Highlights from the 2017 Lifestyle Medicine Conference

This medical conference was the most eye-opening, refreshing, intellectually stimulating I’ve attended. No exaggeration. Here’s one of three solid pages of notes I took during the keynote lecture by Dean Ornish MD, founding father of intensive lifestyle changes as a legitimate and effective medical treatment for… just about everything:

The three-day conference featured many dynamic and accomplished docs presenting the principals and practice strategies of culinary and lifestyle medicine. What does that mean? Well, here are some highlights:

From physician-chef Rani Polak, MD:

“Culinary Medicine = Culinary Training + Health and Wellness Coaching”

“Home cooking is critical for good health. Study after study shows us that the more people cook at home, the healthier they eat.”

“Cooking is much more than just a set of skills. Cooking is strongly related to one’s work, family, and self-care.”

“There is a strong correlation between providers’ and patients’ behavior. When the doctor eats healthy, the patient is more likely to also eat healthy.”

From father of lifestyle medicine Dean Ornish, MD:

“How do we get patient to change? First, understand: Fear is not a sustainable motivator. Joy and pleasure are.”

“We’ve been publishing data on reversal of heart disease using intensive lifestyle intervention for years. We’ve gotten people off of the heart transplant list. Every time that happens- we get a patient off that list- I think, that’s just so cool. Isn’t that cool?”

“As more of the world adopts the American lifestyle, we see it, the Globalization of Illness: Eat like us, Live like us, Die like us.”

“It’s not low-carb vs. low-fat. It’s less bad carbs and less bad fat.”

“Most effective diets are saying the same thing: Eat plants. Reduce refined carbs and animal protein, bad fats, trans fats.”

“A plant-based diet isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the planet.”

“Serve a vegetarian dinner and save the world.”

“People who are alone, depressed and isolated have a 3 to 10 times greater risk of premature death than people with love, connection, and warmth.”

“So many ‘bad’ behaviors are just lonely people self-medicating.”

“It’s not how long you live, it’s how well you live.”

“People need meaning to change their behavior. If it’s meaningful, it’s sustainable.”

“Love is more powerful than fear.”

From physician-writer Suzanne Koven, MD:

“The culture of perfectionism in medicine is why doctors are 2 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”

“Exhausted, depressed, and wounded caregivers don’t provide as good care as healthy caregivers.”

From nutrition expert Walter Willet, MD:

“To really reduce the risk of disease and death, you have to use diet and lifestyle. That Statin you prescribe can boost the effect a little, but diet and lifestyle are the key.”

“Yes, diet and lifestyle have side effects. And they’re all good.”

“No vitamins, minerals, or supplements are necessary for most people. Just a better diet.”

“Here’s the summary: Better diet, more activity, and less smoking will prevent disease and save the world.”

From living legend and master of the Relaxation Response Herbert Benson, MD:

“So, so many diseases are caused or exacerbated by stress.”

“The Relaxation Response is so simple, and yet so powerful.”

“You only have to want to do this: Close your eyes and sit comfortably. With every breath out, in your mind, silently say a word or phrase. And that’s all it is. Say the same word or phrase on every out breath. It’s the repetition that is key. When thoughts intrude, and they will, just say, oh well, and go back to your breathing and your word or phrase.”

“The longer and more frequently people evoke the relaxation response, the more positive changes occur.”

I’m sure there was more, but this is all I can read from my messy notes. I’ll be writing more formally about the conference for Harvard Health Blog soon and will provide links.





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