A GP Perspective on Healthy Living

GP advice for healthy living

There are millions of articles online about healthy living. It’s a monstrous industry full of complexity, contradiction and confusion.

Yet I find myself wanting to add to the conversation. To get writing and share my ideas.

As a GP, do I really have anything to add?

Do GPs know more about healthy living than other health professionals?

Probably not…

Although our training provides us with a deep knowledge of how the body functions and fails and the ability to recognise reliable evidence, anyone with a bit of curiosity and an internet connection will have access to just as much preventative lifestyle knowledge as their GP.

As a GP’s I get a privileged unique perspective on health.  

I see over 100 patients a week at my practice (That’s well over 50,000 consults in the past 15 years).  And I have the privilege of looking after those patients over many years.

This big picture, long-term view has taught me some valuable things about the benefits and challenges of living well.

A few insights I’d like to share

1. Everything is connected

Your health forms the foundation for everything you do. And every little thing you do affects your health.

The better your health, the better your life is.

2. That means every action has eventual consequences

I see, first hand, the devastating consequences of neglecting ones health . Time and time again patients spend a lifetime chasing other priorities. Money, family, partying.

After a while they start to feel like crap. Productivity drops. Life doesn’t seem as fun.

Eventually things catch up and irreversible damage becomes apparent. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic pain. Resulting in loss of income, loss of freedom, and becoming a burden to others.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There are just as many other patients who put their health first. They make self care a priority and truly enjoy the benefits of looking and feeling better for life, which flows onto everything else they do.

3. Healthy living is actually pretty simple

Patients are always talking to me about what they are doing in order to keep fit, lose weight or stay healthy. As a GP, I get to see what is actually working for people and what fails.

All around us there is a never ending barrage of health claims of new miracle super-foods, diets that work better and workouts that get you fit faster… promising it all with minimal effort.

Too good to be true? You bet.

The truth is, good old ‘normal’ fruit and veg are still extremely good for you. (you know… carrots, apples, oranges, bananas, beans, broccoli etc.) Add in a dose of water, some regular physical activity and sufficient rest and you’re good to go.

You don’t have to eat goji, or shredded coconut, or chia seeds downed with kambucha tea to be healthy. Or strictly restrict your intake of animal products or grains or calories. And you don’t need to do hardcore HIIT workouts or even join a gym to stay fit and active.

Let’s just keep it simple and get the basics right first.

Think: “what could a 6 year old teach me about healthy living?” and do that.

4. But change is deceptively hard

Why is it so hard for us to do what we know is good for us?  It’s so easy to drink water, or eat salad, or walk for 30 minutes each day or sleep for 8 hours.  We already know these things are good for us and there are no physical barriers to action.

But have you actually done any of those things consistently this week?

The problem is not a lack of knowledge.  It’s not a lack of a secret quick fix.

The problem is that most humans find it difficult to make sustainable change.  It is hard because, we are wired maintain old habits, to avoid discomfort, to seek instant pleasure and we live in an manic world where it is easier to be unhealthy.

Building consistent habits and self-control is are learnable skills.  Master these and make healthy living effortless and automatic.

.   .   .

A Fence or an Ambulance

I recently came across a poem titled “A Fence or an Ambulance” by Joseph Marlins. It’s finishes with the lines:

Better put a strong fence ‘round the top of the cliff ; than an ambulance down in the valley.

Fence or ambulance. Healthy living for prevention.

Being a GP feels a lot like being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.  

It would be smarter to build a better fence at the top

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and the cause and prevention of disease.” –Thomas Edison

After treating thousands of patients for their lifestyle related illness, I’m passionate about teaching healthy living as the best prevention.

I want to help you stay healthy, enjoy life and stay away from the doctor. To make your life better today and set you up for a healthy retirement.

I think part of my reason for writing this was to convince myself to keep going. Yes, I may be adding to the noise, but increasing my reach and helping people before they get to my office is my justification.

I’m writing to help people shift their mindset and approach to health. To put their health first , and simply live well.

If I can achieve that, I’m happy.