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Opening Arguments

Science speaks: Stop your nagging

I guess it's fine that we now have "scientific confirmation," but, really, this is just common sense:

Doctors are often appalled by their patients’ unhealthy habits, as much for aesthetic as for health reasons. They are also irritated by the refractory nature of those habits and the failure of patients to do anything about them even when repeatedly advised to do so. Such repetition serves a purpose, however. Doctors may not be able to cure their patients, but they can at least make them feel guilty. To do so relieves the doctor’s feelings.

Now that Type II diabetes – that used to be called maturity-onset in the days before children began to get it – has reached epidemic proportions, the scope for medical lifestyle badgering has increased enormously. But does it do any good?

The results of a very prolonged trial in America have just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. More than 5000 fat Type II diabetics aged between 45 and 75 were randomly allocated to normal treatment and standard advice, on the one hand, and (sinister phrase) “intensive lifestyle intervention” on the other. The investigators ended the trial after most patients had participated in it for about ten years. Something called “futility analysis” revealed that prolongation of the trial was unlikely to produce positive results.

[. . .]

I am reminded of the spirit of the father who said to the mother, “Find out what the children are doing and tell them to stop it.”

I can't speak for everybody, so I'll just talk about myself and say that I think most people are the same way. When you tell me to do something or not do something because it's for my own good and I really ought to know better, blah, blah, blah, I don't think, "How kind and thoughtful," even when that is obviously the case. I think, "Oh, yeah, how about we talk about some of your shortcomings?" Most likely, I do know better, and the fact that I haven't changed my behavior should speak volumes about my willingess to change just because somebody slese says so. The only way I'll change is when I get to the point where I realize I have to and have the willpower to try it. Nagging won't help one bit. It's like the Willie Nelson-Waylon Jennings song -- "Reasons to quite don't outnumber all the reasons why."

The last line says it all: "I am reminded of the spirit of the father who said to the mother, “Find out what the children are doing and tell them to stop it.” Lifestyle badgering whisks us back mentally to when we were children and even suggestions carried the weight of parental authority. We are reminded of when we weren't really in control of our own lives, and we resent the trip.

Posted in: All about me, Science