In the past year, the number of people requesting new patient appointments has exploded.  We have been slowly and steadily growing to accommodate all of these new patients. We are actually moving to a new office next month so that we can make it all work.  This is a great problem to have – and not one I’m going to ever complain about!

Here’s what’s interesting.  When we first opened our doors, most of our patients were referrals from other healthcare providers – doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, etc.  There are a lot of people in medicine that are passionate about wellness but who simply don’t have the time and/or resources to devote to treating excess weight.  Once we were able to demonstrate to these people that we weren’t hokey or charlatans, these healthcare providers started sending us patients in droves.  

However, one of the neatest things that has happened is that we have slowly been shifting our referral patterns.  As they get control over their weight and their disease, many of our patients send us their family members, neighbors, friends, and coworkers.  Now, almost half of our new patients are referrals from our existing patients.  Some of our patients have created an entire community around themselves – one that values health and healthy eating.  

Not surprisingly, the people that create these communities become unofficial leaders and mentors to others – which they love.  In addition to feeling like they are helping others, they also put themselves in a position of accountability – people watch what they do, which keeps them doing the right thing most of the time, which causes other people to watch what they do…

One of the things that I talk to every new patient about is something we call “controlling your environment”.  We understand this and apply it to other areas of our lives, but many of us ignore it completely when it comes to food and eating.  If your 21-year-old son wants to quit smoking, yet he lives with five other guys that all smoke daily, what are the chances that his smoking cessation dream will pan out?  Pretty darn unlikely.  If you surround yourself with people that go out for ice cream every Sunday and go out for margaritas every Tuesday and celebrate every social event with piles of unhealthy food, how likely do you think you are going to stick to a healthy eating plan full of chicken and vegetables?  Pretty darn unlikely.  

We are social creatures and we succumb to peer pressure all the time.  We didn’t leave it behind in middle school – we just learned how to normalize it.  And peer pressure plays a huge role in our eating habits.  Changing your habits requires a lot more than willpower.  It involves changing your environment- removing some of the peer pressure from your day-to-day life.  Not necessarily moving out of your house or quitting your job – but deliberately surrounding yourself with people that have some of the same values and beliefs as you.  

If the people in your life don’t want to come with you as you improve your health and weight and life, you might have to step back a bit.  You might have to miss the Saturday morning gathering at IHOP and head to your local farmer’s market instead.  This might seem like punishment at first – but it’s not if you view it in the right context.  

Doing something differently than the rest of the crowd isn’t always easy.  Ponder this. Over 70% of American adults currently have excess weight, which means that the “normal” eating habits of the crowd are a huge part of the problem.  It’s normal to eat poorly nowadays.  It’s normal to feel bad.  It’s normal to have chronic disease.  It doesn’t make it right, but it makes it normal.  If you want to be different, you have to do something different.  Once you begin, you will probably find out that there are others that want to be different.  There are others that will start coming to the farmer’s market with you.  That will make plans to play board games instead of driveway drink.  

And if you can slowly surround yourself with these people, staying on a healthier path will seem much easier.  Kudos to our patients that have figured this out and have taken steps to change their environment.  They are the people that are creating lasting change in the world.  We can’t do a shoutout to them here (HIPAA and all of that privacy stuff) but if you know one of them and they played a part in getting you on your health journey, make sure to thank them for being a leader and for creating an environment that makes it easier for everyone else to succeed!

As always, if you need me, you know where to find me

Courtney Younglove, M.D.

ATTENTION LAWRENCE PATIENTS: 18th Street is closed at Wakarusa until further notice due to construction. You can access our parking lot via Research Parkway and Research Park Drive. Expect traffic delays and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to our office.
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