Would you put a goldfish in a gallon of Gatorade and expect it to live?

Krystal Plonski, Bastyr student, shares her journey as a medical student and role model for those coming after her.

For those of you that do not know me, my name is Krystal Plonski and I am an east-coast-transplant in my 4th year of naturopathic medical school at Bastyr, who is also studying Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. In addition, during my free time, I like to volunteer with the company, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, where I am a Big Sister to my “Little,” an 11-year-old girl.

I'd like to explore the idea of being a role model to someone who looks up to you, seeing as though there are significant overlaps between this and the “doctor-patient” relationship. The whole experience of being a “Big” has been an interesting one. From learning about hard lessons concerning Seattle's low-income family services, to 5th grade drama, to the latest Pixar film, or to the newest “word on the street” (which continually outdates me), I have learned more than I ever thought was possible from this whole experience, and continue to learn on a daily basis. One interesting lesson in particular, is closely tied with my Little's 2013 New Year resolution: becoming healthier. I thought to myself, well, what a great pair we are (for more reasons than one)! For one, I am completely interested in health and medicine and two, her wanting to learn about health and medicine.

It has been an interesting ride and not as cut and dry as I would have liked. Traversing and balancing between friend/guardian/role model, particularly with an issue about “being healthy” (in addition to slowly learning what health means to her, defined differently in my own head), is a constantly challenging experience. I've asked myself many questions on how to delicately handle this situation, which was obviously not clearly outlined in the Big Brothers Big Sisters training manual I received over a year ago.

So I thought to myself: I'll make it a point to do activities that either involve some type of movement or healthy eating option, which by an 11-year-old girl, are not often chosen, unfortunately. When choosing between going for a walk around the lake or riding our bikes on an off-road bike trail, the option chosen is going to the movies. When choosing options between soda and water, my Little will most likely choose the soda. Chicken nuggets or carrot sticks? Bar none, the chicken nuggets. I'm sure that you see the common thread.

I then think back and remember that age – being 11 and wanting to drink the sugary drink or the Dunkaroo'sā„¢, or watch massive amounts of TV, because, isn't that what the cool kids do? I'll never forget a family friend, who is also a chiropractor in Connecticut, talking to me about drinking more water, since my mother clearly had asked her to do so:

She asked me, “So, Krystal, how much water do you drink?”
And I replied, something of the sort: “1 glass. I don't like the way that it tastes.”
To which she rebuttled, “Okay, that's fair. But now let me ask you this, would you put a goldfish in a gallon of Gatorade and expect it to survive?”
Being the 11-year-old that I was, I immediately replied, “No, it would die.”
She goes, “Exactly.”
For some reason, either that method of quick wit delivery or the mere thought of a goldfish slowly dying in the fish tank of highlighter yellow Gatorade scarred me for life, but I started to pay more and more attention to my own health, and for those around me.

As you can imagine, I have been searching for an opportune moment of delivery to which I could enlighten my Little, without forcefully throwing my healthy opinions down her throat and sending her running and screaming in the opposite direction. I then received an email with this link,, embedded within it, from my significant other, since he knows my love for Pixar classics (as well as my Little's).

A light bulb instantaneously struck for me: this short video very well hits home a Pixar-friendly way of explaining (sans words) to anyone who watches it the importance of eating healthy, staying active, and staying away from fast food as a primary means of meals. I mean, how often do you see a cheetah eating a cheeseburger and still being able to capture their prey? Rarely.

In light of being able to apply my Big Brothers Big Sisters situation to my future practice – I always struggle, and am completely fascinated, by the topic of inspiration. I, myself, want to be an inspiration to not only my Little, but also to my future patients, family, and friends. I want to find an effective way to get across my message of the Naturopathic principles in a way that individually makes sense, fits into their lifestyles, and drives the message home for future steps towards positive change.

In closing, I'd like to leave with a quote that I find very valuable, on a daily basis, that gives me motivation and strength to continue on this journey of medical school, being a “Big,” and hopefully within the future, after graduation:

As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.
- Paul Shane Spear