Working with a Wellness Professional

by Drs. Michele and Mark Sherwood, Christian Examiner Contributors |

A patient we'd been working with for a very long time was trying to get his nutrition and lifestyle turned around. We finally asked, "What is your primary care physician doing to help?"

"Well, when I share about my desire to be more fit, he doesn't really listen to me. He writes my prescriptions and sends me on my way." (This patient saw him for medication management and saw us for wellness.)

We often have the opportunity to speak at medical conferences and ask, by a show of hands, how many doctors in the audience know their body composition and the status of their inflammatory biomarkers.

We're always astonished, as the number of hands raised is usually less than ten percent. Our point is, to be successful, you need a team united around the same vision for wellness.

The patient's physician was one of the medical doctors attending a conference in which we spoke. Several months later, our patient was stunned as he saw his doctor, who lost forty pounds. "Wow, doc, what happened with you?"

The doctor responded, "I finally decided to listen and I gave up the yellows and the whites." (The yellows and whites refer to sugar, grains, and breads.) "I'm going to lead by example."

As our patient shared this story with us, he added, "Now I'm more apt to listen to that doctor." And he did. Together, they encouraged each other on their journey, and their results are having a ripple effect throughout their families and community.

Perhaps you've had a bad experience with a doctor, clinician, or coach, but that's really no excuse. In fact, we wrote this to help you search and find one of the many wellness professionals who can work with you—and help you avoid those who won't be a good fit.

Ethics and responsibility

In simple terms, medical ethics boil down to this: do no harm and give the patient autonomy. It's really about partnership in wellness.

Essentially, a medical professional should deliver the best information and insights, but the decisions should be yours. And the first decision you must make is what kind of care you want: sick care or well care.

If you're looking for a sick care professional to treat symptoms with a smile and "a pill for every ill," we can't help you. (And neither will sick care professionals.) Frankly, a doctor who prescribes pills without also prescribing changes in lifestyle is unethical. Why? Because they took an oath to do no harm, and they should be giving their patients every option to experience health.

But if you're looking for solutions to health challenges, and are willing to make changes (not just take pills) you can experience well care. You want to work with a doctor/clinician who puts the responsibility back on your choices, and helps you make the necessary changes.

You might need a new doctor if...

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, and his You might be a redneck jokes, here are some signs you may need to change doctors.

If your practitioner has a can of diet soda sitting on their desk, and tells you not to drink diet soda, that might be a good time to say, thank you for your time, and leave.

If you've been going to a certain doctor for ten years and they've never asked about your consistent weight gain, you might need a new doctor.

If your conversations usually include your favorite brands of cigarettes and whiskey, it could be a sign you need a different doctor.

If your doctor weighs more than you and your spouse put together, maybe it's time to shop around.

If your doctor thinks biomarkers are pens used to draw tattoos, you might want to ask for a new referral.

If you and your doctor are drinking buddies, you might need to find a new doctor. (Of course, you can still be friends.)

You get the idea. Your health is serious business, and you need a committed partner to be successful. Choose wisely.

And ask your own questions as well. If the practitioner doesn't perform an in-depth evaluation of a patient's biomarkers, body composition, and fitness capacity, we'd suggest finding another practitioner. Remember, your medical professional works for you.

A word to our fellow professionals

Kidding aside, we really love and respect doctors and wellness professionals. It's a tough career, and the pressure can be overwhelming. Many of our patients have been medical professionals, and we want to help you succeed personally and professionally.

We realize it's tough to change course. Many of us were taught to follow an algorithm of ordering tests, diagnosing, and prescribing a drug. Based on the outcomes we see in our society, more and more doctors are looking for better ways to practice, too.

Questions and challenges

When we first meet a patient, we'll ask questions like, What's this visit really about? and, How prepared are you for change?

Then we'll go a little bit deeper and ask, Just how ready are you to get rid of that bowl of ice cream everyday? What's your capacity to grab on to the opportunity to be completely wellphysically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

We're looking for raw, honest answers, along with readiness.

Every successful athlete has a coach. For you to successfully improve your wellness in every area of life, you need the right medical professional. It truly is a life and death decision.

— Dr. Michele Niel-Sherwood is a trained Doctor of Osteopathy and Dr. Mark Sherwood is a trained Naturopathic Doctor. While most doctors focus solely on the physical component, as Christians, Drs. Mark and Michele use an integrated approach involving emotional and spiritual health in their medical practice. Their newest book, Surviving the Garden of Eatin' is available now. Discover more at