The Flex Diet – It Bends, So You Don't Break.

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Ralph Macchio and I share an early November birthday. I remember discovering this as a kid, and being pretty psyched. Because, like any socially awkward pre-teen in the 1980s, I considered “The Karate Kid” to be a defining coming-of-age cinematic experience — a close second to “The Goonies” and maybe “The Breakfast Club.” And now? Even 20 years later, I still use a few of Mr. Miyagi’s tricks to help me take better care of my patients.  No waxing involved.

One of the concepts that Daniel-san took to the Mid-Valley All-Regional Championships was the idea that when you are facing an opponent, focus your energies beyond him. Sounds like a physics conundrum, but it works. Fighters know that you’ll maximize your impact if you strike a point just behind your opponent rather than use him as the point of impact. Doing this will push your momentum right through him. I realized after watching the movie a few dozen times that this was not only a great way of fighting, but an interesting strategy for approaching any problem. Focus your energies beyond the challenge, and maintain your momentum as you pass through it.

So what does this have to do with heart disease? Lots. When I sit with a patient who is contemplating a ridiculously invasive procedure, a 5% chance of death, multiple days in the hospital, and possibly months of recovery, it helps to think beyond the problem at hand. One way to do this is with simple visualization. I ask patients to try to picture themselves on the other side of the experience. I ask them to think about how good they will feel, how happy they will be that they went through with it. Once they find themselves at their destination, then it’s just a matter of getting there. Focusing energy on the destination makes the trip easier to contemplate. Because if you’ve already arrived there in your mind, that means that the journey is actually possible.

In the immortal Mr. Miyagi’s words – “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance is good … everything good.”