Bedeviled by unhealthy habits? “Disease Proof” offers a practicum to prevent chronic disease.

After sweating a monsoon in a cycling class at the gym I was wondering why the instructor looked so familiar when I suddenly realized that she was indeed an old friend named Stacey Colino, whom I hadn’t seen since journalism school. While we were catching up, she mentioned that she recently co-authored a book with David L. Katz, MD, called Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well (Hudson Street Press), which tries to break down the complicated tasks of losing weight and keeping up the motivation to eat right and exercise regularly. She gave me a copy, and after reading a few chapters, I was hooked.

As editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity and  the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Katz has his finger on the nation’s obesity epidemic. Roughly 35 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and the number is expected to rise to 42 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the face of such scary stats, he sets out a holistic cure for this impossibly persistent and prevalent health problem in the U.S.

Disease Proof tackles head on the challenges faced by people who are struggling with too much weight and are bedeviled by health issues –  diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and heart disease – all ailments that are often improved with a good diet and regular exercise. The authors consider the practical barriers that keep people from improving their health habits, like having no time to cook. But it also dives deep into other psychological and situational challenges. I found the book to be hopeful, inspiring even, because the authors don’t shy away from  helping folks untangle such daily and long-term muddles as relationship troubles with family members or co-workers or lack of experience with exercise, any of which can sap confidence and motivation.

For example, Katz describes his conversations with several patients who are overweight and suffer from health problems often improved by diet and exercise. He details a roadmap of sorts he drew up for one of these patients that takes into account her strained relationship with her husband, her poor food choices, and her complete lack of exercise, and then makes specific suggestions for changing her behaviors. Each issue must be targeted individually, but once the patient gets a handle on one problem, taking on another is easier, Katz asserts.

There is plenty in Disease Proof that could get some of us who sometimes exercise and eat well excited enough to make a few changes and even begin to exercise every week. But what I really appreciate is that the book talks to people who struggle with health ailments related to obesity and who seem to be stuck in a cycle of progressive and failing health. Give it a read, and tell me what you think.

Image: Cornelis de Vos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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