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Homemade: Community-based project teaches how to cook for health


Since January is the traditional month for making – and breaking – New Year’s resolutions (including diet-related ones), I thought it would be a great time to write about a new cooking course, the brainchild of two former Stanford students, that stresses healthy eating as a way of life.

When I heard these two young professionals, a doctor and a lawyer, had decided to put their careers on hold to get this project up and running at a local community center, I grew more curious to know what was motivating them. I learned that for the recently graduated doctor, Chloe Chien, MD, it was the multiple times she assisted on the foot amputations of diabetic patients during medical school. "I became increasingly bothered by lifestyle diseases" like diabetes and heart conditions, Chien told me. "Because they are so morbid, so expensive, so difficult to treat, so demoralizing yet at the same time, preventable." As for the lawyer, Anna Rokoczy, it was years of struggling with fad diets and poor body image as a competitive ice skater in Australia: "I tried all the fad diets, everything."

The two women were also influenced by the many overweight people they spoke with who had struggled and failed to lose weight:

"I was totally humbled by this," Chien said. "Most people who are overweight have tried all kinds of diets, all kinds of programs. They told us they were sick and tired of food journaling or calorie counting or no-fat rules. They’d tell us, ‘Yeah, I lost weight when I was on a diet, but once I stopped I gained it all back and more.’"

The concept that Chen and Rakoczy came up with to battle the obesity epidemic and lifestyle diseases like diabetes? Bringing enjoyment back to eating and focusing on creating healthy, tasty meals that become a way of life. My article describes the personal experiences that led them to commit full-time to Homemade - 10-week-long community-based cooking courses that send each participant home with three-to-six days worth of prepared meals. And it discusses the surprise of Chien’s family, friends and medical school mentors when she withdrew her applications in the spring to medical residency programs to pursue Homemade. More from the piece:

"Friends keep asking, 'Don't you want to practice medicine? Don't you want to go back?'" said Chien, who graduated from the School of Medicine in June. "I tell them I'm practicing the best medicine ever. It's preventive, it's inspiring and it's joyful. ... It's so much more impactful than prescribing medicine one patient at a time."


"I do miss a lot of other parts of medicine and hope to go back to it," Chien said. But for now, she said she’s committed to Homemade. "When I pulled out of residency applications my mentors were telling me 'Don’t do it; you’re crazy,'" Chien said. "At the same time, they were saying ‘Can I refer my patients to you?'"

Previously: Using a traffic light system to encourage healthier eating habits, What if obesity has nothing to do with overeating?, Learning weight-maintenance skills first helps prevent diet backsliding, Stanford study shows and Can cooking classes help curb childhood obesity?
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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