I never thought it would be this soon. He wasn’t in very good health, but I didn’t think he would die. Those words are all too familiar. Too young, too soon. What could have been done. I became a physician to try to decrease the times those words would be spoken. Thirty four years later my own family members are speaking those words. The sad reality is, there is not much anyone can do to change another person’s choices. The inner voice that says, it cannot happen to me. The voice that perhaps says I am too far gone. Despite the pain of watching a loved ones health decline, we have to grant them the freedom of choice. I do not believe they are choosing to die, but I do believe it is how they are choosing to live. It is probably the hardest thing to accept as a health care provider. That does not mean that we should stand by and not offer alternatives to destructive behaviors.
The mandatory electronic medical record keeping system makes it quite easy to paste statements in charts suggesting exercise, “a healthy diet”, and weight loss. They fill the requirement for wellness billing but is that the best we can do? I would like to say that we as physicians need to lead by example, and I do believe that is mandatory. However, as physicians, we are not the necessarily the cool kids on the block so following our lead is not really all that motivating. In fact, I framed my marathon medals and tee shirt for years without one person asking how to go about training for a marathon until I change my practice to focus on wellness. The overwhelming message in society is the more the better, but when it comes to implementing health changes, biohacking is the word. Society seem ok with mandatory vaccinations, but not a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps it is because the description is so vague and confusing. People of normal weight have heart attacks and people that smoke have managed to live until old age. The “best diet” is more of a popularity contest than scientific agreement. There is an awful lot of work being healthy, and an awful lot of money to be made treating illness.
I have had the biggest success in reversing lifestyle diseases since changing my practice to a membership practice focused on wellness instead of sickness. Yes I still believe in leading by example. We have implemented nutrition classes that act as a community for individuals seeking health not prescriptions. Education and hope has replaced medications. Communication about goals and obstacles to health are the focus. A commitment to exercise education not merely a suggestion. Accountability and responsibility are encouraged. I believe we are on the right path. But every individual is on their own journey. The choice is theirs, and sometimes just being there is all we can do.
I am sorry to have received that call. I can only hope that his passing will help others to look inward and choose another path. We would love to support you on your journey.