David L. Katz, M.D., is the author of numerous books including “The Way to Eat and The Flavor Point Diet.” He is the director and co-founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center and contributor to numerous publications and organizations including O Magazine, Men’s Health and ABC News. These are the highlights of an interview I had with him last week.

Katz says that if he had to boil down the theme of what people inquire of him, it’s Why is this so hard? ‘This’ that Katz refers to is eating well and exercising.

“We are designed for a world of arduous physical exertion and sparse calories and the worry for our bodies is starvation. While we know that the only solution is to eat well and exercise, we’ve created schedules that make exercise tougher and tougher,” said Katz. “Our ancestors didn’t have the choice of whether or not to be active and food was hard to come by, what was there was pure. We’ve filled our lives with technology that keeps us busy all day and tired at the end.”

Katz later went on to say that the burden for living a healthy life lies excessively with the individual. “Eating badly is the path of least resistance,” he said. This combo of technology, long sedentary days, and abundant processed food is a cocktail for the dramatic shift in obesity and related illnesses that has occurred in the last 25 years or so.

A preponderance of research supports that eating a low (but healthy) fat, high fruit/vegetable, whole grain, lean protein diet and keeping active most days is the path to a healthy life. Yet people still want to believe there is another, perhaps faster, way to get there.

Katz said, “They want a quick fix because the right approach is too hard.” He added, “People are in a hurry, we all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, but people still want to be the hare.”

A staunch opponent of low-carb diets, which he describes as awful, Katz does not mince words to his patients. He said he tells them, “Yes, you can lose weight fast, but you could also quickly lose weight on a cocaine binge.” Katz lets his patients know that the low carb dietary pattern in not optimal for health. You may lose weight but you’ll mortgage your health in the meantime.

Katz contends that as a whole, the health industry has failed by giving the ‘what’ without the ‘how.’ In his latest book, “The Flavor Point Diet,” he preaches ‘skill power’ over ‘will power.’

“It’s not a diet that you go on and go off; it teaches a skill.”

This skill is to eat in a way that plays to the strength of the appetite center in our brain. With too many flavor varieties, Katz said the appetite center becomes over-stimulated and causes us to overeat. Katz gave the example of salt laden breakfast cereals and over-sugared spaghetti sauce to illuminate the fact that many foods that we think of as healthy have been engineered, by design or blunder, to hide sugar and salt. His book guides the reader to ‘un-bundle’ their nutrition, by eating more pure and wholesome foods. He says this rehabilitates the taste buds in only a few weeks. If you love to eat, Katz wisely recommends learning to love food that loves you back.

Fran Scott is an exercise physiologist.

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