Here’s the cold, hard truth about your doctor: he or she is not going to be your “personal health fairy,” nor will he or she will guide you to your optimal body.
It’s not their fault. Doctors don’t have the time or expertise to get you into tip-top shape; their job is to fix you when you fall. You don’t rely on the auto mechanic to tell you how to optimize your car, do you? So why would you wait for a doctor to tell you how to optimize you?
Plus, on average, you’ll likely take two hours off of work for a doctor’s appointment. Multiply those hours by the average wage and total number of annual checkups in a year, these appointments could theoretically cost the US economy almost $2 billion in lost productivity alone.
So, inspired by James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself, I say choose yourself as CEO of your own body.
To all my super-intelligent physician colleagues who will send me hate mail after reading what I’ve written above, let me explain. Below are 10 good reasons why we should all choose ourselves to be CEO of our own body.
1. Your diet, not medicine, is the key to your health.
Here’s the unfortunate truth: people in healthcare don’t know sh*t when it comes to food and nutrition. This is why nutrition websites and alternative medicine practices thrive. Drug companies want us to think that we need their products to be healthy, but the reality is that if we change our diets enough, we probably won’t need their drugs anymore.
So why doesn’t everyone know this? The problem is that the information on diet is really variable … Paleo, vegan gluten-free, etc. It’s actually very simple: pick whichever diet makes you feel your best after a month and go with it. There is no one perfect diet, but there may be a perfect diet for YOU, so try them all. As long it involves real, whole foods, and DOESN’T involve miracle pills or miracle equipment, you’re good.
2. Hospitals are dangerous places.
Don’t go to a hospital unless you absolutely have to. Seriously! Did you know that medical errors in hospitals account for three times more deaths than car accidents? — 100,000 deaths a year compared to 34,000. Or consider this horrifying stat: 1 out of every 370 people admitted to a hospital dies due to medical errors. And if you happen to a patient in the ICU, you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting an infection you didn’t have when you came in. You can read about this and other fun hospital facts in this shocking piece.
3. Yearly physicals are a waste of time and money.
You don’t need yearly physicals. Nor do you need to see the doctor for colds, or a stomach flu, or a fever that lasts less than one week. Besides cancer screenings, there’s really nothing you’ll get out of your yearly physical that you can’t do yourself. Save yourself some money and time and take care of your body yourself. If you’re exercising with sprints, eating a healthy diet low in sugar, and generally feeling good, then checking in with the doctor every few years is quite adequate.
4. Doctors still don’t know enough about the gut. And that can be dangerous.
The intestinal tract is like the outer space of medicine. It’s like a big black hole and the medical profession knows very little about what’s in there. There’s an immune system in there, and a nervous system … god only knows what else we’ll discover.
You may have heard that leaky gut can lead to autoimmune disease, and that leaky gut may play a role in diabetes. I am convinced that you can influence much of your health and well-being by fixing your gut flora.
How to fix your gut flora? For starters, avoid antibiotics. They kill your good bacteria. You should think of antibiotics as a killer: they kill the bad bacteria but they really annihilate the good bacteria, too. To help your gut, consume fermented foods, naturally occurring probiotics, and stay away from antibiotics, any foods that trigger your sensitivities and chemicals added to your foods. What can a doctor do to heal your gut? Essentially, nothing.
5. If you really want to reverse disease, you should take a chill pill.
Most of the problems we deal with today (diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia) stem from inflammation. How do you calm inflammation? Start by reducing stress hormones such as cortisol. How do you calm those cortisol and the other stress hormones? Learn how to relax. Though harder than it sounds, you can do this yourself, without expensive blood tests or visits to the doctor. Yoga and meditation are great, but if they’re not for you, here are 7 other simple steps you can take to lower your stress levels.
6. Many problems get solved when you get off the sugar train.
We are all prisoners to sugar — as you know, it’s as addictive as drugs. If there’s any food that you find yourself wanting to eat when you’re already full, that’s not a good food to have in your life. And for most people, those crave-worthy foods involve sugar, which is also the main culprit in inflammation. (See #5, above.) So start the slow wean today. First, take a week to get off sodas and sweetened drinks. Next week, eliminate processed foods with sugar. Lastly, stop using sugar substitutes. There you have it! I just saved you a whole lot of money on a sugar detox.
7. Remember: Only you can make yourself move.
No one can do this for you. You must move. A lot. Any daily movement is great. Walking 10,000 steps is great. But if want to bring it up a notch to optimize? Add little 30 second sprints to any exercise outing. Here’s a rule of thumb about how fast sprints should feel: make sure you break into a sweat and the thought of doing it more than 30 seconds makes you want to die.
8. No doctor can teach you how to thrive.
Anyone who’s heard of Arianna Huffington knows about her new book, Thrive. She talks about how sleeping, meditating, and just generally taking care of yourself is the key to thriving (not just living). As she says in her book: success in life is more than money or power, it should be about well-being, wisdom and wonder.
9. No one will tell you that an essential piece of health is finding a passion.
Pursuing a passion and finding purpose in your life will help your body in ways you never imagined. Did you know that people with a strong sense of purpose live longer? I explain more details about how and why you need to find a passion project here.
10. The doctor is VERY expensive.
No matter what happens with the Affordable Care Act, we need to realize that you spend, on average, about $8,000 a year on healthcare. The solution? Use your doctor as a consultant. For example, you don’t go to a lawyer unless you’re in trouble or you just can’t figure it out yourself. Your doctor is there for guidance when your train gets off track. Instead of reflexively going to the doctor, invest that money into yourself and your health.
So there it is. I hope you are convinced to take on the title of CEO of You. Or maybe, now you just hate doctors. Sigh. I’m OK with the fact that I will lose money for revealing this. You deserve to know the truth.
Amy Shah, M.D. is a displaced New York native who pursued her medical training at Columbia University Medical Center in NY, Beth Israel Deaconness/Harvard Medical School, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Cornell University.
Her goal is to help you combine Eastern, Western, and Internet medicine to achieve a life, and body you love. Join her on her brand new website http://www.amyshahmd.com
I wanted to share this article. I agree with some of what she says. We do visit doctors too much. And we give the care of our bodies over to people we don’t even know.
Become the CEO of your body. Take charge. Knowledge is power and you are your body’s best decision maker.