The series was designed in 2020 with intentions of introducing the public to the lifesaving field of lifestyle medicine.
Taught by board-certified lifestyle medicine practitioners and registered dietitians, the courses focus on the six pillars of lifestyle medicine.
These pillars of nutrition, movement, sleep, positive relationships, avoiding risky substances, and stress management, are foundational for whole health and are interconnected.
Colleague Lifestyle Medicine and Wellness Coordinator of Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Abigail McCleery said that the focus on all six pillars is one of the ways that this class series stands out from other lifestyle medicine courses.
Another stand-out is their patient-centered approach, which focuses on empowering patients with the knowledge and resources to identify and change factors in their life to support optimal health.
The portion of the class that focuses on nutrition features culinary demonstrations from registered dietitians. The recipes demonstrated are plant-forward, appropriate for all culinary skill levels, and do not require expensive ingredients. Some examples of recipes made in class so far include chickpea “tuna” salad, lentil Bolognese, tempeh fajitas and curried cauliflower stew.
“We really strive to take the science behind the recommendations, the why, and show people the how of incorporating those recommendations into their everyday life,” McCleery said.
Trinity Health’s Lifestyle Medicine Department began writing the curriculum for the program during the height of the pandemic.
After seeing how the community responded to the pandemic with increased stress, loss of social connections, interrupted sleep, and increased sedentary time, the department realized the necessity of lifestyle medicine courses. They set out to assemble a team of like-minded individuals who share a passion of supporting whole health journeys in an evidence-based and meaningful way.
Mccleary said that they hope class attendees take away “the knowledge and skills to implement sustainable positive lifestyle behaviors that align with their personal vision and goals towards attaining whole health.”
Positive lifestyle changes are not only beneficial to the treatment and reversal of chronic disease, they can also prevent it. This specific class series is designed to meet people wherever they are on that spectrum. Not only can these interventions help prevent chronic disease, they can also help people feel more energetic and focused, and provide stress management tools.
“We would love for people to learn about why and how to adopt these evidence-based interventions into their daily routines before they develop chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes that impact every aspect of their lives,” Mccleary said.
Lifestyle Medicine is not regularly taught to the public, which is why the department is encouraging people to take the course. Each pillar greatly affects one’s overall health. Lack of quality sleep, for example, can cause changes in attitude, increase in anxiety and depression, and future cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s.
Social connections and relationships affect physical, emotional and mental health.
“Social isolation is a top predictor of mortality, especially as we age,” McCleery said. “In the age of technology, we are constantly connected without ever really connecting. Connecting with other people deeply around a mutual purpose is a core element of longevity, decreases anxiety and feelings of sadness and increases happiness,” she said.
“By providing this essential information, we can help patients decrease inflammation which is often the beginning point for most chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes,” Director of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine at Trinity Health Ann Arbor Lisa McDowell said. “The longer we can live without disease, the more vibrant we will feel.”
The first series is set to conclude on June 26, and the next set of courses will take place from Sept. 11-Oct. 23.
To sign up for “Foundations of Lifestyle Medicine,” email email@example.com or call 734-712-7451.