The Standard American Diet, also known as SAD, consists of a high intake of red meat, refined grains, high-fat dairy products, soda and sugary desserts. Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle in an age of high stress jobs while raising a family and it can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer. But one clinic in Rochester has a healthy alternative. The Rochester Clinic’s healthy living philosophy enables patients to either reduce the medications taken for these diseases or reverse the effects of the diseases.
The Rochester Clinic was founded in 2010 by Dr. Jengyu Lai. He is a podiatrist and specializes in wound healing. In 2012, Dr. Thomas Harman joined the practice after retiring from Mayo Clinic. After more than 30 years of prescribing medications to individuals suffering from many of the diseases noted above, Dr. Harman discovered living a healthy lifestyle could improve overall health.
Dr. Harman believed to truly practice the healthy lifestyle, he too needed to develop better eating and exercise habits. In 2012, Dr. Harman began eating whole grains and plant-based foods, and in six months he lost 35 pounds. To date he’s lost over 60 pounds. Using himself as an example, he began encouraging many of his patients to begin living a healthy lifestyle by educating them on how choose what goes into the body.
In early 2015, doctors at the Rochester Clinic discovered the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) after attending a medical conference. CHIP is a twelve week program that includes weekly meetings with a certified facilitator, a recipe book with simple recipes, a workbook, a textbook with colorful graphics and easy to read language, along with a pedometer.
Dr. Hans Diehl developed the CHIP philosophy. He is a Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University in California. This program focuses on eating more but weighing less. It doesn’t promote limited food intake or counting calories. And instead of focusing on medications or surgeries to combat diseases, CHIP promotes healthy food, exercise and sleep, which can help prevent and treat diseases.
The CHIP program has been around for more than 25 years and focuses on a healthy diet, exercise, meditation for stress management and group support. It is taught by physicians, dieticians, wellness coaches or certified CHIP facilitators. There are three different ways to teach the philosophy. It can be taught at the community level, similar to instruction from the Rochester Clinic. It is also taught in a corporate environment, meaning companies can hire a CHIP facilitator to instruct members on their lunch hour. Or, CHIP can be taught medically. In this category, a doctor groups together patients with similar medical conditions and they complete the program together.
Meiping Liu, certified CHIP facilitator at the Rochester Clinic, says, “We went through the certification program in California, and before prescribing CHIP to our patients, we tested it on staff members.” Liu states, “One of the staff members who achieved the greatest results weighed about 200 pounds. She was on multiple medications at the time and was prescribed an additional dose of blood pressure medication because the current dose wasn’t working.” This staff member went through the twelve week CHIP program and lost 20 pounds. Her blood pressure and cholesterol levels went down by 50%. “This staff member feels in control and enjoys healthy food a lot more. She is a happier person with an optimistic attitude,” says Liu.
The CHIP program begins with an education regarding diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, the importance of fiber, how to manage stress and how to treat your body. There are 18 different topics that are taught throughout the 12 week program. Liu says, “On day one of the program, the participants have their blood drawn to test cholesterol and glucose levels. Their Body Mass Index (BMI) is also measured. The participants have these same tests conducted on week six and week 12 so they can track their progress.”
CHIP sessions meet at the Hy-Vee Barlow plaza on Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6-8 pm. Hy-Vee’s chef, Eric Worth, creates recipes from the CHIP recipe book for the participants to try. If they don’t like the recipe, Worth improves or tailors them to his liking and teaches the participants how to enhance the recipes with fresh herbs or spices.
The CHIP program also encourages exercise, but you don’t have to join a gym. It’s about using your own body as an exercise tool. Participants are encouraged to use a pedometer included in their CHIP kit to track steps. The goal is 10,000 steps per day. Liu says, “We want our CHIP group to adopt this healthy lifestyle, but it’s up to them to choose how strict they want to be with the CHIP philosophy. Some individuals don’t want to workout every day, so we encourage them to count all physical activities like household chores as exercise.”
Not everyone who attends the CHIP program is overweight or has a disease they are trying to overcome. Diane Borg attended the first CHIP session hosted by the Rochester Clinic in June of 2015. She was a vegetarian, but wasn’t getting enough protein in her diet. Her doctor told her she needed to start eating meat. For Borg, eating meat wasn’t an option. She was also confused by what the media was saying about certain foods. “I listened to the media tell me certain foods were good for the body one day, but another report told me the same food was bad for me. I was getting confused,” she says.
Borg heard about the CHIP program and signed up immediately. She felt confident registering for CHIP because she knew the program was scientifically proven and supported by medical doctors. She says, “CHIP gave me the confidence and knowledge to continue life as a vegetarian. It taught me how to add nuts, seeds, soy and legumes for an added source of protein.”
Although Borg leads a healthy lifestyle, she said her husband hasn’t adopted her vegetarian eating habits, so they prepare separate meals. “When I make stir fry, I cook the vegetables together. Then, I cook tofu in a separate skillet while my husband cooks chicken in a different skillet. We share the veggies and choose what protein we want to add to our dish.”
Borg not only learned how to cook meals higher in protein, but she also changed her exercise habits. She walks three miles a day, and she incorporates strength training and stretching to her routine as well. “I feel more energetic since I started exercising,” says Borg.
Liu says, “Once the program is completed, [The Rochester Clinic] offers continued support and additional resources. This program also fosters friendships between participants. These friendships are another way to offer support along your healthy lifestyle journey.”
Medicare and some insurance companies cover the CHIP program depending on the patient’s illness. The 12-week program costs $799 and includes the kit, class time and all blood tests. The next CHIP session begins on January 19. For more information, or to register for the next CHIP session, call the Rochester Clinic (507) 218-3095. You can also visit Rochester Clinic online.