PODCAST: How Chris Kresser is Transforming Conventional Healthcare

Today’s guest is New York Times bestselling author Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac. He is an internationally known expert in Paleo nutrition, ancestral health and integral health. He is also the creator of chriskresser.com, one of the top 25 most popular health websites in the world. In this episode, we discuss his campaign to transform the healthcare system.

Kresser is trying to radically transform how we understand health through functional and alternative medicine, and he’s out to change our deeply flawed healthcare system here in the U.S.

What we discuss in this episode:

  • The existential crisis of modern conventional healthcare
  • What we can learn from Eastern medicine
  • The role of health coaching in the future of medicine
  • “Healthy” eating habits that are actually unhealthy
  • Effective strategies to make good health decisions

Resources mentioned in this episode:



Unconventional Medicine by Chris Kresser 

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Episode transcript

Jesse Cannone: Chris, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to speak with me.

Chris Kresser: Jesse, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jesse Cannone: I’ve got your latest book on conventional health medicine in my hand. I received it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s fantastic. I really appreciate what you’re doing because not only did you approach the changing the state of medicine and healthcare from the consumer perspective by helping people with your first website, chriskresser.com, but now you’re approaching it from the healthcare professional side, and you’re helping doctors and other healthcare professionals learn more about why the system’s broken, what works, what doesn’t work, and how to fix it and improve it. I just love that you’re approaching it from both angles, which is, of course, definitely needed.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, and that’s been a natural evolution. As I started to work with patients, the focus was on taking back our individual health, and that was what my first book was about as you suggested, and then I was working one on one with patients and having a lot of success there, but also came to realize that if we wanted to make this work meaningful on a larger scale, we had to approach it differently because, at least the way that functional medicine is set up right now, there’s a limited number of people who can access it and benefit from it. When you think about the primary drivers of chronic disease, it comes down to diet, lifestyle, and behavior.

I came to realize that we really had to not just take back our own individual health but take back healthcare as a country and as a people and that this really, I see it as one of the essential challenges of our time. I think it’s actually an existential threat, the level of other existential threats that we might think about, even war and even nuclear war in terms of its potential to devastate humanity. We’re seeing that in the statistics that dramatically increasing rates of chronic disease and the destruction of our quality of life, shortening of our lifespan. For the first time ever in modern history, our lifespan is starting to decrease again… are now suffering from chronic disease. It’s bankrupting governments, and it’s really threatening the health of future generations. Some believe that it could even threaten humanity itself. I think the stakes are pretty high. I [have] just been increasingly drawn to do whatever I can in my small way to make an impact there.

Jesse Cannone: That’s awesome, and you’re right, it’s such a big issue and a widespread problem, if you will. It seems to me that very few people take it as seriously. Again, there’s some of us out there, yourself, myself, and there’s others, but the humans as a whole don’t seem to be recognizing the severity of it except for those that are maybe in the middle of their own major health crisis.

People who are generally healthy, they’re busy going on with their life. Especially in the Western world, there’s a very busy lifestyle, as you said, which is kind of eroding the quality of our life, and they’re also just distracted with celebrities and sports and reality TV and other things. People are unaware of how significant the issue is, and it’s one of those things too if you think about, if you’re younger, you’re 30, you’re 40, you’re relatively healthy and you’re not really thinking about this, just 10 or 20 years later, it could be a significant issue for you. It’s one of those things that you can’t really see it coming as easily-

Chris Kresser: Or two months. I mean, it can happy really quickly.

Jesse Cannone: Exactly.

Chris Kresser: All it takes is a… I had a patient yesterday actually that was doing well, at the top of his game, working in [the] financial industry. Everything was just going up, up, up, and then his brother died of a recreational drug overdose, and he just fell apart. His life and his health fell apart in a really short period of time. I was explaining to him that even though he felt pretty good, on that upward trajectory, he was burning the candle at both ends, he wasn’t getting enough sleep, he wasn’t managing his stress, he wasn’t eating right. Those were all basically setting the stage, weakening his resilience in metabolic reserve such that all it would take would be one significant traumatic event, which in his case was the death of his brother, for it all to come crumbling down, and that’s exactly what happened.

Jesse Cannone: Right, yeah. You’re right. It could be that, or it could be the very slow progression of things. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is, in the Western approach or the traditional medicine approach to healthcare, we are so oblivious to the clues that exist about the true health of the individual. That’s what I love about Eastern or Traditional Chinese Medicine, for instance, which I know you’re a licensed acupuncturist, and so you’re familiar with this.

In Chinese medicine, over thousands of years, they’ve learned to identify all the subtle little clues that can clue you into what’s going on with the health of the individual long before, oftentimes, long before they’re major problems. In Western medicine, traditional medicine, we kind of dismiss those. We pooh-pooh them. We call it quackery, whatever. We wait until there’s a big problem, and then we try to blast it away with some super, powerful drug or therapy. Can you talk briefly about some of the fundamental differences between the two approaches?

Chris Kresser: As I point out in the book, functional medicine, which is the idea of addressing the root cause of a problem rather than just suppressing symptoms, that’s not new. That goes way back. As you pointed out, the Chinese have been talking about this kind of root-cause approach and, in fact, all systems of traditional medicine that I’m aware of, think about it that way.

There’s a quote from the Huangdi Neijing, which is the oldest medical text that’s ever been discovered, Chinese medicine text from, I think, over 2,000 years ago. The paraphrase of the quote is that the wise physician treats disease before it occurs. This is old news, but somehow, we lost that wisdom over time, and now, I think functional medicine is the modern effort to rediscover that timeless wisdom, but it adds an important element too. I think functional medicine adds the best of the allopathic framework of laboratory testing and diagnostic methods, which can actually be really helpful to determining what that underlying cause is. Chinese medicine have pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis and detailed history and facial diagnosis and other methods, which, I think although we might not understand them from our conventional, scientific perspective, do have merit.

The addition of blood testing and stool testing and urine testing and saliva testing and imaging and all kinds of what modern conventional medicine has contributed I think really expands our capability as clinicians to discover what that underlying cause is, and then we can use diet, lifestyle, behavior modification, supplements, botanicals, herbal medicine, and in some limited cases when necessary, medication to resolve the underlying problem. I think it’s the best of worlds. We get that more holistic root cause resolution focus of traditional medicine, but we add the best of conventional modern medicine as well.

Jesse Cannone: To me, that seems to be the key. In my mind, that’s what I would describe as truly holistic medicine or truly holistic healthcare. What’s still fascinating to me is you’ve got all these really smart people out there, but they seem to be lacking objectivity. You get people who learn their one specialty or their one approach, and they’re so fixed and rigid, and they refuse to see the validity and the benefits of other approaches. I think the ultimate doctor or healthcare professional is one that is truly open, objective, and holistic and will pull in and use anything and everything that works to get first the most complete understanding of what’s going on for an individual, but then also to give the most complete and beneficial treatment recommendations.

Chris Kresser: I agree 100%. I often say to practitioners that I train, my belief is we should use the method that is most effective and causes the least harm, not be dogmatic beyond that because it’s true that in a vast majority of cases, the answer to that what you’re going to pull in and use if you approach it with that framework is diet, lifestyle, behavior modification, supplements and botanicals as I just said, but it’s also true that, in some cases, a drug might actually fit into that framework.

Some examples could be something like thyroid replacement hormone, someone who’s had Hashimoto’s for decades, and they’ve lost a lot of, their thyroid tissue has been destroyed, and they’re unable to produce thyroid hormone on their own. We know that the thyroid hormone is so beneficial, so important for so many different cellular reactions that not having enough of it is actually significantly more dangerous than any small risk that comes with taking thyroid hormone medication, which is generally pretty safe as a drug.

There are others as well. The point is, it’s not useful, I think, to get hung up on ideology. That doesn’t really serve our people, or our patients if you’re a practitioner treating them, and if you’re a patient seeking care, it doesn’t serve you because, ultimately, you want the best result with the least risk and harm.

Jesse Cannone: One of the things I was going to bring up now is your Kresser Institute. Kresserinstitute.com is something you developed to help bridge the gap. Can you talk briefly about that?

Chris Kresser: Most of the things I’ve done have just come out of my own experience and whatever I’m dealing with and, because that’s how I sense into what is needed. For many years as a practitioner, my practice was closed to new patients because the demand was just higher for this kind of work than we could handle. It was really frustrating not to be able to offer people other options and refer because we’d get requests pretty much every week for a referral to another practitioner who had a similar approach. Certainly, there were other practitioners who use functional medicine. There were some nutritionists and coaches who embraced the ancestral diet and lifestyle, and there were people who were using health coaches, but there were very few who did all three of those things.

That was the impetus of launching the Kresser Institute was to create the first training organization that trains practitioners in functional medicine using an ancestral diet and lifestyle perspective. That started a little over two years ago now, and we’ve trained over 400 clinicians from all around the world. In this year, actually, coming up in June, we’re going to be launching our health coach training program because I have, that’s the iteration for me is after working with patients for many years in a functional medicine setting, I realized that just the episodic model of care where a patient sees a doctor/clinician once every three or four months for a half hour or even an hour is really not enough in most cases when someone’s dealing with a chronic disease or multiple chronic diseases as many patients are. The typical functional medicine clinic is not set up to really offer any more support than that. I think health coaching is going to play a big role in the future of medicine because coaches can work intensively with people on their diet, on their lifestyle, things like sleep and stress management, physical activity, and on behavior change. Like I said before, at the end of the day, one way of thinking of chronic disease is just as a behavior problem, of people making the wrong decisions about their diet and lifestyle on a daily basis. From that perspective, health coaches are really far better positioned than doctors to address those things.

Jesse Cannone: Well, yeah, and if you think about it, most people are making those decisions without even knowing that they’re necessarily bad. Now, granted, some people are making decisions they know are not good for them, but I think that’s a smaller case than the number of people who are making decisions that they think are good but aren’t, eating foods that they think are healthy but really aren’t, or they’re just unaware that things in their environment are affecting them in a negative way, affecting their health in a negative way, and they’re just unaware. Everything from being in a car to how you sit, how much time do you spend at work, how much time do you spend staring at a screen, how you sleep, whether there’s EMS and so on. Again, obviously, a very long list of things we could talk about there.

Chris Kresser: Yeah. I mean, I would say a lot of behavior is unconscious. Statistics suggest that that’s up to over 90% of behavior is just habit, and that’s-

Jesse Cannone: I was just going to say habitual, yup.

Chris Kresser: That’s a big problem because we’re not necessarily conscious of what habits we’re forming. That means, say, technology addiction is a pretty significant issue for many people now, and-

Jesse Cannone: Oh, yeah. Huge.

Chris Kresser: … these apps and the devices themselves are designed to form habits. App designers want you to develop the habit of using their app. That’s the whole point because that’s how … This is isn’t some conspiracy. It’s just how it is, how that system works. The more you use their app, the more revenue they can sell ads for, and the better … I don’t think it’s all evil, again, and conspiracy, either. It’s just that they-

Jesse Cannone: No, yeah. It’s just, you’re right. It’s just the reality of the situation. They make money based on how long people are using their app and how many people are using it. It’s the nature of it, but you’re right, if you’re unaware of that and the effect it’s having on you, it’s huge. I saw a study recently that looked at the rates of ADD and ADHD and suicide among teens and how much they’ve skyrocketed in the last 10 years because of technology and social media.

Chris Kresser: Yeah, there’s a really growing, and rightfully so, concern about that. That’s just one example. I mean, we have also Big Food designs foods. They have food scientists who understand the addictive qualities of food, and they engineer the processed foods to be maximally addictive. It’s that-

Jesse Cannone: Which is a little evil.

Chris Kresser: Which is, yeah, that crosses the line. You could argue the technology is kind of evil too. I just read a book called Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology. The book starts off by talking about how most of the people who develop these technologies don’t let their kids use them.

Jesse Cannone: I’ve heard that too, yeah.

Chris Kresser: They send their kids to Waldorf schools, which are one of the philosophies of Waldorf because a kid should not be using technology. When you sign up at a Waldorf school, you actually have to sign an agreement that your kid isn’t using technology. They put a lot of limits on that, and so what’s up with that? I mean, it’s-

Jesse Cannone: Do you have children at the Waldorf school?

Chris Kresser: I do, yeah.

Jesse Cannone: Same.

Chris Kresser: I have a-

Jesse Cannone: Same here.

Chris Kresser: … six-year-old daughter there.

Jesse Cannone: That’s so funny. My kids have been going to a Waldorf school for I guess about seven or eight years now.

Chris Kresser: You know what I’m talking about. It does raise concern that the people who are most familiar with these technologies and how addictive they are are not using them very much themselves and are putting very strong limits on their children’s use of them. The Silicon Valley Waldorf school is full of kids who of all of the people who develop all of those technologies. That is a little questionable, I think, ethically in my world, but the food thing is, yeah, I mean, that’s like, I always refer to that advertisement for people who are old enough to remember it from Pringles. Maybe they still use it. I don’t know. “I bet you can’t just eat one.”

Jesse Cannone: Oh, it was-

Chris Kresser: Was it-

Jesse Cannone: Yeah, the “once you pop, you just can’t stop.”

Chris Kresser: Yeah, and then before that, I think it was “I bet you can’t just eat one,” and those are bets that they know they’re going to win. They have the science to back it up.

Jesse Cannone: Yeah, you know what’s funny though? They made a big blunder. They hired some big ad agency and spent millions of dollars to come up with a new slogan, and they came up with what I believe is the worst marketing slogan I’ve ever heard of. The new Pringles slogan is “you don’t just eat ’em.” What you do with them, I don’t know, but it doesn’t make any sense.

Chris Kresser: Inhale them? You inject them into your vein?

Jesse Cannone: Right. It just goes to show you how, I don’t want to say dumb, but I’m going to say dumb these people are that they spend millions of dollars to come up with a slogan, and it doesn’t even make sense, just to top it off, but you’re right. Food is huge. I was thinking about this eating some radishes last night, and I was just cutting them raw and slicing them up. I was thinking, gosh, a couple hundred years ago, we didn’t prepare food the way we do now with nearly the amount of seasonings, oils, butters, cheeses, et cetera, so even now, when people think they’re eating healthy and they prepare a meal themselves or they go to a restaurant and order a healthy meal, that might be somewhat healthy. It’s healthy ingredients. It’s probably prepared in a way that’s not quite as healthy as if you were to just eat it. If you-

Chris Kresser: Yeah, absolutely.

Jesse Cannone: … have a piece of meat, and you cooked a piece of meat, and you ate some raw vegetables or you made a soup or whatever, so I even think about that, that what we think is healthy is probably not nearly as healthy as we think it really is.

Chris Kresser: There’s so much to talk about there. That really actually points to the reward value of food. In our typical environment, we have a lot less variety, a lot less fewer flavors, a lot less stimulation because all of those things actually increase the likeliness that we’ll eat more than we need. In environment of food scarcity, we are programmed to seek out highly-rewarding, calorie-dense foods, and that was a survival strategy because for a vast majority of human evolution, and still in most parts of the world today, the undeveloped world, food scarcity, not having enough was a bigger threat to our survival than having too much. We’ve only had to deal with that in the last hundred years, really. We’re now at the point where more people are dying from too much food than too little for the first time ever in human history.

All of our genetic biological mechanisms are actually hardwired to help us survive in an environment of food scarcity. That means seeking out very calorie- dense, highly-rewarding foods, and that’s a disaster in an environment of food abundance where you can get those calorie-dense rewarding foods on every corner. It’s important for people to realize that we’re genetically programmed to fail in the modern food environment.

The other part of this that’s important is we were just talking about habit. Habit is also a survival mechanism because imagine if you had to think about every decision that you made in a day. You would go crazy. We don’t have the mental capacity for that. We create these heuristics, and we have these habits because if we had to consciously pay attention to every decision that we made throughout the day, we wouldn’t be able to keep our eyes on the horizon, scan for predators, do all the things that we needed to do to survive in a natural environment.

We are definitely creatures of habit, and we are definitely subject to the influence of the environment around us. I don’t think that’s recognized or acknowledged enough in the conversation about diet and lifestyle change. There’s a lot of emphasis on willpower, usually. That’s not helpful.

Jesse Cannone: Right. I was just going to say, willpower, it’s like a rubber band. It always snaps back. You can’t will yourself forever. Now, you could use willpower maybe to help you break through some old, bad habits and replace them with positive ones. You need to make those new, positive habits truly habits so you’re not relying on the willpower.

Chris Kresser: Absolutely. I was just reading an article, actually. Jarrett retweeted it. The gist of the article was willpower’s overrated, and people who have so-called good willpower, I’m putting that in air quotes, are actually people who have learned to set their environment up in such a way that they don’t need to rely on willpower.

A good example of that is if you’re trying to lose weight, if you keep potato chips in your cupboard at home and you get home from a stressful day at work, and you’re experiencing decision fatigue, which is what we, once we’ve used up our limited ability to make conscious decisions, that’s what we experience. We experience decision fatigue, and we stop being able to make decisions well. You’re tired. You’re stressed. You’ve had a long day at work. Chances are, you’re going to reach in there and grab that potato chip bag, maybe fire up the iPad or something, and before you know it, you’re halfway through the bag or all the way through the bag in this unconscious act of eating to relieve stress. That’s normal. There’s nothing wrong with people who do that. We’ve all done that. That’s human nature. I think that’s what we have to understand.

The way to combat that is not to have the potato chips in there and then use your willpower to not do it. The way to combat that is to not have the potato chips in there in the first place, and that’s what I mean about controlling your environment as a more effective strategy than just using willpower.

Jesse Cannone: Totally. I would add to that, having the awareness and knowing that that’s normal, knowing that that’s likely to happen, and then paying attention to your body and your energy and your feeling state, and saying, “You know what? I’m a little tired. I’m running a little low. I know that when I’m running low, I’m more likely to make poor choices, so I’m going to actually rest. I’m going to allow my body to rest, whether it’s just closing my eyes for a minute and doing a couple of minutes of meditation or taking a nap or going for a slow walk in nature,” whatever it is you need to do to recharge. I think that’s something that I’ve learned over the years that most people are completely unaware of is their state, their emotional state and their energetic state. How am I actually physically feeling, how am I feeling emotionally in this moment, and based on that, making what I would call self-loving decisions. Saying, again, “Right now, I’m supposed to do X, but I’m really tired, and the better thing for me to do would be to take five minutes and close my eyes.” I did air quotes on the word supposed to because that’s something I learned from a mentor and energy healer that I work with. When I was speaking to her about my trouble a while ago trying to make some decisions, life decisions, and she said, “Well, you notice you just said supposed to. Any time you say supposed to, that’s a clue.” You listen to your own language, and if you say supposed to, that means you’re feeling an obligation to do something that you probably don’t want to do. It’s little subtle things like that, but paying attention to how we’re thinking, how we’re speaking, how we’re feeling, I think, is, like I said, awareness is one of the most important things you could do because then the more aware you are, the less likely you are to make those poor decisions like you said.

Chris Kresser: Absolutely. They support each other because if you structure your environment

in a way that promotes that kind of awareness or supports it, you’ll be more successful in taking that approach. Again, if-

Jesse Cannone: Exactly.

Chris Kresser: If, for example, you don’t have the junk food in the house and you start to reach for it, you realize it’s not there, that’s an opportunity to then check in with yourself and see what’s going on. Why am I craving junk food? I’m not even hungry. I feel really stressed, so what else could I do to alleviate the stress? I’m going to go sit down and just do some breathing. I’m going to take a hot bath. I’m going to do some yoga or whatever it is. It’s about creating an environment for success.

I totally agree that increasing our awareness of what’s going on in our bodies and around us is crucial and something that, unfortunately, we’re never taught. I mean, it’s, I’ve always wondered about that. We’re not taught anything about cultivating self-awareness in schools, in traditional schools, at least, and nor are we taught even these basic concepts that we’re learning that we’re talking about now, which I think are critical just being human skills and probably more responsible for our success in the world than anything that we could learn in a conventional school.

Jesse Cannone: Right, and unfortunately, we’re now learning them as adults halfway through life, and some people are learning it even later, which is really sad, like you said. Instead, we’re learning things that are much less important, memorizing random facts, or non-facts-

Chris Kresser: Exactly.

Jesse Cannone: …somebody’s biased idea of what is a fact, and instead, we don’t know how to even take care of ourselves. Yes, I think that’s huge. I want to go back to what you were talking about before about the health coaches because I agree with you that I think that’s a huge opportunity as part of making this big change and how we think about health and how we take care of ourselves in medicine and so on. That is because health coaches can be, again, assuming they’re operating this way, and I believe this is your thought behind it, more proactive versus reactive. Again, most medicine is very reactive, like you said. It’s reactive. It’s symptoms-based. Hey, let’s erase this symptom with this pill and forget the fact that it has now created additional symptoms for you, so you’re going to need this other pill.

That’s all very reactive approaches. We teach the same thing here that it’s much more important for you to identify the underlying causes than just treating the symptoms, but I think the health coach model can be great because it can also be more proactive. If you’re working with a health coach before you have problems, it could be an affordable way to improve your health and wellness and your understanding of yourself and your health, how your body works, all of that, over time theoretically prevent, so it’s more proactive than preventative.

Chris Kresser: I agree 100%, and what I would add to that is, and I think I alluded to this before, but what we’ve learned many, many years of research on behavior change is that information is not enough to change behavior. Most people know what they should be doing, at least the broad outlines, that they should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, they should be eating healthy, they should be physically active, they shouldn’t be smoking, but less than 6%, I think the latest CDC statistics, engage in the top five health behaviors.

Again, it’s not because people don’t know that they should be. We’re talking about the highest level here. Not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, things like that, not finer points of what diet is healthy, not eating everything out of a bag or box, which everybody agrees is not healthy no matter what approach you’re looking at.

What that tells us is this approach that we’ve taken to behavior change in the past where it’s the expert model where you just, the authority, whether that’s a doctor or even a nutritionist delivers the information and then expects the client or patient to just be able to successfully act on that information is hopelessly out of date and a failure and will never work because it doesn’t recognize these basic tenets of human psychology and biology that we’ve been talking about.

The thing that’s great about health coaching, at least, when I say health coaching, I’m talking about real coaching, which recognizes that information is not enough to change behavior and that if you want to be successful as a health coach, you have to help your clients to tap into their own motivation for change and develop their own strategy for change.

We’ve all heard that analogy. You give a man a fish, he eats for a day. You teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime. True coaching, in my opinion, is much more about teaching someone to fish than it is giving them that fish. I think that when we start to train people in that way, then we’re going to see that real change happen because people start to take responsibility for their own life. They get empowered to make their own changes. When they do that, those changes will be far more successful and more likely to last over the long term. I think that’s going to be, that’s a really big shift that we’re going to see with health coaching over the next few years.

Jesse Cannone: So true, and I’ll add to that. One of the things I’ve learned as a health coach of sorts myself over many years is that, while we’re all human and a lot of the stuff that we talked about before, behavior patterns and all that is generally true for all people, there are also subtle but significant differences between us as humans. I think the real key to successful change and coaching is knowing that, being aware of that, and having tools to identify the differences from person A to person B, and then altering your approach.

For instance, if you use a tool like the 16 personalities, Myers-Briggs, any of the personality profiles. There’s so many of them. Many of them are very useful. That’s just, for example, one tool that I use as an individual. I use it throughout my life, but in particular as a coach, I use it to understand, this is how this person thinks and operates, so I can tailor how I interact with them, my communication, my interaction, and my recommendations for them based on who they are to give them an even greater chance of success.

Chris Kresser: Absolutely, and that’s yet another reason to focus more supporting the client and developing their own strategies for change because that then guarantees that whatever strategies the client comes up with are going to be the ones that are most like to work because, ultimately, they are the experts in their own life.

We tend to think we have the answers. We get training, and we acquire knowledge, and then we tend to think we know what’s best for people. That’s not actually the case.

Jesse Cannone: The biggest problem I have seen and always, and I’m so glad you said that because it’s something I’ve been talking about for years, is it takes the power away from the individual, and let’s call them the patient. They turn their power over to somebody else who they deem the guru or the expert. Like you said, then that person now has all this responsibility on their shoulders that they shouldn’t have. It puts a burden and then stress on that person as well. It’s kind of a flood approach from both perspectives. The-

Chris Kresser: That’s a really great point.

Jesse Cannone: … doctor, the practitioner’s burdened with a burden they shouldn’t be carrying, and like you said earlier, they may or may not necessarily know what is exactly right and best for this person, but then the person receiving the recommendations really has no vested interest in it. They just do what they’re told, and they don’t understand why they’re doing it, maybe. They don’t understand whether they should or shouldn’t do it.

Like you said, if you are being an advocate for yourself, you don’t turn over your power, you’re staying in your power, and you’re seeking help from an outside consultant, adviser, doctor, whatever, you take in what they say, and then you see how it sits with you. Does that make sense? If not, then you ask questions. People are so uninvolved in their own healthcare, that’s probably one of the biggest problems, and I don’t know that, again, aside from you and a couple others, not too many people are talking about that, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that we face.

Chris Kresser: I agree, and from both perspectives, as you pointed out, I mean, I think the biggest cause of burnout in amongst medical and healthcare practitioners, I think, is just ineffectiveness. If you go to work, and all day, you’re sitting there telling people what to do, and then they’re not doing it, how does that feel? That is not going to be a satisfying day. If you don’t really feel like you’re making an impact in helping people, then all of the other BS that you have to put up with, if you’re a primary care provider, for example, it’s not worth it.

Jesse Cannone: Not rewarding at all.

Chris Kresser: When you take on that responsibility, like, “I’m the expert. I’m the authority. I have the answers. It’s my responsibility to make this person change and to figure out how they can change,” that’s a heavy burden as you pointed out. It’s a prescription for burnout.

When you flip that around and recognize that the client or the patient is the authority in their own life, they ultimately know what the best way to implement the change is. They may still need information. They may need guidance on exactly what to do, but in terms of what’s going to be most successful, the how to do it, they are the authority, you said, that not only leads to more empowerment and responsibility for the person you’re working with, it’s a much less stressful approach for the practitioner. That intrinsic motivation that comes from within has been shown in countless studies. I don’t care what field you’re talking about, business, executive, health, kids, any field that’s been studied where people are making changes, that intrinsic motivation has been found to be so much more effective than extrinsic motivation, which are the carrots and sticks that come from outside.

Jesse Cannone: Another thing I was just going to add that I think is powerful that, again, not too many people talk about is the power of belief. I read an article. I think it was in National Geographic a year or so ago, and they’re talking about all the studies that have been done about belief and prayer, and not that I’m advocating a religious approach at all because I’m not even that religious. I would say I’m more spiritual than religious, but they talked about how the power of belief could make things happen for people. For instance, they did studies on the placebo effect. They even did a study where the placebo effect was still effective when the person taking it knew it was a placebo, and-

Chris Kresser: Yeah, for IBS and other conditions, they’ve done that, for sure.

Jesse Cannone: To me, that’s another important aspect because when you just turn over your power, somebody, a doctor, healthcare professional, right away, you’re at a disadvantage. Even if you are believing in what they’re doing, you’re still at a disadvantage because you’ve turned over the power. I think it’s important to maintain that sense of power. Again, I hope people understand what I’m meaning here by power. I don’t mean big, strong, and powerful. I mean just your personal power. I think that affects your ability to believe when you understand what you’re doing.

Again, if the doctor or the healthcare professional’s working with you and educating you and incorporating this into your life in a way that you feel comfortable with, confident about, you’re more likely to believe that it’s going to work for you. Like you were saying, if the doctor tells you to do X, Y, and Z, doesn’t help you or allow you to personalize it to your life, then you’re probably going to doubt it from the beginning. If you doubt it, it’s not going to work. Even if the thing could really be effective for you, your potential results with it are going to down right away because of the doubt.

Chris Kresser: I agree 100%. Just as a side note, we often talk about the research, or at least I do in my field, how out of sync the current standard of practice in medicine is from the most recent research and how out of sync dietary recommendations often are from the most recent research, but I’ll tell you what. As I’ve been researching for the coaching program, I don’t think there’s a field that is more out of sync with the research than what is, happens in terms of diet and lifestyle modification, whether it’s doctors or nutritionists or even health coaches who haven’t actually been trained in the core health coaching skills because I see so many people, practitioners out there just giving information.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s only over the last several years that I’ve started to really understand this better, and because we’re not taught. This is the way that we’re all taught. We go, and we want to help people. We’re taught that we need to educate them. We need to give them as much information as possible, so we create these very complex plans. Here are all your recommendations, your diet, your lifestyle, and the patient walks, or client walks out of there with a five-page packet. It’s great information. It’s totally exactly what they should do, but then nobody does it. The research is so clear on this. I mean, there’s absolutely no doubt that information is not enough to support behavior change, and yet, very few practitioners are aware of this in my experience, and very few training programs, although this is changing more recently, which is great. Our teaching and approach that’s more based in evidence-based principles of behavior change.

Jesse Cannone: You’re right on there. That’s … I’m excited it’s starting to happen, and hopefully, over the next 5, 10, 15, 25 years, we’ll see more significant and rapid change in the way people respond to healthcare and also, like I said earlier, take more ownership of their own health.

Chris, I know we’re almost out of time, so I just want to take a moment to thank you again. I really appreciate, I really enjoyed the conversation. I would love to have you on again some time if you’re interested and take any of these topics deeper. I wanted to mention some of your books. If people want to learn more about your work, they can go to www.chriskresser.com. You’ve got The Paleo Cure book. You’ve got your latest book Unconventional Medicine, which I’m reading now, and then we also have the Chris Kresser Institute, which I believe that’s also where people can find a provider or a practitioner as well who’s been through your training programs. Is that right?

Chris Kresser: Yeah, that’s right. They can find information about the training programs there both for practitioners and for health coaches.

Jesse Cannone: That’s kresserinstitute.com. Well, thank you, Chris, again. This has been awesome. I really appreciate it. I love the work that you’re doing, again, approaching health and medicine transformation from both the individual perspective and also the healthcare practitioner side, so it’s just awesome. I really love it, and glad I had an opportunity to speak with you today and learn from you and learn more about your work.

Chris Kresser: Thank you, Jesse. I really enjoyed the conversation. Be happy to come back in the future. These are such important topics, and I think I’m excited just about, we face a lot of challenges certainly from healthcare perspective, but I think the way the conversation has changed is really positive, and there’s a lot of good shifts that are occurring that are going to, that have the potential to create real change. You’re definitely on the forefront of that as well, and so thanks so much for the work that you’re doing and for having me on the show.

Jesse Cannone: Oh, well, again, I appreciate it. I really enjoyed it and look forward to our next conversation.


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Filed Under: Back Pain
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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