Harnessing the Power of Lifestyle Medicine: A Journey to Well-Being
Lifestyle Medicine, if we pause to ponder its meaning, is something that can benefit us all. But what exactly is it?
According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, it’s about utilizing evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches. These approaches encompass a primarily whole-food, plant-based diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, effective stress management, responsible alcohol consumption, and quitting tobacco use. These non-drug modalities serve to not only prevent but often reverse the pervasive chronic diseases linked to our lifestyle choices.
Dean Ornish, a respected pioneer in the field, breaks down Lifestyle Medicine into five key components: nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, rest, and social support systems.
Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Well, mostly. While I advocate for bio-individuality, recognizing that a plant-based diet may work wonders for some but not for all, the concept of Lifestyle Medicine still makes immense sense to me. As a Functional Wellness Practitioner and a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I invest a significant amount of time delving into Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Reduction, and Supplementation, which forms the basis of the DRESS for Health Success Program®. Some of these aspects overlap with what we refer to as “primary food.” And no, it’s not what’s on your plate; that’s secondary food. Primary food relates to what’s happening in your relationships, career, physical activity, and even your spirituality. Do you nurture healthy relationships, or are there energy vampires draining you? Are you staying active, or is your life predominantly sedentary? Is your career fulfilling, or do you dread your job? Do you have a spiritual practice?
Secondary food, what you consume, takes a back seat when primary food is lacking. It doesn’t matter how much organic kale or chia seeds you eat; something essential will still be missing. This holistic approach aligns perfectly with the principles of Lifestyle Medicine.
Lifestyle Medicine isn’t a novel concept; it has roots that stretch far back in history. Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of medicine, recognized the healing power of food centuries ago. His philosophy was simple yet profound: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates wasn’t alone in this belief; ancient healing traditions also emphasized lifestyle as a vital component of well-being.
Abraham Maslow, renowned for his creation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in 1943, held the view that within each of us lies an inner nature striving to realize our true potential. He described this inner nature as delicate, subtle, and easily influenced by habit. It resonates with the wisdom of listening to our gut instincts. While we may not have all the answers about health and wellness, our inner nature, our intuition, often knows what’s best for us. So why do we sometimes ignore it? Is it a lack of trust or an inability to hear our inner voice? Do we lack the willpower to follow its guidance?
This is where a Health Coach can make a difference. A Health Coach can help you tune in to the subtle cues your inner nature is sending your way. They’ll assist you in defining a vision for your health, creating actionable steps to move closer to that vision, and finding ways to hold yourself accountable. Starting small and building upon these steps is key, as articulated by Vincent Van Gogh: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
Starting small and listening to your inner voice can pave the way to greatness. Here are some practical steps you can take in various areas of your life:
Nutrition: Opt for real, whole foods and steer clear of processed options. A handy guideline is to avoid products with more than five ingredients on the label. Prioritize vegetables, fruits, organic or grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, and healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes. Choose cooking fats like coconut oil and olive oil, and consider Bragg’s vinegar for salad dressing. Keep yourself hydrated with pure water and steer clear of GMOs, refined sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
Rest: Aim to be in bed by 10 pm and rise by 6 am to align with your natural circadian rhythm. Minimize screen time at least an hour before bedtime, or utilize blue light-blocking glasses to counter the sleep-disrupting effects of electronic devices. Blue light can suppress the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
Exercise: Incorporate daily physical activity into your routine, but avoid excessive strain, as intense workouts can become an additional source of stress. Daily walks are excellent, and you can mix in high-intensity interval training on some days while practicing yin yoga on others. If home workouts appeal to you, consider the MUTU System, which offers a 12-week program that gradually intensifies as your strength increases. It’s a program you own for life, and ideally, it will become a daily habit.
Stress Reduction: Integrate breathing exercises into your daily schedule, such as Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breath. Take moments of quiet to listen to your inner voice. Explore yin or restorative yoga classes, which you can also find on platforms like YouTube. Treat yourself to relaxation with an Epsom salt bath while enjoying a good book. Lastly, identify and remove energy vampires from your life—individuals or situations that drain your energy unnecessarily.
Social Support System: Build a web of support around yourself. Begin with a circle representing you at the center, then extend lines outward to other circles, each representing a person in your life. These could include your partner, doctor, health coach, sibling, house cleaner, and more. Within each circle, jot down the person’s name, how they support you, and their contact information. Consider who else could be part of your support network and reach out to them as needed.
Reduce Your Toxic Load: Review your home cleaning supplies and consider replacing any with more natural alternatives. Explore the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) guide to green cleaning products for guidance. Remember that what you apply to your skin matters as much as what you ingest, so check out EWG’s Skin Deep guide. For daily skincare, you can explore products from Annmarie Skin Care, known for its all-natural, organic, and wild-crafted ingredients with names you can pronounce.
By starting small and incorporating these practices into your daily life, you can gradually create a path toward improved health and well-being.
Interested in Health Coaching or FDN? Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® and the DRESS for Health Success® Program are proven methods that have helped thousands of people! To learn more, book a complimentary call.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for medical guidance and assistance tailored to your specific needs.