About a month ago I had the privilege of attending a whole weekend of lectures at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York. I am so grateful for the amazing curriculum at IIN that enables me to learn from the world’s leading integrative medicine and nutrition experts directly (email me if you want to know more about IIN). The weekend was filled to the brim with great information, and, hands down, the highlight was hearing from Dr. Andrew Weil, the leading proponent of integrative medicine.
Dr. Weil spoke for two hours – the first, primarily about the health crisis we currently have in the U.S. The second hour was focused on what we can do about it.
“We don’t have a health care system,” Dr. Weil said. ”What we have is a disease management system.” Dr. Weil said that we spend more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world, but we rank 37th in the world when it comes to addressing chronic disease – just behind Serbia.
Before the financial meltdown, experts were saying that healthcare could destroy our whole economy, mostly because we’ve created a recipe for trouble: no prevention and only intervention + using high-tech solutions to most problems = a very costly and inefficient way of fixing (or not fixing) the health of the country.
“How did we get into the habit of thinking the only way to cure disease is to take drugs? Unless we drastically change our ways, we are headed for certain collapse of our economy and our health system.” Dr. Weil said this is also becoming a matter of national security, since many people now are too obese or sick to join the military.
So what can we do about it? Here are the top points I took away from Dr. Weil – I hope they motivate you to make positive changes for yourself and for our country:
1 – Health does not mean “absence of disease.” Dr. Weil’s definition of health is “an inner state of resilience and balance that allows you to go through life and be unharmed by the things that can harm you.” Our bodies have the ability to heal. We should make this definition of health our goal.
2 – We need a broad, cultural change in which health becomes cool. Do what you can to help others choose health by making simple, better choices.
3 – Practice integrative medicine – medicine that is not focused on drugs, but rather on prevention, paying attention to lifestyle factors, considering other dimensions of our life than just our physical bodies (emotions, spirituality), and insisting on the importance of the patient/practitioner relationship. This is the solution to our healthcare crisis.
4 – Eat real food – According to Dr. Weil, all of the processed foods we are eating are contributing to inflammation – which is causing chronic disease. To read more about Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet – a great resource if you are trying to eat for your health and prevent disease – visit his website. Out of all of his books (all of which are great!) my favorite is Eating Well for Optimum Health. This is an amazing, basic guide to nutrition that should be required reading for all Americans.
5 – Recognize the importance of physical activity and maintaining social and mental interconnectedness as part of a healthy diet. Studies show the people who live the longest are both active and well-connected to friends and loved ones.
6 – We need to learn how to neutralize the most harmful effects of stress. Find an activity that helps you calm down – even if it’s simply listening to music, taking a bath or doing yoga.
7 – Lastly, do you want to know what the most important thing I learned from Dr. Weil – and from the whole weekend – was? It will surprise you because it seems so simple.
It’s that I have to breathe more. ”Breath is a mastery key to healthy living. It’s the connection between our conscious and our unconscious mind, and is the master of our central nervous system,” Dr. Weil said. He didn’t learn much about it when he attended Harvard Medical School, but since, has come to learn that it is “the single most effective medical intervention” that he has ever discovered. It can cure everything from heart arrhythmias to anxiety. And it costs nothing, and only takes one minute. Here is Dr. Weil’s breathing technique:
Breathe in for 4 counts through your nose. Hold for 7 counts. Exhale for 8 counts through your mouth. Repeat four times. Do this twice a day, without fail.
“This is the single most powerful anti-anxiety measure I’ve ever found, in all of my years of work. This is the most important thing I am telling you here today.”
This is something we all can afford. And no matter how busy you are (and I’m pretty busy) I bet you can find one minute to do this each day. Imagine what the wold would be like if we all took Dr. Weil’s advice?