Food at the Center

As Americans, we think of food as something that should fill our belly and please our mouth. Sure, food should do both these things, but it seems like we underestimate the importance of nutrition. Food should also provide vitamins and nutrients – nourishment.

Do you like how I use we here – my seemingly passive aggressive way of saying other people? But, I don’t really mean other people, by we I mean me, the me I was in my 20s. I spent the first 25 years of my life with a vague recollection that broccoli was good for me. Clearly this post is all about the new me lecturing the old me. Good, now that we’ve got that out of the way…

When I was diagnosed with cancer, my gastro intestinal problems were so bad I was hardly eating. I was starving, malnourished. None of my doctors ever mentioned nutrition. The cancer video they showed in the chemo room only encouraged us to “treat” ourselves to our favorite sugary, fatty foods.

Research increasingly points to the link between nutritional deficiency and illness. A new study shows the lack of nutritional education at medical schools. Most schools don’t provide the recommended 25 hour minimum.

If doctors don’t talk to their patients about nutrition aren’t they leaving out an important part of healing? But where does nutrition fit in the already long and complex medical training?

Combine that lack of knowledge and information with the dismal state of hospital food and it seems like the medical system needs a Jamie Oliver-style cafeteria overhaul. Dr. Preston Maring might be the perfect candidate. He’s a gynecologist and obstetrician with three decades as a surgeon, who is well known as a former physician-in-chief at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland. He’s established an organic farmer’s market outside the doors of the hospital

He believes that “… in the health professions, the kitchen must become as crucial as the clinic.” He believes that “Food is at the center of health and illness and so doctors must make all aspects of food — growing, buying, cooking, eating — a mainstay of their medical educations, their personal lives and their practices.” I think I love him.

He tries to make sure local fresh food is served at the hospital. He has a blog that offers advice and recipes. He even has a culinary road show he takes to health care institutions around the country. He’s got big plans, starting with getting doctors to eat healthier themselves.

I was lucky enough of find a nutritionist who revolutionized my eating habits and helped transform old me into the new, vegetable-pushing, overbearing blogger I’ve become today (so proud!). I’m grateful for her and I hope that other people fighting serious illnesses find someone, whether it’s a nutritionist, Dr Maring or another like-minded medical professional to help them find what they need.

8 thoughts on “Food at the Center

  1. Anna

    So happy to have folks talking about cancer and nutrition. I have to share a great resource on the subject that has helped shape the way I think about food! Diana Dyer is a dietitian, organic farmer and multiple time cancer survivor who blogs at:

    She also wrote a great book on the subject called The Dietitian’s Cancer Story.

    Enjoy and thanks for your great blog!

  2. Tami

    For real! It always has confused me that hospitals serve such grody food. What the? We are what we eat! We know this! For a while I was strictly following an anti-inflammation diet. Man, I felt great. Tonight, I’m strictly following an extra-inflammation diet, focused mainly on licorice. So, there’s that. Why is it so easy to stray from the foods that nourish us?

  3. Katherine Post author

    Jenn, six months ago I think she would have tried to eat it. Now, mercifully enough, I think she just wants to pet it and maybe snuggle a little bit.

  4. Rachel

    some hope: Healthcare Without Harm has a great initiative on getting healthy foods into hospitals. Swedish hospitals and UW here in Seattle have signed their pledge…

    happened upon a fascinating article related to food and america’s sad relationship to it, today in grist. enlightenment from a french sociologist:
    the take home message: eat for pleasure, and with friends or family!

  5. Katherine Post author

    Both of those are so interesting Rachel. Thank you! I love that first article about the pledge. It gives me hope!

    Tami, I love red vines. That’s all I have to say. Love. Maybe we could figure out how to make them from kale.

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