Lifestyle Medicine and Patients who Inspire
My patients inspire me. I have patients who really take lifestyle interventions seriously and have prevented or reversed chronic disease because of it. A couple patients walk at least an hour per day or do a different type of exercise every day. Others diligently find ways to work plant-based diets into their busy days. It is an honor for me to help set goals for these patients in my office, and even better to celebrate improvements and victories with them when they meet those goals. Weight loss is difficult in any country, and control of blood pressure or blood sugar is especially challenging here where only a few medications are easily available and staple foods are not the healthiest.
These incredible patients help me to be a better person. One of my patients shares his daily steps with me from time to time. On days when I am below my goal, a goal which is a bit lower than his, seeing his dedication encourages me to go walk a bit more. Another patient sends me pictures of healthy meals she cooks, and I send back pictures of my own healthy meals. It makes me think twice about my own diet when I know I will be sharing a picture of my food with patients who are working so hard to improve their own diets. One patient has watched his after-meal sugars drop from dangerous (acid-producing, muscle digesting) highs of 400 to healthy ranges around 110 with some simple medications and a lot of hard work transforming his diet and exercise routines. These same months, I have worked to get my own sugars down from a pre-diabetic range back down to normal. I haven't told many of my patients about that. I wonder how many of them know that I am journeying with them?
Last week, I developed a meal plan which should help a family move toward healthier habits and healthier weights. I know that it hasn’t been easy for them to make changes away from animal-based protein and processed carbohydrates. Advice and encouragement in the office is barely anything compared to the dedication and creativity needed to adjust the entire family’s diet and habits. Hearing about their successes and struggles inspired me to start looking into my own diet – what I eat for each meal, whether I am meeting my daily goals for fiber, protein, and staying under goals for saturated fat. And I was trying to meet goals to maintain my weight and my health, while my patients are trying to reverse disease and lose weight. That exercise has helped give me an increased appreciation of my patients, who change their entire lifestyle to embrace healthier habits.
Today, we took a friend out to eat for breakfast. Walking in, I saw at least three of my patients sitting at tables across from me. If I wasn’t committed to healthy eating before, knowing that individuals who have heard me talk about lifestyle for hours in the office over the last several years would definitely have encouraged me to order the salad instead of less healthy options. I know nobody is perfect, and I don’t think I will ever attain a perfect lifestyle, nor should I try, but it is wonderful to have so many individuals I know who are working so hard and inspire me to be a better person.