As a physician, I’m used to my patients asking, “What would you do if you were me?” Over the past few years, though, they’ve begun making additional inquiries. “What do you do to stay healthy? Do you eat fat? Sugar? Do you cook?” They see me as someone who has a lifestyle similar to theirs, with a family and a demanding job, but who also has insider knowledge of what really works (and what doesn’t).
That’s why I teamed up with the editors of Prevention. I realized that people want to learn more from their doctors-not only what science has found to be effective but what they do in their own lives. We contacted 64 health professionals and asked them for their best tips and recipes. The result is an incredible collection of advice from some of the nation’s top experts.
I was set on my own path to nutritional awareness after becoming frustrated with my own health. As a medical student, I had limited understanding of nutrition. I was swayed by the “fat-free” craze of the ’80s, so I loaded up on carbs and avoided fatty foods. I exercised aggressively and didn’t concern myself with calories, protein, or healthy fats. Honestly, I didn’t even know that I needed to worry about those things.
I patted myself on the back when I had popcorn for dinner or a green salad with fat-free dressing for lunch. I knew to stay away from junk food and fried food, so I thought I was a healthy eater. Between work and family demands, I was on a crazy stress roller coaster, but I continued to try to sustain myself on low-calorie, low-fat foods.
Fast-forward a few years to when the “payback” began. At the age of 28, I battled weight gain, acne, and hormonal irregularities. My hair, which was once my crowning glory, started coming out in chunks. I actually had bald patches!
Around that time I became interested in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and this led to one of those personal “aha!” moments. Both place great importance on nutrition, and it quickly occurred to me that my high-sugar, low-protein, and very-low-fat diet was making me sick. One thing led to another, and I immersed myself in nutrition research. I learned about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, the importance of olive oil, the roles insulin production and inflammation play in disease, and how the right foods could control both. I pumped up my protein intake, cut back on refined carbs, and welcomed nuts, avocados, olive oil, and, yes, even cheese and butter back into my life. I learned to cook, rediscovered the pleasures of food, and found that healthy eating doesn’t mean deprivation.
Within a few weeks of changing my diet, I had more energy. I lost weight, and my skin cleared up. Within 2 years, my hair was just as lush as it used to be.
Once I’d healed myself, I wanted to share what I had learned. I trained to become an integrative physician, studying under Andrew Weil, MD, who was among the first to embrace holistic health. Today I’m the medical director of my own holistic health practice in Atlanta, making food a part of both prevention and cure.
But I’m not the only one who eats this way As we combed through the tips, recipes, and eating plans from our health professionals, we began to notice a pattern. Although personal tastes differ, everyone from the brain doctor to the exercise physiologist follows the same basic eating principles, including these.
Adapted from What Doctors Eat, by Tasneem Bhatia, MD, and the editors of Prevention. Copyright © 2013 by Rodale Inc. Published by Rodale Inc. To purchase, go to prevention.com/what-drs-eat.
Published January 2013, Prevention