5 LOUSY POUNDS

Lose 5 pounds

I’m frustrated and mad, and then I’m pleased and happy.  Then it starts all over again.   I publish uplifting articles designed to help others get through trying times.  I write a book about living a Wellthy lifestyle that has helped hundreds find their way to health and happiness.  So, why can’t I find my way past the plateau I’m currently standing on?  I guess it boils down to the fact that I’m human.

I’ve lost the same 5 pounds seven times now.  Yes, I lose it, then find it then lose it again, then find it again!  Do the math.  I’m up 25 pounds in total since my surgery and retirement.  I should be down 35 pounds (pounds times 7 successes).  So, what can I do?

According to Mr. B’s father, “if you fall down seven times, get up eight!”  The answer is simple. I get up, dust myself off and go back to working on being healthy.  “Success is a journey, not a destination.”  I am on a journey.  

According to the dictates of “Diets and Other Unnatural Acts,” all I have to do is define what my problems and goals are and then refine myself, chicken stepping my way to health.  Let’s see:

  1. I need time to exercise more.  Solution –I hate exercise! As it stands, I feel rotten from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.  Of course, my present state of obesity would make anybody feel crappy.  Time to start exercising.  I’ll start today.  I’ll drive by a gym.
  2. I’m overworked. Napping 3 times a day is time consuming and doesn’t jive with #1.  Napping is a full-time job.  Time to retire from my napping job and find something more productive to do.
  • I’m overdue for my deposit in my 90-day plan.  Solution – Time to take a vacation from retirement in the midwest.  “Renee, pack a bag.  It’s time to head south.”

See how easy it is to change one’s life and get back on track!  Now, it’s time to lose those troublesome 5 pounds for the last time, and then, five more.

A SMILE IS CONTAGIOUS. BE A CARRIER!

Easier said than done!  These days, everyone is worried! They’re worried about their insurance, their jobS, their parents and just about everything other than the one thing they should be worried about.  That one thing is their health!

You can and will deal with an insurance company.  Sure, your doc may not be in your plan.  Sure, the care you need may not be available to you based on your plan’s restrictive policies.  You may have to suffer with an inferior medication or drive to a distant place for a needed procedure to be covered.  But you will still be free to get the care you need and want by going outside your plan and paying for it!  You haven’t lost your freedom of choice; it just got more expensive to get what you need and want.

I know, your finances are a mess.  Your job sucks.  Everything costs more.  So, what do you do?  One of my friends is a defense attorney.  I once asked him how an incarcerated felon affords to pay his legal fees.  His answer was that the felon can’t afford to pay him.  The felon’s family can’t afford to pay him either, but they do.  They find the money; they mortgage their house, take out loans or whatever they need to do to try to protect their loved one.  Sure, they could rely on the public defender’s office; but, when the stakes are high, they want the best and the best is expensive.

Do you want the best healthcare possible?  If you do, I can tell you where to find it.  It starts at home!  It starts in your kitchen!  What’s in your pantry and refrigerator?  Is it healthy?  If not, pitch it!  Have you ever heard, “You are what you eat?”  It’s true.

Good health starts in your bedroom.  Do you sleep well?  Is your bed comfortable?  Is your room healthy, free from allergens, noise pollution and other distractions?  Do you or your spouse snore?  Are you up all night worrying?

Good health starts in your neighborhood.  Are you taking 30-minute walks daily?  Are you taking long bike rides?  Do you go to the local gym?

Good health starts with your family.  Are you and your spouse getting along with each other?  What about your children?  Are you spending quality time with the ones you love?

The best healthcare is not dependent on your insurance policy; it is dependent on you caring for yourself and those you love.  If you and your loved ones are healthy, then you will rarely need to access the healthcare system.

Invest in self and remember, “A smile is contagious.  Be a carrier!”

NORMAL

Normal is a word I love. It’s great to call a patient and tell him his lab is normal, his chest x-ray is normal, his exam is normal. It feels good to reward someone for being healthy by telling him he is “normal.” 

Normal is a word I hate. It is the spawn of the devil. It makes people feel bad because they aren’t normal. It scares people. It makes people do stupid things trying to be “normal.” 

Years ago, I treated a perfectly healthy, delightful, intelligent and, quite literally, beautiful female patient who felt bad because her BMI (body mass index) was in the abnormal range. Her BMI, a measurement calculated from her weight and height, was in the obese range (according to recognized medical normalcy charts). She was not obese. She was not overweight. Her “normal” was simply different than the recognized norm. She was healthy until she found out what her BMI was and what it implied.

“Normal” is one of those concepts that can be hard get a handle on. In the laboratory, normal values are set by international organizations that set standards, by the laboratory equipment itself and by the population you are studying. If normal range is 80 –100 units and your value is 101, are you normal? It depends on whom you ask. When your doctor orders an EKG, there are excepted normal wave forms. If your EKG has an abnormal waveform, are you normal? Maybe! If you were born with it, it may be normal for you.

I received a phone call from an anxious patient. Her MRI of her brain was interpreted by the radiologist as being abnormal. Her neurologist told her it was normal for her age. Who is right?

Normalcy is subjective. I have spent a great deal of time on this site discussing how remarkably different and unique my patients are. Because people are so individually distinct, each defines normal in a different way. Work at being happy within your own norm. As long as you are healthy and happy, try not to get overly invested in being like others. 

When it comes to medical issues, work with your doctor to understand what each individual test means and how the results pertain to your health. Define how important it is to “normalize” your results. Set realistic goals. When it comes to a disease like diabetes, the closer you are to having normal blood sugars, the better off you will be. When dealing with your BMI, if you are healthy and have no weight related medical problems, relax!

Concentrate more on being healthy and less on being “normal.”

HIGH ROLLERS

Often, when “high rollers” came into the office to be seen, my stress level would soar. “High rollers are those patients who bet their lives on the premise that they “know their bodies” or they are “healthy”. Their bet is a real one; and, when they lose, they either lose their lives or suffer major losses to health and dignity. No matter what I say or do, “high rollers” insist they understand the risks involved and will live with the consequences of their decisions if they are wrong. The problem is that they really can’t imagine what the consequences of having a stroke or heart attack are until it is too late. They really can’t understand what the consequences of an untimely death are and never will. They will not be here to witness the aftermath.

To make my point, let’s examine two typical, but fictitious, all too real patients. Patient number one is a male in his mid-fifties. He comes into the office complaining of chest discomfort. He has had some “discomfort” in his chest off and on for a few months. “Doc, it’s not bad. Doc, I think it’s my meds or something I ate.” He has significant risk factors for heart problems and I explained that he may well have angina pectoris, a condition stemming from a serious vascular problem with his heart. I advise him to see a cardiologist in the very near future and start him on medication. He states he that is too busy and won’t seek further help or diagnostic tests until after New Years. I warn him that he is gambling with his health and may not see the New Year. “Doc, I know my body! It’s just my medication. It’s not bad! It’s no big deal.” I hope he is right, but I fear he is wrong. I tell him about Tuesday’s article and the cartoon my mother sent me. Would you rather spend two hours of your busy life assuring your heart is ok or 24 hours a day being dead?

Patient number two is a sixty-year-old female who feels perfectly healthy. She just wants her refill and to go home. Because she feels well, she does not have her annual health exam, pap and mammogram. After all, she is healthy! The problem lies in the fact that most people are healthy until they are not. Preventative healthcare’s goals are to find problems and fix them before they find you! Every year I diagnose the earliest stages of cervical, colon, breast, and prostate cancer and eradicate the cancer prior to its devastating course. I find subtle signs of heart disease and stop it in its tracts. Those patients are blessed with the knowledge that they have a curable disease, treat that disease and live long lives. During the same year, I have to diagnose cancers in their late stages and then witness the devastation caused by metastatic disease. I meet patients in the cardiac intensive care unit after a major heart attack and talk about rehabilitation and limitations. The healthy “high rollers” bet that they will always be healthy. Some win, many lose. The loss is often catastrophic. Many are afraid of what I will find if they come in for an annual physical. To those patients I say, “Be more afraid of what finds you than of what you and I find”.

May you be so blessed as to never know what disease you prevented! Have a happy and healthy New Year.

WILL POWER

Have you seen my friend, Will Power?  Will and I have been hanging out together since I published my book.  Will’s my best friend.  He’s the sensible one, always keeping me out of trouble.  With Will Power at my side, I have flourished.

Today, Will and I walked into the Garden Fresh Super Market together.  Will thought we should stop for lunch first but I was in a hurry to get home and prepare dinner.  On entering the store I noted an attractive young woman standing at a table selling her goods, so I stopped to see what she was offering.  Will was with me one minute and gone the next.  I figured he wandered off for a moment and would return shortly.  Mr. Will Power is a loyal friend; he wouldn’t abandon me!

Anyway, this young woman was sampling a multitude of cheese spreads on delicious, gluten free, crunchy, whole grain crackers.  Any idiot knows not to walk into a grocery store when he is hungry but I figured I was safe since Will Power was with me.  Unfortunately, with Will missing in action, I was doomed!  They sure were delicious.  All seven varieties!

I quickly gained my composure and started searching for Will.  Searching the aisle at Garden Fresh was like maneuvering through a mine field.  One aisle over was another sampling of cheesy treats.  Two more aisles to the north and I was accosted by samples of fresh baked goods.  

I figured Will Power would be waiting for me in the healthy produce area so I ate my way through the mine field, seeking refuge in the green leafy aisles.  They were waiting for me and Will was nowhere in sight!  Taco salsa and guacamole dip and chips tripped me as I turned the corner.  They assaulted my mouth with jalapeño peppers.  Over by the celery was another woman, offering tastes of hot dogs and queso blanco.  I searched for Will while working my way towards safety in the fruit aisle and the hope of getting to the checkout counter without any other treats.

I’m home now.  I’m calling everyone, asking for help finding my friend.  I’m not worried about Mr. Will Power.  He’s tough and can handle himself.  I’m worried about me.  Without Will Power, I’m afraid I’ll fall off the wagon.  I know what they say, “If you fall three times, get up four;” but, without Will Power’s help, it’s going to be tough.

When I find Will, I’ll apologize for not listening to him.  I’ll never go grocery shopping when hungry again.  I’ll also walk right by pretty young women peddling their wares.  

If you see my friend Will, tell him I miss him!

MY BLOG

In 2013, I wrote, “The problem is that I can’t quit!  Not caring for my patients would be like not breathing!  I’m a doc and I’m old school.  I believe my profession is a calling, not a business to be run by corporate America or the government.  I can’t imagine not taking care of Nolan, or JJ, or Hadley, or 1,000 other souls I am entrusted with.”

Six years later and I’m retired, not by choice, but out of necessity. Nine months into retirement and I still can’t breathe. I wake up every morning wanting to dress and go to the office.  Instead, I go to my computer and write.

This blog is my way of communicating with my patients old and new (readers). It’s also helping me breathe.  In reviewing my old articles, I have a rare opportunity.  I get the benefit of listening to a younger me lecturing the old me on how to live with Parkinsons and recover and maintain as much “Wellth” as possible.

Unfortunately, my blog is poorly organized, making it next to impossible for a new reader to see what’s available.  There are 121 articles published so far.  While they contain 40 years of accumulated knowledge, you have to scroll through a lot of material to find what you are looking for.  If any of you know WordPress and want to pitch in, let me know.  In the meantime, please make sure you are sending links to your friends and family.

NEW YEARS PART 2

I don’t get it!  Sure, New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to party but what’s with New Year’s resolutions?  Today, my patient proclaimed, “On New Year’s Eve, I’m quitting!  It really didn’t matter if he was quitting smoking, eating, or drinking alcohol.  New Year’s Eve is his magic moment to correct his last 20 years of sins against his body.

“It’s the New Year. You resolve to diet tomorrow. For sure! Tomorrow you will feast on tofu lumps and carrot chunks and swear off nachos for the entire millennium. Never again will a chocolate éclair or an ice-cold beer greet your lips. At dinner, you will munch on fricassee of algae while dishing up crispy fried chicken for the family. When you go out to eat, you’ll graze on cauliflower and kale stalks, oblivious to the ambient aroma of sizzling sirloin and the mouthwatering sight of the chocolate truffles at the next table. In the evening, you’ll sip your second gallon of water for the day while you catch the news, the weather report, and the commercials for juicy burgers with cheese fries. You’ll quit smoking, give up the booze, and never cuss again.

As for exercise, you’ll sign up for triathlons and join the local boxing gym.  No more driving to work. You’ll park the car 5 miles away so that you can sprint through the crowds, perfecting your jumping jacks as you go. You’ll leap up the stairs, 2 at a time, to your 10th floor office, skip down the hall to the water cooler, and practice squats at your desk. After work, it’s off to aerobics class before you race home to pedal to Peoria on your exercise bike. Tomorrow! Absolutely! Positively!  You are looking forward to it as much as having a root canal except root canals are quicker. 

You’ll run away with your wife, go to Paris, make love from dusk to dawn.  When you get back, you’ll take the kids to Disney.  Since you are going to be fit, you’ll climb Mount Everest.  You’ll do everything you’ve ever dreamed of tomorrow.  Today, you’ll work to pay for it. 

Today is the day you make a killing in the market!  You’ll quit your job, buy expensive cars and houses.  You’ll spend a few hours a day managing your funds.  Today is the day!  You would pray on it if you had not forgotten how.” (excerpt from “Diets and Other Unnatural Acts”).

So, why is New Year’s Eve so special?  Is it that the new year brings new hope?  If so, why wait until January 1 to resolve to change your life for the better?  Why can’t your new year and new life start today?  It seems to me that any day is a good day to quit whatever unhealthy habits you have and resolve to find happiness and “Wellth!”  Wouldn’t it be better if every day brought hopes of a better and healthier future?  Rather than resolving to change our lives for the better once a year on January 1, wouldn’t resolving to do better on a daily basis have a more enduring effect?

New Year’s Eve is a time when we let go of the past and look to the future.  We wish our friends and family a happy and healthy new year.  We even greet strangers by wishing them well.

When you wake up every morning, try letting go of the past and look to the future.  Resolve to have a better day than yesterday.  Wish someone well.  I know people may look at you as if you are weird but wish everyone you meet a happy and healthy new day.  I bet you’ll feel better.  

New Year’s resolutions are often short lived.  New day resolutions only need to survive 24 hours!  This new day, resolve to be happier and healthier.  Resolve to find “Wellth!”  May every day be better than the last!  May every day bring you hope and joy!

NEW YEARS PART ONE

While I don’t understand why New Year’s Eve is such a big deal, I’ve always appreciated the magic of wishing others well. Every year at Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s, people find joy and happiness in wishing others a “happy and healthy New Year.” On the third of January, everyone goes back to their hurried lives and the kindness and joy of the season evaporates. The other New Year’s phenomenon, the New Year’s resolution, takes two weeks longer to fade away than the season’s goodwill!

Why can’t we manage to keep the season’s spirit and happiness throughout the year? If we could identify the essence of the holiday season and use it liberally throughout our lives, wouldn’t we all be happier? In looking for the key to daily happiness, I have started wishing people a “Happy and Healthy New Day!”

It’s working! The essence of the Christmas/Chanukah/New Year’s miracle is the giving spirit! Wishing people well is the key. In essence, wishing someone a “Happy and Healthy New Day” confers a blessing on them! In doing so, the person conferring the blessing gives the gift of a smile to the person receiving the gift. Might this simple salutation perpetuate the joy of the holiday season? I think so!

As to the matter of the “New Year’s resolution” that is so easily forgotten year after year, a New Day resolution has a real chance of being accomplished. Recently, I published “Tomorrow.” Many of us spend our lives living for and planning tomorrow. We put off doing today, promising ourselves that we will get it done tomorrow. Does tomorrow really exist? If we have a “New Day Resolution” every day, and when we wake up it is “Today,” then we should be able to stay resolved and finish what we promised to do.

So, resolve to enjoy each and everyday and whatever time you are blessed to be on the earth.  Work hard at being happy and bringing your happiness to others and 2020 will be a very good year.

So, each and every day, wish someone a “Happy and Healthy New Day.” Start your new day with a “New Day Resolution” to be happier and “Wellthier.” If you like this idea, first try it out and then share it with everyone you meet.

PRAYING HANDS

In order to understand this article, I need you to do the following:  put your hands together, fingers extended as if you were in prayer.  Next, interlace your fingers, making one large clenched fist.  Now imagine that your fingers represent different parts of your life or problems that you are having.

Life is complex and the problems my patients come in with are rarely simple.  On a daily basis, I see patients with the metaphoric clenched fist I described above.  My job is to find the key that will open the clenched fist and relax the fingers into a peaceful, happy set of praying hands.

On July 25th,2011, I wrote about Mrs. “X”, a patient with diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems, and arthritis.  Mrs. “X” is also depressed; wouldn’t you be?  Imagine that each of her problems is represented by a finger on her hand.  The other fingers represent other parts of her life: her relationship with her family, her friends, her finances, the excessively hot weather and her aging eyesight and hearing.  Mrs. “X” is miserable and can’t tell me why.  She is confused about which of her many problems she should address first.  She is frustrated!  Every time she fixes one thing, something else breaks.  Her fingers are interlaced and clenched into a painful death grip of a fist!

Now, interlace your fingers and tighten the grip for as long as you can, until it hurts.  When you open your hands and pull them apart, note that your fingers are tight and sore.  The tighter and longer you keep your fingers locked together, the harder it is to pull them apart.

Mrs. “X” has allowed her multitude of intertwined problems to lock together for so long that she can no longer separate one from the other on her own.  My job is to pry her fingers apart, one by one until each has been addressed and healed.  The process is time consuming and frustrating.  As her doc, I think I know what the primary issue(s) is, but I may be wrong.  I am searching for the key that will more readily unlock her hands and place them in a relaxed, healthy, praying stance.

I start with her index finger, depression.  I have written about depression before.  Depression is a normal state of life but can be severe, affecting everything else in an adverse manner.  Healing depression is often a potent key that allows one to more readily heal everything else.  Mrs. “X” fights the idea of depression; it is a stigma no one wants.  I explain that she can either admit to depression, as a sane person would in her circumstance, or be insane.  I pry her finger open.  I pray that by doing so, I can unlock the rest of her fingers.

Today, I work with her arthritic pain, prying a second finger open.  I work on opening a third, allaying her fears of the theoretical worry about NSAIDS.  Eventually, finger by finger, I will help Mrs. “X” open her hands and live with the burden of age.  I help her recognize her blessings and build her blessing list.

Oh yes, I work on one more finger today.  I talk to her about “An Attitude of Gratitude.”  Now, I’ll place my hands in a praying position and say a prayer that I get this right the first time.

PS – If this article sounds like you, it would not surprise me.  Mrs. “X” represents thousands of people I have seen over the last 28 years.  I have interlaced my fingers into a fist, assigned a multitude of attributes to each finger, and then unfolded my fingers into praying hands every week, painting a picture of the healing process for those in need.  I hope to do so for another 28 years!

THE HAND

My family, my friends and my patients think being selfish is bad!  I bet you do, too.  I used to think so, as well.  Thirty years in practice has taught that being selfish is good.  Actually, selfishness is essential to an individual’s health.

I saw a selfless young woman who was ill.  She had an assortment of complaints.  She had not felt well in months.  If she was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, she would have been diagnosed with executive burn out and given two months at Canyon Ranch, an executive retreat.   Unfortunately, she is the CEO of a typical American family.  She is married, has five children, a dog and works full time.  She has living parents who are aging and require help.  She is a hard worker, dedicated to caring for her nuclear and extended family, as well as excelling at work.  She has no time for self.  She is one of hundreds of such mothers in my practice.  She is stressed to the max but does not have the luxury of going to Canyon Ranch.

I often tell the story of the hand.  The thumb is you.  When you are young, you are self-centered, egocentric.  The world revolves around you and only you.  One day you realize that you have parents (your index finger), and you are responsible to them, as well as yourself.  As you age, you meet the love of your life (the middle finger) and are responsible to your mate.  In time, children come along (ring finger) and they need lots of your time.  You become very responsible for them.  Then you have your job (little finger).  As you grow in your job, responsibility grows as well.  You are a good person and want to excel at everything.  Your parents are aging and require more attention.  Your children are aging and require more attention.  Your job is growing more complex.  Your mate, who is often responsible like you, is in the same position.  

So, what do you do?  Things are out of control!  You have to take care of your parents, your mate, your children and your job.  The only thing you control is you, so you sacrifice yourself.  Try using your hand without using your thumb.  What you find out is, without the thumb, your hand is useless.  No matter how hard you work to make your four fingers function, without the thumb, the hand falters.

If you are not healthy, you cannot help those who need and depend on you.  If you are not selfish enough to save time to care for and nourish yourself, you will get sick.  Those around you will have to function on their own.  Why wait until you are exhausted, burnt out or sick?  The answer is simple.   Your parents taught you not to be selfish.  They taught you to be a responsible individual.  It is time you teach your loved ones to be responsible to themselves, to set healthy limits, to take time off, to laugh and be happy.  Set a good example: get healthy.  At first, those who are used to getting all of you will rebel.  They may call you selfish.  Teach them that a part of a healthy you is better than part of an unhealthy you.  In the end, by being selfish, everyone will be better off.