Advice From the Front Lines

One of things we constantly talk about here at Pulse is the power of the personal relationship between health influencer and patient. My friend Rebecca Tobin is a family practice physician with a family, a full patient load and a common-sense approach to helping her patients be healthy and well. On a recent walk through the neighborhood, Becky shared her prescription for becoming—and staying—healthy. I asked her if I could share it here because in the day-to-day bustle of marketing healthy foods—and amid the clutter of conflicting health & wellness messages bombarding consumers daily—it’s important to keep our eyes on the target—straightforward advice from a trusted source that can help the average American consumer live a healthier life.  

 Dr. Tobin’s Prescription for Staying Healthy

Staying healthy is simple. But simple does not always mean easy. Every day   patients come to me for advice and guidance on how to “get healthy.” People want to lose weight, start an exercise program, or break bad habits.  Some do not know what questions to ask.  Others bring me spreadsheets of data, bottles of supplements, and a list of all the diets they have tried.  

Staying healthy requires 5 important considerations:  good nutrition, plenty of exercise, plenty of sleep, good mental health, and avoidance of toxins. 

1. Good nutrition.  Keep it lean and green. Eat plenty of lean meats/proteins and lots of green vegetables. The less-processed the foods you eat, the better they will be for your body. Keep a serving to about the size of your closed fist. No measuring cups needed. And remember—no one is perfect, if you have a bad day and eat lots of cake then make up for it the next day with extra greens. Don’t let the unhealthy pattern become the norm. 

2. Plenty of exercise. No gym membership required. Just move! The classic 10,000 steps per day rule is a great guide. If you are unfortunate enough to have a desk job, get up frequently or do it standing, walking, or pedaling. Most work places are accepting of these accommodations. 

3. Plenty of sleep. Your goal should be 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Few people get this on a regular basis. Bodies and minds need time to rest and repair. You should wake up refreshed and have energy to start the day. If not, you aren’t getting enough sleep—or enough good quality sleep—and the problem should be addressed. 

4. Good mental health. Yes, being happy is very important! Take 10 minutes outside in the sun every day. The sunlight will increase the serotonin in your brain and keep your vitamin D levels up. Find time to think, relax, and enjoy life.  Positive thought has been proven to help healing and to help you stay healthy.

5. Avoidance of toxins. Tobacco, alcohol and harmful fumes to name a few. Obvious but hard to do!

To be healthy it is important to find a routine that is sustainable. Keep it simple. But remember, it will not necessarily be easy. 

Dr. Tobin’s advice is simple, but as she says, not easy. There’s clearly no one thing that’s going to jettison a person to optimal health. Moreover, no patient is going to undertake even one of these recommendations if there is no foundation of trust with the health influencer. Trust and credibility. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. But it’s not easy.


Dr. Rebecca Tobin

Dr. Tobin graduated from UNC Medical School in 1993. She went on to serve as chief resident of UNC Family Medicine.

Rebecca founded Comprehensive Family Medicine in 2005. Lives with her three children in Hillsborough, North Carolina.