Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Asian Diet, preface

This is the preface to my book, The Asian Diet: Simple secrets for eating right, losing weight, and being well. After you read it, please visit the website, Then you can visit my office website which does not talk about diet, but is rather about acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Chapter one: Preface

Welcome to the book. I hope you enjoy it; and I hope you learn things that will help you for the rest of your life.

Have you ever noticed the shape of the average American compared to that of the average Asian? America is the most obese nation and the problem is growing rapidly. This trend is the result of poor diet and lifestyles. We are finally waking up to what the Asian cultures can teach us in terms of health care (acupuncture, herbology, tai chi); now it is time to learn what they have discovered about eating and living in balance.

The pieces of material that comprise this book are the combined lessons I try to impart to all of my patients. At the onset of treatment, I give them all a talk about adjusting their diet, lifestyle, and attitudes to improve their health, mood, and longevity. Many of my patients asked where they could get this information in a written form and I was not able to find it. So I wrote it this book.

About Me

I am an acupuncturist and herbalist. I trained in the states and completed advanced training and an internship in China. I am the President of the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and have a private practice with my wife in Wilmette, Illinois. Many astute people have noticed that I am not Asian. What is a white guy doing in Oriental Medicine?

I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked in psychiatric hospitals for several years before returning to school to study pre-med. As I was applying to med schools, I was dismayed at how unhappy the doctors with whom I worked were. I kept hearing "Don't go into medicine. Do anything else. The money is not there, the autonomy's not there, the respect's not there, and even the patient contact isn't there anymore. There's no good reason to be a doctor." The first 20 times I heard it, I shrugged it off. But I kept hearing it and it got to me. Then a nurse with whom I worked told me about the acupuncture program in town. I had been interested in Eastern philosophy since taking a course in high school, but never had considered Oriental Medicine as a career.

I read some books about OM and found the whole paradigm pretty suspect. I come from a family of physicians and was pre-med myself. I understand things like bacteria and viruses; the Chinese talk about things like "wind-cold invading the lung". It was all so foreign and different that I didn't know if I would ever believe in the system. I figured I could make a living at it because enough other people would believe. My skepticism was very short-lived, though, once I saw how effective this medicine is and how much sense the philosophy makes. Now I love what I do. I get to spend a lot of time with my patients, and I get to help them. In psychiatry, I worked pretty much with a chronic population where very few people ever improved. With Oriental Medicine, I am able to help almost all of my patients safely. Oriental Medicine is the acquired wisdom of thousands of years of experimentation, observation and documentation. They have learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. I am a grateful recipient of these lessons. Now I want to share this knowledge with everyone to help them take better care of themselves and live longer and happier lives.

I have presented this information to enough groups and patients to know that this system will be difficult for many people to work with at first. This book presents guidelines and suggestions; but it does not tell you what to do. You have to decide how to implement the suggestions and create your diet. The South Beach Diet was so successful partly because it told people exactly what to do. Many of us like being given a strict structure to follow . . .for a while. But after about 60 days we get tired of having no freedom and break from the prescribed regimen. So I am just planting seeds. How they germinate is up to you. And it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If you have a bad day, don't give up; start again. We just want to be good on more days.

The opinions expressed in this book are just that – opinions. This book makes no claims of being definitive or authoritative. The principles are written as I understand them from my years of study of Oriental Medicine and Asian culture. The ideas come from many different authors, speakers, researchers, and teachers, folk teachings, and my own ideas of what makes sense. Other authors and disciplines may disagree with some or many of the tenets I will present in these pages. It is up to you, the reader, to decide whether or not this makes sense to you. As far as I know, the Chinese have been studying nutritional therapy longer than anyone else, so I tend to believe that they have figured some things out in the past 4,000 years. The principles are simple:

• Balance and Moderation
• Cooked foods are better than raw
• Vegetables are better than fruit
• White rice is better than brown, but a variety is best
• Diet should be mostly plant-based, with grains and a little of everything else
• Simple foods are better than processed food
• Dairy is not necessary and can be harmful
• Do not over-fill your stomach
• Don't stress too much
• Exercise every day, but not too much
• Keep a Wide perspective and don't sweat the small stuff

All of these will be explained in the book.

What this book is and what it is not.

This is not a weight loss book. This is about getting into balance by eating appropriately. Some of my patients do not need to lose weight but are still very much out of balance. If you have too much weight on you, that is itself an imbalance. By getting into balance, you will naturally shed the excess pounds and become more fit. But even those who do not need to lose weight still need this information. Eating right will prevent or correct all types of disease and disorders. Our daily diet choices are the most important and influential thing we can do to affect our daily, and long term, functioning.

Chinese Dietary Therapy is a highly developed science. There are people who spend their whole lives studying and practicing this. There are food cures for all types of ailments, but that is not what this book is about. If you want to learn how to address a certain ailment with diet therapy, please consult Chinese Nutrition Therapy by Joerg Kastner or Chinese System of Food Cures by Henry Lu (out of print). There is also a lot of information about the foods that we commonly eat and how terrible they are for us. There are many studies that could be cited, but that is not what this book is about either. This book presents the basic guidelines for eating right. Most of us could greatly benefit from these simple changes. If you want to learn what foods to eat to treat a particular disease, or if you want to know everything there is to know about a particular food, read "Healing with Whole Foods" by Paul Pitchford. To learn how we have been misinformed about diet and read all the studies on how harmful our standard food choices are, read "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell. To learn the basics of eating right and being well, however, read the book in your hands right now.

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