by Cesca Janece Waterfield
In an urban emergency room, each second holds elements of extremes; life or death, an answered prayer of recovery, or the nightmare of loss.
Dr. Wayne Andersen walked into his first intensive care unit ready to help people. He was fresh from a fellowship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, and a successful graduate of medical school in Kansas.
But over the next twenty years, he realized: “I would keep them from dying, but I wanted to get them healthy, to do more than hold the symptoms at bay.”
So he left his critical care practice to focus on working as a “health interventionist” and he wrote The Habits of Health, promoting his system to weight loss and optimal health, what Andersen calls “a journey of a lifetime that helps make small, lasting changes in habits.”
He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his family. http://drwayneandersen.com
3 Steps to Top Health
“The three main areas to reach a healthy weight and maintain it starts with the triad, what you eat, how you move your body and how you sleep.”
Think, then Eat
“Make sure the food you put in your body doesn’t stimulate your glucose to go up which causes the insulin to go up. Your blood sugar goes up and you get cravings and you eat all the wrong foods. I teach people to color code their food and I have charts that teach them to eat in the green zones.”
“Use portion control. Use a nine inch plate, with fifty percent being fruit and vegetables, 25 percent being a meat or protein and 25 percent being a healthy, low-glycemic starch. We teach them how to select portion size when they’re out at restaurants. We always teach them to eat every three hours because it fuels your body the way we were designed. Eat breakfast. Mom was right. The National Weight Control Registry shows that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.”
Move through the Day
“We teach people very simply how to move more at work. Use the water cooler and the restroom at the other end of the office. Stand up rather than sit down when you’re on the phone. We can show them on a very simple state on how to add on another 150 calories of energy expenditure without adding active exercise. We teach people that especially if they’ve been inactive, going immediately into the gym it’s terrifically hard on their backs and knees. We focus on lowering caloric intake, and moving more.”
Prepare for Sleep
“Sleep is not a luxury. It’s a critical component of health. There are almost 80 million Americans with sleep disorders. People who don’t sleep well are more likely to be obese. They’re more likely to do things and eat things that are not good for them. We teach simple things like, don’t have coffee after noon. We show them in the evening to eliminate sensory input a half hour before going to sleep. Just like you would before going to dinner, we teach people how to remove themselves from stimulus. There are a whole bunch of simple things that can move people on a new path.”
[For example], “If you have a history of diabetes and you’re going to your doctor, I’m a critical care physician. I know a lot about medicines, and traditional medicine reacts to the disease. What we do is help people change their focus, organize their life around what matters, and then focus on creating health in their life. No medication ever created health. What we do is help the body get back in balance and get healthy.”
Q&A with Dr. Andersen
How did you come to be a “health interventionist”?
I’m a critical care physician. I was the tenth board certified critical care physician in the country. Why I went into that field was I wanted to take care of the whole patient. Previously, people that were critically injured had a cardiologist take care of their heart, a pulmonologist take care of the lungs, and everybody had a different perspective. Sometimes it was like the patient didn’t do that well because everybody was focused on their one area. One of the things I learned is that when I really focused on getting great nutrition into my really sick people, that’s when they started getting better. That started my interest in helping people before they got sick. So I went into that emerging specialty and kind of pioneered that. The pivotal role of getting people the right nutrients is critical. That started my interest in helping people before they get sick. So in 2001, I left my critical care practice and went out to help people get health in their life.
Why do so many people regain weight after losing it?
The thing is that people lose weight but then they gain the weight back because unless they change their underlying habits, they’ll then revert back to their own old habits and then they gain the weight back. That’s what started me in the last ten years I’ve helped over 200,000 people. It’s been very observational. I’ve gone out and looked at what the struggles are and why can’t people lose weight, keep it off and get healthy.
Can you summarize your philosophy of health?
I call it the Seven Habits of Disease, which are in all areas of life, not just what they eat, but how they move or don’t move, how they sleep, how they handle stress. So I [asked], how do we overcome and make health “doable”? So I wrote Habits of Health and the companion guide. The books [comprise many] baby steps that together make a big difference.
I help people first start on a different path. Let’s start with something very simple. Can you eat every three hours? Then I teach them how to prepare six small fuelings a day or if that’s too complicated, they take the meal replacements. Then in two to three weeks, they’ve lost 10 to 15 pounds. [Clients] are starting to lose weight, they feel better. That’s when I teach them a progressive change in their daily choices that builds the habits of health. The goal is to change people’s orientation to organize their lives toward their health. I show them tiny daily corrections that over time make all the difference to health.
Once we get them to optimal health, then we show them how to live longer.