Being Your Own Health Advocate

Has the following scenario ever happened to you? You hear about a health trend on TV or social media, and immediately want to try it in your own life. Remember when everyone wanted to drink apple cider vinegar to loose belly fat, or eat and drink kale because it was the “in” superfood? For some people incorporating these things can work given that they are already living a certain lifestyle, or their bodies are able to process these things properly. When it comes to our health, we tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt. Whether it be a doctor, a health representative, or even advice given via a Facebook post or article, we tend to believe it without taking that extra time to confirm if they are accurate or working for our own bodies and needs. Giving others the benefit of the doubt is simple and can seem harmless, however, YOU need to make sure that any decision you make for YOUR BODY is the best one. YOU deserve the best for YOUR BODY and no one can take care of your body the way YOU can. With that being said, let’s take a look at some ways you can be a strong and responsible advocate for yourself.

Advocating for Yourself with Medical Professionals

Our initial thoughts when we go to the doctor/medical professional is that we must believe what they are telling us 100% of the time because they are highly educated and experienced in their field. Because of this, it may seem intimidating to ask certain questions or request a more detailed explanation (especially if the medical professional is exhibiting signs of being in a rush). Remember, healthcare professionals are in the profession to help patients reach optimal health and wellness. That includes making their patients feel comfortable and confident with information about their health status, diagnosis, and treatment. It is important to ask questions and ask for clarification. If you don’t speak up for yourself, no one will.

Come Prepared

Before going to your scheduled appointment, you need to make sure you are prepared to get the best consultation or examination possible. The more information your doctor/health professional has about your situation, the better. With that being said, if your visit is for a new illness, make sure to have a list of your symptoms, how frequently you have experienced them, medicines you’ve taken and are taking, and mention any preexisting conditions and family medical history.

If your appointment is for a follow-up, you must also be prepared. Write down how you have felt since your last visit. If you were given medication or another form of treatment, note down any changes in your health and any side effects you may have experienced with medicines. If you feel better and back to normal, amazing! Make sure to let your doctor know. If you saw little to no improvement, don’t be afraid to tell the doctor/medical professional that you actually are not feeling better. Once they know they can change your treatment or medication. During your follow-up appointment you can also take advantage of asking questions about your treatment and condition. It is also important to voice your concerns and have a proactive dialogue with your doctor.

Do Your Research

Although research may sound like such a drag when we already have such busy lives, it is a crucial part of staying informed about your health. Research your symptoms so that you may discuss them with your doctor/medical professional. If you’ve already been given a diagnosis, research it so that you have plenty of information regarding how to cope, heal, and prevent getting worse or flaring. Who knows, there may be information regarding new treatments. When you are well informed you may find new questions or concerns to address with your doctor.

Get a Second Opinion

When you’re feeling that your doctor/medical professional is not meeting your needs, or you are feeling ignored and out of options, you can always opt for a second opinion with another doctor/medical professional. If applicable, you may also request to see a specialist who deals with treating a certain condition. You are in charge of your health so don’t be afraid to take the best course of action, even if it means ditching your long time doctor/medical professional.

Advocating for Yourself with Food and Exercise Programs

Just like medical treatments, not one food or exercise program fits all. If you have a personal trainer, make sure they are trained and certified, especially if you have a health condition. Don’t be afraid to ask for their credentials and also be open with your trainer if you feel certain exercises aren’t working for you.

The same goes for food programs. With all those food programs out there, it may seem overwhelming to choose one that works for your body. The most common one is calorie counting. Check out my blog post, Why I Said Goodbye to Calorie Counting, to find out why I don’t take that type of restricted diet seriously. Choosing the wrong food program could seriously affect your overall health, so make sure to listen to your body and consult with a certified nutritionist or medical professional before starting.

Food Programs and at Restaurants

When choosing a food program, make sure you take into account your current eating habits, the changes you’re willing to make, and of course, if you have any health conditions. Those of you with health conditions may want to gain clearance from your doctors or consult with a certified nutritionist before beginning your food program just to make sure it will not exacerbate your symptoms. I’ll give you a quick example of this. My body can not tolerate or process greasy or high fat foods (even if they’re good fats). If I were to start the keto food program, I would most likely go into a flare. My body does however do great with a high carbohydrate food program. Keep in mind that I only consume natural and healthy carbs. I don’t eat any breads, etc. This is why it’s important to listen to your body and take notes of things you are noticing once you’ve started your food program. Remember, if you feel your food program is not making you feel good, voice your experience and concerns to your doctor or nutritionist.

Another way to advocate for yourself when it comes to food is to ask questions to your waiters/waitresses at restaurants. If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, it is important to let your server know. Make sure they know you’re serious too. If I see something that I possibly may be able to eat, I tell my server that I have a health condition and will get sick at the table if I consume something I’m not supposed to. Most times they will actually bring me the manager or chef to give me the information I need regarding the ingredients used in marinades or sauces and if they could accomodate my order. Don’t feel embarrassed because your health comes first! Either way, always take your own food incase they cannot accomodate you.

For those of you who are just watching what you eat as part of your health journey, but don’t necessarily have any health issues, ask your server if certain ingredients are present in the meal you’re wanting to order. If they seem unsure or look like they’re guessing, politely ask them to double check with the manager or chef so that you are sure you’re consuming the best for your body and health.

Can you guess which is my nutrient dense meal? I always bring my own food just in case the restaurant cannot accomodate my food requests.

Exercise Programs

There are many exercise programs out there that cater to different people. Some people work out in the comfort of their home using an online video or DVD. Others go to the gym and may even hire a personal trainer. However, did you know that completing the wrong program for your body can actually cause you harm? For example, with my condition I cannot run or do high intensity work outs such at CrossFit or HIIT. I will get sick and if done consistently, I may go into a flare. However, I do well with low intensity work outs and lifting light weights.

Pay attention to the way you’re feeling during and after a workout. Keep tabs on how you feel for at least a two week time period. If you have a health condition and started an online or DVD exercise program, make sure you gain clearance from your doctor prior to starting it. If you hire a trainer, make sure they are trained professionals. There are some trainers out there who do not have any formal training or certifications. Additionally, if the trainer does not have any formal education or certifications in nutrition, do not take their dietary advice seriously. Their lack of credentials can actually cause you much harm, ESPECIALLY if you have an existing health condition. Instead, find a certified nutritionist to consult with.

I want to take this time to thank every doctor, trainer, medical professional, and nutritionist for helping people reach their optimal health goals. Without their guidance and expertise we would be in horrible situations. I also want to give a shoutout to my own GI doctor, Dr. G! He’s been a huge part of my health journey and always gives me options for courses of treatment that I feel comfortable with while radiating positive vibes. He is truly a Godsend! I hope this post benefits you. Remember to follow me on Instagram @purevidalinzita for more content! For my fellow spoonies, you are strong, you are loved, and YOU ARE WORTHY!

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