Lying to one’s self is a great and necessary art. Heck, a well constructed self-deception is sometimes the only thing that gets us through the day…or the night. Dying of cancer? Denial, self deception, is the first step to healing the heart and soul if not the body.
Still, if it is the truth that sets us free it might be a good idea to minimize self-deception.
If there were an Olympic event to test the limits of self-deception, the decathlon would be in the area of health; more ways to tell one’s self lies and bigger lies than about any other field. Gonna lose 10 pounds, start running, stop eating potato chips, getting up at night to eat hot buttered toast, will get to bed earlier, sleep better, quit over-training, under-training, never-training, eat more bacon, less bacon, become a vegetarian, become a bow hunter and only eat fresh kill, only fruit that falls from the tree, eat things with a face, without a face, well, whatever. Boy could I go on; as a doc I’ve heard some beauts! And, I could add some of my own you can be sure.
Well to help people stop lying to themselves, to me and to their future I invented, with Balasubramanian Kumar’s help , a software system to track the biological markers that reveal true behavior and reflect it back onto the patient, the self, in such a way as to guide, define and correct exercise, dietary and stress behavior. This is a software environment that generates graphs that can be moved to show comparative change of different health markers. For example: the graph of testosterone and cortisol over time can sometimes highlight how these variables move together, or, more commonly, how testosterone and insulin move inversely. How triglycerides track and relate to LDL diameter and density. We know that lower triglycerides mean larger and less dense LDL but the degree of change of the one and its effect on the other varies immensely from one person to another. Does one glass of wine or two make the difference for you? Only the graphs can tell. And more, once the graphing is in place you can see if you really were only drinking one glass of wine a day. And if you think you could not possibly be mistaken about this and would not need a graph to know then you do not know human nature. Ask the patient: have you been eating desserts? No! Graph says: Yes!! Patient says: well maybe occasionally. Graph says: once a week at least!
OK, now you have the idea that graphing and sequentially following biological data is the only reliable way to track true behavior; behavior shriven of self deception. The question then becomes which variables to track. Well, let me suggest one not to bother with; or at least into which to put little stock.
Weight. Nearly useless. It is the one most people know and track but it is almost useless for long term evaluation of your health trajectory. An illustration might make my point. I’ve had dozens of people, mostly men, well into their 50’s, 60’s, even 70’s tell me: “I weigh the same as I did when I graduated high school.” This is usually recounted with a lift of the chin and a swell of the chest. My simple, cruel rejoinder- I usually get away with this by an accompanying chuckle- my rejoinder is: “I’ll bet you don’t look the same, run as fast or, ahem, last as long.” Their smile fades and they rarely hit me.
You need to track numbers that actually matter: heart rate variability, resting heart rate, coronary calcium, bone mineral density, insulin, HDL 2b, testosterone, hemoglogin A1c, triglycerides, LDL structure, growth hormone; the list is long.
There is another kind of lie this method will reveal: the lie, the inadvertent lie, that the nutritionist, the cardiologist, the diet guru, the media, the latest diet book fad, on and on ad nauseum, has told you. Are the numbers getting better as you follow the complex array of data? One inadvertent liar will tell you fasting glucose will go down, your waist will go down, your weight will go down, or, again, whatever, but the entire array when balanced and understood will get better when you are following the right advice for you.
Losing weight but your bone mineral density is going down? Bad advice and bad diet. Fasting glucose is going down but your resting heart rate is going up? Bad advice and bad diet. Well, assuming you aren’t lying to yourself and are actually following the plan.
Liar’s Insurance is what is needed: hard data, well measured, and well planned, followed over time is your only guarantee of good health. That, and great genetics, but I can’t help you there.
Smile, Have Fun and God Speed,