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Why must you be your own health advocate?

Let’s start with this – nothing will throw you out of balance more than getting sick. Whether it is a common cold, a flu, or something much more serious such as a diagnosis of cancer, no matter how consciously competent we feel in our lives, illness will always change our priorities in a hurry.

Many people’s lives are so busy that there is no room for any form of health challenge. A study by Wakefield Research concluded that 69% of Americans do not even take sick days and go to work feeling ill because they do not feel they can take time off of work.

Often, we do not feel well and make the concerted decision to ‘push through.’

This is what I did back in 1999 when I owned a health club, taught fitness classes, worked with clients, was on the television, radio and was racing pro triathlon.

Did I mention that I also had a two-year old? Obviously, there was a lot on my plate and despite the increasing fatigue, the numbing sensation in my legs, the brain fog and the constant pain in my spine, I pushed through.

I did this for two years. The tipping point came when I couldn’t push any longer. That place, where we can always dig deeper ceased to exist and I found myself in my doctor’s office agonizing over my health.

He informed me that I was simply ‘stressed out,’ and needed a vacation.

A study published in the journal, BMJ Quality and Safety, found that a staggering 12 million Americans per year are misdiagnosed.

Some of these cases result in severe outcomes.

Stories of patients being diagnosed with MS, or cancer, and starting treatment, when they didn’t have it or in my case, ‘stressed out,’ was actually Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and had I not returned and demanded tests, it would have gone undiagnosed.

According to online resource, Medscape, which analyzed data from 19,200 physicians, the average patient visit was 13-16 minutes.

Think about this – the average person just feels ‘bad,’ or says they have a ‘stomach ache,’ and the doctor is supposed to figure out exactly what is wrong in 13-16 minutes. It isn’t likely.

In our modern landscape where it is ‘normal’ not to feel good, where we look at those who profess to feel great as though they are a freakish anomaly, it is essential that we understand that when we are consistently tired, run down, can’t digest our food, are not sleeping, have compromised immune systems, feel irritable, have no drive and have lost our focus, that this is not normal.

If you do not feel well day after day, you are out of balance and the people around you who are putting up with your complaints, and getting less than your best, are your collateral damage.

Many health care practitioners are themselves out of balance.

A survey published by the Mayo Clinic found that, in 2014, 54.4% of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout; up 10% from 2011.

There is a 50% chance that your physician is burned out themselves and chances are, they are not taking adequate time for self-care or to figure it out.

When I entered university, I wanted to be a physician. To this day, I love the medical community, though I was disparaged by the shortening patient visits and the ‘one size fits all’ approach being encouraged with the use of pharmaceuticals.

In my mind, and research supports this, the average person could benefit greatly, and ameliorate, with more sleep, more water, no processed foods, increasing their plant intake, and getting some exercise.

Beyond this, then a multi-disciplinary approach using Eastern, and Western techniques, would enhance a person’s wellbeing.

What I found was that very few practitioners, in those days, were looking at the patient holistically.

When I had an ulcer, I was given an ulcer medication.

When my thyroid burned out, I was given a thyroid medication.

When I was diagnosed with MS, it was suggested that I go on medication, and antidepressants, and this is where I drew the line.

I envisioned myself at 27 years old with a cupboard full of drugs and thought, ‘this isn’t me.’ I went back to school and spent a year studying homeopathic medicine, I sought out Chinese doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths and devoured books.

I became my own health advocate. 17 years later, I am still navigating MS without drugs.

These days, if something isn’t ‘right’ I seek out a variety of opinions.

Recently, after a trip to Africa, my digestion was off, I was nauseous, dizzy and exhausted.

I had been nauseous since July. I had gone for an ultrasound, had a pregnancy test, seen a naturopath who suggested leaky gut, had another practitioner suggest PMS, and yet another tell me I needed personal development.

I won’t go into details of the ridiculous of all of this however thankfully, I have a friend, a board certified medical doctor who is passionate about the multi-disciplinary approach, who suggested that I treat getting well as a priority and, in addition to it likely being a parasite, which is was, that I also incorporate a variety of techniques to get healthy.

The long, and the short, was that, again, I had to be my own health advocate.


Over the course of this journey, coaching, teaching, mentoring numerous clients, and students and additionally working for years as a nutritional consultant and fitness trainer, my advice, if you are not feeling well is to take the following approach:

1. Identify What Is Really Wrong

Showing up to your physician and saying something like, ‘I don’t feel good,’ is not fair to your condition or your practitioner.

Almost all doctors will look at the symptoms and also the order in which they appeared. Before heading to the doctor, write out all of your primary complaints and do a timeline.

This will help your doctor get to the root of it.

2. Make Lifestyle Changes

In this fast paced world, women especially, are at risk for adrenal fatigue, heart attacks, and certain forms of cancer if they are not keeping their lifestyle in check. Getting the requisite 7-8 hours of sleep, eliminating processed foods, drinking 3-4 liters of pure water each day, having 7-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, and getting 45 minutes of exercise five days per week can take care of a variety of health challenges.

Yes, it sounds like a big commitment however being sick, and spending thousands of dollars on illness, is a bigger one.

3. Seek a Variety of Opinions

Ideally you will find a practitioner such as an Osteopath, Naturopath, Integrative Physician, or a multi-disciplinary practice where they can look at your condition and deal with the root cause as opposed to the symptoms.

Always read reviews and seek referrals from friends. This is the only body you have and just like you wouldn’t get married on the first date, you should not seek to jump into a treatment protocol that doesn’t seem to fit your challenges.

The bottom line is this – if you are unhealthy, it doesn’t matter how much money you are making, you are out of balance.

Your health isn’t something you can put on the ‘back burner,’ you need to deal with it now.

The longer you let your health slide, the bigger the problem becomes.

Make it a priority to get your health in check today so you can create a brighter tomorrow.

Susan Sly is a best-selling author, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur.  She specializes in helping individuals, and organizations, become more productive.  She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, Chris.  Susan is the mother of five children and loves her life! To connect with Susan, visit



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