Expect More..

We are living in interesting times where everyone seems to blame others for their problems. This is a common theme in medicine as I have not talked to anyone, whether it is a doctor, patient, or even those in administration who does not believe that our healthcare system is broken. While many of the criticisms are perfectly valid, my concern is what to do in the meantime. In other words, how do we make the best of a bad situation.

It may not surprise you that I would like to address the issue of diet. Recently, a study came across my desk that I thought was particularly interesting because it surveyed second year medical students and their comfort level regarding making dietary recommendations to patients. What was fascinating to me is that more than half of these students felt qualified to do so.

I find this very disturbing. Would you want a second year medical student taking out your appendix? Or, if you had a serious medical condition like diabetic ketoacidosis or an infection in your bloodstream, would that same student be okay with you? I’m guessing not. My point is that diet is not taken seriously by the medical community. It is an afterthought and highlights the need for a sincere effort to solve this serious shortcoming.

The problem is this is going to take a long, long time. We are in a time warp. It feels like the 70’s and 80’s when we watched the tobacco lobby hang on for as long as possible before they finally had to admit that smoking was not only detrimental, there was no medical benefit either. So, what to do in the meantime?

Expect more. Acknowledge the fact that this is not a perfect system and never will be as there are too many competing interest for an honest recommendation. But, we can operate on a different level as we educate ourselves. As we do so, see what your provider (MD, DO, DC, ND, PA, NP) knows. Chances are, you may know more about dietary nutrition than they do. Be polite. Is this someone you can work with? Keep an open mind as you may find that your provider really wants to up their game as well. If it's a good fit, stay. If not, vote with your feet.

Where else can we do this? Pretty much everywhere. When you go to a family gathering, don’t get mad, bring your own food. When you go to an event, make mention that you have dietary restrictions, acutely aware that they may fall short, they can also surprise you. Answer the hospital questionnaire and make mention that there were not enough plant based options and question why a hospital insists on serving class 1 carcinogens to their patients. The word is getting out on whole food plant based nutrition. Your family, friends and coworkers that don’t understand, show them compassion rather than contempt as people become afraid when confronted by change no matter how good it is for them.  In time, attitudes will change because the economics will drive it that way. The cheapest way to get healthy patients is WFPB.

It is already happening. In the meantime, we expect more from ourselves. We vote with our feet and our palates. We create the demand. Large food companies are gearing up for battle. We have a lot of vegan options. We continue to expect more as we up the game to whole food, vegan options. We educate ourselves. We educate others. And let’s recognize Paul Chatlin for his heroic mission to get whole food, plant based nutrition into the curriculum to medical schools. He needs our help. Donations to the Plant Based Nutrition Support Group are a godsend for him. He has done so much to educate our community and help us in our effects to treat and prevent chronic disease.

 

Dr. Michael Dangovian, DO FACC

ntegrative Yoga-Based Cardiovascular Specialist

Changing Your Way of Thinking

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I remember during my first meditation retreat at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY in 1997 when, it was either Jon Kabot Zinn or Saki Santorelli who said, “Your thoughts are to your mind as your breath is to your body,” implying that thoughts will always be there. That was followed up with, “you are not your thoughts.” This concept was what connected with me most as I began my meditation practice during this week-long workshop as taught by in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program from University of Massachusetts.

 

Since that day, I have made a conscious effort to observe my thoughts. It turns out that this was something that I was doing anyways because, as stated previously, the thoughts are always there. At first, I would just take notice that I was even thinking trying to do as little as possible to react to that particular thought. I did my best not to get too high or too low emotionally. Often, I would judge myself for what I was thinking. With practice this became less of an issue.

Then, I recalled another instruction, “whenever you find yourself taking a ride with your thoughts, simply notice that you were on a ride and simply go back to your breath.” 

 

We have all had those moments when we were daydreaming, or meditating, and would think about a set of circumstances that would launch ourselves into another world where we would be either living the dream or have just been presented with the worst of all possibilities. Oftentimes, I have found myself on that ride and I could either relive my past or project some event onto the future that in all likelihood will never occur. This was the revelation that allowed me to be certain that I’m not really crazy.  This thinking, thinking, thinking is happening to everyone. It turns out, it is up to us to decide how we want to deal with this. As I became more aware that my thoughts were not going to stop, I really didn’t want them to.

 

The most recent evolution in the meditative process for me is how to change my thoughts. This may sound diabolical, akin to programming human beings, but it is my experience that this is something that we have chosen over our lives. I like to call it the Habit Of Health and would like to make a case that our thoughts are habits that we have repetitively practiced for years and years. Not only that, there are coexisting genetic changes that take place to support the changes in your thought patterns.

 

Now those of you who know me, I love doing yoga and fitness has been a priority of mine for decades. So, as a person that is focused on one’s body, my initial intention was to use those lessons on mindfulness to improve my physical practice. I had been practicing Hatha Yoga consistently for many years and even though I was working very hard on the practice, I never felt like I had much a handle on yoga and still felt dependent on whoever was leading the class. I didn’t know it at the time that yoga was and is still my ticket to the promised land, but now I see in retrospect I wasn’t connecting with the practice in any meaningful way despite all of this hard work. Then, I go to this meditation workshop and then, all of the sudden, I can connect by mind to my body.

 

It was amazing. Cataclysmic. All I had to do was to observe the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that were involved in every yoga pose. What I discovered, if I “let go of my mind, if I got rid of all of that chatter” my physical yoga experience would change instantly and I would get deeper into the pose. It was crazy. It didn’t make complete sense, yet it worked and I loved it. In fact, I continue to work with the same model and apply it to literally everything in my life to this day. It was then when I began to notice how sensation manifests in my body. The sensation could be stiff and constricted, or could be expansive and flowing. I refer to this sensation as an Energy Flow.  Using this model I am now able to work on an area of my body with a stifled energy flow and cultivate it into a more flowing and expansive experience. This is the practice. It only takes a second, it just may take a few years to get to that second. The good news, using this process, I became more flexible. I was and remain addicted to this practice.

 

Sorry for the side bar, but that is not the point I want to make. What I would like to focus on is that by extending the same model to my thoughts I developed enough awareness that the energy flows were not just a jumbles of energy chaos, there was an order. And, then patterns of energy flows emerged and I could get deeper into the pose by solving these energy puzzles. By the way, it's a lot of fun because you just plain feel better and better each and every day.

 

Until, I realized that our thoughts are simply energy flows. And, just like with your body anatomy I discovered patterns of thoughts that were consistent. It was like I would go down the same road over and over again without knowing, surprised when certain aspects of my life were not serving me.

 

Something that I point out often is that we are culmination of our habits, for better or worse, and the most powerful maneuver we can make in life is to change a habit from one that is toxic to us in some fashion to one that serves us and makes us healthier and whole.  

 

If nothing else, take away from this that YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS.

 

In health,

 

Dr. Michael Dangovian, DO FACC

Food Hangovers

At PBNSG we extol the value of a whole food, plant based diet at our monthly meetings at Groves High School and in the Small Groups all around the metro Detroit area. Earlier this week at our Sterling Heights Small Group the topic of how to maintain a health diet at family gatherings and going out on weekends with our family and friends was a concern of one of our newer members.

As everyone shared ideas on how to we deal with this most common situation it allowed me an opportunity to notice the contrast between the plant based veterans and newbies. What I saw on a personal level was the anxiety in the newbie just trying to comply with the recommendations because they felt that it was the “right thing to do” as opposed to the veteran who had little or now anxiety because they refused to give up their health and well being.

As most people continue on their plant based journey they notice the incremental benefits as time goes on. Not only do they lose weight, require less meds, and do not need to visit their doctors as often, they just plain feel better. We shared our experiences of those “indulgences” which often results in what I like to call a “food hangover.”

I think we have all been confronted with a situation where you just caved in and ate whatever was at the buffet because you didn’t want to be rude, or call attention to yourself. The problem wasn’t so much the actual act of eating, it was how everyone felt after they ate the food. There was bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue and lethargy. Some stated it took a few days for their bodies to recover. I like to call it a food hangover. So, when a similar situation arose again, the same people chose not to eat and politely declined. They would often bring their own dish. I suggested blaming it on your doctor saying that you are on a very strict diet.

From my perspective, what was most fascinating is how the veterans chose to feel good. Nothing was going to stand in the way of their well-being. The longer we continue to practice healthy habits and we accrue the benefits, the less likely are we going to participate in behaviors that will compromise there health and well being.

Plain and simple, we all just want to feel good. Healthy eating is a practice that cultivated by education and a commitment to your personal health and well-being. It is one aspect in cultivating the habits of health. As you continue the practice, you become more aware of how your body reacts to the foods you are eating. In time, you will discover that the approval of our family and friends fades in lieu your loyalty to your own health.

My advice is to give yourself a chance to feel good. So many of us have lived in a suboptimal state of health for so long we don’t remember what it was like. Look at the PBSNG website for ideas, as well as the many contributors to PBNSG as there is so much out there. Seek the support of others that have already dealt with the

challenges that you are going through. And, most important, have fun! It is fun to feel good. This is not an act of deprivation, it is a celebration of what is good, healthy and whole.

Michael Dangovian, D.O., F.A.C.C.