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Peter Shalit tells why he wrote a special health guide just for gay men

"Everyone knows what a blow job is," says Peter Shalit, MD, Ph.D., explaining why he decided to use casual language in his new book, Living Well: The Gay Man's Essential Health Guide (Alyson, $17.95). "I don't think it's fair to assume that everyone recognizes the word fellatio. And if you can't find the right words, you can't find a cure for what ails you."

Shalit, who was named one of America's best doctors in a national poll earlier this year, wrested to write a book that would address the special medical needs of gay men. "There are a lot of well-meaning doctors who think that because they're not homophobic, they're all set to provide good health care to gay men," Shalit says. "But there are many aspects of health care that are specific to our lives that never get addresed."

Like sexual dysfunction--which, Shalit says, is almost always treated as a heterosexual problem--and drug abuse and addiction, which, according to Shalit, must be seen as gay issues if they're to be dealt with successfully. "For a lot of gay men, drug use is linked directly to sex--either to get up the nerve to have sex or to enhance it," he says. "You can't treat someone with this condition if you're not aware of that kind of connection."

Living Well also covers nonmedical issues such as preventive care and body image and includes a section on making the most of your doctor-patient relationship--a primary concern of Shalit's. "If you can't say to your physician, `Hey, my butt is sore. Is that because I had a date last night with a guy who was really big?' then it's time to get yourself a new doctor," he says.

Shalit learned about honesty from his outspoken father, film critic Gene Shalit. But while his famous dad advocates honesty, Shalit says it wasn't always that way. "He didn't like the fact that I was out of the closet in medical school," he recalls. "He worried about what effect being so open would have on my success in life. I had to tell him that I couldn't not be out. The nicest thing about him is, he's so supportive and easy to educate, and he eventually saw things my way."

After spending most of a year writing about gay health issues, Shalit hopes that readers will see things his way too. "I thought writing a book about health would be easy since I talk about it all day at the office," he says. "I was very, very wrong."

Pela is coauthor of the upcoming Idol! The Who's Who of Fifty Years of Teen Heartthrobs. RELATED ARTICLE: SHAPING UP SENSIBLY

From Living Well: The Gay Man's Essential Health Guide. [C] 1998 by Peter Shalit, MD, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Alyson Publications.

Attractiveness is one big motivator to get in shape and stay in shape, especially for some gay men. This has become a political issue in the gay community. Our magazines are filled with images of unrealistically muscular, trim, young bodies. Many critics, gay or not, say that our community has a tendency to be ageist and "looksist."

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive. But a person should not feel unattractive just because he doesn't look like the guys in the magazines. So I have mixed emotions when I hear a story like the following:

Jim: I gained 40 pounds in my last relationship, and I really let myself go to pot. Now that we've split up, I've gone back to the gym, and I'm tanning, and I'm on a strut diet. Gotta be buffed for the beach this summer! Bedsides, I'm back on the market, and who is going to be interested in a fat, pasty guy?

I guess I'm glad Jim is now trying to take care of himself, though I may not agree with the details of his approach. And I wonder how long he'll stay in shape once he finds 'another boyfriend.

Fitness is not a means to achieve a short-term goal, like looking good at the beach or disco in order to attract a boyfriend. No one should feel like he is depriving himself by dieting or flogging himself by exercising.

Instead, every man should incorporate some sensible, healthy habits into Iris routine of life. These habits include 20 to 30 minutes of relatively vigorous exercise daily. They should include a sensible pattern of eating, which reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Healthy habits tend to increase a person's physical and emotional well-being.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Peter Shalit wrote health guide for gay men
Author:Pela, Robrt L.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 22, 1998
Previous Article:FIT FOR A LIVING.

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