As many of you know, Dr. William Li appears frequently in my Body and Soul blogs. Not only a practicing physician, he is also a brilliant researcher of all things food related. I like him because he has a balanced approach to health and wellness. He will prescribe medications for his patients, but always with an eye to holistically promoting wellness. His goal is that, hopefully, the patient will eventually no longer need the medication.

While scrolling through some of his You Tube presentations, I came across It’s a long video, but it captivated me so much that I listened while I made and ate dinner. Before I share some of my favorite take-aways, I want to share his philosophy about food.

Music to My Ears

Most of what I encounter about food and health are the “don’ts.”  Stay away from carbs, avoid fats and oils, graze your way through the day with tons of green leafies and plenty of fiber. And I confess 80% of the whole food plant-based recipes I’ve tried were labor intensive and tasteless. The other 20% were delicious and worth it. But frankly, I’d rather spend my time writing.

Taken too seriously, food can lose its joy. Enter Dr. Li, who loves his food and thinks taste is most important. In this video he encourages us to eat healthy foods we already love. He suggests we keep a food journal for a week, keeping track of everything we eat and when. The journal will give us an objective view of our personal relationship with food. It will make us mindful of what we eat, why, and when. I can tell you already, I snack way too often.

Healthy eating isn’t about deprivation and gagging down something we hate that’s supposed to be good for us. The photo above shows Dr. Li on this video, and also my dinner. Cooking and eating that meal while watching the video taught me much about my relationship with food in real time.

Good and Bad

I believe my dinner was a healthy one. Fettuccini with marinara sauce (full of healthy lycopene from the tomatoes), topped with fresh cooked spinach and baby scallops. I sautéed the scallops in olive oil. Both the tomato sauce and olive oil fight cancer stem cells. The scallops provided protein and omega-3. I added fresh tossed salad for a side. That’s the good part.

And here’s how I screwed up. There was only one serving of pasta in the box, but it was a large serving. Waste not, want not. I cooked all the pasta. Likewise, I used up all the remaining sauce in the jar and the remaining spinach in the container. The scallops were “baby scallops,” so I cooked more to make up for their size. In other words, I made too much food for one meal.

As I was gobbling my dinner, didn’t Dr. Li comment on the value of eating slowly and savoring every morsel? Guilty! I slowed down. He added that he never ate until he was full. He stops when his body tells him he had enough.  “You don’t need to belong to the clean your plate club,” he said.

The photo shows the food I didn’t eat, and which will be a great left-over dinner to enjoy another evening. I may make enough for two meals, but set aside only the amount I plan to eat. His advice: never take seconds. I easily see myself eating what I set aside and then sneaking back to the pot for just a little more. Unfortunately, I’ve wolfed down an enormous meal before my brain knew what hit it!

Timing is Everything

That’s true for life I guess, but more so with refueling our bodies with food. Dr. Li compared eating to filling a car with gas. We never let the motor run when we’re pumping gas. The body does not burn energy while we eat, no matter how vigorously we chew. That would use up the fuel as we’re putting it in the car. After filling the tank, we stop pumping. We turn on the motor, run the car and use up the fuel (so it doesn’t turn into fat, to mix my metaphors).

Henceforth, I will space my eating (refueling) with mini-fasts (hours between meals without snacking) so I can burn up the fuel (food) I ate. He added the easiest “fast” is between dinner and breakfast with no evening snacking. That’s tough for me, so I’ve taken up hand quilting in the evening to keep my hands out of the cookie jar.

Celebrate Your Culture

Mexican, Italian, Asian, Spanish, Southern, New England—it’s all good. Family recipes have fed generations with whole foods, spices, and countless health benefits. Highly processed, sodium and chemical laden processed foods, not so much.

Between his Asian heritage and the years he spent in Italy and Greece, Dr. Li describes his diet as “Medit-eurasain.” We know the Mediterranean diet is healthy, with its emphasis on vegetables, olive oil, and seafood. In my effort to increase my vegetable intake, I discovered the scrumptious world of oriental cooking. Bok Choy has become a favorite new veggie that I now add to my chicken soup. (By the way, I learned chicken thighs are healthier than breast meat, so if I occasionally want to add some chicken to my diet, I go for the dark meat.)

When Dr. Li plans his meal, he chooses one of his favorite vegetable recipes and builds the rest of the meal around that. (Years ago, I planned my meal around what hunk of meat I was going to serve.) In restaurants, he finds the tastiest vegetable he would enjoy and adds a few appetizers that complement his choice.

He does not recommend stuffing oneself when surrounded by lots of choices. “Leave white space on your plate and don’t go for seconds.” I shouldn’t load up my plate? Egad!

There was so much more to his video that captured my attention. But what comforted me the most was his reassurance that I can savor the food I love. My diet need not be an exercise in deprivation and COFFEE IS GOOD FOR YOU.


Copyright Sue LeDoux 2023