Annapolis physician and nutritional intervention expert Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen wants to help Americans take back their health with his new book, "Discover Your Optimal Health."
The book, which came out this summer, reached the New York Times best-seller list for a week within 30 days of the release.
Andersen is also author of "Dr. A's Habits to Health," another New York Times best-seller.
A board-certified critical-care physician, Andersen also serves as medical director of Medifast, a weight loss company headquartered in Owings Mills, and co-founder of Take Shape for Life, a division of Medifast that offers personal coaching.
He spoke with The Baltimore Sun about his latest book and his outlook on health.
What inspired you to write the book?
I've been spending a lot of time working to help people become intrinsically motivated to organize their life around what matters most to them. People use food and do other unhealthy things as a result of struggles they have inside of their brain, that's where my focus is right now and that's why I wrote "Discover Your Optimal Health."
Explain the 30-day challenge that's featured on your website.
The 30-day challenge is really helping people from the very beginning become aware of their health and then putting them in the environment where they're becoming conscious of it every day. It sends out a series of emails to them that are parts of the Habits to Health but are done very simply, very easy for them. From the very first day, every day they're getting this reminder, in the morning, through an email that talks about some aspect of their health. It doesn't cost anything. It's really a public service for helping people become aware. When you become aware of your health and understand that you're responsible for it, that puts you in a position where you can start making changes that are necessary.
If readers do just one of your recommendations, what should it be?
The first thing is, make the decision that health is important, more than anything. What I always ask people when I sit down with them is, "If you could choose optimal health, would you make that choice?" What I mean by "optimal" is to be as good as you can be with what you've got. A person who's had two open-heart surgeries may not be able to get the same conditioning as a 20-year-old that's running marathons, but the point is to be as good as you can be with what you've got.
"Your Health is All about the Little Things" is Chapter 8 of "Discover Your Optimal Health." What are some of the little things people may overlook, but shouldn't, when it comes to their health?
The food we have today is full of high-fructose corn syrup, unhealthy animal fats and way too much salt. It's packaged so conveniently so from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed, you're being exposed to all this processed food. The problem with it is that it's so overladen with sugar, fat and salt that we no longer have satiety. Satiety is the science of fullness, it means when you eat something, you're actually full. We're making all these choices throughout our day that are full of a lot of calories and not very much nutrition. We should eat smaller meals, healthy food, balanced protein and carbohydrate all day long.
How can parents teach their children about having a health mindset?
It starts with the parents making the decision to make the house healthy. You can go into your cabinets, into your refrigerator and you can restock with whole foods; with grapes, with carrots, with celery, with apples and plums. Real fruit, not fruit drinks that are all sugar and have a touch of flavoring in them. The second part is families need to have dinner together, if they can. In the morning, have your child get up with you and fix a healthy breakfast together, because you may fix them a healthy breakfast but if it's not what they like, they're going to toss it. Figure out what it is they like that's healthy and prepare it in the morning; start training them early on how to eat healthy.
Are most of your readers receptive to the idea of changing their health mindset or do they believe that diet and exercise are enough?
Everybody knows they need to get healthier; they just don't know how to do it. They try all these things and their experience creates concepts of what they believe and don't believe. You need to be able to be equipped to go through your day, make good choices, have the support, have a plan and have the tools necessary to help you. All those things are necessary to create long-term health; diets by themselves are not going to do that.
Is there anything people should completely eliminate or add to their diet when looking to eat healthier?
If I tell you you can't do something, what are you going to do? You're going to do it. We don't like being told what to do, so I have a different way of approaching it. I think as long as you understand the habits of disease and the things that are unhealthy, you can occasionally have those foods. For instance, 90 percent of our taste satisfaction comes in the first three bites. Let's say you have a taste for ice cream. You can have a healthy meal and you can have a small amount of ice cream. You're going to get that taste satisfaction if you're not hungry and you've already eaten first. If you sit down and have a bowl of ice cream every night, you're going to gain a lot of weight.