Yeah, but I'll be alright (I think!) 

 

Let me tell you a story... 

A few years ago I carried out some research on London Bus Drivers investigating if they had high risk of heart disease based on the fact that their job meant they were inactive most of their working day. The drivers would come in to see me, some full of bravado confident that they were healthy just because they were slim, and others who were overweight assumed they knew what their results would say so there was no point testing themselves. They already 'knew' they would have high cholesterol. But if they knew, why weren't they doing anything about it? More often than not, we all know when we need to work on our health, but we still don't do it. Why? 

I remember one guy who came in to see me. He was a bit overweight, not significantly, but he was interested to know what his glucose (blood sugar) was like because his mother had type 2 diabetes. Before I tested him, I asked him about his current lifestyle. He told me that he worked very hard, long shifts with little time off. So when he did get his down time he made sure he treated himself and his family having take-aways a few times a week, drove a nice car, had a few drinks most evenings, because after (all in his words) he "f-ing deserved it". He was very clear and strong that his lifestyle was something he felt he deserved. I couldn't disagree, of course he deserved to have good things in life, eat what he wants and drive nice cars. But here's the thing. When I measured his blood glucose it was very high, especially as he told me he hadn't eaten yet that day. This was an alarming result to me, one which told me he was well on his way to developing type 2 diabetes. He was visibly disappointed and yet still told me he probably wouldn't change the way he lived, because, as we've established, he "f-ing deserved it!". But what was "it"? I asked if I could ask him some more questions, but promised I wouldn’t tell him what to do, or how he was being 'unhealthy' - he already knew this. So he agreed.  

I was interested to know what 'IT' was. It turned out that 'IT' was feeling treated and rewarded for all his hard work. Which is something we all need to feel in order to enjoy life. But it is counter intuitive that this should come at a price to our health, or worse still, shorten the quality or length of our lives! But rather than tell this man that he HAD to change his behaviour, it was more important to me that he understood what his current behaviour was doing to his body – OK it may have been making him feel 'rewarded, or treated', but in actual fact, his diet and lack of physical activity was damaging the glucose receptor cells in his muscles meaning his blood sugar was staying high. This in itself was also contributing to prolonged raised blood sugar. A sure-fire recipe for developing type 2 diabetes. After explaining this, we both sat for a few seconds in silence. The man paused and looked at me and said - "I'm a f'ing idiot! How could I be so self-destructive and stupid to think I was treating myself when I'm really not. I don't want to feel ill, to have problems with my feet, or have to inject insulin!! That's it, it's got to change. I'm getting a bike, no more takeaways, and the kids will start walking to school".  Now, this was a drastic and dramatic turnaround for someone so adamant that he didn't want to change. Not everyone can manage this or do so in such short amount of time. What was his secret?  

Basically he knew from watching his mother grow old with diabetes just how debilitating it can be, how severe diabetes is and how it affected her life. Ok, so the astute of you will say he knew this all along and it didn't make him want to change his behaviour. True, but what he hadn't done before we met was join the dots between HIS lifestyle and the same illness that HIS mother had. And this is often true for many people who have loved ones with illnesses. We see them, but we don't believe or want to believe that the same lifestyle could damage us too.  

Take a close look at your lifestyle, really be honest with yourself, despite feeling nice to eat what you want and sit a lot, is it damaging your health? Will you look back in a few years and wish you'd taken better care of yourself? If the answer is yes, then do something about it, don't bury your head in the sand.  

All sounds a bit morbid, doesn't it? But, here's the great news is, to a large degree, your health is in your hands, that's good and bad health. We all have the capacity to make changes, and even the simplest change can contribute to YOUR health and well being regardless of your family history. But, to make those changes, you have to join the dots, and understand how severe things can be. I think It's better to do this, then to wait until an illness takes hold. What do you think?