published Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Cooper: Free food, good health

East Ridge Seventh-day Adventist Church has set the table, and you’re invited.

The congregation will offer a free full dinner for the general public on the first Monday of six months during 2014, and on the other six first Mondays it will offer a cooking school.

What a deal.

It’s an attempt by the church to improve your health.

Yes, yours.

And, no, it’s not an attempt to convert your faith.

“If that connects with the spiritual, great,” says Dr. Michael Hollie, who will lead the “Dinner with the Doctor” programs every other month, “but we just want to share the health message with people.”

The allergy, asthma and immunology specialist will give a health-related talk — on subjects such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure — at each dinner.

The first “Dinner with the Doctor” program is set for Feb. 3 at 6 p.m., but the series will be launched with the presentation of a movie, “Forks Over Knives,” a documentary which follows patients who change their diet, on Saturday, Jan. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The is the third year the church has offered the monthly healthy living programs and the second in which it will alternate the dinner with the cooking school. At the core of the program is a whole-food, plant-based diet.

“These are not my findings,” says Hollie, a member of the congregation as well as a physician. “Everything I present is from scientific literature, from scientific journals.

“We stay away from processed food and other things harmful to the body,” says Hollie.

While the Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates such a diet, the information will be offered from a general perspective, he says.

“We talk about how food and our lifestyle affects [the onset of] diseases,” Hollie says.

Often, he says, those diseases can be reversed with lifestyle changes. And weight, he says, can be managed naturally without having to resort to dietary trickery.

Why we get sick, what we do about it, the amount of exercise, water, sunshine, fresh air and sleep we get, our temperance as it relates to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, and our trust in God are also subjects that play into a healthy lifestyle, Hollie says.

Each free cooking school program — the first one is March 3 at 6 p.m. — offers a brief health nugget from Hollie, then sets up various stations where participants can watch items being prepared, ask questions about the process and find out where to buy items they might not normally use. Throughout each session — about 90 minutes — participants rotate through the stations.

“They get practical tools they can use in their lives,” Hollie says.

Hands-on sessions tend to work better than lectures alone, he says.

“It’s one thing to talk,” Hollie says. “It’s another to show them how to use [the tools].”

The program is offered for women and men of all ages, he says, and both sexes are likely to be food preparers.

The church is located at 2105 Dabney Drive. For more information on the program, call Phyllis Smith at 888-423-1143.

If you’ve tried various gimmick diets without success, if you’ve sampled weight management organizations and are now broke and if you’ve experienced more diet yo-yos than Duncan, a natural plan of eating is an idea worth considering.

And that “trust in God” thing Hollie mentioned. It’s probably not such a bad idea, either.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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