The Missing Ingredient

DSCN6836Last week I was invited to an innovation session with the goal of improving our ability as a healthcare system to help diabetics live healthier lives. Like most systems, we have an education and treatment program for diabetics. And probably also like most systems, the diabetic program is helpful, but it’s not that helpful. In general, lives are being improved, but not transformed.

Several people on my team (especially me) wanted to talk about transformation. How do we help people take control of their lifestyles? How could we help the obese to become fit and trim, possibly even losing the diabetes? At one point I asked the questions, “What is missing? What can we give them? What do they lack that prevents them from becoming well?” “Hope,” came the quick reply from my respected colleague, a senior physician, a man with decades of practical experience in lifestyle medicine. “They have no hope, and healthcare reinforces their hopelessness,” he continued.

So we talked a little about hope. If hope is the expectation that things can and will improve, then it certainly makes sense that hopelessness would be a major impediment to action. As I wrote about recently, healthcare authorities have proclaimed that obesity is a disease, and that type II diabetes is not only a disease, but also that it is incurable. Not a recipe for hope.

In the trenches, doctors and other clinicians get tired of advising patients to eat better, exercise and lose weight. It seems to them that such advice never works (which is mostly true). Gradually weariness and cynicism (or maybe “realism”) sets in. “People can’t change,” they think and then act accordingly. Many doctors have no hope for their patients to truly be well. I’ve been there myself.

This has been weighing on me ever since. How could we help give people hope? I’m not sure, but it’s a powerful question. I think part of the answer is stories. Some patients have changed dramatically, losing the weight and the diabetes, and transforming their lives for the better. Other patients could benefit from hearing about it. Inspirational stories give us hope. Even the thought, “If he could do it, I might be able to it” is a great start. Maybe we should institute a story time among patients for sharing successes and challenges. Why not?

It’s also occurred to me that hope probably isn’t the missing ingredient for everyone. Individuals are unique, and certainly people can have more than one lack or need. What else might we try to give to (or grow in) an individual looking to change? How about: Inspiration, Desire, Motivation, Knowledge, Faith, Understanding, Wisdom, Methods, Tools, Resources, Encouragement, Structure, Discipline, Accountability, Drive, Determination, Commitment, and Tenacity? You can probably think of more helpful traits, skills and factors.

More will be revealed about our innovation effort, and I’m looking forward to our follow-up session in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, it’s my hope that you will find inspiration and more of the “ingredients” listed above here at Health Discipleship. My goal for you is the same as for the patients in our clinic program, to help you make a major change for better health. If that’s why you’re reading, put your hope in God, and let me know if I can help.


  1. Dexter Simanton says:

    Pete, behavioral health interventions in the service of medical diagnoses is a piece of the puzzle. Self control therapies can instill hope and increase self efficacy for those folks trying to change behaviors related to medical illnesses.

    • Peter Weiss says:

      I agree. Everything begins in the mind, which is why, as Christians, we are to be renewing our minds. (Romans 12:2)