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Beyond Dieting-Affirmative Eating

fruits and veggies

Dean Ornish, MD, the founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, has long argued that comprehensive lifestyle changes make a positive difference in preventing or reversing coronary heart disease. The changes include "stress management, moderate exercise, group support and a low-fat, whole-foods nutrition plan. Most people experience substantial improvements in weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, vitality, and quality of life."

When I read Dr. Ornish's comments, I cheered. I am, after all, living proof of this medical theory. When I began my makeover, I was in the 90th percentile for risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. After changing what I ate and incorporating regular exercise into my routine (and losing 62 pounds in the process), my risk for those same diseases had dropped to the normal range.

Another idea Dr. Ornish proposes, however, adds an additional dimension to getting fit. Perhaps like you, when I focus on losing weight, I typically review the food that I should avoid eating to keep from gaining weight-for example, chocolate cake and ice cream.

But Dr. Ornish encourages us to move beyond that mentality. Instead, he wants us to eat affirmatively-that is, eat food that nourishes our bodies:

It's not just about what you exclude from your diet that's harmful, but also what you include that's beneficial. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products are rich in substances that, in my opinion, can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease as well as breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

The idea that we need to eat affirmatively for health purposes (and not just limit caloric intake) is a solid one that those of us who seek to lose weight need to incorporate into our approach to eating.  For more information on Dr. Ornish's views (and free recipes), go to

Carole Carson, author of  From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARP Fat to Fit online community.

Photo credit: Elisabeth Sophia Fuchs via stock.xchng

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