By Dr Rhianna Miles
Dr Rhianna Miles is a very close friend and colleague of mine, and works as a Renal Physician on Brisbane’s Southside. She deals compassionately and skilfully with patients with very complex health problems, many stemming from obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. We have been friends since immediately after high school, and despite her intimate understanding of metabolic disease, she has always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I could never understand quite why, as what she ate never seemed that different to me on a superficial level. She is not alone. I deal with patients with similar health issues on a daily basis. This is the other end of the story about how early life habits (discussed in my previous article “What are we eating?”) can result in life long health problems. Her difficulty in achieving real change, and lasting weight loss is also not unique. Over the last couple of years Rhianna looked inward, and made some enormous lifestyle changes that have resulted in tremendous, sustained weight loss, and transformed her long term health prospects. Consequently, I asked her to write a series of guest posts to describe what her insights are. Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing her story in weekly instalments. Enjoy, and Santé!
As another New Year ticks by, I find myself looking over the past two years and the changes I’ve made in my life. Inevitably, for many people, January is the time where we reflect upon our lives and make New Year’s resolutions, which often include life changing choices such as “THIS is the year I’ll lose weight!”
I know. I made the same resolution for basically every January of my adult life. I come from a family rife with obesity and its related health complications. Deep down inside, there was a little voice inside of me that told me, “but it’s not your fault, it’s all in your genes.” And so, inevitably, every year I’d set myself up on some unachievable diet, and fail after a week, or a month, or two months. Sometimes I’d lose nothing, others up to 10kg, and I’d feel “accomplished” and then treat myself with some kind of contraband I’d been withholding for the previous weeks. And inevitably, I’d put all the weight back on. And then some. Slowly as the years wore on, I found my weight just that little bit higher than the year before, each year and every year.
Throughout 2014, I had a number of wake up calls in my life. I am a healthcare professional, and I often get to see patients who struggle with many of the same issues I do. Dutifully I dole out the information to them, that I KNOW I should be following. Eat well. Exercise more. And time after time we all meet again failing in our attempts to trim our waist lines. But in 2014, one of my patients came back 30kg lighter and looking and feeling wonderful.
“Doc,” he said, “I listened to what you said. It was pretty blunt. But you told me that I won’t lose weight unless I pay attention to what I put in my mouth. So I started paying close attention, and now I’m a new man! I just made a decision that I had to do something about my weight, and here I am!” I was flabbergasted. Here was a man who had the same information given to him that I gave all of my obese patients, and yet somehow he’d managed to enact a HUGE change in his life. Shortly after this encounter, my mother was formally diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Deep down I had known for some time (and I’m sure she did, too!) that she was diabetic, but there was something profound about it formally being diagnosed. This, in combination with my father’s diagnosis of type 2 diabetes several years earlier and the strong family history of metabolic risks including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bowel cancer and sleep apnoea all boded poorly for my own health in the future – all the things I spent my days counselling patients about. Then I had a health check of my own. Once again my blood pressure was too high. But this year, it was REALLY high, not just borderline. How much longer was I going to be an ostrich about my own risk for poor health outcomes in the future? So I DECIDED to pay attention to what I put in my mouth, just like my patient.
Next week, Rhianna will discuss how she looked at her own eating patterns, and what kick started her lifestyle change…