The world is full of occupational irony: crooked cops, bankrupt bankers, seasick sailors, and immoral clergy. But one of the most dangerous examples, according to Dr. Weil, is unhealthy doctors.
"A doctor should be a model of health," he says. "Showing, rather than just telling, how to live a healthy life is one of the most valuable services a doctor can give to patients."
Seems logical, and to be sure, some conventional physicians are healthy. But everyone knows doctors who neglect their own well-being. Why don't doctors as a group take better care of themselves?
"A big black mark against conventional medical education is that it virtually ensures people will come out of it with unhealthy lifestyles," Dr. Weil says. "Conventional medical education denies you of sleep. It feeds you junk food. It gives you no time to exercise. It teaches you nothing about stress reduction; instead, it demands that you stuff your emotions." A typical doctor's working life is just more of the same, Dr. Weil says: cost-conscious hospitals and HMOs demand crazy hours, provide substandard food, and require doctors to project an Olympian aura of perfection, when, in fact, they are just as human as the people in their care.
At the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, the University of Arizona fellowship program that Dr. Weil founded in 1994, "we intentionally built in structured time for meditation, yoga and fellowship. The doctors come out here to the ranch periodically to cook dinners, and they visit each other's houses." The students are, in short, "encouraged to care for themselves, and they do."
But what about the founder himself? As the man who the New York Times says has "arguably become America's best-known doctor," demands on his time are legion. But his daily life, especially when he is ensconced in his beloved homestead in southeastern Arizona, is indeed a healthy one, and he's not hiding Coke and Twinkies to hoodwink the odd visiting journalist. "I can tell you, he walks the talk," says Nancy Olmstead, Dr. Weil's executive assistant. "He really does practice what he preaches."
The result? "I'm in good health, have never had any serious illnesses, and manage my risk factors - mainly cardiovascular from my father's side of family - with both medication and lifestyle," Dr. Weil says. "My energy is good, I sleep well, and I have an active, interesting dream life."
And he is adjusting to aging in ways that make sense for him. "As I approach my mid-sixties, I find myself interested in cutting down my travel schedule and planning more leisure time - gardening, reading, cooking. My tolerance for big cities is also lower. I really need time in quiet natural settings - my mood suffers if I don't get that."
So coinciding with our new Web site design, we're introducing a new series of articles called "Meet Dr. Weil," written by Brad Lemley, the editorial director for DrWeil.com. Brad first met Dr. Weil in 1996 and has written cover stories about him for two national magazines. He has also closely followed the doctor's meteoric rise in the public's consciousness. "Meet Dr. Weil" will provide an intimate look at how America's most famous doctor puts his recommendations into personal practice - and puts his personal practices into his recommendations. We hope you will enjoy these stories as much as Brad enjoyed his long talks on brilliant desert afternoons with Andy. The articles will be featured here on a regular basis, so check back often!