Be aware of your food choices, especially when pregnant

I come back into the exam room, keeping my best poker face, sit down and turn to face her.  She’s on the edge of her seat, nervous and barely able to contain herself, maybe not even sure which answer she wants.

Be aware of your food choices, especially when pregnant

“Congratulations,” I say. She lets out her breath and smiles, huge.


Once the adrenaline settles down and she can hear me again, we start talking through the changes she can expect and the ones she needs to make.  I give her a very short ‘safe’ list of over-the-counter medicine she can take if needed.  She gets a prescription for pre-natal vitamins.  I remind her to avoid all alcohol and really put the screws on for her to quit smoking.

“Yes.”  “Ok, doc.”  “Mmm-hmm.”

Then I hold my fingers up about half an inch apart.  “This is how big your baby is right now.  It’s brain, bones, muscles, everything have to grow and the only food your baby gets it what you eat. Do you want your baby to be made from McDonald’s and soda pop or from healthy food, organic vegetables and fruits?  Now is the time to decide.”

The light that goes on, the Aha! moment I get to see is pretty cool, let me tell you.  This is often one of the conversations that feels like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

What I’ve realized over the years is this is true for all of us, all the time.  Every part of our bodies and brains is being constantly re-made, day by day.  The trillions of cells that make me are not the same ones that made me even a few years ago.  Some of our cells are not the same ones they were even yesterday.

Our bodies are constantly repairing and replacing cells by the billions and the only raw materials we have to work with is what we eat.  So, you are what you eat.  I am what I eat.  Everybody is the peculiar mix of Big Macs, broccoli, Guinness, apples, Twix, Doritos, salmon, and whatever else they eat – and nothing else!

Just take that in for a moment.  Think back to what you ate today or yesterday.  Cocoa Puffs?  It’s in there.  Chardonnay?  It’s there too.  Fast food, snacks, sodas?  Yes, yes, and yes.

One of the best ways I know to change your life is simply to become aware.  Mindless eating, mindless couch-sitting, and mindless sleep-skipping are pretty popular ways to feel like absolute crap.  Just being attentive to what I eat, what I drink, how active I am, and whether I get to bed early enough can help me actively choose to feel better.  If I go around on auto-pilot, I’m likely to grab chips for a snack, conveniently forget to run, sit at the computer way too late and feel like I deserve.

Be aware of your choices – you are making the you of tomorrow.

Eric Marcotte is a family physician who blogs at doctorfoodtruth.

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  • Jason Boies

    Excellent post, Dr. Marcotte.

    When I realized I could no longer handle dairy products, I started paying far more attention to my diet.  Shame it took something like that to wake me up to the need for putting some actual thought into what I was eating. The time is now, as you say, to start thinking about your choices.

    Nice read

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community

  • David Brown

    Well said, Dr. Marcotte.

    In the Introduction to “Food for Nought” biochemist Ross Hume Hall, PhD observed, “You can’t be more than what you eat.” And Michael Pollan wrote, “You are what what you eat eats.”

    Sadly, the micro nutrient/mineral balance and content of our modernized, industrialized food supply makes it a challenge to consistently obtain enough material to support the cell replacement process, even when one consumes nothing but “healthy” food.

    It’s a shame that we routinely flush so much of the waste material our bodies shed down the toilet. We really ought to utilize separating toilets to collect urine and solid waste for recycling into the ground(1). Urine becomes urea when stored for a month and can be applied to lawn or garden without risk of contamination(2). Solid waste can be composted or buried along with kitchen waste to enrich soil. Efficient utilization of waste resources (is that an oxymoron?) conserves energy as part of a sustainable lifestyle(3).