Monday, November 30, 2009

Walking the Talk

After years of unhealthy living, midnight grilled cheese sandwiches with fries because I "deserved it" for working so hard, no exercise, two pregnancies, and too many nights of not enough sleep, I am finally at a place where I can turn my focus to my very own health. I am gradually increasing exercise, wearing a pedometer, and striving for 10,000 steps a day. I started a 3 month physician-directed weight loss program, and have seen a 7 pound weight loss in 3 weeks. I also found out that I am hypothyroid, so being on medication is likely helping as well. Mr. Whoo and I are signed up for a 5 K in January, so I am tackling my biggest hurdle, learning to run (without crying). It isn't easy. I am working harder than I ever have for minimal results on the scale, but the weight loss is real. If I can lose 8 pounds a month, 6 months from now, I will be nearly 50 pounds lighter. Real life weight loss isn't like "The Biggest Loser," and it is easy to get discouraged when the hard work and struggle doesn't result in game-show like transformation. Being overweight, I've never been unsympathetic to my overweight patients, but working this hard has made me a better counselor to direct their efforts, especially as they try to juggle work and family life. Just as having children has given me a unique perspective to counsel from the seat of experience as well as clinical knowledge. As a doctor, I am trying to heal myself. Have any of you had a health issue that made you a better physician? How has it changed the way that you practice?

12 comments:

  1. Wow! Good luck!

    Definitely. Mainly family experiences - dealing with their illnesses. And of course, being a mother. Having children. Does that count as a health issue?

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  2. I haven't personally had any health issues that made me want to live a healthier lifestyle. My (hopefully future) boss and some other people at work have unintentionally guilted me into it! I started running last winter because I overheard them talking about it all the time. I did the couch potato to 5K program on coolrunning.com and ran my first 5K in June. I'm not planning on running any marathons but the effects it has had on my life have been immeasurable. I'm far less stressed out - much better to beat the crap out of a treadmill for 30 minutes than anything. It's also my dedicated time to myself, where I think about nothing other than how my feet are striking the pavement and how I'm breathing. It's therapeutic. It helps me connect with my co-workers in a different way. And my butt looks awesome in jeans.

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  3. Absolutely! I have (knock on wood) been fairly healthy, but during pregnancy, I am always jarred back into reality being forced to assume the patient role. For instance, during my 3rd pregnancy, I had back pain around 36 weeks that wouldn't go away and became quite severe. I couldn't bear it anymore after a day in clinic and went to L&D. After a long wait to be seen, I got blown off by the toxic OB residents in L&D who told me something to the effect of "Of course your back hurts...you're 36 weeks pregnant and have gained almost 40 lbs" and discharged me. This has to be the one time in my life an OB hasn't requested that I pee in a cup just for showing up. Turns out I had pyelo and positive blood cultures by the time I went back to L&D two nights later with the same complaints. I ended up admitted for several days on IV abx. When I told the team rounding on me the next morning that I was getting waaaay too much "maintenance" IV fluid and was perfectly capable of drinking, they tsk-tsk'ed me. As I sat there complaining over the course of 2 days, I gained 16 lbs, was massively edematous, and ended up needing IV Lasix and an extra day in the hospital to get my BP back into the reasonable range where it had always been. Patients know themselves better than any doctor ever will. When patients tell me something is wrong or different or being made worse by what I am doing, I listen and stop!! I would like to think that I did that before, but I am religious about doing it now.

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  4. Every health issue/scare I've had has made me into a better physician. After all, how can you truly understand how uncomfortable a test is or the side effects of a medication are until you experience them yourself?

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  5. after two pregnancies with gestational diabetes requiring inordinate amounts of insulin and failing diet after diet after workout regimen after workout regimen, ive finally scared myself into starting weight watchers to assure myself i dont end up with type 2 diabetes and im alive to see my children grow older and have grandkids and great grandkids.

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  6. Very impressive post. Honest and poignant. Well done. And congrats on getting your health priorities back on track.

    Just started my own site so check it out if you get a chance. I will be following.

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  7. I too, had/have weight loss issues. After my one and only pregnancy my life became one of work and mothering while my husband travelled. I spent nearly 18 years not working out. 4 months ago (after a "you need to shape up" pep talk from my physician). I hit the fitness center. i could barely walk on the treadmill for a half hour. Four months later, just yesterday in fact, I hit 4 mph for a half hour. (I can't run due to previous ankle injuries) It felt great. I do this 5 days a week now and just hope that the endorphins keep me at it. That and the fact that I dropped 2 sizes in 4 months.
    I understand how hard it is for some people to fit exercise into their lives. I have understood that for awhile (like for 18 years), but starting the program myself has made it just that much clearer.

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  8. I think it's fantastic that you've made so much progress, and I'm sure your struggles make it easier for you to work with patients who share similar problems.

    As for me, I've been fortunate in that I've been spared many health problems so far (knock on wood), but I have had some pretty heinous experiences with doctors which have (I hope) made it easier for me to understand what my patients are thinking and how to more effectively communicate with them.

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  9. Good for you for starting something so positive! A pedometer is a great eye-opener; I still remember the first time I wore one in clinic, thinking I would easily collect several thousand steps - and how appalled I was to see less than 1600 at the end of the day :{

    I've had my share of being a patinet, and try to do what I can to remain healthy. I think that recognizing how much life can interfere with taking care of ourselves and acknowledging this to patients is one of the best things that I've adapted into my practice. "Never stop trying" and "Tomorrow is another day" are the mantras I share with my patients when they beat themselves up about weight or therapy programs, and I try to keep them in mind for myself as well!

    Keep us informed of your progress so we can keep cheering you on!

    A

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  10. Good luck on your journey to better health! It took until my third baby for me to have the wake up call that MY health was just as important as taking care of the kids, because if something happens to me...well, let's not go there.

    I developed gastroparesis with my first pregnancy and it has never gone away. No readily identifiable cause, it just is what it is. I was on chronic meds for it for several years, but after my third baby died of Potter's Syndrome, I was very motivated to get off of everything (just in case...we don't think that the PPIs or Reglan had anything to do with it, but we just wanted to be very careful) before getting pregnant again. I discovered that running three times a week keeps my gut functioning. If I don't run, I start to puke again. Quite motivating, really.

    But I didn't love it at first. It hurts, it's hard, there's always a reason not to go. Fortunately I had a buddy that kept me honest on my workout schedule and after a few weeks I suddenly realized that I was able to run for 10 minutes without thinking I was going to die. So the next day I ran 11 minutes. And then 12...and the rest is history. Since then, I've done 5 half marathons and a full, and am signed up for another full in the spring.

    I think a 5k is a GREAT place to start. Who knows - you might even like it! GOOD LUCK!

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  12. I have had some emotional spells that I think have made me a better psychiatrist. I got demoted from a position I really liked and that set me off for months with irritablity and negative thinking, which I eventually sought help for. And when my daughter developed a really serious behavioral disorder, my husband and I went to a therapist together. I learned how annoying it is, and how helpful, when therapists say they don't have all the answers. And also what a blessing it is to take a helpful medicine, even if it is a continual aggravation and reminder that something is wrong.

    I wanted to post this in part because emotional symptoms are even more stigmatized than those related to weight or to a diagnosed illness.

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