The Proof That Health Research Kills
This is a true story, but the dialogue is reconstructed from memory.
“I have never met a person this healthy who is in his late fifties,” my doctor said, after giving me a check-up in his consultation room. “There must be something wrong with my monitor. Give me a minute. I will get my spare one.”
A little later, he once more finished his examination.
“No,” he said. “The monitor works fine.”
“And the result?” I asked.
“It looks like you are in the physical condition of a 25-year athlete ready for the Olympics.”
“Ok,” I said, “but that doesn’t sound like bad news.”
“Obviously not,” he said. “I would very much like to hear your regime for being this healthy. Several of my middle-aged patients could do with some health-tips. Are you a triathlete?”
“No,” I said. “I never workout. I’m basically a couch potato, being inactive for at least 22 or 23 hours a day.”
For a few seconds, he stared at me in disbelief.
“Surely you can’t be serious?” he finally said. “Why don’t you workout?”
“Working out is something you do because you worry about not being in shape,” I said. “Exercising out of worry must be very unhealthy.”
“I see…,” he said, taking a pen before making some notes on a piece of paper in front of him. “So, what do you do to keep in shape?”
“I don’t try to keep in shape,” I said.
“But surely you must be using your body,” he said while taking a closer look at me. “You would not have muscles like these if you never used them.”
Health is connected to purpose
“If you observe a cat,” I said, “you will see that it is usually in great shape. Cats only move if they have a purpose, or if they are playing. I do the same. It’s healthier to use your body to go somewhere, rather than using it to go nowhere. In other words: it’s healthier running up the stairs to visit a good friend, than running on a machine in a fitness centre going nowhere. If I am going somewhere, I use my body to get there. If a friend is moving or has to do gardening work, I will always be happy to help. When I’m around kids who are playing, I play with them.”
“But you are a grown man,” my doctor said, taking more notes. “There must be a limit to how much you like to play.”
“Not really,” I said. “If I see a children’s playground, I usually use the swings or the climbing frame. If I’m on the train, I can’t help climbing on the handrails, and if I find myself on a huge lawn or a beach, I usually become overwhelmed with an urge to run.”
“But isn’t that working out?”
“Working out is movement with the purpose of getting in shape,” I said. “I don’t move to get in shape. I move because it makes me feel good. I like swimming in ice-cold water, climbing trees, running without shoes, juggling or having sex. Luckily these activities are also healthy.”
“Ok,” he said. “I understand, but don’t you follow any rules? Like healthy things that you do every day?”
“I stretch when I wake up in the morning,” I said, “but only because I enjoy the feeling.”
“That’s a good tip,” my doctor said writing it down. “Are there other things you do every day?”
“I like to stand on my head, and I enjoy being out of breath a few minutes every day,” I said, “and if I sit, I rarely sit in the same position for very long.”
“These are good tips,” my doctor said, taking more notes. “Currently, I suggest that my patients get a dog. Then they have to walk the dog every day, and will get plenty of exercise in a natural way.”
“That sounds like a terrible suggestion!” I said. “In that way, walking becomes a duty and very unhealthy. Remember what I said about the cat: there is a clear reason why you never see a cat walking a dog.”
“Are you telling me that it’s unhealthy to walk a dog?” he asked.
“It can be healthy,” I said, “but only if you love the dog and enjoy hanging out with it.”
Doing work-ins instead of workouts
“Ok,” my doctor said. “So if the activities you do are not called workouts, what can we then call them?”
“I don’t know,” I said, thinking about it. “Why don’t we call them work-ins?”
“Work-ins?” he said and wrote it down. “That sounds like a good term. Is work-in the opposite of workout?”
“Not quite,” I said. “Work-in just dont include self-discipline, and you never need to schedule your movements. Work-ins are the movements you do when you wash the dishes, ride your bike to go somewhere, play with your kids, clean your car or work in the garden. My personal work-in favourite is lovemaking. When you work-in, you are either getting some work done, doing something meaningful or will be transported to a place where you want to go. Work-ins are all about becoming better and more conscious about using your body within the boundaries of your life. In that way, you will improve your ability to listen to the needs of your body, and also receive many other benefits.”
“Like what?” my doctor asked, while taking notes.
“First of all, work-ins are not only free of charge,” I said, “but can also help you make money. Besides that, it saves you a lot of time not having to go to a gym or allocate time to workout.”
“So how do I help my patients in the process of implementing work-ins in their lives?”
“Just tell them to create a life where their body has a purpose,” I said. “Instead of running nowhere, they need to run somewhere. They have to be creative and develop healthy ways to clean their houses, work in their gardens, transport themselves places, help their friends, play with their kids or make love to their partner. I will be happy to send you a list of healthy and recreational lovemaking positions that you can recommend to your patients. These positions will not only create a more intense sexual experience but will also improve their health.”
“Most of my patients are in long-term marriages, and I don’t know how often they have sex,” my doctor said. “As you might know, attraction often fades in long-term relationships.”
“Ok,” I said. “Then I will make a list of healthy and recreational masturbation positions.”
“I’m sure my clinic would be closed in no time if I send healthy masturbation positions to my patients,” he said, shaking his head. “So let’s move on: Can you tell me more about your hearing and vision? Both are well above average for someone of your age. Why is that? Perhaps you don’t sit much in front of a computer screen?”
“I usually sit in front of my computer eight to ten hours a day,” I said, “but most of the time I do something that I think is meaningful. As I see it, our hearing and vision follow the same health-principles as the rest of the body. Your senses will stay strong if you are using them in a playful or purposeful way. This is why I make sure not to hear too much nonsense. I naturally listen to music I truly enjoy, and I appreciate it when I see things I consider beautiful. For me, looking at the sky is good — especially when the stars are out. Leaning my head backwards, gazing at the sky, is not only healthy for my eyes, but also my back. Nothing is better for the senses than being somewhere dark and quiet. This is why I love walking in the forest after dark while trying to get lost.”
“I see …,” my doctor said, while taking more notes. “I don’t think I can get my patients to go for walks in the forest at night — especially not with the purpose of getting lost. Their families would think there was something wrong with them. So let’s move on to another of your health parameters that are unusual. Your resting pulse rate is very low. Are you meditating every day?”
“I tried meditating some years back,” I said. “but it makes me stressful.”
“Stressful?” he exclaimed. “From meditation?!”
“Yes,” I said, “while sitting in a so-called spiritual position trying not to think, I suddenly remember all the things I am neglecting. Instead, I meditate when watching a good film, hanging out with the people I love or being in nature. I also meditate when I smoke.”
“Smoke?!” he exclaimed, looking terrified. “Are you telling me that you are a smoker?”
“Yes,” I said, “but naturally, I only smoke in a healthy way.”
“Smoking is very harmful — no matter how you smoke,” he said, before sending me an ironic smile. “Now you are probably going to tell me that you smoke like a cat?”
“Exactly!” I said. “There is no other healthy way to smoke. Have you ever seen a cat smoke?”
“Nobody sees me smoke either,” I said. “Smoking is something I do when I am alone and want to create a special and peaceful moment for myself. I prefer not to speak while I smoke, and sometimes I combine smoking with movements that are similar to tai chi. It enhances my ability to relax. I wouldn’t be as good at relaxing if I didn’t smoke.”
“It sounds absurd,” he said, “How many cigarettes do you smoke a day?”
“One or two,” I said. “I would like to smoke more, but my body tells me that two is my max.”
Health research is one of the worst killers
“Most of the things you’ve told me sound ludicrous,” my doctor said, scratching his forehead, “and not something a doctor can recommend to his patients, but what about food? It’s obvious that you must be on some kind of healthy diet?”
“Not exactly diet,” I said. “I eat exactly what my body tells me to eat. At least twice a week I eat fast-food — usually with fries, coke and lots of mayo. I also eat lots of sweets every day.”
“Ok,” he said, and threw down his pen. “I don’t think your recommendations for a healthy life will work for my patients. Are you trying to tell me that you stay healthy by not doing exercise, while being a smoker who eats unhealthy food?”
“Yes,” I said.
“But that is not possible!” he said. “What you are doing goes against all the research ever done on health.”
“Will it surprise you when I say that I believe that health research is very unhealthy?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Nothing about you can surprise me any longer, but how can you reach such an absurd conclusion?”
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that social diseases like stress, cancer and heart problems have become widespread at exactly the same time that health studies have also become widespread,” I said. “Millions of scientists and experts are publishing books and research giving the rest of the world advice, but most of their results are contradictory. Sadly, many people are trying to find meaning in all of it. Besides becoming confused, they also end up feeling guilty. No matter what kind of diet and workout you do, you can always find an expert telling you that you are doing something wrong. Following health experts and research is a fast lane to stress and can easily make you ill.”
“But there are some common factors in research about health,” my doctor said. “For instance, most experts will agree that drinking alcohol is unhealthy, but now you are probably going to tell me that you drink whatever you like.”
“Exactly!” I said.
“So how much alcohol do you drink a day?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“Nothing?” he asked. “You just told me that you drink whatever you like.”
“Yes,” I said, “but I don’t like alcohol.”
“I understand,” my doctor said. “Alcohol is a killer.”
“I’m sure alcohol can be healthy,” I said, “but I don’t like it and don’t know how to drink it in a healthy way.”
Financial health and physical health are connected
“I don’t know how to relate to your approach to health,” my doctor said, looking at his notes. “Before we stop, I will just summarize what we talked about: You have told me that your recipe for a healthy life is never to do anything out of fear of being unhealthy.”
“Yes!” I said. “That is a good way of putting it.”
“I don’t know if I can suggest my patient do the same,” he said. “They would surely think I had lost my mind. If they copied your lifestyle, they would probably become unhealthier than they already are.”
“I’m sure you are right about that,” I said. “Every person is different, and if someone tried to copy another person’s lifestyle, it would never work. The way I live today, is based on 20 years of learning to accept that I am not like everybody else. It no longer matters what strangers think about me, and I am comfortable not following the conventions of our culture. When I go to business meetings, I wear practical clothes while most other men wear a suit and tie. I sometimes walk in town without shoes or sit on the floor in the train looking like a weirdo. Sometimes I make strange and exaggerated movements of shaking my joints — just because my body tells me to do so. I am confident that your patients prefer to look and act normal — even though it might make their lives shorter.”
“I’m sure they do…” my doctor said, thinking about it, “but most of them have important jobs, and they can’t just show up at work in shorts with no shoes. Don’t you have a job, and don’t you have to make money?”
“20 years ago I had a normal job,” I said, “but every day I would leave my office to go to the beach and immerse myself in my thoughts and dreams. With time I became a writer and an investor, and made enough money not to have to work anymore.”
“Ok,” my doctor said. “Then you are in a privileged position.”
“I believe that financial health follows the same principles as physical and mental health,” I said. “My finances are healthy if my body and mind are healthy.”
“Ok …,” my doctor said, taking more notes. “Some of my patients are very wealthy and have a healthy economy but an unhealthy body. How do you explain that?”
“Wealth and a healthy economy are two different things,” I said. “A healthy economy is not measured by its size, but by the freedom it creates. Some people are extremely rich, but their fortune creates fear, bondage, and so many obligations that they actually have no freedom.”
“I see …,” my doctor said. “So, in your opinion, what is the most important aspect of health?”
“Honesty …” I said.
“Honesty?” he asked, looking confused. “You mean that honesty can make a person healthy?”
“When I am around dishonest people, my body will start to compensate, and it starts to wrap me in a protective layer of fat,” I said. “As a culture, we think we have a huge problem with obesity, but in reality, the problem might well be lack of honesty. Too much nonsense makes you fat — especially in relationships and marriages.”
How marriage makes you fat and impotent
“But are you telling me that marriage is not healthy?” my doctor asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Most marriages are unhealthy because they are created on the illusion that the two people involved love each other. This is often a lie, and because of this, they compromise their honesty, which is unhealthy.”
“How do you know?”
“Love is supposed to create freedom,” I said, “but how many people feel free in a marriage? We think that a considerable percentage of the population is impotent, but in most cases, impotence is a consequence of not being able to live up to expectations. Being stuck in a marriage, while struggling to keep the attraction alive, is a terrible and traumatizing fate. Why the health authorities have not banned marriage is hard for me to understand. We put warnings on cigarette packets, but it would be more sensible to put them on marriage certificates. ‘Marriage can make you fat and impotent’, or ‘Marriage can seriously damage your honesty and thereby your health’.”
“My clinic would surely be closed down if I advised my patients to improve their health by getting a divorce.”
“I know,” I said, “and it would probably not work anyway. Most people who have been in a relationship for a long time can no longer cope with the freedom.”
“And in your view, freedom is important if you want to stay healthy?”
“Yes,” I said. “If I am not free I can’t react to attraction. Few things have given me better health than being around attractive women. When trying to win women, I constantly have to grow new aspects of my personality and new resources. Attraction rejuvenates the soul, and being locked up in a home with the same partner does the opposite.”
There was a knock on the door, and when the doctor said ‘yes’ a young women entered.
“Your next appointment is waiting,” she said.
“Give us five more minutes,” my doctor responded.
“Don’t you think that your secretary is attractive?” I said, when she had closed the door.
“I am a married man,” the doctor said. “So I never think about things like that.”
“That sounds very unhealthy,” I said.
“You say many strange things,” my doctor said, with a smile, “but none of it can work as advice for my patients. Can’t you say something more concrete about your approach to health? Perhaps something a little more conventional or down to earth?”
“Ok,” I said. “I will give you a concrete suggestion for your male, middle-aged patients. Something I feel sure will work.”
“Great …,” he said, getting ready to take notes.
“Have you considered letting your secretary monitor the weight and blood pressure of your male patients?”
“I don’t see why that should help?”
“If I knew that an attractive woman like her would check on my health once a week, I’m convinced that I would change a few things and that my health would improve,” I said. “If the attention of a beautiful woman like her cannot make your male patients change their lifestyle, I don’t think anything can.”
For a few seconds, my doctor looked at me in disbelief before finally speaking: “You might be right that she could motivate them, but using a cheap trick like that is, in my view, unethical.”
“Is it unethical to give them motivation?”
“I don’t think a doctor should prescribe attraction as medicine,” he said. “Attraction is not a scientifically proven way of making a person healthier.”
“But attraction is the best medicine there is!” I said. “It has no side effects, it’s free of charge, and it creates plenty of happiness and good energy.”
“I am sure that the wives of my male patients would not agree about that,” my doctor said.
“I know,” I said. “I sometimes forget about the lack of love in marriages. Most married people will prefer to see their partner die than to give them the freedom needed to progress and rejuvenate.”