of the New York Times article, this brain plasticity, simply trains new portions of the brain to take over for damaged areas.

Reliance on prescription glasses is a ‘last resort’ for Meir who believes that with the right exercise, all eyesight can be corrected naturally.

I’ve been going to his classes in San Francisco for years and have met people from all over the world who flock to him for one reason: His system works.