Everyday health advice drives me nuts!


Everyday health advice. If I read any more “health advice,” mental or physical, that is supposed to be practical advice but is totally wrong and built on mythology, I might explode. Given the “mainstream” unproven drivel that gets reproduced in popular magazines, I think it is pretty amazing any Americans are still alive at all. A little relaxation (deep breathing and focused meditation) — I am doing a lot better.  After all, we still have freedom of speech, although it sometimes gets fragile and needs loving protection.  And you have me, the Renegade Doctor, to tell you what is truthful and right. I didn’t start out to trash “Reader’s Digest” (RD).  My parents of blessed memory had some kind of lifetime subscription, and kept it with a very few cherished books by their bedside, on top of my mother’s premarital “Hope Chest,” which she told me contained clothes she could only “hope” she would fit into again one day. She never did.

Anyway,the first one on this list of “10 Bad Habits And The Best Ways To Quit Them” plagued her — as well as most of my overweight patients — for a very long time. Snacking non-stop, even when not hungry. The first problem is likely one of low blood sugar, which sure makes people really hungry.
It is often associated with diabetes, a condition typically associated with a high blood sugar.  It can start low and go high, or get too low when one is a known diabetic on treatments which can lower it.

The painful fact is that standard, traditional medical treatment — especially insulin — can make diabetes worse.  Most diabetics are on a downward spiral that can leave them blind, make limb amputations necessary, and even lead to their death. So much for the “bad habit” people are generally told to cure with “willpower,” in a lot of cases. The best paradigm for treating most cases of a “symptom” or “habit”  is the one professor George L. Engel of Rochester, New York suggested in the 1950’s “Bio-psycho-social.”

On the medical side, the important mechanism to know is that when you eat, especially something sugary, your blood sugar goes up.  Insulin lowers it, but the mechanism gets worn out after a bit, so the insulin stores it in a fat cell.  They take up space — this is how people get fat. I have explained this one to plenty of people.  Carbohydrates raise blood sugar and make folks fat.  The idea that eating fat makes you fat is a false belief that I have tried to explain away elsewhere.  Cutting down on carbs helps people lose weight and the perceived need to keep “snacking.”

Psychologically —  well, I’ve been to that place as have many of my patients.  This includes being “rewarded” with ice cream whenever I was good.  When I was little, I was very very good, so I got rewarded a lot.  I continued the behavior even after I became too old for my mother to put ice cream in my hand after acts of “goodness.”  I kept eating ice cream to reward myself long after she decided I was basically an amazing pain in the neck. Before that, we had wonderful mother-daughter bonding sessions in the middle of the night when we raided the refrigerator together.  She would hug me and explain I was her daughter and “special” because I was a fat little girl like she was when she was little, and I was clearly her daughter because I needed my midnight “icebox raids” and would always be fat like her and nobody else would understand me either. As for “social,” my eating binges were too solitary and personal to ever qualify for that, but I have seen plenty of women who have a social life built on sharing food indulgences together. These are the kinds of problems a psychiatrist, or many kinds of therapist, can really help with. Problems are made to be solved, and do not often fit the “habit breaking” paradigm.  Still, there is lots for me to say about the myths about health propagated in the public media and generally accepted as truth. As always, the Renegade Doctor brings you to the truth and the light as best she can.

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