About Joris Obenhuijsen

About Joris Obenhuijsen

Co-founder & CCO

About Joris Obenhuijsen

Joris Obenhuijsen (20 May 1970), together with Annemarie de Vries-Postma, founded the first center for lifestyle medicine in the Netherlands in 2016: AM Lifestyle medicine Center , which grew into The Lifestyle Docs Clinics .

In 2018, Obenhuijsen became chairman of the Dutch Society of Lifestyle Medicine Foundation. The Dutch Society of Lifestyle Medicine Foundation is a Dutch foundation that aims to:

  • Promoting Lifestyle Medicine in the Netherlands, both in preventive and curative healthcare;

He is also the author of the GLI The Lifestyle Docs for obese people and GLI Sit Smart for people who are wheelchair-bound due to a neurological condition.

He is also co-founder and co-author of the magazine LifestyleRx and co-author of it Handbook of Lifestyle Medicine .

Obenhuijsen is commercial director Franchise & Independent clinics of The Lifestyle Docs, and responsible for implementing the Lifestyle Docs Clinics concept abroad.

Why did you establish The Lifestyle Docs Clinics?

The main reason is that I am deeply concerned that the world is increasingly made up of sick people with poor metabolic health. That daily medication is considered normal from the age of forty. Because what good is a sick population in the long term and a generation of children who we already know will be confronted with chronic diseases before us? Purely and solely due to an unhealthy lifestyle, which has proven to be the cause of a lot of action.

There are many good and sincere initiatives in the field of lifestyle. However, I hear too often that we also do "something" about lifestyle. Lifestyle medicine is not "a thing", but a serious medical discipline. At least in a number of countries in the world.

Although the Netherlands has caught up in the field of lifestyle medicine, lifestyle medicine is still not a serious medical discipline. It should be. Even in medical journals, discussions still take place at a neutral level as to whether the majority of chronic lifestyle conditions are genetic or due to an unhealthy lifestyle. These types of discussions are conducted on the basis of insufficient knowledge, ego and not knowing the data.

Through the studies we have conducted with patients, based on the guidelines formalized in 2017 by the American College of Lifestyle
Medicine (ACLM), we have been able to achieve astonishing sustainable health gains for the majority of patients. The ACLM is doing everything it can to get lifestyle treatments into practice in hospitals. Unfortunately, this has not yet been very successful, perhaps the lack of entrepreneurship among healthcare professionals is to blame. This has been the starting point for me and my team to develop an applicable model that can be implemented anywhere in the world.

We deliberately called the model The Lifestyle Docs to emphasize that it is a medical company that carries out medical treatments based on science.

Food as medicine

Lifestyle intervention expert and commercial director Joris Obenhuijsen: “Science shows that in lifestyle interventions, adjusting nutritional behavior trumps everything, and that a predominantly unprocessed, plant-based diet is really “food as medicine”.

The really effective lifestyle interventions in the world all use
a (predominantly) plant-based diet. This is not the case in our country
case and in my opinion is also the main reason why the
Dutch lifestyle interventions have been so ineffective to date

  • Excessive sitting (sedentary behaviour), too little exercise
    • Too much processed and animal food
    • Too much stress, too little (self) acceptance and (self) compassion
    • Sleeping too little or badly
    • Unhealthy relationships
    • Lack of meaning

    Should more research be done first?

    “Everything we need to know is already there. It is now time to actually do something with the abundance of existing knowledge. There are countless
    recent scientific research, published in leading
    scientific journals, which demonstrate the link that can no longer be ignored
    between the consumption of meat and dairy and the increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.”

    The good nutrition guidelines are not sufficient?

    "The current guidelines are not scientific enough and not disease-specific. They are recommendations for the prevention of diseases for healthy people. It is time for the government or the Health Council to come up with evidence-based nutritional guidelines that have a proven preventive and curative effect.
    Take Canada. There, the obesity epidemic has been the starting point for the
    to tackle the nutritional issue rigorously and to emphasize plant-based eating. Meat and dairy are no longer a separate food group. The
    The Canadian government has dared to take action, knowing that Canada, just like the Netherlands, has a very strong dairy and meat industry.”

    And lifestyle medicine offers the solution?

    "Certainly. A change of lifestyle can have a huge positive influence on that and often even make medication superfluous. Often within a few weeks. Research shows that people with (pre)diabetes type 2 who eat healthier (and mainly unprocessed , plant based) eating, moving more and sleeping better often do not have to take medication Even patients who have been injecting insulin for years can often stop doing this completely after a few months of guidance.

    Eating healthier in particular has such a huge positive impact on overall health and can reduce the severity of combined conditions. All the more reason, therefore, to use nutritional and lifestyle advice earlier and more often in the treatment of patients. In short: less medication, lower healthcare costs and a better quality of life”.

    How does lifestyle medicine get a full place in healthcare?

    “To start with: an adjustment of the financing of care. Health insurers mainly reimburse medication and are geared towards symptom relief and short-term effects.

    "The effect of lifestyle change can only be seen much later", it is often said. But what is overlooked is that the regular treatment of chronic diseases is a costly, long process because they often take months, years or even a lifetime.

    Just look around you how many people are on heart medication, blood thinners, cholesterol lowering drugs, antidiabetics, blood pressure medication, antidepressants, stomach protectors and tranquilizers at the same time and in the meantime often also have an angioplasty and a number of stents.

    That medication is taken for years, often even a lifetime and these people see every expensive specialist in the hospital several times a year and often undergo countless, costly additional examinations a year. Nobody cares about that. And then lifestyle medicine is cut back and a cheap GLI ( Combined Lifestyle Intervention) is introduced that should not cost anything. It's not to be taken seriously.

    And what is also overlooked is that a thorough lifestyle intervention often has an effect within a few weeks, especially with type 2 diabetes, for example, and someone can therefore quickly reduce or stop taking the medication and expensive medical complications - and very expensive treatments. - to prevent.

    Because someone's overall health also often improves permanently. It is therefore a much more sustainable approach, which makes it more logical to give priority to this form of medicine and to reimburse generously. Lifestyle medicine is a costly specialty, just like any other medical specialty. At least: at the front. At the back it generates money because people become healthier and gain more self-management through knowledge and more self-management. It is high time that people started to realize that”.

    Is that the only stumbling block?

    “No, in addition to the outdated way of financing healthcare, there has been another stumbling block to the implementation of lifestyle medicine until now: the lack of a model for directly applicable care. We have been working on this since 2017 and our medical specialist team has developed in recent years. This is a huge step for lifestyle medicine. Not only in the Netherlands, but worldwide”.

    Are you rolling out lifestyle as a medical specialty?

    "That's right. With The Lifestyle Docs Clinics , we are bringing lifestyle medicine to the place and level it belongs to. Lifestyle medicine has always been the neglected child in medicine and has therefore never really got off the ground.

    As mentioned, you do have GLI ( Combined Lifestyle Intervention ), which has also been reimbursed since 2019, but the results lag behind compared to leading international studies in the field of lifestyle medicine. This is because GLI is a “stripped down version” (or: a weak copy) of proven effective interventions, such as DPP or the Ornish Lifestyle intervention , which are essentially different in terms of nutrition and intensity. GLI is actually more of a “part” of lifestyle medicine. It is essentially more lifestyle coaching than lifestyle medicine”.

    Why is lifestyle medicine a medical specialty?

    “Because the problems of patients, especially if they already have complaints or are chronically ill, are extremely complex. The medical problems that arise from unhealthy behaviors fall under the metabolic syndrome. The metabolic syndrome has a range of manifestations (such as obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, insulin resistance/diabetes, sleep apnea, lung problems, fatigue, pain, inflammation, infections, osteoarthritis/arthritis, depression, dementia, intestinal problems and accelerated ageing). unfortunately often occur simultaneously and reinforce each other.

    Where a cardiologist, pulmonologist or internist is good at treating one of these problems, with a more extensive form of the metabolic syndrome it is important to be able to keep an eye on the entire medical picture and therefore have specific knowledge of how this interplay put together and how you can help untangle this tangle for the patient in question. In addition to knowledge about exercise physiology and training programs for people with (morbid) overweight, a great deal of specialist knowledge is needed about good (evidence-based) nutrition. The doctor must also have specific knowledge and skills to be able to guide the patient in these behavioral change processes, but also in reducing medication.

    What conditions does The Lifestyle Docs Clinic focus on?

    “We focus on “The Big 5”: obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. This is because these are the most common chronic conditions that are all interrelated and each require expensive medication individually. Research from Nordsjaellands University Hospital and the University of Southern Denmark shows that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and also rheumatoid arthritis”.

    What are your objectives for the near future?

    “We are now rolling out The Lifestyle Docs Clinics to Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the US. There are advanced discussions and the interest is enormous. As a hospital, rehabilitation center, general practice (or as a healthcare entrepreneur who wants to open an independent clinic), people like to be able to purchase directly applicable lifestyle medicine ready-made in this way with the training, backup and support of the specialists at our Dutch headquarters.

    It is nice to see that when we started this in 2016 (under the name AM Lifestyle Medicine Center ) we were still so ahead of the curve that we always had to explain (and even defend) what we were doing, but that now we offering exactly what the times require and for which the current healthcare offering has no answer."

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