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Sorry For Driving You Nuts – A Health Journalist’s Apology to Family and Friends

Shannon Harvey

If you’re a friend or relative of mine, the chances are that I drive you nuts. I know this because I see your furtive glances when you give my kids lollies, I see you sneaking away at family events to eat your ice-cream out of my eye-sight, and I know that when you invite me around for dinner you’re worried that I’ll critique your chosen menu.

The truth is, being close to an investigative health journalist must suck. You probably think that I’m constantly analysing your stress levels, your exercise routine (or lack of one) and your sleeping habits. You probably think that I’m scrutinising every micro ingredient that you put into your mouth. You may even think that I’ve found some magical balance between my health priorities, and the needs of my small children, my husband, my work, and spending time with you – my family and friends, and that I’m judging you for not having done the same.

But before this misunderstanding continues, I’d like to set a few things straight.

1.

I’m not a saint. If you see me making an effort to eat well, or go to bed on time, or use my phone less, it’s not because I’m trying to make you feel bad, it’s because I’m trying to look after myself. If I don’t eat the fries, it’s because they give me a stomach ache. If I head home early, it’s because lost sleep is directly correlated with having an autoimmune disease related flare-up for me. If I drop off social media, it’s because I’ve realised my phone was hijacking my life. As you know, in this crazy-busy, junk food-rich, time-poor, topsy-turvy world, in which junk is called “party” food, and sleep is for sissies, and the ancient practice of mindfulness is “new-age” woo woo, being healthy is not easy. I’m just doing my best. And I slip-up every day.

2.

I’m really into this stuff. Every time you tell me about your gut issues, my deep dive into the new science of the microbiome immediately springs to mind. When you tell me about your new diet or exercise regimen, I think about an interview I did with an expert who told me that unless you deploy well-planned strategies, there’s a strong chance you’re going to fail. If you confide that you’re worried about someone you care about who’s suffering with mental health problems, the chances are I’ve just read a terrific, highly credible, surprising, and entertaining book about that very topic (which you’d probably love). When it comes to the subject of mental and physical health, I’m very well informed. So if we’re having a conversation and I start mentioning one of my latest tidbits, it’s not because I’m trying to get one-up on you, or come across as being “better” than you. It’s just because I’m enthusiastic and I want to share what I know. Investigating evidence-based healthy living is my job. I do it every day. I live and breathe it. I love it.

3.

I also dearly love you. So when I can’t help myself (and I often can’t) and I start talking about this stuff with you, please know that it comes from a good place. That nothing makes me happier in this world than being of use to the people I care about.

With all that said, I know that the motivation to change anything about your health and lifestyle has to come from within you. As I wrote in my piece Can You Change The Unwilling? Motivating the Unmotivated, I’m aware that no matter how many films I make, no matter how many books I write, and no matter how many podcasts I produce, I cannot, and will never be able, to inspire those unwilling to change. Nor is it my place to preach or to try and convert you.

So, with all that said, here is my commitment to you:

  • I promise that if you’re trying out a new diet, or exercise routine, or mental health program, or anything else for yourself, I will offer you nothing but my good wishes and support.
  • I promise that I will try my hardest to not give unsolicited health advice.
  • And most importantly, I will never insult you, or judge you, or criticise you, or think badly of you, no matter what you’re eating, or drinking, or smoking, or doing, or not doing.


Before I finish, let me just say this. You have someone in your life who enjoys deep-diving into the latest evidence around health and wellbeing, who spends an enormous amount of time sorting out the quacks from the qualified so that you don’t have to, and who loves discussing the science of the mind-body-health connection. So, if you ever want to talk, I’m right here.



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