I've been a physician since 1996, and a trained surgeon since 2001. I consider myself blessed to have the education and schooling to change people's lives. But I've also been taught that the only remedy to a malady comes through the use of Western medicine — whether that's with prescription drugs, IV medications, or the use of a scalpel.
And over the past few years, I have begun to question those values.
There is now a growing undercurrent in the medical field, and it's the idea of Lifestyle Medicine. It questions many of our traditional notions of how to treat basic medical conditions. It's an idea I'm starting to truly believe in, as well as incorporate into my weight-loss surgery practice.
Overall, Lifestyle Medicine takes the approach that there isn't "a pill for every ill" but rather that, in many cases, the patients can make smarter lifestyle choices to cure themselves.
For example, a patient could see a doctor about his elevated blood pressure and get a prescription for one of 200 different pills. Or, in the approach of Lifestyle Medicine, the patient could get specific coaching on performing regular exercise and reducing stress and the salt in his diet.
Similarly, a patient might see her physician for medication to control her newly diagnosed diabetes. Or their doctor could instruct her on carbohydrate intake, exercise after meals, and how to find an emotional release other than eating sweets. A patient could see her physician with painful osteoarthritis and the doctor could prescribe one of 20 different anti-inflammatory medications — or the physician could coach the patient on stretching, exercise, yoga, weight reduction, appropriate shoes, and a different mattress.
In other words: We don't need a pill to fix what can be fixed with mindful eating, regular exercise, appropriate stress reduction, and healthy lifestyle choices.
Here are the many other things a pill cannot do:
1. Make you feel strong.
2. Make you feel great after a long workout.
3. Make you feel confident.
4. Earn the respect of your peers.
5. Give you courage, because you know you've succeeded over the same challenge before.
6. Make you believe in yourself.
7. Help you climb a mountain.
8. Teach you self-respect, self-worth or self-love.
9. Make you and those around you smile.
10. Make you laugh out loud.
11. Improve your marriage through honesty, respect, and communication.
12. Teach your kids to love and respect you.
13. Bring joy to someone else.
14. Bring you profound happiness.
15. Make you proud of your achievements.
16. Help you live a productive life.
17. Help you achieve peace.
18. Help you be more creative.
19. Help you be an inspiration to others.
20. Help you find the authentic you.
The Bottom Line
I've been a doctor for almost 20 years, and I have evolved over that time. Of course, I still prescribe medications when a patient is in pain, has an infection, or has a condition resistant to other methods. I still perform surgeries and use my scalpel when it makes sense for a patient.
But my greatest opportunity is to teach my patients to maximize who they are and to become who they want to be by the choices they make. I have learned — for myself and my patients — that there's no magic pill.