Before I moved from Washington State, I had a Canadian doctor who studied in France. When you walked into his clinic, it was like walking into something from the 1960’s. You could have filmed an X-Files episode there. His equipment was either old or looked like it had been cobbled together with pieces of equipment that no longer worked. But I loved him. I had come to him from another doctor who was all talk. That was all he did. The entire visit revolved around his one question: “So, how are you doing?” I guess if I was an MD I could tell him but I kind of thought that it was his job to tell me how I was doing. Instead, he viewed his job as funneling as many hapless souls through his money-making machine as possible in a day. He probably drives a 1973 Porsche RSR America now. Bastard.
My French doctor was different. He examine every single inch of my body. He took tests. He would call me at home and discuss test results. He was eminently interested in lifestyle medicine. His goal wasn’t to treat symptoms and run people out the door but to help his patients learn how to live healthily. The world would be a better place with more doctors like him. When I turned fifty, he told me that it was time to have a fatherly chat.
“You’re fifty now,” he said, “let’s talk about the fork in the road.” I was used to his peculiarities but wasn’t sure where he was going. “You’re healthy now and you have the choice to stay that way. But some of your numbers are starting to elevate. It’s normal but something we will want to address in time.”
“We can do this one of two ways. For most people, I just start prescribing drugs. I would prefer not to but it’s the American Way. You start now with one or two pills twice a day and by the time you are seventy you’re taking fifteen.”
“The other way is to get and stay healthy. It’s the hard way. You need to drop about ten pounds and stay that way. You need to keep up with a good diet and with daily exercise. But you really have to do it. Everyone says they will but no one does. So it’s up to you.”
I’ve never forgotten this conversation and consider it the best medical advice I’ve ever been given.