You’re going to eat THAT? An interview with Dr. Dean Ornish

This discussion of food issues is a little off-topic for Rookie Moms, but the theme of how people react to being criticized is broad and universal. I think that anyone who lives with a partner would find it interesting.

I was really excited about the opportunity to interview Dr. Dean Ornish, nutritionist and author of Eat More, Weigh Less, a book that floated around my house when I was growing up, and The Spectrum, a newer title devoted to helping people make healthier — and not crazier — life choices. Not only did I get to sit with him and ask one-on-one questions for nearly half an hour, but we went out to a group dinner afterward.

“I am not the food police,” he assured everyone at the table, who I’m certain felt as I did, that it would be embarrassing to order a plate full of carbs, cheese and red meat while dining with the man who has helped thousands of followers reverse heart disease through improved diet, exercise, and emotional support — not surgery. He was not judgemental; he was lovely, supportive, interested in everyone’s story, and ate a bunch of fig, fontina, arugula pizza right off of my plate. This guy is all about intimacy and how it benefits our health, and his values really came across as he chatted with all of us about topics ranging from blogging, IUDs, meditation, and how to savor dessert.

The Mars company (makers of M & Ms and now the healthier snack bar called goodnessknows) supplied a video crew to tape our conversation, and I want to share this segment with you.

The issue I asked him to address, after he revealed himself to be so in tune with emotional health issues, is how to deal with power struggles around food. No one wants to feel judged, yet in our own families, we often receive — or dish out — messages in the vein of “You’re going to eat THAT?” which I believe creates great tension around meals. I really dug what Dr. Ornish said about people wanting to feel in control, and that when that freedom is threatened, it can squash intimacy.

Also, I feel a shocking amount of pressure as a parent to coach one’s children toward healthy food and that I feel a great deal of failure and/or success based on what my kids eat, hence I spend a lot of effort trying to control it. I got a lot out of talking to Dr. Ornish about how we need to not judge ourselves as “good” or “bad” based on foods that we have rated as “good” or “bad”.

I have more interview segments I can post, but I’ll wait and see how this resonates with you guys first.

Note: I did not receive compensation for this, but I did receive dinner compliments of Mars. I very much enjoyed learning about Dr. Ornish’s book The Spectrum which is about freedom of choice. Nothing is forbidden. No guilt, no shame, no pressure. (Read reviews on Amazon.)

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.