"Lifestyle medicine" has become a popular term, and that's a good thing for everyone, because the focus in medicine does need to change. Naturopaths have been promoting lifestyle medicine for well over 100 years, and it's still a core part of what we do. We focus on prevention and on treating the cause of illness- and lifestyle is often the cause, or a part of the cause.
Diseases have shifted over the last century from predominantly infectious diseases like tuberculosis, to nowadays, chronic lifestyle-related diseases like hypertension, autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes and depression. But methods of treatment still focus on pills, injections and surgery, with doctors not having time to do more than tell people to 'just lose weight', which is hardly an effective way to help people improve their lifestyle.
As Australians get older, more and more are on prescription drugs to manage blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, not to mention depression and anxiety. And because we are trained to take tablets rather than change our lifestyle or dig a bit deeper, people often come to a Naturopath wanting 'natural" tablets rather than to look at underlying causes.
Lifestyle includes what we eat, how much and how we move, and how stressed we are. It can also include our support system, our physical and emotional environment, our community, our sense of purpose.
A Lifestyle approach needs to be sensitive to the individual, and work with their capabilities and real life limitations, and while some people may be ready to make lots of changes at once, most people will need to make gradual changes in a positive direction, and be supported in that. Its all about developing healthy habits with baby steps.
As a Naturopath, that's one of the main things I do! I support people to make lifestyle changes in a manageable way, such as focusing on certain foods, getting outside more, and taking some time for themselves. Alongside this come the herbs and supplements, if needed, and the help for immediate symptom relief- but always the underlying lifestyle factors are considered.
Focus on Health, Not Weight
In particular, I practice a non-diet, non-weight focused approach to lifestyle changes, because no matter your size, eating well and moving are just as beneficial for you, irrespective of any weight loss side effect. Focusing on weight loss is the wrong focus, and is very difficult to achieve, wheras lifestyle changes are always beneficial and are doable.
When we focus on living well, on moving, eating well, sleeping well and managing our stress, we prevent future illness from occurring and we have more energy and vitality.