Delighted with the privilege to be able to contribute a feature article in the Diabetes Lifestyle magazine Sept-Dec 2016 edition. The complete article in text is attached for your reading pleasure if you are keen to do so.
Delighted, honoured and privileged to be afforded the opportunity to reach out and encourage people, especially those with diabetes or worried about diabetes, that they have a very powerful weapon in their armoury in this war against diabetes - their lifestyle, especially what what they eat.
The advancement of medicine is a double-edged thing, First the good part, Medical science advancement has led to some diseases that were previously not treatable becoming treatable or even curable. . The bad part? People have now come to expect and dependent on advancement in medical science to come to their rescue whenever their bodies break down instead of preventing the 'breakdown' through their lifestyle and especially their diet.
Diabetes in particular is largely a disease of lifestyle for most people and lifestyle changes, especially diet, should be the first stop and mainstay of 'treatment' or management of diabetes. My heartbeat is to wake people up to that reality, as many people as I can reach, and I am not just glad but am most grateful to Diabetes Lifestyle magazine for the feature article, affording a platform to share this message that is so close to my heart. THANK YOU.
See the full article in text below the attached image for your reading pleasure.
When Food Meets Medicine
Feature article in Diabetes Lifestyle magazine Sept-Dec 2016 edition.
Diabetes Lifestyle is a not-for-profit magazine published 3 times a year by TOUCH Diabetes Support. This magazine is circulated to TDS members, all major hospitals, polyclinics, certain private practices and to the ITE libraries. This is part of our effort to keep readers up to date about developments in the field of diabetes, and to create greater awareness of diabetes care and management.
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Dr Chan Tat Hon is a practising medical doctor; he is also a chef, speaker, coach and teacher in food and health, especially about the science and significant role of food in conditions such as diabetes. Here, Dr Chan shares about his accidental journey with food.
When Food Meets Medicine
Some people call me the food doctor, whilst others call me the food coach or the accidental chef. Many friends simply think I am just food ‘obsessed’, with almost every aspect of my life and work revolving around food. On top of being a medical doctor, I am a chef in a restaurant I started some years back, and I am also a food coach and a teacher in a food and health school I founded. For the rest of the time, I can usually be found speaking at seminars, events, churches or companies, telling and teaching people about the significant role that food plays in health and especially chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases.
My food ‘obsession’ does not stop when I get off work. I am the family’s cook, always trying to create interesting healthy and tasty new recipes to delight my wife and two teenage kids. It all happened by accident. My ‘obsession’ with food and health came about accidentally.
Up till as recent as a few years ago, my relationship with food was perhaps no different from that of most Singaporeans. I love food, and I enjoy hunting for good food in Singapore and in other countries that I visit for work or holiday.
Then a couple of years back, I accidentally became a full-time chef when the chef whom I hired for the restaurant that I started quit on me just two days before its opening. I had to stand in as the chef and had only expected the arrangement to last a couple of weeks – but the weeks soon became months.
Initially, I was very unhappy about being a chef full-time. But over time, I began to see that it offered me a unique platform through which I could encourage people about healthy eating, in ways that I was not able to do in my medical practice. As a result, I soon found myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen, testing new recipes, attempting to create new and interesting vegetables and wholegrain dishes to put on the restaurant’s menu in hopes of ‘enticing’ my customers to try them. I also found myself spending a lot of time speaking to my customers about healthy eating whilst serving them at the tables.
Through interactions with my customers, I realised that many amongst them were not just the health conscious, but many were people with diabetes brought to the restaurant by well-meaning friends or family specifically to try the wholegrain options on the menu such as the quinoa Yangzhou ‘fried rice’, hoping to ‘wean’ or win them over to choosing wholegrains instead of polished grains.
I also began to find that many of the customers at my restaurant were hungry for more than just tasty healthy food, but also for more practical knowledge about food and common chronic diseases such as diabetes. My restaurant soon became a mini classroom of sorts, where I would often be found engaging customers in conversations about food and health, educating and encouraging them to pay more attention to the power of food, not just to nourish but also to potentially harm our bodies should we not be careful about what we eat.
I was very encouraged, but also frustrated at the same time as a busy restaurant was not a particularly conducive environment for meaty discussions on food and health. I began to want to do more… Starting a school to teach food and health
After a period of time, I restarted my medical practice and also started a food and health school to conduct regular classes for people who wanted to learn more about the science of food and its relationship with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. I found that many of the students attending my classes were people with chronic conditions such as diabetes who were already convinced of the importance of food choices in the management of their conditions, but had gaps in their knowledge and wanted help in plugging them.
It dismayed me and yet at the same time drove me to conduct more classes, when I found that many people with diabetes who came for classes at The Food & Health School were ignorant of the many potential serious complications of diabetes and the importance of lifestyle, especially dietary modifications to reduce the risks. Attempting to change food habits is not easy People with chronic diseases face real challenges and struggles translating seemingly simple dietary advice into daily reality. Some had difficulty making changes with their diet because their family members were not prepared or willing to adopt a healthier diet together with them whilst others had challenges finding suitable healthier diabetes friendly food options at their workplaces. Many have the motivation to improve their diet to manage their conditions but need more than just ‘sound-bites’ or advice. They need medical guidance, support and practical help.
So before long, I ended up devoting my entire medical practice to focus on seeing patients who need support with lifestyle and dietary modification efforts to improve the management of their diabetes or other conditions where food plays a significant role. I even brought some on supermarket and eating-out tours to learn more about cooking and eating healthier, especially for people with diabetes. Volunteering to be a food soldier in the war against diabetes
The government has declared war against diabetes, and to me, food is one of the important weapons in the armoury we need to harness more in this war. But it will not be easy; making changes to one’s daily food choices is one of the ‘simplest’ and yet most difficult for most people. People who embark on journeys to change their daily food choices need education, encouragement, and most of all, practical help. With my ‘obsession’ with food as the primary weapon, I am volunteering myself as a food soldier in this war against diabetes. And with whatever you have in your arsenal, you can too! A not-for-profit magazine published 3 times a year by TOUCH Diabetes Support. This magazine is circulated to TDS members, all major hospitals, polyclinics, certain private practices and to the ITE libraries. This is part of our effort to keep readers up to date about developments in the field of diabetes, and to create greater awareness of diabetes care and management.
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