Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Changing Attitudes About Healthy Living

I'm a physician, so I hope I'm deemed qualified to comment on a few things in this post about health, specifically overall well-being. Currently, I plan on specializing in pediatric endocrinology in the near future, but this doesn't mean I don't keep track of trends in adult health, considering my own health is of course very important to me, and I'm able, thanks to college and medical school, to understand the studies regarding adult issues (heart health, cancer prevention, mental health, etc).

I just wanted to share a few attitude adjustments I've made recently, been forced to make as a resident, that I think could help the general population as well.

Two are regarding nutrition, specifically obesity. The first adjustment I made was in my attitude toward food. I was born with a sweet tooth, and was rewarded frequently as a child with a treat, like ice cream. As a young adult I've often rewarded myself for a good performance at work, or a full day of studying, with a treat. I also have found myself often at work thinking "I deserve something special" and grabbing a bite. What happened was, the combination of increased work hours (which the resident physician schedule is notorious for) and decreased time to dedicate to fitness, lead to my getting slightly out of shape. So the first adjustment I had to make was 1) No longer seeing food as something to have for fun, like when I'm bored, or as a reward.

Generally "fun" food is high in sugar or fat, high in calories. There are better things to do for fun, even at work. You can read something entertaining, take a walk, or find someone else who isn't busy to have a conversation with. This will take your mind off food, and it won't add inches to your waist.

The second adjustment I made was regarding exercise. In college and medical school my work outs were 1-2 hour sculpting sessions that consisted of reps, sets, and documented gains in weight lifted each day. It was highly routine, and resulted in bulk, shaping - a lot of good. This type of routine, however, isn't possible with a resident physician work schedule. My way of seeing exercise in the early part of my residency was very black-and-white: If I can't get in a two hour work out, there's no point in working out at all. Residency, marriage, fatherhood - I don't think I'll have the time for two hour work outs again. That didn't help my "figure."

Before I go on, there's a common expression I think is useful to remember: Use it, or lose it. Obesity is largely a result of not using our musculoskeletal system. The fibers and sinews that move our bones were given to us for activity, mobility. Using them burns calories, improves insulin sensitivity (preventing diabetes). This led to my second attitude adjustment: 2) make it a priority to move as much as possible, dailiy - God / Nature endowed us with a body to move; we eat for energy to move. The movement can be walks around the building or outside, even while at work (like on a lunch break), it can be some push ups and sit ups if you're interested in sculpting some of the sexier muscles, or you can do what I did and get a heart rate monitor, run around your neighborhood every other night, and track your heart rate to insure you're making the most of your brief foray outdoors for some exercise.

So, in summary, my hope is we could all be healthier and feel better mentally (since self-esteem is largely tied to body image) if we 1) stop seeing food as something for "fun" or to alleviate boredom (think of our ancestors not long ago - food was something to work for, it wasn't something as readily available as it is now), and 2) exercise doesn't have to be highly regimented, or at a gym, just move, use your body, your muscles and bones; do body weight exercises, calisthenics, get creative. I'd also like to emphasize the growing body of literature demonstrating the addictive and harmful affects of sugar consumption; my hope is future generations will see it as a drug, or something to use sparingly like cigars or alcohol. It leads to heart disease and strokes (and impotence, abdominal pain, leg claudication) secondary to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes - this is common knowledge by now.

My resident schedule has forced me to change my attitude in similar fashions about other things. My writing I do in short spurts - I can no longer have marathon sessions alone to myself at a coffeeshop. Same goes for studying - read an article, or part of an article - here or there, finish it later. Adulthood is defined by Responsibility, and to continue caring for myself, I had to change my attitude about what is proper care: Food, exercise, writing, studying.

A final note I'd like to make, regarding an adjustment that I learned as a physician but I think applies to all of life: the things of this world, our resources, are not infinite; there is a finite number of everything - oil, trees, antibiotics, money, manpower, etc. The image of the tribal, primitive hunter who hunts in one valley in May, and doesn't return until next May so that the land may replenish itself with game and berries - that is a good way to live. Turn off lights in vacated rooms, drive as little as possible, prescribe the shortest effective course of antibiotics, recycle, eat only what you need - I think one can not recognize the finite nature of Nature and not feel their living morally if they don't do their part to conserve and help things grow.

I'm the father of a two year old, and I do a lot of teaching what's right and wrong. I don't think we ever stop learning what's right and wrong, and I think it's wrongheaded to believe as an adult you already know the difference. If you always do what you think is right, it'd be difficult to fault you for any mistakes you make, and the hope would be you learned from said misstep. I don't want to sound preachy, I just think what's made the biggest difference in my life recently is doing what feels most right when it comes to decision-making and taking action (what feels most right - not sure we can ever say with certainty the "right" thing to do; we do our best). As a writer, I write what I like, what wows me; as someone who frequently feels awkward and tells jokes to fix it, I recognize the jokes I tell are what I consider funny (whether others do is debatable). I think as a person, you have to do what you think is right, whether you came to that conclusion on your own, or somebody told you it is so.

This post is a far cry, in terms of subject matter, from my previous, poetry-related posts. I'm currently sending my second manuscript around to contests right now, and focusing on other things as I wait on responses: I'm taking pictures, writing stories, reading fiction and all the medical articles I can get my hands on; writing songs, exercising more, etc. Of course I'm spending time with family.

I hope this article helps someone, either to make a change, or at least think about making a change. As an University of Wisconsin alum and current Ohio resident, I'll end (appropriately for March) with these words: Go Dayton Flyers! F*ck 'em, Bucky!

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