From my early years in medicine I’ve believed my role as a medical provider was to help prevent illnesses rather than react to it. Think of it as playing offense rather than defense. I personally enjoy living a healthy lifestyle and helping others achieve the same. I believe health is for everyone, not just a few. There are too many joys to miss out on and sadly, some have settled for a life of not feeling 100%. With some coaching and shifts in lifestyle, most everyone CAN experience overall feelings of health, positive relationships, a pursuit of goals, and meaning in life.
According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach (a fancy way of saying it’s based on scientific research and data) to preventing, treating and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones — such as eating healthfully, being physically active, managing stress, avoiding risky substance abuse, adequate sleep and having a strong support system.
All physicians and advance practice professionals receive some education about preventative medicine – like the importance of mammograms or getting regular vaccinations. A healthy lifestyle is a laudable goal – we know that healthy eating and regular exercise are good for our bodies. But what about the specifics? How much should I exercise and for how long? What kind of diet should I follow – paleo, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean? There are many factors to consider.
Lifestyle medicine training means I can provide statistical information about the benefits and help individuals develop a customized plan, like how to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet and create a fitness routine that keeps your health goals in mind. What’s more, I love sharing about the effects that healthy eating and regular exercise can have on a person’s lifespan and quality of life!
While the approach can look differently according to our own unique goals, the outcomes are similar. It brings me tremendous joy to see patients who have settled for a life of less, find a life of more. For example, one 69 year old patient started her journey with me as a diabetic on multiple medicines that made her feel lethargic, nauseous and stole her joy of being active with her grandkids. After three months of shifting her diet, focusing on being physically active and spending time with others who were pursuing the same choices, she’s no longer diabetic and her bloodwork is better than it’s been since she was in her 30s. She’s off several medicines and feels more energy and joy than she’s felt in years. 3 months can change an entire life.
That’s why I pursued my board certification in Lifestyle Medicine. I wanted to empower my patients with the knowledge and support required to choose and have that type of life; one with joy and health. A positive lifestyle is available, all it takes is a willing person, with an open mind who wants to do the hard work and reap the good rewards.
Franklin Baker, PA-C, physician assistant at CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates, is board certified in lifestyle medicine. To schedule an appointment, call (423) 643-2246.