Democrats and Republicans Should All Be Mavericks about Health


Four years ago, before the last presidential election, I wrote this post. I think it’s worth revisiting again. The media branded the last Republican presidential candidate a “maverick” and it made the word suddenly popular and in vogue. But the politics obscured its meaning – as politics so often do. Being a maverick means a lot more than simply not always voting with one’s own political party.

Being a maverick means you make up your own mind about everything, you don’t “run with the herd”, you determine your plan of action and you then have the guts to follow through on your plan. Maverick Health was founded on these principles. Here are some thoughts on why – whether you are a Democrat or a Republican – you should absolutely be a maverick about your health.

Health Care Reform Will Not Cure What Ails Us

  • The majority of our occupations and many of our recreational activities are sedentary. In order for our bodies to function properly we simply must budget extra time into already busy lives to exercise. There is no kind of health care reform that can help with this – we are the only ones who can reform our own behaviors.
  • Most of our neighborhoods and communities are designed so we have to drive everywhere. If we could walk or bike to work, school, the drug store and our children’s’ sports events we might build some physical activity into our daily lives. It will take decades to rebuild our towns and neighborhoods so they are friendlier to our health, in the meantime we can only adapt our behaviors to current circumstances.
  • Our diets have too many calories, too much fat and too few nutrients. The result? We are plagued with epidemics of obesity and diabetes both of which lead to a long list of other chronic diseases. Plus they increase our risk of catastrophic events, too, like heart attacks and strokes. When we demand and purchase healthier foods and close our wallets to unhealthy convenience foods then more and more healthy food will be made available to us. Buy it and it will come.
  • Many of us obtain our sense of community and citizenship from passive consumption of an ever-present media instead of from active participation in local service. This leaves us feeling alienated and adds to our stress levels. Perhaps it is time to turn off the TV and put our money and energies into local efforts where we can have both a direct impact and the comfort of interpersonal connections.
  • Our “health” care system only pays to treat sickness (and that’s only IF you are lucky enough to have access to it). Doctors and other health professionals are short on time and many lack the skills required to keep you well. That’s because most were trained to treat you only after you get sick. Staying healthy has been left entirely up to you.

How to Be a Maverick about Your Health – 3 Steps

  1. Learn what your own health risks are and how they should be treated – by both you and your health professional. (This is what makes you a maverick – you are not leaving your health to someone else or to chance – you are taking charge.)
  2. Make any lifestyle changes that will reduce your risks and talk to your health professional about whether you need any tests or medications.
  3. Measure your efforts. Whether it is how many minutes you exercise, how many calories you eat, your weight, your blood pressure or blood sugar, you won’t know if you are succeeding unless you measure.

Being a Successful Maverick

Some of my patients succeed and some fail at risk reduction. In my practice, unlike here on the Web, I am able to make sure each person knows his or her particular risks and what should be done about them – both by them and by me. So, if they all have the information they need, why do some succeed in reducing their risks while others don’t? Three factors seem to lead to a fourth one – and it’s the fourth one that finally guarantees success:

  1. Knowledge and understanding – thinking through the pros and cons of changing versus not changing behaviors.
  2. Time – it takes time for this knowledge and understanding to mature into action.
  3. A (usually frightening) life event OR a pact with a loved one – that’s what seems to prompt action to be taken.
  4. Finally – the person makes up his or her own mind to make a change.

Every single successful person I’ve talked to has said the same thing. Change was impossible until they made up their own mind. That’s what mavericks do – they make up their own mind. Everyone tells me that once they did that the change wasn’t hard at all. Go figure.

Are you a maverick? If so – why? If not – why not?

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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