Listen. I know what I do for a living. I know the expectations of others when they see me in the office, at church, at the grocery store and in the liquor store (just kidding, I never go to the liquor store).
If a patient sees me outside of the office, they are totally sizing me up. No too long ago, I went to the grocery store just around the corner from the office to pick up some groceries before the drive home. I saw at least half a dozen patients in there. Each one gazing into my grocery cart checking out what magical food options I chose. Each one with a little puzzled look on their faces.
Probably because I have the same crap in my cart that they have in theirs.
I’m not proud that my kids have started eating Lunchables at an alarming rate. Or Doritos. Or Cheez-Its. Or Foot Long Fruit Roll-Ups. Or that I had a 6 pack of Mountain Dew in my cart. Who needs liquor stores when my drink of choice is the Dew? In very small doses, mind you, because that shit is like poison. Delicious, sugary, syrupy, caffeine-y poison. And the color of pee to boot. Glow in the dark pee. Who wouldn’t crave such an attractive drink?
I try, just like everyone else, to eat healthier. To exercise more. To get more rest. To manage my stress. And I fall short, just like everyone else.
To be sure, there are folks out there that eat perfectly. They avoid all the pitfalls of too much salt, too much sugar, too many calories. They drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine, eat the recommended amounts of organic fruits and vegetables. And gosh, they are a dream come true to someone like me. Or just really annoying to everyone else.
They never taught nutrition to me in medical school. I learned it on the fly. Mostly from reading, some from good old-fashioned common sense, and the rest from a nutritionist. So much of my work is about helping people change their bad eating habits to avoid, reduce, or reverse chronic health problems (i.e. diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia). I have to educate them about the right way to eat and live. How much money would we save the system if we all avoided things like Mountain Dew and Fruit Roll-Ups? If we got up from the couch instead of binge-watching our favorite mindless shows? If we taught our children those same healthy habits?
I am aware that I am a role model of sorts. People are watching me and taking cues from my behaviors. I want my patients to see me as someone that lives the life that I encourage them to live. I want to live the best life that I can and I want the same for all of them. I maintain my weight. I make healthy food choices. I exercise and I enjoy it.
And once in a while I want a Mountain Dew.