“Talk to your doctor about [insert Big Pharma drug here]”
Chances are you’ve been wooed by these words hundreds, if not thousands, of times at the end of every prescription drug commercial. Nowadays, the hypnotic suggestion seems to slip in right after a recitation of side-effects worthy of a Star Wars opening crawl.
This got me curious about how often people get advice from their doctor on things other than drugs. Like, you know, food or…what’s that other thing…exercise? Yeah.
A 2013 Gallup poll informed me “…71% say their doctor usually discusses the benefits of engaging in regular physical exercise and 66% the benefits of eating a healthy diet.”
That number is alarmingly high.
I realize bringing it down to zero is a pipe-dream but, darn it, at least we can try. These physicians seriously need to keep their traps shut about all things nutrition-related.
Don’t get me wrong – I have mad love for doctors, and medicine as a whole.
More and more, I’m reading how biotech companies are making breakthroughs to save millions of lives.
I’m in awe of the physical and mental feats surgeons perform on a daily basis. And anyone who’s gone through the rigors of medical school could make me look like quite the fool in just thirty seconds, simply by displaying their knowledge of intricate human anatomy and physiology…
…this does not… in any way, shape, or form… mean you should look to a doctor for advice on nutrition or exercise (unless it’s in relation to a serious medical condition).
Why not? Let me count the ways:
- Med school, as impressive as it is for cramming unfathomable amounts of information into the human brain (and stamping out any remaining vestiges of humanity), barely focuses on nutrition at all.
A 2006 study showed most surveyed medical schools provided an average of less than 24 hours of TOTAL contact hours on nutrition education.
But this was almost a decade ago. Surely things have improved since then?
A 2010 follow-up study revealed a lower number: A little over 19 hours. Yippie.
- Doctors hardly ever keep up to date on the latest in exercise and nutrition science… because they’re too busy working 60+ hours per week doing their freaken job.
- Speaking of their job: This can often involve lawsuit-happy patients and their salivating lawyers, back-stabbing insurance companies, oh and Obamacare (perhaps you’ve heard of it?) which is flat-out driving some of our best doctors into early retirement.
And I want to emphasize points two and three because, quite frankly, these poor MDs deserve a little slack (at least, the ethical ones do…I swear I’ve actually met a few). They have to deal with all of the above, plus a growing mass of patients who believe everything they read on teh interwebz.
So yes, I have mad love for doctors…within a certain context. If an infection is involved or surgery must be performed, fine. But if they start telling me to eat a low-fat diet with plenty of grains for my health, or there’s nothing wrong with artificial sweeteners, the best they’re going to get from me is a barely-polite nod.
Even years later, I still remember seeing a doctor for a yearly checkup when I was a gangly high-schooler, and telling her how I was lifting weights and eating more protein. The exchange went something like this:
Gangly, awkward high school Nate: “I’m eating more protein now.”
Well-meaning but misinformed doctor: “Too much protein can be bad for your kidneys.”
Nate: “I’ve only heard of that being true for people with kidney problems in the first place.”
Doctor: “There are studies showing the same thing for healthy people as well.”
Nate: “I’d like to see them!”
Doctor: “They’re out there.”
…Years later, I’ve never seen those studies. Recently, I looked into it, and she might have been referring to a liquid protein diet. But even the supposed deaths from that fad were never confirmed, as investigated in a 1981 study.
I’ll squeeze in another qualifier: If you’re fortunate enough to work with a doctor who is hip to nutrition and fitness, more power to you. Most people are not nearly that lucky, and they don’t even realize it.
So if you can’t trust your doctor, where can you turn?
Gurus on television?
The health and diet section of your local bookstore?
The government? (ha!)
So where can you turn?
The answer, I think, is contained within Spy Briefing’s motto:
“Freedom. Self-reliance. Action.”
That middle part there is important. And let me be clear: I do not mean disregard all advice, ideas, and data. Self-reliance isn’t a permission slip for willful ignorance. Just the opposite. Seek out all kinds of sources for information. Then, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, “Trust…but verify.”
Self-reliance is a tough, lonely road to follow. But the benefits include greater happiness, health, and wealth. Actually, I think your only chance at all three is through self-reliance.
If you want to maximize your health, burn extra fat off your body, and accomplish more than you thought you could this year…then we’ve got a new publication to help your goals become a reality.
You’ve got the freedom to consider our ideas.
You’ll have to rely on yourself to judge their worth.
And I hope you take action on them.
Underground Health Researcher