Jeffrey Bland: So welcome to the Big Bold Health Podcast: Making Health Personal. And oh, I’m so excited as I always am, but particularly excited this version, this episode, for what you are going to experience.
Jeffrey Bland: I think it’s going to be a real treat because we have a distinguished guest: Christina Louise Clark, who I actually know much more about this guest than I do normally. So, I don’t have to do a great biographical kind of review in preparation because I have lived with this person now almost 70 years of her life. And, that happens to be my sister who I knew as Christie Bland earlier in her life, but over the last 41 years, it’s Christina Louis Clark.
Jeffrey Bland: A mother of two remarkable children: Georgia, a daughter who has recent twins with her husband, Jacob, and a son, a remarkable gentleman, a graduate in history, who is just one of those great spirits of the universe. So, Christie, it’s just such a pleasure to have you here on the Big Bold Health Podcast. Thank you.
Christie Clark: Thank you. Do you see some genetic expression here?
Jeffrey Bland: Well, she got the looks and I got something. I’m not sure what it was. Anyway, this is a really, one of those extraordinary moments for me. Not only because it’s a chance to have this intimate discussion with my sister that’s so intimate that we’re going to be putting it on the internet. But I think more importantly as I’ve said so many years, actually so many decades, that I would go out of my way to know you as a friend.
Jeffrey Bland: And, I’m just so fortunate to have you as my sister, because you’re a person of extraordinary energy, power, and substance. And you’re a leader by nature and you’re a person who operates by action, not just words, and proof of the pudding is how we behave. And, as a career woman, as an athlete, as a civic responsible environmental activist, as a dog lover, and actually having multiple Huskies—which are not easy dogs to care for while you’re having children—and having done some extraordinary things with your husband Dennis including living on a houseboat in Sausalito, and doing home remodeling and all sorts of things.
Jeffrey Bland: As I’ve said to people, if I was to be asked, “Who do you want to go across the United States with in a covered wagon, if you were in St. Louis back in the 19th century and you were to be traveling West?”, and I would say, “Well the first person I’d ask would be Christie Clark because she has all the attributes that I don’t to survive that long trip going westward.” So, with that as kind of an overview introduction, Christie, let me just kind of set the context.
Jeffrey Bland: You know, you are a person who has always been, as an artist, and when you were at UCLA and doing art, then an artist as a commercial artist over these many years. You’ve seen the world through the lens of an artful woman of substance. You’ve watched the transition in women occur and you’ve had a chance to express this on multiple levels throughout the last 50 plus years. So, what’s been your driving force? How have you seen… You’re a person who cooks and does natural foods, and everything we’ve ever done, you’ve tried and tested it on your own body to see if it works. What’s the driving force for Christie Clark?
Christie Clark: Well, I think it probably goes back to the influence that our parents had on us and the combination that was so unique of a thoughtful, yet stayed father being from the Midwest, he had kind of, really intellectual but colored within the line sort of thinking. And, our mother who was the less stayed, Californian. And, it was just the synergism of the two of them, and I think it created a really fertile environment for us to excel.
Christie Clark: And, they did a really great job, maybe too good, of telling us that we could basically do anything that we wanted. And to my dad’s credit, our dad, he always encouraged me as his daughter to do whatever I wanted. And, if I had any sort of tomboyish ideas about wanting to pursue a sport or an activity, he was always on board. He never said, “Oh, girls don’t do that.” Or careers, I thought I wanted to be an architect at one point in my life and he said, “Great, go for that.” It’s hard to believe now that, cause I turn 70 in a couple of weeks, but back when I was in grammar school and wanting to be an architect, there were no women architects that I knew of, anyway. So yeah, I just always felt like I can do whatever I feel like doing. And then, having you as my brother, who I always admired and wanted to be like, I was always, you didn’t realize it, but I was always competing with you.
Jeffrey Bland: You did a good job. You exceeded the competition.
Christie Clark: I doubt that. I remember I’d have these small victories in my life, like when we were eight years old—I was eight and you were like 11 or something—we’re playing quote unquote touch football out in the front yard with your contemporaries and then the little kids, my group. And so, you guys had to play on your knees.
Jeffrey Bland: Oh, that’s right!
Christie Clark: I remember I caught the ball and I went for it. And you had your arm sticking out like that and I just leaped over and you were like, “Whoa!” That’s when I knew I had like a future in high jump.
Jeffrey Bland: So, I think you’ve said a lot of things already about your personality, your fearlessness, your courageousness, and your forward thinking and take charge. You’ve always been a person I think who takes charge of your life. Have you considered yourself as being, I don’t want to call it a women’s libber, because that’s kind of an old term, but let’s call it a woman of independence during this whole period of time. Because this was certainly a time, as you were growing up, in which women’s roles were being redefined and your daughter’s very different in the world now than you would have been at the same age. So, how did you see yourself during this whole period?
Christie Clark: As somebody who bucked the system in the beginning and was ready to take on the male dominated workforce. My first real job was I was hired by CBS to work for Pacific Stereo as their first woman in their affirmative action program to get women into sales and management training. And Pacific Stereo at the time was like, well it became a hundred store chain across the United States. It became really big. And so, I was the first woman that they hired and so all eyes were on me. And, it was an interesting time, especially selling stereos, which was a very male dominated activity and women didn’t actually, in reality, women have better ears than men do. We can hear greater frequency ranges, but the men had owned that audiophile, you know they declared that they owned that. So, I was set to prove them wrong, but I earned my way.
Christie Clark: I started in the stock room and I would stand out in San Francisco behind the store and we’d have to unload the truck with these huge speakers that weighed 50 pounds or 40 pounds each. And, I’d stack up four of them on top of the hand truck.
Jeffrey Bland: And, you didn’t just stay in the stock room. Obviously, you continued to advance up, but I’m sure each of those, they were barriers for your advancing. It wasn’t like, “Oh just open the door and come on into the C-suite of the company.” And, “Oh, be fully fledged.” And, it even reminds me, you might want to mention that even your daughter when she was younger wanting to go into Girl Scouts, but she didn’t like the Girl Scouts so you had to form your own group called the “Un Scouts,” and then what you did with it. So, there are examples, I’m sure in your life, where you had to pass over these barriers, right?
Christie Clark: Right. That’s true. And I just, when an opportunity arises I seize it—if I feel that I can benefit or my child can benefit from it. And so, in the case that you just mentioned, my daughter was just graduating from grammar school. So, 5th grade she was going to be entering middle school. And, I remember what a tough time that is for transition for all kids, but having been a girl, I know especially how hard it can be on an all girls. And, I thought that I wanted to instill in these girls a sense of self-reliance. And, I think that is the overarching theme in my life, that I’ve always tried to achieve self-reliance.
Christie Clark: And, I had an opportunity to do some backpacking, a couple of trips with you, and so at this time I thought this is a great time to send these girls out into the wilderness with me, with guides, and teach them self-reliance. And so, I engaged in this whole thing, and I’m pretty organized, so I had this giant list of everything they’re going to need for the trip, and where we were going to go, and then I had a training schedule.
Christie Clark: So, I had a meeting every Saturday where they had to be in shape—I couldn’t have any stragglers, and they had to carry a pack. So, I had them all meet at me at Lake Merritt in Oakland and we’d run around the lake, which is 3.1 miles. And, they had to do it in under 30 minutes or they weren’t going to be able to go on the trip. That was the cutoff and they all did it. And, it evolved over the number of weeks prior to the… And then some of the moms and dads got involved too and they were all running with me.
Christie Clark: We had one trip where we did a 50-mile loop in the center of Yosemite National Park. We were as far away from any boundary as you could possibly be. And, we went up to Red Peak Pass, which is the highest peak in Yosemite. It’s like 12,000 feet, I think. And, we had wild weather; we were hiking back and there were huge explosions of thunder and it was real scary.
Jeffrey Bland: Well and I think again, you’re symbolizing exactly what it takes to develop self- reliance in people. You want to be at the edge where you’re forced to accommodate change, but not so far over that you’re in mortal danger. That’s subtle, and I mean look at you. You took up snowboarding when you were nearly 50, right?
Christie Clark: Yeah, I was 49. I’ve been snowboarding now for 21 years.
Jeffrey Bland: So, that then leads to, I think, to a very interesting kind-of story that both women and men, I think, can identify with as it pertains to developing resilience, and staying on your mark, and staying focused. So here you are, this career woman—I’m going back now in your life to an earlier time—and you and your husband Dennis make a decision that you want to have children. So, you are practicing to have the child and you have a series of repetitive traumatic events, right? That might test a lot of people. Could you just tell us a little bit about it?
Christie Clark: Sure. I got pregnant immediately, of course that’s how it works, I’m in control. And then, I had a miscarriage in the first trimester and it was really unsettling and it was like, “Why is this happening to me? I don’t know anything about this. I’m healthy. I run, I do this, I do that. Why is this happening?” And then, over the next six years, I had probably a dozen, I lost count after a while, but probably a dozen miscarriages.
Christie Clark: And, then I was finally successful in having my daughter at the age of 37, and of course it was a blessed event. She was perfectly healthy; everything was great. It was definitely a momentous occasion for both my husband and me. And so, we pretty much just devoted our lives around our daughter and then we were fortunate to have a son—It’s actually five and a half years later. And, because I had a couple other even more traumatic events in between trying to have kids. But anyway, so I have two healthy C-section babies and they are now terrific adults and my best friends.
Jeffrey Bland: Yeah. So, I think first of all, thank you for sharing, that’s a hugely, I know privileged and emotional story, but I think all of our listeners can value from that vicarious experience. But this also is an interesting point because I think for some people after a few miscarriages, they might’ve said, “Well, hold on just a minute. I have a career, I have a life, I have other things I like to do. This is way too traumatic for me. Maybe this is just not for me. I’m just going to give over this thought about being pregnant and having a child.” But yet, you pushed on, not only did you push on, but you didn’t put your life behind. You continued to forge forward in your career. You continued to be in your fitness program, you continued to do your social advocacy and be member the of the planetary stewardship group. So, there must’ve been a decision series of points along the road saying, “I’m not going to have this push me back. I’m just pushing forward.”
Christie Clark: I mean, I honestly think I just, I don’t dwell on that. I mean, yeah, there were low periods, don’t get me wrong, but it was just always, “Well of course we’ll keep trying. And if it happens, it happens. And if it doesn’t, it’s okay.” That’s when I got into wind surfing and really into that. And, then my career was advancing and I was really enjoying it and I thought life is good, but it’s just not all I want it to be, I want a child. And then, finally we were gifted with it. And, the nice thing was that I was able to do both, continue with my passions and incorporate our kids into it. And, they’re really fantastic.
Jeffrey Bland: Yeah, they are fantastic people.
Christie Clark: And, very different from each other.
And so, I think that, as I look at your life kind of from one step removed, this is probably the most extreme example of your self-dependence, and independence, and following your mark. But there have been many examples of this along the road as it relates to how you’ve lived.
Christie Clark: I think it boils down to that self-reliance thing again. It’s like, can do, we just soldier on. There’s so many beautiful things in life, these little hiccups just make me kind of laugh. It’s like you were saying when we moved onto our houseboat, sort of on the spur of the moment, when my son started college and my daughter had and her husband wanted to live in the house that the kids grew up in.
Christie Clark: So, we moved aboard and it was like, “God, this is so great. I love this so much.” And, then it got cold right away and the houseboat was really drafty. There were all kinds of openings and I got chilblains that winter. It was so cold. I kept getting this rheumatic condition in my hands. And-
Jeffrey Bland: We have to talk about the fact you had no bathroom facilities and you had to go to the Marina.
Christie Clark: Oh yeah. This was before I’d had one of these sport watches and I wish I had had one then cause I had so many steps, every day. Because the bathroom was…
Jeffrey Bland: It probably would’ve broke the number of steps on that thing.
Christie Clark: Yeah, it was a half mile away. And so, it was like, “Okay.” It was a pretty wet and miserable winter. And so, there was one time I had to go, and Dennis said, “Are you sure?” I have to go. And so, I headed out of the houseboat and I walked the half mile, and the wind was just howling, and the rain was horizontal. So, I have a rain jacket on but my legs were totally soaked because the rain was horizontal. And I was like, “Okay.” All I could do is laugh though. It’s like funny. This is a real adventure.
Jeffrey Bland: I think this story says it all, Christie. This is the lesson that I’m trying to get across because A) you’re being big and bold, but B) you’re exercising your affirmative action of being on the planet as to how you want to be seen in a very personal way, right? So, this is personal health in the reality, in the moment, in the windstorm, in the rain, but you’re still living your dream of being on the houseboat.
Christie Clark: Oh yeah. Yah know, I could not complain. I mean, I could only laugh about it cause I mean it was totally our choice and it’s what I always wanted to do. So eventually, it’d get better and it did.
Jeffrey Bland: The construct we often have when we talk about big, bold health or personalizing health is it just comes easy, right? We just sit down and everything will come to us. But life is really one of advocacy, isn’t it? It’s really, there’s this thing of how do we want to represent our self? And, being represented in the complexity of life sometimes requires us to push through things. And then, how do we push through? Do we push through it with all sorts of bad memories and stuff that injures us, and we always say, it kind of takes away from us. Or do we say, “Look at, I just flourished through the most adverse circumstances and I’m better for it. And it actually, in retrospect, I can make a joke out of it.” And, that’s part of being healthy, right? That’s a really big part of being healthy.
Christie Clark: I do think so. And a lot of that, I feel so fortunate to have a husband who has kind of like driven me into some of these situations, but driven me in a loving and really totally willing way. I mean, I was just lucky that the synergism between the two us is right. We’ve been married for 41 years now. And, it’s made us who we are and on the flip side, Dennis, I’m like the health nut, and Dennis is like a totally willing subject. I was having some autoimmune issues. And, so I said, “I’m going to go on this plan and I’m going to give up all gluten, all this, all that.” And since I’m the cook, I was like, “Are you on board with that or do you want me to cook separately for you?” He goes, “Oh, no. I’ll do it, too.” We’re a partnership.
Jeffrey Bland: So, you and Dennis did become very good wind surfers. You went down on Baja and you did some windsurfing down there and really took it very seriously. And, then you convinced me to get involved windsurfing, which I then started into the sport and you said, “Well, if you’re going to do this, you ought to come down and we’ll take you to this place in Oakland that we go to and you can use our boards and our friends are there and you can give it a whirl.”
Jeffrey Bland: And, there’s a lot of other people there. And of course, I had been a surfer when I was younger, so I knew in my mind…
Christie Clark: And, you had sailboat.
Jeffrey Bland: And yes, so I knew this was just going to be like for me just stepping on the old windsurf and it’s going to take off, just like you. And, of course I knew that I could be more athletically capable than my sister, right? Ha ha. So, I get down there and I still recall you and your friends were all lined up in your beach towels on the incline of the beach. And, here are many surf windsurfers out there and I had the board, so you gave me the basic instruction, “Okay, okay, I got the instruction, that’s all I need.” So, I get out there and man, I was working my buns off and it just was not easy at all. And, I was having all sorts of problems. And finally, I looked up and you guys were being pleasant and looking down there at me, looking down there at me. Finally, I felt I had it and I was concentrating so hard, and then I looked up and you were all cracking up and laughing, and I recognized I was going backwards. Yes.
Christie Clark: The only reason you succeeded is you’re so darn strong that you just like worked against nature.
Jeffrey Bland: Yes. That was a moment you said, “Okay, I think I got you forever on the windsurfing,” and I cede you did.
Christie Clark: That was good. That was funny. But you got payback with me when you had me go out here in Washington in Purdy and gave me your board and said “Here, have fun.” And, so I head out and then your equipment fails and then I have to paddle back over all these rocks, and walk it back, and it’s been hours and you haven’t even noticed I’ve been gone.
Jeffrey Bland: So, there is the big brother, little brother story, what can I say? I guess I have to own up.
Jeffrey Bland: So, these are the self-reliance lessons that we’re talking about. And, I think that, Christie, what I want to really recount once again, is not only the extraordinary joy to have this chance to have this conversation on the Big Bold Health Podcast, but really to honor what it takes to develop resilience, particularly I would say, in a woman of your age, growing up in that period where women were starting to get opportunities, but they had to express themselves strongly to get those opportunities to happen, and not just be seen as a sweet little girl. And, and I have tremendous respect for what you’ve done. And, I think it’s a very great lesson for both the women and men that are listening to this podcast, that it doesn’t come easy. It requires fortitude, you’ve got to overcome barriers, but you can also laugh at it later and see that you were victorious.
Christie Clark: Yeah, and if I have one parting thing that I would like to offer as a recommendation to young women and to young mothers of children: get your kids backpacking. I mean, I know this was like my thing, but it pays off in so many dividends; I can’t tell you. It’s like to give yourself the survival skills that you need to anticipate anything, it’s like will pay off dividends for the rest of your life.
Jeffrey Bland: So, there’s a tip. Making health personal.
Jeffrey Bland: So, Christie, you’re not a technophile; you’re certainly not a biohacker. But yet, over the years you have learned actually early adoption to use new software programs. How has technology, do you think, affected you as you’ve traveled through these last 40 years of your professional and personal life?
Christie Clark: Oh, it’s been revolutionary.
Jeffrey Bland: Right? That’s kind of the takeaway to this because at the first level, any kind of new technology, and certainly we’ve been confronted with great speed of the new technologies to adopt. But at first it’s totally intimidating even to technophiles, but then how you embrace and address that intimidation is really the question.
Christie Clark: Speaking of the biohacking thing, I really see the value in personal devices. I’m addicted to my Garmin Vivoactive that my daughter and son-in-law gave me for my birthday. But I’m on Strava and I follow that, you know, my really embarrassing runs, but that’s a whole other story. But I can follow snowboarding, know how many vertical feet I went, how fast I was going, and I just like that kind of thing. I’ve got a digital scale that measures, you know, it’s just the inexpensive one, it’s not a high tech one, but it gives me a baseline for my body fat and my muscle mass… or muscle fat, tone; no, muscle mass—that’s the word—and bone density. And so, I’m always looking for new ways to go back to my N of one, to like perfect the model and figure out what’s working for me and what isn’t. And, sometimes that can be helpful with these devices.
Jeffrey Bland: So, why do you feel that people that are in a certain age group are resisting to the acceptance; what’s the intimidation factor and how can people overcome that, do you feel, to make use of these in ways that are going to make their lives maybe even more healthy?
Christie Clark: I think it’s a motivational factor of being able to see that the benefits far outweigh the little bit of pain in the learning curve, and they have to keep reminding themselves that we need to grow our brains, especially as we get older. So, take on new tasks, learn new things, and that’s a good way to do it.
Jeffrey Bland: I think that’s a really good pearl. That’s a fantastic pearl, that each time we’re confronted with a challenge of learning, we can think of it either as, “This is a really a kind of a pain in the posterior,” or think of, “Oh no, I’m doing dendritic branching, I’m really creating new ways of processing information. This is keeping my brain healthy; it’s like working out.”
Christie Clark: Yeah.
Jeffrey Bland: I think that’s a really interesting model. So, let’s talk a little bit about taking technology to the next step. Cause it’s not just remote and remote sensing devices, but also you were an early adopter to genetic testing. And, there are a lot of people that have pushed back on genetic testing. And in fact, I was very excited to see when we both had our genes and you sent me our comparative genetics. Fortunately, we were blood brother and sister, so we weren’t living in illusion. That was good.
Christie Clark: Our parents didn’t pull a fast one on us.
Jeffrey Bland: Exactly. So, why did you adopt or why did you take up genetic testing when a lot of our people are still kind of fearful or pushing back on it?
Christie Clark: Well, I want to know my genetic story. I want to know am I the same risk as our dad was for diabetes and his side of the family? And if so, what I can do to avoid that. And, if the information is out there, I want it. I want to know everything I can about what benefits me. I don’t want to live to be 120, I just want to live vitally until the day I expire.
Jeffrey Bland: So, that then leads to, that takes to the next level, microbiome.
Christie Clark: Yes.
Jeffrey Bland: So, why would you want to go to the complexity of a microbiome analysis?
Christie Clark: Oh my gosh, it was so worth during the poop test. I suffered from leaky gut and that was the root of my autoimmune. And, I had an eczema condition and it was driving me crazy, as you know. And, I healed it by healing my gut. So, after that it became very real to me that the bugs in my system were very important, and the balance, and of course that it kind of coincided with all of the interest in the new tests available and stuff. So, it was sort of serendipitous in that sense.
So, it has only been a little while since I’ve had my results back, but it’s been really helpful for me to see that A) it wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it was; at least as far as I can tell, and I want you to look at my results. But I also found that it helped me with my concerns with diabetes and my risk to it, and managing blood sugar. So, it’s given me a list of foods that are good for me to eat based upon my microbiome; and others that I can eat, but I should really like limit or make sure that I combine it in small quantities with other foods to make my blood sugar not spike. Ad, once I kind of figured out the formula, now I’ve been less diligent about mapping or doing my daily diary, but it’s been so great.
Jeffrey Bland: And, do you feel that—obviously I think the answer to this is no, but I’m trying to probe as to why other people do—that this is not just making your life too complex, and just making it too confusing, and just like information overload. It’s like, “Ooh, now I’m paralyzed.” I mean why do you feel all this information is not like just a tsunami that’s knocking you over with too much?
Christie Clark: I guess because I’ve just always been experimenting with trying to better my health and these are new and better, more refined tools. It goes back to being an early adopter, but it’s just like I’m always seeking things that are going to like refine the model and make it better. So, it was a no brainer that I wanted to do this for me. But I can understand where a lot of people, like that’s a big ask. It’s like “I don’t really want to know. You know, I like what I eat. I don’t want to get out of that pattern. And what if I can’t eat bread anymore? Or this or that.” Where I say, there’s so many foods out there that are good. I don’t eat bread anymore. I love bread, as you know. I used to… I live in San Francisco; we have the best bread in the world and I don’t eat it anymore. It’s a small price to pay for feeling better. And, there’s so many other good things that I can focus on. So, I eat a lot more meat than I ever used to, but I’m kind of enjoying it.
Jeffrey Bland: So, one of the things as I look back at your upbringing, which I can identify with cause it was mine as well, was our mother who was very, very you could either say ahead of her times, or a revolution, or certainly different terms could be applied.
Christie Clark: Heretical.
Jeffrey Bland: Yeah, yeah. I would say she was ahead of her times. So, she raised you and me both with a very strong sense that nutrition played an important role. Do you think a person today who didn’t grow up with that same primordial motivation to be a little bit of a nutrition renegade and to be a health renegade—because health was a big virtue in our family—could still be successful in taking this stuff on with being overwhelmed? Otherwise, were you cultured?
Christie Clark: I think I probably was. I lost my best friend as you know, to cancer, to colon cancer. And, she always kidded me about my sort of obsession with health and she died way too young and it was totally preventable.
Jeffrey Bland: So, as we move ahead and we start to see people communicating with their healthcare providers and having more access to information and coming in, having looked at the internet and having their wearable information and so forth, how do you see it in being a patient and going to your doctor that shaping the relationship between you and your provider?
Christie Clark: Well, I see a traditional medical provider. That’s one of the reasons I’m an N of one is just cause I feel I do better managing my own health and only go to the doctor when it’s pretty bad.
Jeffrey Bland: But I think you’ve just said something that’s really important and I think this is a takeaway. These tools that empower us with information allow us to be in a locus of control so that we can select how we want to navigate through, I’m going to call it the disease care system. And so, it’s not that I believe, and, I’d like your thought about this; I’m just giving you my opinion. It’s not that these docs who are trained in the disease care are wrong or bad or malfeasant or whatever negative term you’d use. They have a specific expertise and training that’s really valuable when it’s used in the right way, but they don’t have as much training and value in other ways that we might want to use them. And so, it’s like asking a person at times to do something that they’re really not that well trained to do.
So, if we have a locus of control around our health, but we have someone in the wings that’s really good for addressing what might be that injury or that thing that comes up that we need the more crisis care intervention; it seems like we have trained ourselves and educated ourselves to have the best of both worlds. Right?
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: Because, then we can start navigating the system with greater intelligence, without using parts of the system to do things that it’s really not best suited to do. How do you respond now? Do you think I’m off base.
Christie Clark: No, I don’t think you’re off base at all. I was just thinking about the way I manage my own health. If I have an infection or something that needs clearly antibiotics or some sort of treatment or I’ve broken my ankle snowboarding, then I’ll see my doctor. But when I had that eczema rash, I knew that I was going to fall into an area of medicine that they’re not good at, traditional MDs, at least mine. So, I just did self-help on that and it worked out beautifully
Jeffrey Bland: Yeah. See, I think that this is really an important topic that you’re addressing, because I think often in this field, we’re quick to do judgment and point fingers and blame saying, “Well, my doctor doesn’t do the following and they don’t know about this” and, it produced some sense of upset.
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: Well, rather than saying, my doctor is actually really good at certain things that I’m glad they’re there, but I’m not going to ask them to do things that they’re not that good at.
Christie Clark: Yeah.
Jeffrey Bland: So, it recontextualizes the relationship. Don’t expect the person to do something that they’re not trained to do. This is part of the difficulty, I think, that we have with this word healthcare, because it assumes that they are trained in health. They’re not, they’re trained in disease and they’re good at it. And so, don’t go there thinking you’re going to get health, you’re going to get disease management, disease treatment. And so, then it begs the question, well, does that mean they know nothing of health?
Of course they know something of health. They know about standard conventions of risk reduction. What are the conventions of cholesterol, of blood pressure? I mean these are guidelines that are useful guidelines. It’s not to say they have no value, but they’re not individualized to you, the person, they’re community based, population-based standards. So, if you want to know about you and the healthcare system, then you’re saying, “Now I’m going to start implementing a different strategy. It’s more my locus of control.” Some people may say, “Well, I still need help. I’m not quite as far along in the curve as Christie Clark and using wearables and genetic testing, and this and that, and practicing for 40 years.” So okay, then there are other members of the broader community that are health focused and you need to find one of those to be your facilitator, but don’t expect your crisis disease care person to have the skills that you’re looking for and then call them wrong. That’s not fair.
Christie Clark: I agree. I know you talk a lot about and you’re really interested in changing the whole procedure, changing from the disease model to the health model, and how can doctors then be compensated and that’s a whole different thing.
Jeffrey Bland: Yeah, I think that’s where we are right now. We’re into an era where I believe that people are starting to say we need to find ways of paying for people keeping healthy, like we pay for people who are sick. I think that what we’re observing right now is a transformation about what healthcare is, about how this disease care healthcare interface occurs, and where to go to really find healthcare intervention versus the emergency room. I mean, no one would go to the emergency room for healthcare, would they? They might go for something that’s related to a serious problem, but it’s probably not healthcare.
Jeffrey Bland: How that translates to individuals who may not be quite as motivated as you, or don’t have quite the support system that you have, or maybe even the interest, is that we need to find then kind of a distributive system that gets down into things like health coaches, and group cooperations.
I know that when Mark Hyman, Dr. Hyman, did his interesting work at the Saddleback Church, in which they worked on health of the congregation of Saddleback Church—so it’s several thousand individuals—that they found that in group settings, without going to the doctors and getting medications, that these people had unbelievable individual changes in their health by reinforcement of one another. By being willing to talk about, you know, “I’ve been fighting my weight” or “I’ve been having blood sugar problems” or “I’ve got pain in such and such,” and finding people that have similar problems, and then working collaboratively through that so that we have a different approach to health than just one patient, with one diagnosis, with one drug, and one doctor—that’s a very kind of provincialized system.
Christie Clark: Yes. Yeah, I agree. And plus, I think that just the psychological factor, the emotional group setting, I mean we need connections; it’s part of our whole health picture. I attribute a lot of my own good health to good family relationships. I think it all builds and then friendships and just interaction with the world.
Jeffrey Bland: Yes, I think you’re right. And I look at… it’s an interesting observation; we’ve obviously just lost our mother at 92 a year ago and unfortunately, we lost our father in his early seventies, right?
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: And so, here is a huge gap, right? Two people that were deeply in love, great people together, that was a huge different gap in their health. And, then you start to say, “Well how did that actually happen? Was it genetics or was it environment?” And, I think as a learning curve within our own family, I believe—and I have not spoken about this much—but I think we would both think the same, that there was a lot of difference in the way that our mother lived than our father. Right?
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: And so, yes, there may have been genetic differences, but they were amplified by the lifestyle choices that our parents made. And so, you had very, very different example in our own family of how this played out over the course of 70 plus years of living.
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: And, as a resource—as I get older now, I really recognize this—as a resource to a family, there is something very important in the wisdom of the grandparents and maybe even the great-grandparents to pass on to their children about living, about the cultural adaptation to change and to kind of life lessons. But if you’re not well or you’ve died, you’re not going to pass on a lot of messages, right? And so, I think that there is something very important as we start growing older, to recognize that it’s not just that you are giving to your children when they’re little or even if you don’t have children. You are giving back if you maintain a level of vitality and health to the culture that needs the wisdom of experience.
Christie Clark: Mm-hmm.
Jeffrey Bland: But you can only give that wisdom of experience if you’re healthy enough to do so.
Christie Clark: That’s right.
Jeffrey Bland: Well, I want to really honor, I think Christie, what you’ve done. I mean, it’s very interesting, we have all these different diversities of ways that people approach health, and from soup to nuts in our broader field; everything from doing nothing to going overboard and being health fanatics. And, what I think you’ve done is found an incredible place to move forward with technology, to use it in a humanistic way, to incorporate it without being owned by it—you’re using it as an advantage to your life. And you’re not a biohacker, but you’re a tech savvy person that’s been able to harness and utilize these tools that really accelerate what we see here today: a 70-year-old woman that’s vital and capable and raring to go.
Christie Clark: Yeah, ready for the next snowboard season.
Jeffrey Bland: Exactly. So good on you. Thank you.
Christie Clark: Thank you.
Jeffrey Bland: And for you of the Big Bold Health universe, this is a pretty good model. Those of you that are aspiring as you move forward, I think Christie Clark does a pretty good job of carving out a landscape that’s a good place.
Christie Clark: Carving, that’s a snowboard term.
Jeffrey Bland: I know. That’s why I used it. It’s a metaphor. So, thanks a million. All of you. Thank you, Christie.
Christie Clark: Thank you.