The Obamacare antidote: Your Personal Affordable Care Act by Vik Khanna; Book excerpt 3

The Affordable Care Act is a lie

Author’s Note:

I am deeply grateful to Rachel Alexander and Steve Laib of The Intellectual Conservative for their willingness to carry this series of excerpts from my new e-book, Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare. As conservatives, we need to speak bluntly about the fact that not only is nothing free, but freedom — from government and industry intrusion into our lives — comes at a price in responsibility and accountability. My e-book provides the roadmap for doing just that.

This is Excerpt 3. See here for Excerpt 1 and Excerpt 2.

From The Second and Third Chapters

ebook_6x9_v4 with blue stripe after pixel checkFor most people (the exceptions being folks with inherited disorders or significant disease), being healthy is not as hard as we make it out to be. We make it hard because we’re often trying to dodge a fundamental fact: it’s easier to search for the magic bullet, never find it, and stop trying. It’s much harder to say to ourselves, “starting tomorrow, I am going to begin fixing myself, and no matter how many small steps it takes or how many times I need to start over, I won’t stop until I succeed.” That’s the attitude of an everyday athlete, and as someone recently tweeted to me: the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.

The first and most important step on your path to better health is to get rid of the people and things that tick you off and bring you down. If they really added value to your life, you wouldn’t be in the predicament you’re in now, would you? You have to hack away the non-essential so that you can find your core strengths and pursue the good health that is your birth right. It’ll be hard to sever ties with old acquaintances (if someone is holding you back or bringing you down, they aren’t really a friend, so stop calling them one), habits, and things (if you find yourself spending too much time online or in front of a TV, it might prove useful to get rid of some of your devices). Can’t watch what you don’t have. In May 2014, my family dropped our cable TV service; for the first time since 1990, I live in a house without cable or satellite TV. It is blissfully quiet. If there is something really worth watching, we stream it. Otherwise, as I can now attest, you’re not missing much.

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These strategies work, are doable by the majority of people, and, more importantly, they are sustainable for the long-term. The entire framework begins with fitness, and if you don’t or won’t accept that premise, then, as far as I am concerned, you’re already finished. This is where the rubber meets the road. You are either willing to change or you aren’t. If you aren’t then your suffering will come in two forms. First and less severe will be the physical suffering that results from a long, inexorable decline into ill health, which even if it doesn’t lead to a premature death, will surely and slowly destroy your daily quality of life. The more painful suffering will be of the emotional and psychological variety, because you’ll look back on your wavering and timidity and know that you blew it when you had the chance to fix things. The pain of regret is ALWAYS greater than the pain of discipline.

I make no apologies for my fitness-first credo. There are dozens of claims some gadget or gizmo is going to make your fitness journey easier (the whole fitness app mania is absurd), or that you can solve your problems with this or that food or drug. If you go those routes, you are subverting your strategy because you are giving primary responsibility to someone else for what ails you and for what is, more often than not, self-inflicted. Your sense of purpose, of finding your fitness path and walking it no matter what, is how you build the heart necessary to succeed. Your success will differ from mine, and that’s fine. It has to suit who you are and where you want to go, but it also should meet normative standards that we know are valuable. Your strategy should also meet the test of experience.

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Pursue fitness first

Establish the highest possible level of cardiorespiratory fitness you can achieve, because it is your foundation. This is critical to avoid underachieving. Even if you are unfit now, every incremental improvement helps lower your risk of disease or premature death, and moves you further away from the pharmacy and the doctor’s office. This is the case no matter whether you are a man or a woman, or even if you already have a disease, such as diabetes. Remember, however, that fitness is not static. It requires ongoing work to get an ongoing benefit.

Start slow and small and add a few minutes of time and intensity each week. Use the options at ExRx.net to find a program that will suit you, based on what you decide to do. If you are determined to lose weight, you will probably need to average an hour or more of aerobic exercise each day. As you become lighter and more fit, you might be able to cut time by working harder for shorter periods. This will ease the pressure on your schedule, but it will increase the effort you must expend. Make sure you are ready for that trade off.

As your fitness improves, branch out and do more difficult things. I am a very big fan of high intensity interval training, which is extremely time efficient, but brutally hard. I use Tabata intervals when I train on my treadmill or indoor bike, and they can be adapted to other aerobic activities. They’re short and tough, like me.

When you are not exercising, teach yourself to walk fast. The federal government’s ridiculous advice to “just walk” has turned us into a nation of larded strollers, which means that no one is ever going to either become more fit or lose weight. Walk as fast as you can whenever and wherever you are, aiming to move as close to 4 mph as possible. There is a strong relationship between normal walking speed and mortality, especially in older adults. This is so because walking speed affects and tells a lot about a person’s state of health in addition to general fitness: balance, movement control, vision, posture, and the health of multiple organ systems. Don’t get to later life as a slow poke. If you do, your stay there is likely to be short and unpleasant. I don’t walk slowly anywhere, not in the grocery store, not even inside my house. Unlike in a car, where speed kills, when it comes to walking, speed saves and improves lives.

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Make sure you target diet quality before quantity

When you aim to eat better, start with this simple goal: eat for quality. When you eat for quality, you will almost always eat fewer Calories, which is a bonus that can help to produce weight loss. My quality parameters are set this way:

25 to 30 grams of fiber daily

80 to 100 grams of protein daily (approximately 1.1 to 1.4 grams of protein per kg of my bodyweight) (6)

About 30 percent of Calories from a variety of mostly naturally occurring, not added, fats

That’s it. It’s all I use to understand whether I am eating well. Why? Because meeting these goals requires that I: 1) eat abundant plant foods, which are the only sources of fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds/legumes/lentils, and whole grains); 2) get protein from a diverse range of sources (lean meat, fish, dairy, soy, beans/legumes/lentils, nuts, and whole grains); and 3) eat a wide range of fats from seafood (mostly salmon and tuna), eggs, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, and whole milk dairy.

Over the last two decades, I believe we’ve been sold a bill of goods about fats by pharma-coddled entities like the American Heart Association, dimwitted health professionals, and self-anointed nutrition experts who wouldn’t know a useful, scientific nutritional principle if it fell on their heads. This includes the leadership of the national health bureaucracy, which cannot communicate effectively even about the single issue of whether or not salt intake matters and, if so, how (7).

I enjoy small amounts of alcohol, in the forms of beer, wine, or Scotch. But, I almost never have more than one drink in an evening, and I don’t drink during the work week, because, as I have gotten older, I have noticed that alcohol disrupts my sleep pattern. And, since I like sleeping (8 to 9 hours nightly), and I am really good at it, drinking less helps me feel better, and it means my Scotch collection will last longer. So, an occasional a glass of the alcohol of your choice is probably fine. But if you don’t drink, this is not a reason to start and, no, you cannot get your entire alcohol intake on Saturday night. And, if you do drink, always keep in mind that alcohol is not a benign substance, and in fact, its benefits, if there are any, have likely been oversold…mostly by people who sell booze.

Here’s what I don’t eat: crap. In fact, here is the world’s simplest diet advice: eat less, eat less crap.

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Your problem is not Pepsi, Coke, McDonald’s, or Burger King. You’re not addicted to their food. If you were, and we took the food away, you’d have withdrawal like alcoholics and drugs addicts have, which could actually kill you. Real addicts engage in adverse behaviors to support their habits; they steal, lie, cheat, and even kill to get their fix. Have you ever heard of anyone being mugged so someone “addicted” to food can get their ice cream? Did you sneak off behind your high school to wolf down M&Ms? To push the idea of food addiction is to advance a concoction that tries to absolve people of responsibility for a problem that we’ve created by promoting conspiracy fantasies. We eat more of everything than our ancestors did, and we do it voluntarily. And, if we were smart, we would take advantage of the fact that we are blessed to live in a culture where food is getting less and less expensive, thanks to an incredible agricultural sector and food industry. America is the only place on earth where people are lame enough to scold a productive industry for actually producing in abundance and reducing the unit costs of buying its goods. And don’t forget that cheap, abundant food and the ubiquitous entertainment that keeps us tied to our chairs is OUR doing.

The baby boomers who grew up with three TV channels and an occasional trip to Burger King decided that was a life of deprivation. As they went on to become the wealthiest generation in American history, they also went about the business of fixing that deprivation: burgers on every corner and 300 entertainment and media options in your pocket. The boomers and the Gen Xers who came after them leveraged their knowledge and money to build a commercial culture that is nearly stifling because we can’t stand to say no. And, I don’t blame them for a bit of it. If I can’t use it wisely, that’s my fault, not theirs.

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Turn off your TV and other electronics

It is well past time for American families to turn off their devices, including the TV. The web is nice, but it’s better to be connected to the people who love you. When you first do this, it will seem weird, almost like you are missing out on something. That feeling will pass, replaced by conversation, recreation, and blessed silence.

See if you can make TV watching a family event: that is, the TV is on ONLY when a majority of the family cares to watch and there is unanimous agreement on what to watch. In most families, that alone will keep the TV off. As I noted earlier, we recently dropped our cable TV subscription, so consensus is much easier to reach now. On a typical evening at our house, we stream a movie or sports show that we all want to watch, or we each are absorbed in our own reading materials (everyone’s tablet is loaded with good books and magazines) and conversing about the same. Our TVs are almost never on, especially not for broadcast news or reality TV shows; why don’t you just give yourself a craniotomy and pour poison on to your brain?

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Remember these few pithy things about eating well:

Eat what you like that’s in season and affordable to you; there are NO super-foods, and you are not a dietary loser because you don’t eat kale or quinoa. I hate kale.  And quinoa.

Fresh, frozen, and canned produce are all fine, but be sensitive to added salt, sugars, and fats; frozen and canned foods (13) should be as close to their natural state as possible, and, at last check, green beans and broccoli did not grow with sauce on them.

Healthy food is spelled as neither “organic” nor “supplements.” In fact, the Annals of Internal Medicine recently published two new studies on the futility of vitamin supplements; but, as you can see from these comments on LinkedIn, the supplement mythology dies hard, even in the face of evidence. The first comment is from a health insurance expert who makes the claim that the vitamins studied were not “quality,” which was the problem with the study. The industry is virtually unregulated; how would you know?

Treat developing a healthy eating strategy the same way that someone aiming to run a marathon for the first time starts training. They don’t start by running 26 miles; some marathon newbies can’t run even a mile when they first start training. Start small, simple, and doable to create sustainable. You’ll know when you are ready for more complex tasks. You don’t need a nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor to tell you.

Excerpt 4 will go live on Monday, January 26, and Excerpt 5 will appear on Tuesday, February 3.

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