Dean Ornish: Undo It! Does It Again

Dean Ornish Undo It
Suzanne B. Robotti
Suzanne B. Robotti Executive Director

Undo It! Is the latest enthusiastic, optimistic and upbeat book from the husband and wife team, Dean Ornish, MD and Anne Ornish. Dean is the well-known author of six bestselling books with loads of TV appearances and accolades. Anne is a yoga expert and program developer for the growing Ornish Lifestyle Medicine empire.

“Undo It ,, from Dean Ornish,  is a very big book (both physically and in topics). Dean and Anne (as they refer to themselves) attempt to cover everything having to do with health and wellness. That’s a lot and it feels like it. It sat on my shelf for about six months because of its daunting size. Don’t make my mistake, this is an easy book to read and the back half is all recipes.

They write alternately, Dean giving the technical, medical background of gene expression, the plasticity of the brain and why loneliness causes chronic emotional stress. The first portion of the book is all about how chronic disease has embedded itself into our lives and how we can “undo it.”

Anne focuses more on which living life — exercises, what to eat in a restaurant, how to connect with people — which is why it’s so easy to skim. I’m already a devotee of healthier living. I don’t have to read Dean’s explanations of why it’s better to lower your cholesterol through lifestyle changes instead of statins. And while I know I should take a walk instead of snacking, reviewing Anne’s suggestions of mindfulness before, during and after eating, for example, are helpful.

I did like this quote early on about what Dean believes doctors tell patients: “Take these pills every day for the rest of your life. They won’t make you feel better — and they may even make you feel worse. But they will help prevent something really bad like a heart attack or stroke from happening years down the road that you don’t want to think about.”

Fewer than half of those patients, according to Dean and several studies I’ve read elsewhere, aren’t taking those drugs a year later. Dean further claims that 85-90% of those taking his 9-week course maintain the healthy lifestyle he taught them a year later.

Dean Ornish in ,,Undo It” notes: “…most physicians believe their patients will take a cholesterol-lowering drug like statins or blood pressure medications that they prescribe but think their patients are unlikely to make sustainable lifestyle changes.” Dean argues why doctors don’t have faith in their patients’ desire to live a healthy lifestyle.

A small bone to pick with Dean: 85-90% of people sticking to anything for a year seems like an overstatement. However, those taking his 9-week course are likely highly motivated by their personal health scares. To which Dean (in my imaginary conversation) might point out that doctors don’t often give patients the information or support needed to make appropriate lifestyle changes. If patients were given the facts, the options and the support, many more people might choose to live a much healthier lifestyle.

As a free gift for reading this article, I’ll give you a cheat sheet. Here’s the program in summary:

  • Eat a whole-food plant-based diet
  • Do moderate exercise frequently
  • Manage your stress
  • Seek out love, social support and intimacy

If, like most of us, you need some reminding, refreshing and some good tips and recipes, you’ll enjoy the book and get just a little exercise lifting it.