Culinary Medicine for Physicians
Reflecting on the PLA’s recent alumni event, “Intro to Culinary Medicine”
What do you think of when you hear the word food? Does it bring back memories of holidays spent sharing meals with family or eating on the run on your way to work?
There are people in this world who eat to live and those who live to eat. I happen to be one of those who live to eat. I am a foodie and not embarrassed to admit it, but I also believe in quality over quantity. When I heard that the Physicans Leadership Academy was having a CME event for the PLA Alumni on culinary medicine, I signed up right away especially because Local Matters was involved in the event. Their philosophy is similar to mine in that food is medicine and they are actively encouraging our community to understand how food affects your health.
At the beginning of January, I began counting down the days to the event. It is always wonderful to reconnect with the PLA members in my class as well as other doctors who are alumni of the PLA. It is an amazing experience to sit in the circle, check in and meditate with Janice. I just wish she would put her voice on an app that I could listen to daily! I think we all felt the sense of peace and connection as soon as we got there. But the best was yet to come.
When I went to medical school, we had no classes on nutrition or diet, except the section in biochemistry when you learn things that serve you no purpose in real life clinical care. Luckily for medical students today Tulane Culinary and Harvard have created programs to help future doctors help their patients manage their conditions through diet. Liz Lottes started the afternoon by teaching us some skills we can share with our patients, friends and family. As Americans we don’t enjoy our meals like other countries do. I remember travelling in France and Italy and never feeling rushed through a meal. For a similar experience, try the Refectory!
This led to a discussion about mindfulness when eating. We need to learn to experience food through all of our senses. I have noticed that when I do this I don’t eat as much because I am eating at a slower pace without distractions.
When my kids were young, we made a point of eating dinner as a family and it was a wonderful way to catch up on their day and to reconnect as a family. We now know through research (such as The Family Dinner Project) that families who eat together raise kids that have better academic performance, higher self-esteem, lower rates of substance abuse, obesity and teen pregnancy and many other benefits. Liz also brought up things like recognizing hunger cues and our emotional responses to food. Food is food and should not be a substitute for any number of emotions that may lead us to eat. Distracted eating doesn’t allow us to do any of the above things because we are eating mindlessly while watching TV, surfing the net or driving.
Next up for the group was the best part. Culinary Medicine recognizes that there are many diet plans out there but, based on research, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ones we can follow. So, Chef Laura from Local Matters had a menu for us that included everything you should eat on a Mediterranean diet. We divided into groups to create a vegetarian Mexican dish and an Italian dish, Shrimp Fra Diavolo as well as a healthy dessert. We all experienced a sense of camaraderie and joy in cooking together. The time flew and it seemed incredibly easy to put together a healthy tasty meal. I will definitely be making these recipes again.
Did I mention we got to eat everything we made? Chef Laura had us create a sample plate with the correct portion size/serving. Needless to say, it reinforced the fact that restaurant servings are 3-4 times the portion we should be eating. Eating together gave us a chance to put some of the earlier skills to use. We wrapped up the event with case studies from the modules that Tulane Culinary uses for the medical curriculum. Kelsey, a 4th year medical student from OSU helped us throughout the evening as she has been instrumental in the Culinary Medicine program.
The evening ended with check out and the sense of community and reconnecting with fellow PLA alumni lasted even as we were saying good bye to each other. The PLA has helped me, and I believe other doctors to create more meaningful and less transactional relationships with each other and with our patients. We all left with the mission to share what we learned about food as medicine with our community.
For more information about the Physicians Leadership Academy, visit this page. Enrollment for the 2019-2020 class opens February 1st.