Peas & peppers instead of pills

Peas & peppers instead of pills

by marlies|dekkers

General practitioner Tamara de Weijer believes that we would feel a lot better if we hit the produce stand before we visited the pharmacy. “On a massive scale, we have been putting the wrong kind of fuel in our bodies.”

Marlies: You are one of the most influential advocates of healthy living in the Netherlands. How did you become so passionate about the benefits of a healthy diet?

Tamara: Thank you, Marlies! I have been a general practitioner for 4 years now, and during my 9 years of training, we only spent 2 days being educated about diet and lifestyle. It’s quite ironic that at the end of our education, we swore an oath to Hippocrates who said: Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food! My ‘aha moment’ actually took place when I changed my own eating habits, 7 years ago, after many years of fruitless dieting. Modifast, Herbalife; I tried them all. But as soon as started eating mostly fresh, unprocessed food – vegetables, fish, nuts etc. – and avoided fast-acting sugars, I began to lose weight, 20 kilos in total. More importantly, I had been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and for the first time in 15 years, I had no intestinal problems. I actually felt fit!

Marlies: You are the living proof that healthy eating can change your life.

Tamara: I am. If you go to Google and type: ‘why am I so…’, the first suggestion that pops up is ‘why am I so tired?’. We are exhausted, because on a massive scale, we have been putting the wrong kind of fuel in our bodies. This has been making us tired and unhappy, and yes, even sick. In my own practice, around 80% of patients’ complaints are lifestyle related. Doesn’t it make sense to look at someone’s lifestyle first? I strongly believe that medication should be plan B, not A. Yes, we provide medical care, but we shouldn’t forget about health care.

Marlies: I am so proud of you for advocating this from a doctor’s point of view; a lot of people are still very attached to the idea of a pill as a magical cure. To give you an example: for years, I had been telling my parents about the link between diet and type 2 diabetes, but they only believed me when they read an interview with you in the paper recently! Could you share the most important guidelines for a healthy lifestyle?

Tamara: I like to look at the so-called Blue Zones; these 5 zones in the world where people are healthier and live much longer than average. The people there eat a lot of vegetables and legumes, mostly seasonal, and their alcohol and nicotine consumption is very moderate. Their stress levels are low because they have a strong sense of community; they eat together, for example. Also very interesting: physical activity is an integrated part of their lives. I always tell my patients that you don’t need to go to the gym 3 times a week; just make sure you take the stairs, do your shopping by bicycle, walk to your appointments. It really adds up.

Marlies: Ideally, how many vegetables a day should we eat?

Tamara: I would say 300, 400 grams a day. To give you an idea: 250 grams is half a plate, about one whole head of broccoli. Quite a lot, especially if you are used to eating vegetables only for dinner. So, I advice people to make an easy vegetable soup – good for about 150 grams of veggies a bowl – or an omelet with leftover vegetables. Use a spiral slicer to make zucchini ‘pasta’, grate your cauliflower to make a rice substitute. Upping your vegetable consumption can be quick, easy and tasty.

Marlies: As you show us in your cookbook ‘Eating better in 28 days’! It’s also interesting to see that our diets may not be as healthy as we think.

Tamara: Yes, I have patients that are self-professed health freaks, but when they keep a 3-day food diary for me, what I see is sugar, sugar, sugar. Those fruit smoothies some people drink every morning for example? Sugar bombs without the benefits of whole fruit’s fiber. Sure, go ahead and indulge every now and then, but be aware of what you are consuming. Inform yourself. Take charge of your health.

Marlies: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Tamara!

Ready to take charge of your health? Check Tamara’s site.

 

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