What is the Difference Between Acknowledgement
I am in deep gratitude to my family, especially my daughter, Mya; my three siblings, Jock, Denise, and Theresa; and my aunt Amber, for understanding my “absence” as I have pursued this vision. To my co-workers at Health Associates Medical Group of more than twenty-five years for putting up with my restlessness, changing schedules, and moods as I followed my dream—especially my boss, friend, and supervising physician, Michael J. Kwiker, DO. To all the wonderful clinicians and researchers who have inspired me, taught me, and given me creative ideas on the big picture of nutritional and preventive medicine, especially Jeffrey Bland, phd; Alan Gaby, MD; and Jonathan Wright, MD. To Raj Chopra Sr. Of Tishcon Corporation for keeping Clinical Pearls and the Expert Interviews alive, as they are a great service and a significant part of my life’s work. To Galen Miler, Gerardo Perez, and Michael Desmond, my closest friends, business confidants, and most importantly people who really believed in me when I was struggling to believe in myself. To my former wife and close friend, Karen Rae Hamilton, who put up with the Clinical Pearls years, and to this day is one of my greatest supporters.
I want to thank the following current book authors, clinicians, and researchers who have created a vision for a practical and viable healthcare model that can not only slow and prevent chronic disease but also actually reverse it, while at the same time preserving the ecology of the planet as a whole. James W. Anderson, MD; Neal D. Barnard, MD; Dan Buettner; T. Colin Campbell, phd; Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD; Rip Esselstyn; Richard M. Fleming, MD; Joel Fuhrman, MD; David J.A. Jenkins, MD, phd, dsc; Daphne Miller, MD; Dean Ornish, MD; John Robbins; Paul and Barbara Stitt; Makoto Suzuki, MD; Bradley J. Willcox, MD; and D. Craig Willcox, phd.
When I am in a grocery store and see a stressed-out parent dragging an overweight or obese child with one hand and pushing a shopping cart full of empty-calorie, sweet-fat foods with the other, I feel deeply saddened. When I flip on the television to watch the Olympic Games, symbol of humankind’s greatest physical potential, and see commercials advertising high-calorie fast food from major U.S. corporations, I shake my head. And when I look at a group of overweight adults, and now children, and recognize the obvious risk factors for vascular disease, diabetes, and other dangerous yet avoidable chronic diseases, I am motivated to make a difference. Being an expert in any field means that sometimes you see things the average person cannot. In my case, I need only look at a person’s outward physical state and observe the things they are doing in order to predict what degenerative diseases they have or will eventually develop. I am a physician assistant who has been practicing primary care, nutrition, and integrative medicine since 1983. I know that lifestyle habits and actions have a one-to-one correlation with how we look and feel and what diseases we get. Sometimes, when I see how much people are suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally from unnecessary illness, I want to just grab them and say, “This doesn’t have to happen! You can change this! It is easier than you think! These common diseases are not inevitable!”
My Challenge to You
I am going to challenge you on every page in this book to take the healthcare reform debate out of the hands of the politicians and take charge of creating your own healthcare insurance or security. If we all practiced these 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health we could save billions of dollars as a country, be so much more productive work-wise, and be more present to our families and loved ones. Collectively we could focus our energies and talents on solving the world’s difficult problems. The first step is to educate yourself with understandable, credible, and practical health information. That is my commitment to you: to provide health information that is non-hyped, factual, and usable in the busy, modern world. The second step is to stop blaming others for your present health situation.
The Key to Being Healthy
Yes, government officials could obviously be less wasteful, more efficient and accountable, and not give subsidies to make unhealthy food cheaper, and on and on. But the truth is you can take the issue out of their hands immediately by living these simple lifestyle practices right now! The last time I ate a meal, Uncle Sam didn’t grab my fork and stick it in a fat, juicy steak or grab a piece of pizza and stuff it into my mouth. The last time I turned on the TV, Uncle Sam didn’t chain me to my couch so I couldn’t use the exercycle or treadmill during my favorite show. Uncle Sam didn’t make me take the escalator versus the steps or park as close as possible when I go shopping so that I would not have to walk farther… Are you catching my drift? You are in charge of all of that! Quit blaming the government—or anyone else—for your health! Make simple, good choices about what you put into your mouth every time you eat and commit to moving every day, and our current healthcare crisis will become a non-issue. We will become more productive as a nation, and you will have more time and money to be you. Those industries that don’t have our real health interests at heart will have no power. If we stay well, insurance companies, big pharma, and factory medicine have no muscle. If daily, we make the right whole-food choices and exercise, not only do we stay healthy, but agribusiness and the fast-food industries will then have to change or die. It could happen literally overnight with the simple daily choices we make to feed ourselves.
You might ask, “If it is so obvious, Kirk, why isn’t everybody already doing these things and experiencing health and vitality even into old age?” There are several reasons, but one main reason is that our healthcare model is focused on disease treatment, not on prevention. This is a backward model that can only lead to more chronic disease, more suffering, and more unnecessary medical expenditures. We financially reward people to let disease happen and then treat it. We don’t compensate people and professionals for preventing these chronic diseases in the first place. We don’t give economic incentives for patients to stay well or to businesses to keep their employees well. Insurance companies have no incentive to encourage prevention of disease if they keep raising premiums to treat more chronic diseases and we (individuals, businesses, and government) keep paying the premiums. So with our current healthcare model, unless the “pain” is great enough or the country goes bankrupt, it can’t and won’t lead to necessary change.
At the beginning, I figured that I would just put the final sections of this book down on paper in the shortest, most succinct manner possible so that you could get started right away applying these simple principles to achieve immediate results. I still very much want that for you. Yet for many people, a deeper understanding is important because it puts a reason behind the recommendations. Many people jump on and off healthful practices because they don’t really understand how health works; they are very frustrated and looking for a “quick fix” that never really works in the long run. I strongly believe that if you understand why we are unhealthy as individuals, a country, and now the world, and understand the “how to” of these 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health, you will be able to stay on a positive, health-promoting lifestyle. The truth is that good health is much simpler than investing in the stock market, running a business, or being a working mother with three children. Good health is simple, not rocket science. You will experience an immediate return if you just keep practicing these principles 80 to 90 percent of the time.