In many ways, it was like any other day in my life as a physician. I practice Internal Medicine and Sleep Medicine in central Louisiana and my days are divided between my patients both in the hospital and at my office. Many doctors these days are deciding to only work in the office setting or in the hospital to improve their lifestyle, but I just can’t seem to do that to my patients. So, I finished my patients for the afternoon at the office and drove to the ER to see a patient. The emergency room physician had called me a few hours earlier telling me that one of my patients had arrived there in some distress, and was apparently having a heart attack. His fourth heart attack to be precise! I walked in to the ER and asked the charge nurse where he was, and to my dismay, she told me he had been taken to the Cardiac Cath lab emergently, but word was he had not survived. It was disheartening to say the least.
I walked to the cath lab waiting room hoping to see his wife, and she was still there with several other family members. She told me he had been fine that morning, and had just started having severe chest pains out of the blue no more than half an hour before they got to the ER. These people knew the signs of a heart attack, after all, he was a veteran by now! We discussed a bit what a nice gentleman he was, and I expressed my condolences the best I could under the circumstances. I bid her goodnight, and headed home to cook some dinner for my family. Although death is a regular part of my job, this just seem a little different.
As I drove home I could not get one thing out of my mind. This gentleman had been to my office to see me just the week before, and I was very encouraging to him about how things were going. He was in his early 60’s, and suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obstructive sleep apnea. The thing is, they were all VERY WELL CONTROLLED! His blood pressure was perfect, his diabetes numbers mirrored that of a non-diabetic patient, and his cholesterol was well below the goals set by multiple cardiovascular studies. In addition, his cardiologist had convinced him that his meat based diet was the culprit of his seemingly uncontrollable heart disease, and he had adapted a strict vegan diet for well over a year. In many parts of the country that’s not too hard to believe, but to a Cajun from the land of boudin and pork cracklins, this was quite the feat! So, I asked myself…how could this skinny, well controlled hypertensive, diabetic, vegan Cajun gentleman in his early 60’s have just died from his fourth heart attack? Something was wrong!
I have to admit I felt a good deal of shame, particularly in front of his wife. Here I was, the doctor who had just told them things were “perfect,” giving my condolences for her loss. How could I have been right? Yet, by the books, I was right. He was on all the right medicines, his numbers were picture perfect right down the line, and he was even avoiding all the evils such as red meat, bacon, eggs, etc. I mean come on, he ate oatmeal by the gallon! (Ok, not really, but you get my point).
So I went home, cooked for my family and went over my day as we ate our dinner. I could not get him off my mind. Something was wrong, and I was determined I was going to figure out why…
My name is Ernie Garcia and I spent many years studying to be a doctor, and very little of it was spent learning about nutrition. That is unfortunate as the more I practice medicine, the more I realize that people’s weight (and more specifically their diet) is almost always their biggest problem. Sure, I mainly spend my time treating people for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, coronary artery disease, strokes, obstructive sleep apnea….the list could go on; but the root cause of these conditions is the food we eat.
I spent years researching the common diets my patients turn to in hopes of losing weight. Whether it be Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers or whatever, I seem to see the same pattern. People who swear they are doing everything right, are not losing any weight, and are frustrated and depressed about the results. They deprive themselves for a few weeks, lose 2-3 pounds, and eventually say “screw it, I’m eating the cheesecake!”
I myself have spent a good deal of time on my own health and diet. I’ve never really been overweight, but I have searched for ways to be healthier. I went a year as a vegetarian (what I now call “The stupidest thing I’ve ever done“) after reading the book The China Study, but just did not see a benefit…I just felt tired all the time! I cook 95% of the meals in our home, and I have always tried to make them “healthy,” but it doesn’t make a difference long term. My weight is about the same, and I really don’t feel that much better.
Soon after my above patient experience, my neighbors recommended I look into the Paleo diet. I’m friends with many of the CrossFit crowd here, and I know they have been on the Paleo for a while. So, I looked into it. I read a book, and I was amazed at the sense it made. So, I’m 100% Paleo, I feel great, my energy is amazing, I sleep like a dream, and my digestive system is shall we say, calm. I can’t see myself every going back, I’m Paleo to stay…
In addition, I have two amazing kids (along with my amazing wife) who I cook for on a daily basis. I’ve always cooked, and I absolutely love doing it. I own too many cookbooks, too many kitchen electronics, and spent too much on my knives (at least that’s my wife’s take, I finally won out and got a Sous Vide Supreme) and food is just part of who I am. I get my kids involved as much as I can. I take them shopping, I want them to know what good food is, what good ingredients are, and where those things come from. I buy local and organic as much as I can, but I’m frustrated by the limitations of living in Central Louisiana from that stand point. That being said, we have plenty of great food to go around, and it’s getting better every day. You cannot be healthy and not cook, and you cannot cook without caring about your ingredients. Anyone who doubts what today’s American fast-food based diet is doing to our health, come hang out with me for a day and meet my patients…
I hear you all saying the same thing I hear every day from my patients…”I can’t do that.” Well you know what, if I can, you can. Ask yourself this question, “If I could significantly change the way I feel and my longterm health by simply changing the way I eat, would it be worth it?” If the answer is no, shame on you! If the answer is yes, welcome aboard. If, like many you’re thinking, I’m not really sure? I ask you only one thing…can you change to the Paleo lifestyle (100%) for 30 simple days? I’m daring you to try it, and I promise you will not go back. If you have kids, what better gift than to show them the keys to achieving long term health and well being! Please, just try it…you’ll be happy you did.
So Why Write This Blog?
Before you get too far into this, I have to warn you, this is not a blog after your heart necessarily. At least not from the stand point of giving you what you “want” to hear. There is no magic, nothing that’s quick and easy, or a step by step guide to losing weight. This is a blog about what I feel is the truth. Unfortunately, the truth is not probably what you want to hear! You want to get healthier? Lose Weight? Sleep Better? Minimize chronic disease? And not starve yourself in the process? Yes?? Then keep reading. But, to reach those goals, you have to realize that YOU HAVE TO AGREE TO CHANGE! I know you like what you eat, and your doctor said eggs will kill you, and your favorite celebrity says milk does a body good. Well, you, and they, are wrong. Take everything you “want” and package it up with what you think you “know,” and prepare to delete it. It’s time to learn the truth!