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Harvard Health Blog
Intensive lifestyle change: It works, and it's more than diet and exercise
- By Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
It just hit me when reading this: I had this kind of intensive lifestyle change in my mid-twenties.
To date myself, that was about 40 years ago.
In the space of 2 years, I switched to a plant-based whole-food diet; started exercising and meditating daily. I also started using natural household products.
Back then, people like me were laughed at. But we expected that and charged ahead anyway, and reaped the health benefits.
At 60sh, my health consistently spirals upward. I’m talking energy, stamina, physical strength, good moods, everything. Even lifting 3x the weight most younger women lift.
Yes, I had a major health condition in mid-life, but self-healed by tweaking my lifestyle, not taking pills. And never looked back— zero symptoms in the past 6 years or so!
Interest in this seems to be coming into the mainstream now. I mean, friends and relatives are even talking about this at parties, passionately.
Thanks for inspiring your readers to give this a try! I can’t say this passionately enough— it’s worth far more than you put into it!
This is so essential but the article misses the point that there are trained health coaches who do just what is described – work with clients to make lifestyle changes (in diet, exercise, nutrition, stress, and other factors) to promote health. It should not be the doctors job to also be a coach.
Amen, Elise. What helped me succeed in intensive lifestyle change 40 years ago was surrounding myself with like-minded friends, who were already well along the path. I could not have succeeded without them!
Lacking trained health coaches at the time, we read health books and shared what we learned. And compared notes on our progress— what was working, what was not. Sure we made some mistakes. But at least kept each other on our paths, until health coaches and the Internet arrived on the scene.
There was a time I used to study each and everything that’s connected with healthy life and dieting. One thing I do is read, read more and more. Recently I came across a new source of health-related information which became my everyday “book”: http://phlabs.com/health-info/63/diet
Saying is easy than doing
That’s right Carmela, but it’s worth doing if you want to live a longer, healthier life & feel good in yourself along the way. Those with your mindset will always find a ‘barrier’ to change……
Carmela, that’s what I say to myself every day. The amount of time and effort to maintain my health— don’t get me started!
But my very next thought is always, “Where would I be without my health? And who will do this for me if I don’t?
I healed from two chronic pain conditions— with healthy diet, movement therapy and meditation, not pills or surgery. I’ve been entirely pain-free for at least 6 years now. And plan to live to 105 in good health.
Here’s my mantra that keeps me on my path: It takes far more time and work staying sick than staying healthy.
Surround yourself with health-driven friends— that kind of support got me through!
The key takeaway here:
” . . . [N]ine weeks of nutrition and meal prep instruction on a plant-based, low-refined-carb and low-trans-fat diet . . .”
One could, but I am not advocating, remove all other activities described above to achieve a similar outcome — better health than current.
Now, in order for HH to maintain credibility and consistency, its editors should review/revise its “Harvard to USDA: Check out the Healthy Eating Plate” 2011 post/Plate which sadly, misleadingly, includes fish and poultry as among (the first listed) recommended sources of healthy protein.
The industrialized, commercialized production and farming of most chicken and fish, and this includes beef and pork, has a plethora of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics. In addition, these animals are not raised in humane conditions nor are they slaughtered humanely which includes tremendous suffering, which due to the stress the animal goes through, those stress hormones go into the flesh and stay there after death, eventually to be consumed. None of the artificial hormones, steroids, antibiotics and stress hormones are natural to the human body, and when consumed by humans ultimately impacting the body down to a cellular level, and not in a healthy way.
Stephen, I’d think so too.
Except I’ve seen many friends try a plant-based whole food diet alone, without the other components mentioned here (“stress management, communications skills, and relaxation instruction; and a support group”.)
Over the years, most stuck to their plant-based diets, but reverted to eating sugar, white bread and and other refined plant-based foods.
Anecdotally, almost all are suffering from major health conditions today.
Stephen, yes, even with the diet change alone, health outcomes would be so much better.
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