Vol.13, No. 7
Welcome to the October edition of Tips and Topics. Thanks for reading.
David Mee-Lee M.D.
I just returned from Seoul, South Korea, my first trip there. It was fascinating and I’ll tell you more in SOUL from Seoul. The main reason I traveled there was to participate in an International Lifestyle Medicine and Addiction symposium hosted by Sahmyook University. They were celebrating the official opening of their brand new Lifestyle Medicine and Health Promotion Institute.
One of the invited keynote speakers was Edward M. Phillips, M.D., Founder and Director, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, Massachusetts; and Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School. Like addiction treatment, lifestyle medicine is a neglected, yet so important body of knowledge too little taught in medical school and across all the helping professions. Dr. Phillips highlighted some facts and figures which will convince you too it is time to pay more attention to lifestyle medicine and wellness.
Review these keynote points and see if you can ignore the need to embrace lifestyle changes in your life and the nation’s.
Dr. Phillips opened by a “Call to Arms (and Legs)”. He said:
Here are more facts and figures:
* Increases 55% all causes of mortality (van Dam RM et al. BMJ. 2008;337:a1440)
* Increases 44% cancer mortality (van Dam RM et al. BMJ. 2008;337:a1440)
* Increases 72% cardiovascular mortality (van Dam RM et al. BMJ. 2008;337:a1440)
I know it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over with all those big picture statistics and wonder what is the impact at the ground level of your daily life. We’ll get to what you can do soon. But first a few more big picture statistics which will inspire you to make even a small change in lifestyle.
Take note of the Wellness Dividend for just a 2% change in lifestyle.
If we made a small change of 2% in weight, activity, smoking, etc. e.g., walking an additional 500 steps a day or giving up the last cookie, the result:
So let’s bring this all closer to home- from the big statistical picture to ‘where the rubber meets the road’ in your running shoes or with the fork at your meal table. Dr. Phillips had the audience assess their own health habits.
Get with a group of friends or acquaintances and see who is the last person standing.
Here are the instructions:
Everybody stands up and if you answer “yes” to any of the questions, sit down and take a seat at that point.
Here are the questions:
1. Do you smoke cigarettes? – Sit down if you are a smoker.
2. Is your BMI (Body Mass Index) equal to or greater than 25kg/m2? – Underweight is <18.5; Normal weight = 18.5 – 24.9; Overweight = 25 – 29.9; Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater.
3. Do you eat less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day? – If yes, then sit down.
4. Do you drink more than one drink a day? – “One drink” = 12 ounces of regular beer; 5 ounces of red wine; 1.5 ounces of liquor.
5. Do you do less than 150 minutes/week of physical activity/exercise? – If you are a bit of a couch potato, take a seat…OK to be a couch potato for a moment as you look around and see if anyone is still standing.
6. Finally do you sleep less than 6-7 hours/night? – If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, that is a tough lifestyle change in our fast paced, over-packed lives.
When I did this with a large group, I know I wasn’t the last person standing; and there were very few excellent specimens of lifestyle role models standing after just those six questions. How did you rate with your own health habits and lifestyle?
The secret of success is to aim low – so don’t try to change your lifestyle all at once. This is where BJ Fogg, PhD has some great advice – http://www.bjfogg.com
Take a look at Tiny Habits ® and become inspired to start with just your 2% or a tiny habit.
As Dr. Phillips said, maybe you could start with just 500 steps per day, not 10,000 a day. Or choosing not to take that last cookie or last spoonful of desert rather than promise to never eat desert for the next year.
There are a number of methods on the same theme, but here is the Fogg Method:
Step 1: Get specific about what lifestyle change you want to make (e.g., do some push-ups to strengthen my biceps and core.)
Step 2: Make it easy (e.g., plan on a tiny habit of just two push-ups to start with.)
Step 3: Trigger the behavior – what will prompt yourself to remember to do the tiny habit (e.g., after I brush my teeth, I will do two push-ups.)
Why is it always hard to obtain as much respect for prevention and lifestyle change as it is for a new surgical laser machine or a state-of-the-art center for cancer treatment? Yet lifestyle change can make such a difference to your health and health care costs.
We preach what we need to learn – and I am learning too.
It is so fascinating to me to travel the world and see new places and cultures. So here are some “culture shocks” I noted on my first trip to Seoul – SOUL from Seoul if you like. From the variety of people I spoke with, there seemed to be consensus that these observations were true and typical:
On the healthcare front there were some surprises too:
There is much more SOUL from Seoul that I could share. But this gives you a taste of South Korea, not to mention my trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. I looked out onto North Korea and wondered if Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, was staring back at me.
I don’t think so.
As you contemplate your own lifestyle, I want you to know about the Institute for Wellness Education of which I am one of the co-founders. Our desire is to drive cultural transformation so health and wellness become the norm for individuals, communities, and the nation: https://www.instituteforwellness.com/advocates/
You may be interested in taking the Level 1 fundamentals course: “Take Charge of Your Life: Be Well to Do Well.” This includes Interactive Journaling using “My Personal Health Journal.” Take a look at the 10 modules in the Level 1 course at: https://www.instituteforwellness.com/wellness-coaches-course-overview/
Here’s to your health and well-being.
Until next time
Thank-you for joining us this month. See you in late November.