Over and over in my clinical practice, I find myself repeating the same line:
“I can’t care more about your health than you.”
Otherwise, I’d simply be exhausted and overwhelmed.
We’re told good doctors are caring and compassionate; while this is true, they can’t follow you around to ensure you’re making healthy decisions.
I’ve been practicing for two decades as of this year, and in twenty years, one thing remains constant.
People want a simple solution, a quick fix. They’re looking for results, without the effort.
Nowhere is this approach more apparent than healthcare, but other areas are quickly catching up.
If you’d like to stop reading this article now, save time, and go about your day, here’s the takeaway; improving (in nearly anything) isn’t complicated, it’s simple, but it requires effort.
The secret to better health, for example, is to eat right and exercise; that’s it.
Simple, yes; easy, no. Effort (less than you think) is definitely required.
That’s the problem though, we want easy.
This is why so many of us never attain the results we know are possible.
So we trick ourselves, repeatedly, into thinking said results are simply unattainable.
We’re convinced; exercise is hard, eating right is hard, cooking at home is hard; so we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe this narrative.
We then conclude:
“Nothing worth having comes easy.”
And life, in and of itself, is hard.
In a complicated world, simplicity wins
The above quote, ‘Nothing worth having comes easy’ might sound familiar.
It’s actually an abbreviated version of a longer quote:
“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No kind of life is worth leading if it is always an easy life. I know that your life is hard; I know that your work is hard; and hardest of all for those of you who have the highest trained consciences, and who therefore feel always how much you ought to do. I know your work is hard, and that is why I congratulate you with all my heart. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” — Theodore Roosevelt
But it’s a whole lot easier to say; ‘Nothing worth having comes easy.’
We’re always looking for the ‘hacks’. But the literal definition of hack is; to cut with rough or heavy blows!
Even hacking isn’t easy.
A couple years ago, as I walked to one of my favorite lunch spots, a former patient stopped me. I recognized him immediately, smiled, and we began to chat.
“I know I haven’t seen you in a while,” he told me, “but I’ve been feeling so good, doing my exercises, following your nutrition advice, coming into your office hasn’t crossed my mind.”
“That’s great,” I replied, “always happy to hear someone’s doing better.”
He stepped in a little closer to tell me something else.
“I’m curious, why would you give your patients all that information? Aren’t you afraid they won’t need you, and never come back?”
We laughed briefly, but I quickly countered; “Considering a small percentage of patients follow recommendations, and so many others are never given proper health advice, I’m sure I’ll have enough people to see moving forward.”
He nodded in agreement, told me he’ll continue to recommend me to his friends and family, and we exchanged goodbyes.
Here’s something most doctors will never tell their patients: “I can’t care more about your health than you.”
Your health is your responsibility. And if you haven’t noticed by now, staying healthy is becoming increasingly difficult.
There’s a pretty good reason why Americans eat the way we do, and move a lot less than comparable countries. We believe it’s easy.
Fast food is easy, sitting on the couch is easy, and if easy is what you want, having it is, well, easy.
Ordering a number from a drive-thru menu is orders of magnitudes easier than making a healthy meal at home. And some would have you believe; calories are calories, so why bother?
I beg to differ.
An apple is about 95 calories, so is a ‘fun size’ Snickers bar. Here’s what else you get with that apple: fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Oh yes, you also don’t get the fat, the ensuing insulin spike, the craving for more sugar, or the eventual crash.
While a whole meal may be difficult, an apple is easy. So is a banana, peach, pear, grapefruit, avocado, or any number of others.
We’ve craved convenience to the point of addiction.
While dedicating an hour to exercise is hard, walking a little bit more throughout the day is easy.
On average American walks half as much as your typical Australian, The Swiss, or Japanese.
When shopping, or even going to the gym, we drive around, wasting time and energy (literally), to find the nearest parking space; and more often than not, leave the cart near our vehicle.
Why not park at the end of the lot and walk? It’s quicker, more convenient, and you’re also less likely to damage your vehicle from other cars or shopping carts.
You can choose a better, healthier, easy.
When life gives you lemons…
When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade, and just eat the lemons! First, it’s healthier, and second, it’s easier.
We’re faced with so many choices on a daily basis. This may come as a surprise to you, you can have easy; which can also be healthy, fulfilling, increases efficiency, and improves your life.
The pandemic still has many of us working from home, although this comes with a unique set of challenges, getting to work has never been easier.
Leaving, now that’s an issue.
Here’s an easy way to work and stay active. I read messages and emails while walking at a nearby track. I don’t have to worry about obstacles, cars or cracks, I can focus on the content, gather my thoughts, and reply when I’m back home.
While it might be easier to just stay home, walking outdoors even for a half-hour, will give me a good dose of activity, energy, and Vitamin D.
The secret to improving, in nearly anything, is persistence.
When it comes to health, in my experience, the vast majority of diets work, as do exercise programs, in the short term anyway. The problem is maintaining them over time, and most people will discontinue after a certain point.
If you approach eating and exercising as chores, cumbersome, something requiring a hack, you’ve already lost. We need to mentally redefine convenience and ease.
Here’s the beauty in walking, or eating more fruits and vegetables; compounded over time, they make maintaining our health easier.
When I come across patients struggling with a restrictive diet, or strenuous exercise routine, my first question is: “How long do you think you can stick to this plan?” Rarely, if ever, will someone reply: “The rest of my life.”
The easier, longer-lasting approach involves implementing foods and activities which can be effortlessly incorporated into our daily lives.
If everything I’ve covered still sounds difficult, here’s my last pitch.
When coursework became overwhelming, one of my professors always had a couple of catchy, motivational lines: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Life isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be an all-out struggle. Your choices, and how you frame those choices, are completely up to you.
You can choose your easy, or your struggle. The decision, and the ensuing results, are entirely yours.