Mindset and Wellness: Advising your patients

Holly Wyatt, MD’s session, "The Tao of Wellness," kicked off the North American Menopause Society’s (NAMS) 2021 Annual Meeting. It was the springboard for the Utian Translational Science Symposium, themed “Charting the Path to Health in Midlife and Beyond: The Biology and Practice of Wellness.”

Discussing wellness is often a missed topic during a physical examination, but, according to Holly Wyatt, MD, who is a practicing physician and clinical researcher at Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Aurora, Colorado, a discussion on mindset can be one of the most critical components in helping to restore a person to a healthier state.

Wyatt, who spoke this week at the North American Menopause 2021 Annual Meeting on wellness, said that wellness is perfectly described by tao (pronounced “dow”). Tao is defined as a term used as a convention to refer to something that otherwise cannot be discussed in words. “It’s a way of being,” Wyatt said. “In medicine, we like certainty. We like P values. We like to know if something is true or something is not true,” she said. "Wellness is not going to be that.”

Wyatt, who is also co-founder and medical director for The State of Slim—a weight loss program designed with long-term strategies for weight loss, said her interests include obesity, weight management, and metabolism. She first began her career tackling obesity, rather than wellness, with patient-focused diet and exercise plans. She called this the “what.”

“The why is actually what pauses [patients] to take on the what,” she said. The second half of Wyatt’s career was focused on motivation and healthy lifestyles, aligning the “what” with the “why.” “It can’t just be about losing the weight. We have to begin with the end in mind,” she said.

Wyatt emphasized transformative weight loss, which she describes as “the process of creating and aligning a new reduced body weight, a positive and emotionally resilient mindset, and a bigger purpose and spirit with your new way of living and being."

Mindset is crucial to wellness, Wyatt said, and it should focus not on what we want to prevent, or get rid of, but what we can accumulate and be. During her session, Wyatt said that “wellness involves turning around and thinking, ‘Where can I go?’ not, ‘Where don’t I want to go?’”

Wyatt's talk at the meeting was particularly timely, as data are being presented at the conference that suggest that sedentary behaviors can increase a woman's risk of nightime hot flashes.

Wyatt stressed the importance of discussing the "what" is going on behind the patient's sedentary behaviors, and THEN focusing on areas like transformative weight loss, which can in turn positively reduce the risk for longer health care problems like cardiovascular disease.

Wyatt’s key takeaways:

  • Wellness today has evolved to be more than improving health, or the absence of disease.
  • Wellness is a path and a mindset, more than a fixed algorithm or set of outcomes to achieve.
  • A wellness mindset involves turning around and seeing the possibilities that exist and taking action to move in a direction to experience it.

Reference

Wyatt, H. 2021, September 21. Session: The Tao of Wellness. North American Menopause Society 2021 Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.