Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}

The Ornish Spectrum: Sustainable Lifestyle Choices that Lead to Better Health

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One of the things that I have noticed in my study of nutrition is that many people are looking for a quick fix. 

A magic food that melts away fat, or a special diet that will be completely composed of desserts but will result in complete and optimal health. But a one-time choice isn’t going to make or break your health. It’s all about the little things. Your character is not defined by how you respond to one event, but in how you respond to the little choices in life.

This concept has been well grasped and even documented by Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. The research and documentation behind his program is what makes it some remarkable- it’s hard to collect solid evidence about lifestyle choices, and this doctor has done it. Patients in a randomized controlled trial lost an average of 24 lbs over one year, and maintained a 12 lb weight loss after 5 years. To read more about Ornish’s approach, take a look at his article published in the New York Times last month.

Dr. Ornish created an intensive lifestyle change program that has been shown to reverse heart disease, and a spin-off of this is the “Ornish Spectrum”, which is available to those who are interested in lowering their risk for developing heart disease.

The program encompasses 4 elements of life:

What you eat

How much activity you have

How you respond to stress

How much love and support you have

The hospital where I am currently interning offers a Dean Ornish Program for reversal of heart disease. This incredible program is covered by major insurance companies, and offers over 100 hours of intensive compassionate care to each participant. Two days a week, participants gather for an hour of exercise, an hour of stress management, an hour of group therapy and relationship building, and an hour of food. 

This evening I was able to participate in the hour of food. It was pretty spectacular. There were a handful of participants enjoying healthful foods that fit within the Ornish guidelines, sharing their personal experiences of purchasing these foods at the grocery store (one woman found a great deal on veggie burgers at Sams club!), and listening to a Registered Dietitian share helpful meal planning and shopping tips.

It was truly a nurturing and supportive environment, and I can see why the program is so effective.

The meal ended on a sweet note- with some fantastic little chocolate cupcakes.

Sweet treats are fine- in moderation 🙂

If you want to know more about the highly structured Dr. Dean Ornish Program for reversal of heart disease, you can check out my friend Mary’s awesome post, or visit the Dean Ornish website.


Author: roannamartinwvudietetics12

A dietetic intern with a love of learning, an enjoyment of food, and a passion for people.

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