Dignity, Meaning, Uniqueness and Health

I would like to give you a deeper sense of the importance of precision, individualized medical care; of the importance of data in the optimization of athletic performance and in longevity.

However, I will need to take what at first blush may look like a detour to get there. I want to explore why people are hard pressed to see what should be almost intuitive; that individualized medicine and training is the only rational way to approach these issues.

Life is hard to endure when we have no sense of the meaning of life; its purpose. Now, while we are having fun, even mindless fun, the absence of meaning and purpose doesn’t oppress us, doesn’t impair our desire to live and love. When life shows its hand; when life brings trouble, it always does, then a reason to go on becomes a very attractive thing. In the light of meaning and purpose we will overcome adversity and carry on.

One of the ways we lose meaing and purpose is by participating in the debasement of language. When language is crisp and rich we can express ourselves; even understand ourselves, know our motives, know our heart. When language is impoverished we are as well. Even those among us who are less verbal recognize when language has lost its own meaning and purpose.

Let me illustrate. Every child is told they are ‘unique’, ‘special’, even ‘gifted.’ Well, besides the silly tautology that we are all ‘unique’ most kids see through this sham ego building. They either become deluded about their ‘specialness’ or cynical about intentions and the meaning of language.  Words become empty or signify some Kabuki theater they may not understand but know is not real.

In the same way we all know we are different, unique, special, but somehow believe that industrialized, assembly line diagnosis, medications and other therapies that represent progress are the path to health. We all, all members of Western, Industrialized Countries just happen to get diabetes, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure; we live longer so sure we get sick. Or, alternatively, we don’t believe that but believe we are all banished children of some primal past suffering modern diseases because we lost our hunting axe and lion skin loin cloth; we should all be great athletes living some fantasy of blood, tooth and claw. Just another, though admittedly better, one-size fits all model of sameness.

The debasement of language, the loss of understanding that we actually are unique, the assembly line stamped-out sameness we sub-consciously assume ourselves to be conflate in our inner selves to strip us of dignity. Unbeknownst to us, our inner feelings of sameness, leads us like sheep to the slaughter; leads us to overlook how individual everything from reactions to peanuts to which blood pressure medication to use to whether or not your high cholesterol puts you at risk of heart disease. Many with cholesterol of over 400 never get heart disease and many with cholesterol of 150 do; yet modern medicine, no modern thought, would treat the high one and bless the low one; wrong one treated, wrong one sent home without treatment. Such things are not anomalies, oddities or rare; such things are the norm. You just don’t know, can’t know, if you don’t measure it directly, precisely and often.

The same is true of your training. One man’s workout is another’s sure path to tendonitis, cortisol overshoot and worsening, I said worsening of his diabetes. Over-training can keep you from peak performance as surely as under or inappropriate training.

While our genome is old, and most of it changes slowly, some of it has changed and this is partially revealed in clan- can’t say ‘race’ anymore- distinctions of body habitus, food preferences and overall lifestyle choices. Some of us have Ferraris for mitochondria and others have Hondas. Born that way; can’t change it. I will always advocate for maximizing our mitochondrial potential but the differences will remain. You need to measure that to be able to address that; to be able to address that in proper diet, proper exercise and proper spiritual/relaxation behavior.

So back to language and dignity and meaning: I say, word, I say you are all biologically different enough and that difference must be known and measured for medicine, for training, for health reasons to make the right choices: you are unique. Believe that and act on it; don’t be Zombies following late night hucksters selling Vitamin D, Moon Howling, and beef jerky. Don’t be infantilized patients taking every blasted medicine sold as the latest medical breakthrough. Know your actual risk of heart disease, know your actual biomechanical joint issues, know the proper execution of a squat; then make them better.

It is important, as I might be seen to have slandered everyone from your personal doctor to institutional medicine to your local trainer; it is important to know I love my profession, most of its practitioners and overall, institutional medicine as well.  I work with great trainers and eat beef jerky when I am rushed; heck I even believe that the Paleo craze is a contribution to making people rethink their diets and exercise selection. I just know that after all is said and done most of us still need to go back to the office and eat at the local restaurant; you need to have an accurate way to assess the needed, the needed, level of discipline, of diet, of type and intensity of exercise. You must have that to maximize the gains you want and reasonably can expect to attain.

Now it may occur to you that I’ve over thought the problem; that I don’t need to invoke the debasement of language, the very engines of human motivation and the loss of meaning and purpose in the industrialized human condition to account for the fact that people don’t do the rational thing and see their health future through the lens of their own biological uniqueness. Well the fact is I’ve been a doc for a very long time, seen many different kinds of irrational thinking but at bottom I am left with a very Platonic view of humans: when they see The Good and Understand It, they will choose it. They simply cannot, through the cloud of advertisement and institutional inertia; they cannot see The Good. They cannot see that they are biologically unique, that there is a way to act on this conviction and that it matters that they do so. I am arguing that each of us with our rightful dignity intact would expect, no demand, more personalized attention from our health-care providers, our trainers and our cooks; be they ourselves or the Chef at the local restaurant. Every rep under the squat bar is important, every meal matters and if you don’t know if your mitochondria are Ferraris under wraps or Hondas going full blast, if you don’t know that your testosterone is low because you eat like a girl or low because that is just the way it is; if you don’t know these and hundreds of other things then ‘you don’t know Jack.’ And you should. Your life depends on it.

Stand on your dignity as an individual. A proper dignity of self would have kept millions of women from taking the same dose of PremPro and the diseases of inappropriate hormone replacement could have been prevented. A proper dignity of self would keep millions of people from taking statins and perhaps lead a different several millions to take them. A proper dignity of self, an understanding of your worth, your uniqueness should keep you from buying every supplement sold on late night television. You are not a machine but a wonderful, amazing animal. King of all animals, dignified by a Divine imprint.

Stand up, don’t be part of the machine!

Smile, Have Fun and God Speed,

Dr.  Mike

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