Posts Tagged ‘health’

Doctor Internet

September 14, 2010

I am the sort of patient doctors hate. By the time I get into the surgery I can usually tell them what I’ve got and how I want them to treat it. I tend to explain this away by saying “oh, my mum/sister/uncle/friend had the same thing, so I recognised the symptoms.” A more truthful explanation would be “I spent six hours on the internet cross referencing Wikipedia, WebMD, obscure medical journals and occasionally Yahoo! Answers for my symptoms because I don’t trust you as far as I could throw you”, but that’s not a conversation I want to start with a GP whose native language is clearly not English.

The internet is truly god’s gift to hypochondriacs. No matter how trivial the symptoms, the internet can give you at least ten fatal diagnoses, each more gruesome than the last. (Oh, and for those scorning my trust in medical websites – I have watched, with my own eyes, two separate GPs and one walk-in centre nurse using WebMD to try to diagnose my symptoms. One then gave up and used Google, so don’t tell me my research is sub-par.)

The thing about being a hypochondriac is that, to a certain extent at least, it’s a good thing; that is to say, knowing your body well enough to know when something’s wrong and then caring enough to find out what it is and try to fix it, is a decent habit to get into, and a surprisingly uncommon one. I have actually heard people say “I’m sure it’s nothing serious and if it is, I don’t want to know.” Frankly if that’s your attitude, and it does turn out to be something serious and you catch it too late, it will be your fault.

If you haven’t watched any of The Hospital on channel 4, I highly recommend catching an episode or two on 4od – especially if, like me, you enjoy heaping scorn upon stupid people. Bear in mind though that I have private healthcare and am therefore less affected by the total disgust you may feel at the state of the NHS. If you are easily enraged you might want to give it a miss.

The Hospital basically shows how much time, energy and money the NHS is wasting on stupid ignorant teenagers – kids who are diabetic but more interested in drinking and shagging than their insulin levels; kids who have been treated for chlamydia five times but still think they are way too cool to use a condom; girls who are so obsessed with their perfectly normal breasts that they will lie to a whole succession of doctors about their mental state in an attempt to get a free boob job at the taxpayers’ expense. The selfishness and arrogance of these people is absolutely astonishing, but what really makes me sick is the total lack of a sense of responsibility.

Yes, the NHS is flawed. But on the other hand, many of the people using it and complaining about it are actually causing problems for themselves. They expect the doctors to make them better but when the doctor gives them the drugs and tells them when to take them, or gives them a diet plan that will ultimately save them from an early grave, do they listen? Do they go away and follow that professional, potentially life saving advice? No. As one fifteen year old diabetic girl (who was more interested in how much booze her mum was buying for her birthday party than in continuing to stay alive) says, “I do what I want, when I want. I don’t want to check my insulin in case it’s bad news. I just want to be normal.” NEWSFLASH: you have diabetes. Do what your doctor says or you will die. It is that simple.

I just wish people realised that your health is nobody’s responsibility but your own. If you think something is wrong, it is your responsibility to go to your GP. If you think your GP is wrong, it is your responsibility to get a second opinion. And if you’re still not happy and you think the NHS is a shower of bastards, then suck it up and pay to go private – because even if you’re fine, when you’re paying for the doctor’s villa in Italy they’ll do whatever expensive tests you like. At the end of the day you might be poor, but at least you’ll know you’re healthy.



February 1, 2010

… well, if nothing else, that title should garner me a couple of thousand hits.

What I’m here to bitch about today is the relationship between dieting and the internet.  Everywhere I go online at the moment, all I see is this advert about “lose a billion pounds of your belly fat in three hours by following this one weird old tip” or whatever.  I’ve got a few problems with this, and of course, I am now going to explain them to you in long and probably fairly boring detail.

First, and this is very important: it’s not WEIGHT you need to lose – it’s FAT.  Fat is the flabby disgusting stuff that is clogging your arteries and increasing your chances of heart disease and cancer and all that other stuff.  Fat is a substance which you can rid your body of.  Weight is not.  Weight is a measurement of how much everything in your body weighs – the good as well as the bad.  This is absolutely critical. 

Second: YOU CAN’T TARGET YOUR FAT LOSS.  Sorry, but it’s true.  You can’t deliberately lose fat from your belly or your thighs or your upper arms or whatever.  If you have more fat stored there then yes, it might be the place where you first notice the fat disappearing, but there’s no magic food that will remove your stomach flab, or special pill that will vanquish your bingo wings. 

Third: crash diets do not work.  Most of the weight you lose on week-long fad diets is water weight.  You stop dieting; it goes straight back on.  Short term, drastic diets are not only quite dangerous for your health but they simply do not work in the long term.  If two of your three meals a day, for two weeks, consists only of a bowl of cereal (which itself consists pretty much completely of refined white sugar – and you might want to look that shit up for yourself) then yes, after those two weeks, you’ll have shed a few pounds.  But once you go back to whatever you were normally eating for those two meals a day, the fat will pile right back on, and it will have brought a few little fat friends. 

To digress for a moment, I want to explain how this works.  When I asked my mum – who is far, far more educated about this stuff than I could ever hope to be – for advice on improving my diet, she said this:   “Get your first diet right, because it will be the most successful diet you ever go on.”  That’s because in very basic terms, the first time you drastically change what you’re eating, your body notices and it panics.  Your metabolism slows down, which is very bad for any diet, and as soon as you come off the diet your body starts stockpiling fat in case you decide to starve it of its normal intake again. That’s why the more diets you go on, the more weight you put back on when you eventually come off the diet.

And just to quickly explain the metabolism, because even I had never had this properly explained to me until I started taking an active interest in my own health: you need to eat regularly and exercise regularly to keep your metabolism up.  If you find that you don’t really get hungry between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner, or you can skip breakfast and not feel hungry until lunch, don’t be mistaken and think that’s a good thing; it means you’re not processing your energy intake fast enough.  You should eat at least a small (and obviously healthy) snack roughly every 3 hours, and exercise for around 45 minutes a day, to bring your metabolism up to the right level.  I know this from experience; when I first started cutting the crap out of my diet and going to the gym three times a week, it took literally two weeks for me to start feeling genuinely ill if I didn’t eat every three hours.  That’s because the regular eating and exercise had boosted my metabolism to a healthy level.  Not feeling hungry might seem like a blessing when you’re on a diet, but it’s actually not a great sign.

My main point is that there is no quick fix, and this is what the internet is guilty of; offering everyone that magic pill or secret solution that will melt their fat away with no effort on their part.  If you just type the words “how to” into Google, the second result is “how to lose weight fast”.  If you type in the full phrase “how to lose weight”, the phrases offered to finish the sentence are “fast”, “in a week”, “on your face”, “fast and easy”, “on your stomach” and “in a day”.  This is because PEOPLE ARE LAZY.  Everyone knows, deep down, the only way to lose weight is really much simpler than a special type of berry or a pill that makes you poop pure gooey orange fat: eat right, and exercise regularly… but they just don’t want to do it.

There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of just plain lying about weight loss out there on the big bad internet, and a lot of it is designed exclusively to get you to part with your money.  It’s a sad fact that if you pay for a lot of the weight loss ‘programs’ or ebooks or pills available out there, the only thing getting any slimmer will be your wallet.  The saddest thing is that all the real, true, honest information is out there too, but people just won’t look for it because they know they won’t like the answers they find.  And that’s a shame because there are people out there who are totally miserable with their bodies who think that the next fad diet, the next pill, the next superfood will be their magic cure and it just won’t, and in reality all they need to do is pay attention when they’re doing the weekly shop, and think whether they’re really hungry, and change a few habits and just join a fucking gym… and they’ll ignore that advice even though in the long run, even though it might take months or a couple of years to get the effect that they want, there is some bullshit out there being advertised to take a fraction of that time. 

So do me a favour: if you found this site because you were genuinely looking for weight loss advice, I want you to answer this question to yourself, and I want you to answer it honestly.  How long have you spent scouring the world for a quick, easy way to lose weight where you can eat all the shit you like and sit on your arse constantly?  A few months?  A year?  Two years?  Do you realise that if, when you first started looking for the miracle diet, you had just started eating healthily and exercising regularly instead, you could already be your target weight by now – and you wouldn’t have had to suffer through weeks of cabbage soup or choking down Kelloggs Special Shit twice a day or shitting yourself in public!

If you came here looking for a quick fix to buy, I’m not offering that.  What I am offering you is the hard, simple, but ultimately unavoidable truth:  eat better.  Exercise more.  Be healthy, live longer, and enjoy your life.  Love yourself!  It’s that simple.  Give your body what it needs; don’t starve it of the substandard stuff you’re already giving it. 

I mean, taking a pill that makes you poop out some of the fat you’re eating – often involuntarily and in public?  You really need to think about how desperate you are, and how much simpler it would be if you could just muster some goddamn fucking willpower.