Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How about filling this prescription for STOP EATING

A few confessions right up front: I am not a skinny person. I never have been. And, I love food. A bunch. Finally, I am not athletic. I've always been one of those stereotypical nerdy kids who likes school and has asthma and tries for the cool hairdo but falls sadly short.

However, I have a rule. If my pants start to get tight, I institute THE diet, the most fantastic diet in the world. There are two parts to this diet.
Part 1: Eat less.
Part 2: Exercise more.

Amazingly, it works every time. I think about that two part diet a lot. I first heard this precise diet from a doctor I worked with my first year of medical school. He is an amazing doctor. He trained in India and could diagnose twenty diseases just by looking at a patient's hands. We would see tons (no pun intended) of patients come through his practice who were not only overweight but have diabetes and countless other health problems. Some of them would enthusiastically tell the doc about whatever new crazy diet they were trying; all liquid, no carbs, only carbs, only foods that start with the letter z, whatever. And he would always close his eyes and shake his head and say, "It is good you are trying to losing weight. But there is only one way to lose weight, and that is to eat less and exercise more."

The best part is that 99% of the time the patient would look at him like he was nuts.

It's a simple concept, people. I didn't say easy; it is, however, undeniably simple. Every single day in Family medicine we would see patients who were easily 100lbs over their ideal weight, and, shockingly, they would have all kinds of problems. Doc, my knee hurts. Doc, my lower back hurts. Doc, my heart's bad. And oh, by the way, I smoke 2 packs a day.

I am not minimizing the problems of all those people in the US who are overweight. As I said, I struggle with it myself. It is very difficult living in the US today, with mounds of delicious, tasty, and horribly bad-for-you-food not only available but in your face constantly, day in and day out. Lots of them have all kinds of other difficult psychological and social issues which I am very fortunate not to have to shoulder. But, OH MY GOD, people, STOP. EATING. And, occasionally, consider moving your ass.

It gets very frustrating. Even besides the fact that I want to do clinical research, I know now that I could not go into primary care. I don't think I could spend every day overlooking the major problems in people's lives and trying, usually in vain, to treat the results of those problems. Yes, this is an overly simplified view of primary care, and yes, there are truckloads of amazing doctors who do manage to change people's life every day. But, in my experience, even those doctors will admit that they are happy if they reach even 10% of their patients.

I think the truth is that Americans take things for granted. Their wealth, their lifestyle, and as I have learned, their health. Most patients want to abuse their bodies for 40 or 50 years and then get a pill to make it all better.

I salute all those doctors who are happy with 10%. I am in awe of them. I can't do it.

I need to go work out.

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