First rule of weight loss: strive to be a better person, not a thinner one

Dr. Ronald Fong

For reasons that are unclear to me, program coordinators at UC Davis frequently invite me to discuss patient weight management with students and residents at the medical school.

I suspect that I am the default candidate since I staff our department’s weight management clinic and I have completed a few marathons. I offer no published expertise, fool-proof regimen or magical elixir to drop pounds. Rather, I share books of personal interest, observations, and perspectives on well-being as opposed to strategies for weight loss.

One inspirational resource is Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. Mr. McDougall explores and examines the ways of the Tarahumara Indian tribe of Mexico. Running is a centerpiece of their daily lives; they run for recreation, transportation, and social cohesiveness. For them, running transcends being an optional activity; it is a daily gift from their culture and reaffirms their identity.

The other book I cite is Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running. Mr. Dreyer brings a philosophical, bordering on spiritual, approach to running. He promotes running as a focus to align the body, mind, and spirit.

The virtues of running highlighted in these two books are counter to our current lifestyle. We fragment our lives by driving to our schools, workplace, and venues for recreation. We limit ourselves by seeking pain relief from inactivity instead of challenging ourselves to realizing our full physical capabilities.

In addressing my audience, I speak of working with patients on weight management as motion therapy. I submit the following guidelines:

1. Strive to be a better person, not a thinner one.
2. Do it for love of…[your family, your sense of adventure, etc.]
3. Welcome back your inner runner.
4. Embrace the struggles of happiness.
5. View a journey as a means to renew hope.
6. Reconnect with your family, community, etc.
7. Measure health, not pounds.
8. Eat to run.

Moving beyond the lecture halls, I wanted to take these principles to the streets. I sought to connect with my medical residents as the Tarahumaras connected. I invited them to run on Fridays after work. As we run throughout the communities surrounding the UC Davis Medical Center, I feel that we are sending a message to our co-workers, patients, and neighbors that we prescribe exercise for wellness.

I emphasize that we should see ourselves as a tribe. I encourage the adaptation of a running nickname. Individuals have become the Flying Fox, the Dancing Deer, or the Beautiful Forest. The nicknames serve to instill a spirit of playfulness that should accompany physical activity. Health is an individual pursuit best supported by the cheers of the group.

Dr. Fong is director of the UC Davis Family Medicine Residency Network. His opinions are his own and do not represent UC Davis.

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