Medical advice choices
Oct. 12, 2015
by Ivan Raconteur

I had my annual visit with the doc last week. Those encounters are always good for a laugh.

My simple definition of a visit to the doctor is: “Checking my dignity at the door and paying money I don’t have for the privilege of having someone tell me what I already know, and would rather not hear.”

As I sat alone in the exam room waiting for my audience with the doc, it occurred to me how little those places have changed.

Medicine has changed a lot over the past half century, but those little exam rooms are the same now as when I was a kid.

The prominent feature is the exam table with the roll of paper on it to protect the surface, and the pull-out step at the end.

There is the cabinet in the corner with a row of apothecary jars along the top containing cotton balls, tongue depressors, and gauze.

Also on the table is one of those little rubber mallets for testing a patient’s reflexes.

Hanging above the table is a blood pressure cuff.

The color scheme in my current doc’s office is neutral hues, as opposed to the stark black and white clinic in my youth, and the new doc seems to favor those stylized outdoor scenes rather than Norman Rockwell prints, but other than those subtle differences, the rooms could be identical.

When the doc breezed in, we went through the usual poking, peering, and prodding.

Then we got to the advice portion of the program.

I confessed to the doc I am concerned about the amount of weight I have put on during the past year.

He said the first thing he recommends to anyone wishing to reduce weight is to eliminate all liquid calories.

I didn’t like the sound of that.

He explained that meant I would have to eliminate all juice, soda, fancy coffee drinks, malts, smoothies, and, of course, refreshing adult beverages.

I pointed out that wine is good for me, but he said if I was serious, I’d have to cut out all juice, including the fermented kind.

This basically leaves me just a few options.

I can have my usual cup of Earl Grey tea in the morning, and a cup of black coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Other than that, I will be drinking gallons and gallons of water.

The doc said he might accept an argument for an occasional glass of skim milk, since this contains some nutritional value, but everything else would be off the menu.

I like my doc. He is not excitable or judgemental like some of his profession. He is laid-back, reasonable, and straightforward.

He didn’t actually order me to give up liquid calories. He simply said if I was serious about weight loss, that is the path I should take, because liquid calories add up quickly and contribute little or no nutritional value.

I am carefully considering his advice, since I am paying for it, but I am also considering the free advice I got after that visit.

If you want plenty of good, free advice, all you have to do is ask a few questions at the office or among friends, and a wealth of options will be presented.

One unpaid consultant said all the men in his family had enjoyed their beer, and lived long lives. His great-grandfather smoked cigars and a pipe until the day he died at age 103.

Another fellow said his grandad started each day with a couple fried eggs and a half-pound of bacon, and lived to a ripe old age.

There was also an account of a relative who smoked like a chimney and enjoyed a big beaker of whiskey after dinner each night, and outlived all his health-consicous friends.

I especially enjoy the tales of those special uncles – the ones who never went to bed before 3 a.m., spent every day dancing, socializing, and enjoying refreshing adult beverages, and who lived to a venerable age while managing to look much better than they deserved to (in the opinion of their critical contemporaries). One, in particular, lived large, enjoyed cheese on everything, and died with a smile on his face.

I haven’t yet decided which advice I should follow.

I really would like to lose some weight and improve my fitness, but the prescription for that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

On the other hand, the bacon-booze-and-cigarette plan, combined with ample doses of dancing and socializing, seems intriguing.

I can’t help thinking genetics has as much to do with it as anything.

The cards we are dealt may have more of an influence on longevity than our behavior.

Some people take care of themselves their whole lives and die much too young, while others pay no attention to their health and seem destined to live forever.

If it’s true that our behavior can’t overcome our genes, I’d rather take my chances and whoop it up, as opposed to dying of boredom at age 106.

I’m not sure if it is better, but the free advice sure sounds like more fun than the advice for which I paid.

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