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Helping patients attain optimal wellness requires allies


Primary care physicians and their patients know broad rules for good health, but those can be overwhelming without personal assistance to integrate the principles into daily life.

diet exercise concept: © freebird7977 -

© freebird7977 -

As a functional health coach, I often work with clients who have been advised by their primary care doctors to make lifestyle changes for better health. They’ve been told to eat better, get more exercise, avoid junk food, drink more water and not skimp on sleep.

But this type of broad, overarching guidance often leaves many people feeling overwhelmed. They come to me confused. They do not have a sense of how they specifically need to make changes to diet, lifestyle or exercise routines to yield the best results. Do they follow a Mediterranean, paleo or keto diet? Should they do weight-bearing exercises, increase their cardio, or take up yoga? Do they need to start adding supplements to their routine?

If primary care doctors had more time, I fully believe they could work with their patients to develop specific plans, check in more regularly on progressand make adjustments if the changes aren’t working. But given the time crunch so many primary care doctors face, I see an opportunity for doctors to seek out allies – such as wellness coaches or functional health practitioners – or encourage their patients to seek out complementary health practitioners who can help implement physician-instigated care plans.

© DFitLife

Daniella Dayoub Forrest, FDN-P
© DFitLife

For instance, as a functional health coach, I work with clients to break down their doctor-prescribed treatment plan into actionable steps. Together, we work on a personalized approach that focuses on four aspects of health that must work together for optimal wellness. They are as follows:

Nourish: The foods you eat are more than a diet with a label. They must provide maximum nutrient density as well as support your goals or address your diagnoses or conditions.

Move: Your movement must be consistent and intentional, whether achieved through activities of daily living or a specific exercise regimen.

Explore: Proper follow-up testing or additional evaluations can help inform your decisions and ensure that the changes you make target the health outcomes you seek.

Enhance: Your supplements, whether doctor-recommended or self-selected, should be organized and better understood. Why are you taking them? Have you properly assessed the benefits?

Let’s talk about food. Establishing a new dietary regimen can be daunting. In my work, I teach clients about understanding food swaps, keeping a food log, trying new recipes and following helpful websites. I even coach them when their emotions run high. Since food is a personal and spiritual element of our lives, it’s beneficial to have a guide holding your hand when you need to make necessary adjustments.

Next is movement. Most physicians recognize that consistent and effective movement practice is critical to long-term health and wellness. However, when physicians tell patients they need to exercise more or differently, a personal trainer or health coach can take the cue from the physician and use it to build an exercise plan that is progressive and appropriate for that individual. This is especially important when the patient or client is new to exercise. Moving with good form and function is necessary for their success.

Are patients always good about follow-up testing? In my experience, many of my clients embrace their physician-directed care plan but are often overdue for all manner of testing. I find myself reminding them about their annual physical exam and blood work, mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine examinations. Meanwhile, others are intrigued about exploring different assessments, such as hormone or gut testing. Once we have the test results, I encourage my clients never to go off what test numbers say alone. Those results must also correlate with their symptomology before we take actionable steps to address them. In addition, I encourage my clients to speak with their doctor about all the results we obtain.

The last piece of the puzzle is supplementation. In a wellness plan, supplements are the icing on the cake. If a client is already on specific supplements, I go through each to evaluate whether they are still warranted, whether there are redundancies or whether there are contraindications. I have been surprised and even saddened by some of the pills and potions I find my clients taking. It is essential to explain to them that nutritional supplementation is not benign and that taking the wrong thing or in the wrong way can do more harm than good. Once we have audited their supplements, we re-evaluate them every few months to ensure the tinctures are evolving along with their health.

A functional health practitioner can be a strong ally of the primary care physician. Together, we can map out a road to health that is unique to each and every patient. The client or patient will feel that they have a whole team on their side. This synergy and effectiveness will lead to phenomenal outcomes.

Daniella Dayoub Forrest is a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, a whole health educator, a certified personal trainer, a specialist in corrective and performance exercises, and the CEO of DFitLife. She is the author of Own Your Wellness: Giving You the Tools to Break Through Your Health Plateaus, and has coached clients to break through their health plateaus for more than 20 years.

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