If you read The Skinny Daily Post online, you have noted the number of times I link readers to the website of Dr. Andrew Weil. That’s because at http://www.drweil.com it’s easy to find reliable, useful, and well researched information on nutrition and health, including ideas both mainstream and alternative for helping people achieve what Weil has long called “optimum” health.
I’ve relied on Weil for years and years, and can hardly write about him without gushing. I’ll try to get that out of my system in one breath: Weil is a kind of national hero of ours. He’s making deep and I hope lasting changes to the assumptions and fabric of health care in our country, deepening public understanding while helping train the allopathic medical community to understand and integrate other much practiced but little-understood medical systems into their care toolbox. These include methods from Chinese traditional medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, osteopathy, energy work, mind/body work, and homeopathic systems of care. He studied botany as an undergraduate, and has his medical degree from Harvard. He has always researched the use of herbs and the world’s traditions of herbal remedies, and used herbal remedies in his practice. He is a teacher, a researcher, an author, a healer.
And then there’s that beard. It’s nearly ethereal, the beard. A bit other-worldly. You’ve gotta love the beard.
I used to worry that Doc Weil was a little “out there” for most of the readers of this column. But then I attended a nutritional conference of the type that leaves the aisles a little bloody. It’s kind of upsetting to see how encamped are the people with a stake in the American diet. The one thing people at this conference seem to agree on is that Doc Weil knows his stuff. Careful, curious, collaborative, and extraordinarily generous, the guy is well respected by not just his peers, but even, grudgingly, by folks who make the foodstuffs Weil would recommend we avoid or “limit.” (I marvel at his careful articulation.)
I admire that he never claims to know it all or have all the answers. He never tries to be the most right guy in the room, and never tries to push his own branded “system” over top of anyone else’s. He’s pretty careful about providing well-researched, thoroughly documented information for us to explore and consider. I don’t think he wants to be anybody’s guru. Which, naturally, makes him a great guru.
So, knowing he’s working hard on our behalf to change the very systems of health care in our country is reason enough for me to attend to him. The experience of reading his books or listening to his CDs (he’s got a great voice and manner, which I find helpful and calming when I’m worried about my health) is revelatory in a very important way: He gives us the responsibility for our bodies and trusts us to use our own intellect and inner wisdom to find the best ways to improve our health.
That is, he trusts us to take care of ourselves. This is a really quite monumentally subversive posture to take in this country, of course. He’s entirely comfortable with it. He teaches us how we can work in partnership with our doctors and caregivers to integrate different forms of care into healing our bodies and minds. And then he gives us lots of options, methods for maintaining and enjoying our best possible health for as long as we can.
His site offers lots of information for free for us to explore on our own. A “my optimum health plan” feature gives subscription-based information designed particularly for our ages, habits, and health concerns, along with a forum where we can explore health strategies with other folks who have taken their health care into their own hands.
Yes, the site works hard to sell vitamins and books. That can grow tiring. But have a look at the various research programs and schools his empire supports, and maybe you won’t feel so bad about what your dollars support.
I don’t always agree with everything Doc Weil writes. Not everything he suggests works for me. But our family would not enjoy nearly the level of health we do if we didn’t have this remarkable doctor on our medical team.