Aug 23, 2020

Why are we fixated on Educational Qualification?

 I did a Q&A on Instagram stories a few days back with the question "What are the challenges and obstacles that you are facing concerning health and well-being given the current situation?". 100+ questions came up during the 24 hours. Most of them were related to consistency, habits, sleep routines and exercise motivation. There were also a few questions on specific ailments like migraine, PCOD etc. Many people DMed me that the answers I shared were very helpful. My intention to do this Q&A was to understand if there are any patterns and also share my learnings on keeping up with a schedule during the lock-down situation, being mindful and conscious about the food we eat, our activity, sleep cycles, the information we consume and our emotions.

I don't claim to be an expert in any of these topics. I'm a work in progress and I consciously introspect on where I need to improve and implement key practices in my daily life.

I strongly believe that our health and well-being play such an important role in our life and there are now too many distractions and temptations that take away our precious health. My vision is to empower people with the right information to make conscious choices - not just about food but overall health. And I have strong personal reasons that motivate me to work harder towards this vision.

I didn't realize that this was my calling when I was 17 years old. Or maybe I did to some extent - why else would I have studied so hard in my 12th grade to get into medicine? Things didn't work out for various reasons, inspite of getting good marks, being a top rank holder in school and a third rank holder in the district. My path deviated - I went into software engineering, worked in the software industry, completed my MBA from IIMB and built a good career for more than a decade. My 20s just whizzed past by, accomplishing these goals.

With PCOD related issues and the struggles that followed, somehow by God's grace, I conceived naturally and gave birth to a baby daughter in 2011. In the past 9 years, though I was focusing on many software related projects, health and well-being became my interest, my passion and now my calling. This blog has been a witness to this transition over the years.

If you are wondering why am I writing all this today, let me share with you the trigger.
One of the questions that came up during the Q&A was "How does gluten affect our body?" The answer I shared was "Gluten doesn't affect everyone. Observe yourself and how your body reacts. Don't go with the popular opinion of going gluten-free. Do you feel bloated, acidic, indigestion, headache after eating wheat? Then you can try skipping gluten for a week or two and see if it helps."

One of the readers took offense to my response. She DMed me, saying that I should read up more about celiac disease and I shouldn't be commenting on topics that I'm not qualified to talk about. I tried to explain my rationale saying that there is a difference between celiac disease and gluten insensitivity and that I wasn't giving any diagnosis and merely suggesting that we need to listen to our body's signals. In the end, we concluded that our perspectives are different and ended at that.

After I gave some thought about this interaction, I felt maybe I shouldn't have given my response to the question in a few lines as a story but elaborated as a blog post as this needs more explanation. But I'm not going to stop talking about topics like gluten or PCOD, just because I'm not professionally qualified (in common parlance, don't have a university degree in medicine or nutrition).

I strongly believe each of us needs to have at least a basic knowledge about our body, nutrition and health. Without this knowledge, we are being taken for a ride by the "health-washing" practices of packaged food manufacturers, "qualified professionals" prescribing medicines for lifestyle disorders without making us aware of the numerous side effects and without educating us on lifestyle changes that we need to make.

I'm not generalizing this behavior to the whole profession. There are many excellent doctors in the country who provide the right advice and help people heal and get better through lifestyle changes. But we also need to accept the fact that there are a few whose intentions aren't right - they want patients to become their repeat customers. In any business, repeat customers/repeat purchases are what drives more profits.

I have been a victim of a few such gynecologists who only prescribed hormonal pills for managing PCOD symptoms, without prescribing the lifestyle changes I need to make in my 20s.
My family elders have been a victim of a few such doctors who kept writing long prescriptions for diabetes and high blood pressure, without educating them on food choices and importance of exercise, activity and sleep. They have been suffering for decades because of the complete trust they placed on their doctors.

I so wish we could just place our complete trust on "professional" doctors/nutritionists and follow their advice to the T, without doing any due diligence from our end. But the past two decades have taught me that this would be a terrible strategy if I want to stay healthy.

ALL of us need to equip ourselves with the right knowledge of lifestyle disorders and the factors that contribute to good health.

Qualification shouldn't be a roadblock. The curiosity and thirst for learning, implementing and improving is all that matters, especially in the current times of MOOCs and easy access to knowledge and research. When we implement a concept and it works for us, it is also perfectly okay to share about our experiences on social media. Yes, our experiences are unique based on our situations and may not apply to all. But even if one person can benefit from it, it is worth the effort.

If you are someone interested in human behaviors but don't have a professional degree in psychology, please let that not stop you from exploring this topic and going deeper.

Professional education should never be a hindrance for us to learn about various life skills - nutrition, health, mental well-being, personal finance, investing, gardening etc. The intention is not to set up private clinics, do diagnosis, prescribe meal plans or recommend insurance policies BUT to share our learnings and takeaways with others for whom they might be relevant.

P.S. Through Instagram, I reached out to a popular nutritionist who was conducting many Live sessions on interesting topics on nutrition. I suggested to her that I can do a session on decoding nutrition labels but never got a response. If "professionally qualified" people are unwilling to discuss these topics openly, then we need to step up and empower ourselves with the right information.

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