What is Lifestyle Medicine?
By Maria Harpas
If we were to check the meaning of the word “lifestyle” it's defined by the way a person chooses to live. Meanwhile, medicine is defined as anything that is used to treat or prevent disease. Lifestyle medicine has its roots well and truly in naturopathic medicine, it is the core of our teaching and no other profession can make this claim quite as securely as the naturopathic or nutritional medicine practitioner.
Naturopathy and nutritional medicine, unlike orthodox medicine, is a mixed bag. What I mean by that is that not all practitioners are alike, in fact there are diverse differences in how we practice. The differences can be so great that it can be the cause of major frustration for doctors and clients alike….. But we do all have one thing in common if nothing else, and that's a deep seated belief that changing how you live can and does have a HUGE impact on your health.
What Is Lifestyle Medicine?
Let's take a look at some of the things lifestyle medicine considers:
- Sleeping habits. How you sleep, the environment you sleep in, the quality of your sleep and the length of your sleep.
- Diets. What you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, how you eat!
- Exercise. The intensity and form of exercise you do.
- Stress management. How you manage stress, your tolerance to stress, if you know how to recognise the signs that you are stressed.
- Environmental stress management. With the surging levels of electromagnetic radiation (EMF) access to WiFi, TV’s, mobile phones, iPads, smart meters and others that have a direct affect on the nervous system and how cells signal each other and react. Chemicals placed on or absorbed through the skin from cleaning care and cosmetic products need to be considered.
How To Succeed With Lifestyle Medicine?
For most people you don’t need to change everything (unless you want to). In fact, one of the most important reasons to seek professional advise is so an assessment can be made, as to what things are most important for YOU.
Some of the things that determine what to target are based on your symptoms, pathology results and family history. It's also important not to make too many changes at once as the likelihood of permanent long term changes diminishes when too much is taken on at once.
A professional in this area will assess where you are at and what is achievable. The great thing with lifestyle changes is that there are usually many different ways to achieve changes.
Tips To Help You Win When Making Lifestyle Changes
- Knowledge doesn’t change behaviour necessarily.
- Learning a new skill requires repetition and a clear motive.
- Avoid getting “will power fatigue”. It's a muscle like any other, don’t over use it!
- Aim for a few changes at a time.
- Shame gives short term results and depletes will power!
- Keep coming back to your motive.
- Consider “social power”. We do what those around us do.
- Consider mindfulness as it develops impulse control, changes your grey matter and strengthens your prefrontal cortex.
- Think in terms of stages of changes.
- Understand that relapse is part of learning.
- Big lists can be overwhelming.
- Repetition and consistency develop new pathways.
These days there's now proven understanding that as humans we need a deep connection to nature, others, and have meaningful relationships and commitment to our own life. Lifestyle medicine is the way of the future and achievable by using practical and realistic solutions, which differs for each one of us.
Maria Harpas is the director of Natural Health Medicine in Adelaide. She is a Clinical Nutritionist and a Naturopathic practitioner and has been practicing for 10 years. Aside from her great passions in digestive health and immune health (autoimmune/allergies), she also loves working with those with energy issues and pain.