Years ago, when I was practicing medicine in an unusual way and trying to find language to describe what I was doing, I struggled through words that didn’t quite fit my definition. Although words like “integrative medicine” and “holistic health” got close, the way those words are understood in our culture wasn’t the same thing I envisioned. To me, “integrative medicine” meant you play nice in the medical sandbox with acupuncturists and homeopaths. “Holistic health” meant you recommend green juice cleanses and prescribe a lot of supplements. “Functional medicine” means you order a lot of unusual laboratory tests not usually covered by insurance, and you treat often neglected biochemical imbalances naturally. While I very much appreciate the value of natural medicines, green juice cleanses, non-mainstream lab tests, and alternative healers, and while I fully endorse the benefit of all of these interventions, I was more journeying down another rabbit hole, where patients were having “spontaneous remissions” without drugs, supplements, raw vegan diets, or acupuncture needles.
We all know what it’s like to fill out detailed forms about our medical history at the doctor's office. But is your doctor asking you the questions he or she really needs in order to get a good read on your health? At the Whole Health Medicine Institute, the training program my team runs for doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, energy healers and other health care providers, we teach healers how to ask patients the right questions. But in case your doctor isn’t asking you the questions that might illuminate potential root causes of your illness, try asking yourself these questions.
1. What is your body saying no to?
My next book The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage As Medicine For The Body, Mind & Soul comes out February 24! What inspired me to write The Fear Cure? After writing Mind Over Medicine, I had a post-publishing epiphany. I realized that it's all well and good to teach the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself, to invite people to do the deep transformational work that makes the body ripe for miracles and facilitates “spontaneous” remissions. But even if people are intuitive enough to tune into what their bodies need in order to heal, and even if they’re wise enough to write The Prescription for themselves, way too often, fear gets in the way. You may know what needs to change in your life, but if you’re not courageous enough to act upon your inner guidance, you’re likely to stay sick—and stuck.
That’s when I realized (with a gulp) that I needed to write a book about fear and courage.
(You can preorder it here.)
A lot of people think of fear as a painful, disruptive emotion, and they may be aware of how fear is holding them back in their personal or professional lives. But few people, including physicians, are aware that fear predisposes you to illness and interrupts the healing process. In The Fear Cure, I share scientific data proving that fear and disease are linked and that fear can out-picture as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain syndromes, and even the common cold.
But fear doesn’t just make you sick. It limits your ability to fully step into your soul’s purpose in what poet Mary Oliver calls “this one wild and precious life.” Perhaps even more importantly, it keeps us stuck in a cultural world view that will destroy our planet—and us along with it—if we don't WAKE UP.
In The Fear Cure, I share what I call the "Four Fearful Assumptions," beliefs we have adopted that contribute to our fear-mongering culture and lead us to make choices based on a scarcity mentality, and these choices not sabotage your efforts to be happy, healthy, and thriving; these choices harm us all.
My mother had a sore neck, probably from Pilates class, she figured. So Mom went to her doctor, who ordered an X-ray. Upon reviewing the X-ray, her doctor ordered a CT scan for a week later. My mother asked her doctor why he was ordering more tests. Did he see evidence of osteoporosis? Arthritis? A slipped disc?
Without even making eye contact with her, Mom’s doctor said, “Could be metastatic cancer.” Then he promptly left the room.
Let me explain what was happening in my mother’s nervous system in that moment when my mother’s doctor said the words “metastatic cancer” without offering any comfort. Mom was married to my father, a radiologist who read X-rays for a living, so Mom’s thinking rational forebrain knew that if the radiologist saw anything even mildly suspicious, he might order follow up testing and it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world. But Mom’s rational forebrain was not in charge in the moment when her doctor said the words “metastatic cancer.” Instead, the amygdala in Mom’s primal brain flashed back to my father, who had died of metastatic cancer only a few years earlier. All her amygdala heard was, “METASTATIC CANCER! A CERTAIN DEATH SENTENCE!”
When Mom’s amygdala heard the word “cancer,” her amygdala automatically signaled “danger,” and the red alert fired off, flipping on Mom’s “fight-or-flight” stress response. Mom’s hypothalamus then released hormones that communicated with her pituitary gland, which communicated with her adrenal gland, and then BOOM. Her body was instantly filled with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Her whole body was now in what Walter Cannon at Harvard called the “stress response.” It was ready to outrun the threat, even though in reality, there was no threat to outrun. The only thing Mom could do was wait a week until her CT scan was scheduled.
As I scan the New York Times Bestseller’s list week after week, it kills me to notice how many bestselling books are about yet another diet or exercise regimen guaranteed to help you lose weight so you will finally be thin enough/ pretty enough/ good enough/ [insert your deepest insecurity] enough. Blech! No wonder so many people struggle with weight control when the weight loss and beauty industries focus on teaching you to hate yourself thin.
As much as I resent the weight loss industry for pressuring people into eating disorders, triggering their self-loathing, and leading to unhealthy yo yo diet habits that don’t benefit the health of the body, mind, or spirit, when I read Jessica Ortner’s The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss & Body Confidence, my soul let out a resounding, “Hell yeah!” As a physician fully aware of the many health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, I’ve long been on the lookout for a book I could recommend to patients who were ready to get off the dieting treadmill and really do the internal work necessary in order to achieve an optimally healthy weight. Look no further. The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss is exactly that book.
Mind Over Weight Loss
As the author of Mind Over Medicine, I’ve joked that I might one day write a book called Mind Over Weight Loss, because the research I’ve done has led me to believe that our minds play a much greater role in our weight than what we eat or how much we exercise. Now I don’t need to write that book. Jessica Ortner already has. I know it’s radical to suggest that the solution to weight loss might lie more in the realm of the mind than in the mouth, the stomach, or the gym. How could that be? I’ll give you one hint- the stress hormone cortisol.