Sunday, August 19, 2007

Health Secrets of the Stone Age by Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

1 - How did you get interested in the topic that’s featured in your book?

During more than 3 decades of caring for children in my medical practice I saw my patients and their parents getting more obese and out of shape. Because of my long interest in anthropology I found a book that explained what was happening. In The Paleolithic Prescription, Drs. Eaton, Shostak and Connor explain that our body chemistry is a couple of million years old but it doesn't match our lifestyle of little physical activity and foods that are not well suited to humans. Exploring this idea led me to prepare a popular seminar, Health Secrets of the Stone Age. I put it together in a book in order to make the information more widely available.

2 - Tell us a bit about your background. What have you done in the past that relates to your book and that topic?

A butterfly display started it all. Like most kids in the 1940s my friends and I spent our summers riding our bikes around town. One day we found the newly-opened natural history museum that had just assembled a huge collection of butterflies. The museum's summer vacation classes opened up the world of biology that eventually led me to a medical degree and a career as a pediatric infectious diseases specialist. Anthropology is a fascinating sideline interest that generates ideas for my newspaper column, a couple of dozen magazine articles and the book.

3 - What advise would you give to someone who is interested in your topic?

Living a long, healthy life with all your senses intact and a brain that works well is a target that almost everyone can reach. Attaining that goal is simple, but not easy: get an hour's worth of physical activity almost every day, including walking and resistance exercise (weight machines, dumbbells); avoid most processed foods because of their high content of salt, sugar and saturated fat; eat lots of fruits and vegetables and less baked goods; include fish in your diet 3 or 4 times a week; take a quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement every day. These are pretty simple steps but they have a huge impact on reducing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and dementia.

4 - What do you see as the benefit to participating in groups and organizations? My first thought would be networking opportunities and the chance for personal and business growth. What are your reasons?

Nature designed humans to interact with each other in groups since the Old Stone Age – where networking began. Belonging to a close-knit group is good for our mental and physical health. Writers need to share ideas. Whether talking out loud or writing about some concept, it helps to crystallize that thought in our own mind even if the person that we share it with doesn't add to it.

5 - Who is the ideal person to read your book? If each person that reads this was going to recommend your book to one person, what sort of person would they want to chose?

The longest chapter in the book, In the house of tomorrow: start with the children, begins with a few lines from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. Persons at any age will benefit from the concepts presented in Health Secrets of the Stone Age but if I had to pick a target audience it would be young adults, especially parents. The six leading causes of death in the United States are conditions that begin in early childhood, and even before birth. Changing the lifestyle habits of senior citizens won't do much to alleviate the financial healthcare crisis but if we can get today's young children to maintain normal weight and to avoid frankly dangerous foods we could almost eliminate conditions such as coronary artery disease and stroke. In 35 years of practice I never saw a child with type 2 diabetes. In today's children's medical centers so-called "adult-onset" diabetes makes up almost half the cases and that percentage will increase dramatically by mid-century. Today's kids also face a huge risk of osteoporosis for two reasons: they exercise too little and fail to get enough calcium and other bone-building nutrients during the critical window
during which 99 percent of bone mass is formed.

6 - What do you think ignites a person’s creativity?

Everyone is creative. Creativity is a combination of motivation and education. The toolbox of the mind has unlimited capacity and the more facts and ideas that we can pack into it the more resources we'll have when a person or an event gives us a reason to start using those tools. My motivation was the observation that obesity among children quadrupled between the time I finished my pediatric training and the time I retired from practice. It sparked my interest in speaking and writing about it but it was the accumulation of decades of storing up facts about scores of topics in biology and anthropology that allowed the spark to get a fire going.

7 - What have you found to be the biggest stumbling block for people who want to start writing?

Fear of failure and underestimation of one's ability to learn writing skills keep a mountain of great ideas from getting published. When I learned that the work of some of the world's most famous writers from Pearl Buck to John Grisham was rejected by dozens of publishers before appearing in print, fear of failure was no longer an issue. I keep a file folder labeled "Rejections" but it also contains letters of appreciation from readers and publishers to help me keep things in perspective. My advice to novice writers is to write and to read; write and rewrite and rewrite some more, and read as much as you can about writing.

8 - How would you suggest they can overcome that?

When you read about writers and writing you'll find that those skills are learned, even though some folks are born with the capacity to pick them up more quickly than others are. When I presented the first draft of a medical journal article to my mentor he made the corrections in red. My carefully crafted piece looked like someone had bled all over it. I learned from those embarrassing mistakes. After that paper was published it was referred to numerous times in the medical literature.

9 - What do you find is the biggest motivator for people to succeed? Is it money, security, desire for fame or something else?

Money is a great motivator for some careers but whether in writing or medicine, that's not where the joy comes from. Especially for writers of non-fiction it's probably the satisfaction of knowing that what you wrote made a difference in someone's life, that something of value exists on the planet because of you.

10 - Who is the “perfect” person to read your book?

The perfect person to read my book is the one who thinks that he or she is at risk of an illness that seems to be familial – "Diabetes is in my genes" – or who realizes that each of us does control our health but needs direction. Heredity is not destiny.

Thank you.

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