by Michael Anchors, MD, PhD
Patients use a lot of meaningless words, as though mere talking is enough. For example they are eager to tell me they eat “healthy”. I have no idea what they mean. The word “healthy”, an adjective, means ‘not sick’. So are they saying they eat not-sick? What does that mean?
When pressed on the “healthy” issue, they used to tell me they ate low-fat foods and avoided red meat. Now they have absorbed enough news media to know that red meat is okay (TIME magazine June 23, 2014 and November 9, 2016); carbs are the real problem. But recently they have started telling me they avoid “processed” food. Other than a few fruits, aren’t all foods processed before being eaten? I’m confused.
Other malapropisms. “Natural”. The dictionary defines it as “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.” By that definition there’s nothing in the store that’s natural other than the rock used to wedge the door open. Or how about “organic”? The dictionary defines that as “of, relating to or derived from living matter” or “of or relating to a bodily organ”. Which one of these things is meant?
Talk sense. Use real words. Stop focusing on food. Food is just food. You can eat what you like, as long as you’re not snacking or eating huge portions.
On the first visit many people are proud of exercising. They seem unphased that for all their exercise, they gained weight. Their explanation — “muscle weighs more than fat” — is nonsense; muscle is more dense than fat, not heavier. On the second visit patients adopt a different dodge. They are still exercising, of course because they believe exercise makes you lose weight, even when they know it does not. In America belief trumps knowledge. (Pun intended)
So now patients tell me they are exercising to “tone up”. Asked what “tone up” means, they point to the loose skin hanging from their upper arms. They know better than to tell me that exercise makes their skin shrink, so they say exercise fills up the underlying space with muscle. But it doesn’t, especially not in women. Without testosterone women can’t build much muscle. Only the surgeon’s knife can eliminate the loose skin, and it’s usually not worth it. My two cents.