Monday, March 31, 2008

8 Weeks to Optimum Health/Spontaneous Healing (DVD), Andrew Weil, MD

Movie Review by Zinta Aistars

Most of us know when what we are hearing resonates as good, common sense. Working in the health care field, I am always attuned to what is new, what is well-tested old in this area. This is not the first documentary I have watched with Dr. Andrew Weil, nor will it be the last. I receive his health e-newsletters, and I currently have two of his books on order (the book that accompanies this documentary, in fact, as well as "Healthy Aging," for which I also have viewed the documentary). By now, call me a fan. He makes sense.

What appeals to me most in his proposal of an eight-week program to health, leading to a lifestyle of good health maintenance, is his background in both conventional, traditional medicine (he is a Harvard graduate in medicine), and his intellectual curiosity and openness (he has traveled the world to learn various approaches and methods) to what we often hear referred to as "alternative medicine." Dr. Weil eschews that phrase. The word "alternative," after all, implies something separate and perhaps even a little faddish. What he propones, however, is traditional medical care (herbs won't do when you are having a heart attack) integrated with healthy habits in diet, exercise, and spiritual, emotional, intellectual areas. The mistake, he says, is that traditional medicine too often tends to forget that we are more than physical bodies. We are body-mind-spirit, a paradigm of three interconnected systems, all affecting the other. Health care should be not only about putting out fires, taking care of us when we are already sick, but about health maintenance and preventive behaviors.

Now, that makes sense.

Dr. Weil has a very pleasant manner in presenting his ideas. He doesn't miss a beat; his presentation is easy to listen to, easy to understand and absorb. His countenance is equally pleasant, with eyes seemingly permanently crinkled at the corners with a smile. He himself, now 67, seems an excellent exemplification of good health habits and their benefits.

His talk addresses the parameters of integrated medicine, how he developed the concept and the organization he now directs; healthy dietary habits; the role of exercise (walking most every day is sufficient and is the one exercise that causes little or no injury or stress to the body over a lifetime) and breathing; the concept of being emotionally at peace in one's life to maintain good health (stress, he says, is the cause of most all of our disease and sickness); and more.

The idea behind the eight weeks is that we change most effectively when we change gradually, and he discusses gradual, small changes that we can easily make in our lives over a period of time, each week integrating something healthy into our diets, increasing our walking time from 10 minutes to 45 minutes daily, going on a "news boycott" for a day to several days so that we aren't constantly hit with a barage of negativity, avoiding negativity in general in our lives and relationships, and simply taking time to breathe, deeply and restfully.

The second section on spontaneous healing builds on the first, basing good health on the idea that our bodies are naturally constructed for health, not sickness, and that maintaining good health, using the metaphor of a clean river, is more about getting the obstructions out of the way for good flow, keeping the sludge out of the river system, and all in all, our bodies are resilient and will heal themselves if we don't keep dumping so much mess into them - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Highly recommended.

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