Let’s talk about health.

Not about healthcare reform. Not about a broken system. And not about who’s at fault.

Obesity costs are currently estimated at over $190 billion every year in the United States, which represents over 20% of medical spending in this country. (Check this study out)

I don’t care what side of the healthcare debate you choose to champion- we can all agree that, inflated or not, $190 billion is WAY too much to be spending on a medical status that almost all of us have control over.

In this hyper-polarized, I’m-right-you’re-wrong, 24 hour news culture that we currently live in, everyone seems obsessed with being RIGHT, not finding SOLUTIONS. I don’t care who is “right” and who is “wrong.” What I care about is how are we going to fix this problem? (Clearly finding solutions is not a priority for our elected officials.) This is about culture and attitude.

As I was wrapping up my research on liver transplantation, I had to make a choice. I could choose to stay and continue to perform research, or I could open a CrossFit box.  Let me first explain the focus of my research as quickly as possible… Liver transplantations have become quite the successful surgeries. Unfortunately, there is an organ shortage in the United States. Because of this shortage, transplant surgeons are increasingly using what are dubbed “marginal” livers for transplant- livers that normally would not be used due to factors such as trauma or obesity are being considered for use. “Obese” or fatty livers are considered marginal because they often do not function after transplantation, making the transplantation unsuccessful. While we understand why fatty livers don’t function, we’re still working on finding a way to make these livers useful for transplantation in order to address the large donor deficit we currently have. Of course “normal” livers are preferred for transplantation, but because of the sky-rocketing obesity rates in the US, more and more donated livers turn out to be fatty.

So my choice-I could stay at MUSC and try to figure out how to make fatty livers useful for transplant, or I could leave to promote health and fitness, and, hopefully PREVENT said livers from becoming fatty. There is certainly a strong case that can be made for either of these choices. But for me, personally, I always saw the treatment of fatty livers for transplant as endorsing unhealthy lifestyles- as a way of saying “It’s ok for you to be morbidly obese, eat processed fast food for 60 years, and sit on the couch for 40 hours a week… we’ll get you a pill for that, don’t worry.” And I always saw opening a CrossFit box as a way of saying “It is NOT okay to be unhealthy. Stop being lazy. You need to take care of your body.”

We have the same choice about healthcare. Yes, it is a broken system. And we’re all free to bitch about how the other side is screwing it up. But even if someone figures out how to “fix” the system, we’re still just figuring out how to provide the medical care, not prevent the condition. Wouldn’t cutting out $190 BILLION in healthcare expenses go a long damn way? Does figuring out a way to make healthcare affordable address the obesity epidemic?

So instead of trying to convince people how no one knows anything about healthcare but you, how about looking in the mirror. Literally. How’s that blood pressure? How are your cholesterol levels? Body fat? Resting heart rate? Instead of worrying about what these clowns in Washington are up to, let’s focus on something we each actually have control over: our own health. Eat clean. Stop putting shit in your body. Work out. I don’t care if you’re into CrossFit, Zumba, Tae-Bo, water aerobics, running, or whatever else you want to do. Just stop being lazyBe active.

Change your attitude. If you’re more concerned with healthcare than your health, you’re part of the problem. It’s time for a culture change- be responsible for yourself and stop waiting for some magic pill. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Sadly we can’t readily affect the actions of Congress. But we can affect our local community- we can work hard to improve our fitness, improve our health, and combat this economically, medically, and socially crippling obesity epidemic.