Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. is nothing less than a legendary leader within the field of integrative and botanical medicine. Now, at 77 years old, he’s still the perfect picture of health.
Throughout his life, Dr. Weil’s traveled the world to study holistic, plant-based wellness, received his doctorate from Harvard University, wrote multiple New York Times best-sellers including The Natural Mind, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, and Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being, and is a partner at the healthy-eating restaurant chain, True Food Kitchen. He’s also the founder and Director at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Dr. Andrew Weil
Most recently, however, Dr. Weil’s dedicated himself to promoting the benefits of a Japanese tea called matcha to Western audiences with his newest brand, Matcha Kari.
Needless to say, he possesses an infinite amount of both wellness and entrepreneurial knowledge. Recently, I spoke with Dr. Weil and am excited to share some of what I’ve learned with you.
Dr. Weil on Eating Better
Most of us would love to eat a healthier diet.
But between the plethora of diets, trends, and well-meaning advice, it often becomes so overwhelming that it’s easier just to give up altogether. Or, on the flip side, you get sucked into a new diet, and it quickly spirals into a near-obsession.
Dr. Weil has seen this cycle repeat itself with patients, friends, and colleagues throughout his career—and he gets it! The modern concept of eating well is really complicated. However, he doesn’t think it has to be.
“It’s extremely confusing,” Dr. Weil says. “Some of the diets seem too extreme and not healthy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave out a whole macronutrient like carbohydrates, for example. We already eat huge amounts of fat and proteins!”
Dr. Weil then brought up a new term he’s begun to hear more often: orthorexia nervosa. Basically, it’s an unhealthy obsession and attention to the health characteristics of food. “It’s not yet officially recognized as an eating disorder,” he says, “but many eating disorder specialists say they are seeing more and more people with this behavior.”
So, if we want to eat better, but not get caught up in unhealthy cycles—what do we do?
“I think there are some general rules,” says Dr. Weil. “It’s a good idea not to eat refined, processed, and manufactured food. I think that’s what’s doing us in. I urge people to try to eat foods as close to the way nature produces them as possible.”
He then discusses observations he made while in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is a blue zone meaning the population lives longer than most other places. “I’ve gone there a number of times to study healthy aging,” Dr. Weil says. “They have had the highest concentration of centenarians in the world for a long time.”
In a small village, he met with a group of elderly people and asked them, “What’s the secret?” They all replied, “Eat everything.” Now, this doesn’t mean what we might think it does. They certainly didn’t make it to old age by eating every last french fry at McDonalds. “And,” he quickly notes, “the rise of fast food has sabotaged Okinawa and longevity.”
Instead, the elderly Okinawans meant that you shouldn’t cut out the whole, nutritious, natural foods that, to this area’s residents, was their diet. There, this meant mostly vegetables, grains, fish, and soy.
Essentially, to these unintentional health food experts, as long as you’re consuming truly healthy, non-processed foods, you should enjoy every healthy bite you can.
For the Love of Matcha
Japan has been a huge part of Dr. Weil’s life in more ways than his studies on longevity. He’s actually been traveling there for over six decades—ever since he was an exchange student back in 1959.
He’s also a lifelong entrepreneur with no signs of slowing down. In fact, as a way to further blend his love of business with Japan, he’s recently had the opportunity to launch a new brand, Matcha Kari. It’s all dedicated to a drink he’s been passionate about since first visiting Japan called matcha.
So, what is matcha? It’s simply green tea but in a powdered form. “It has a long history in Japan,” says Dr. Weil, “and was originally used by Zen monks to keep them awake during long hours of meditation. Then it became popular among samurai, then nobility, and then it became part of the Japanese tea ceremony.”
Today, it’s an incredibly popular drink in Japan and is quickly spreading across the world. However, Dr. Weil’s been a proponent of matcha since studying in the country as a teenager.
“On the second night that I was in Japan,” Dr. Weil remembers, “my host mother took me next door to her neighbor who was a practitioner of the tea ceremony. The three of us sat around, and she prepared matcha for us. I was just blown away by the color. It’s the most vibrant, beautiful green I’d ever seen.”
Initially, he was entranced by the spectacle. Then, he became obsessed with the mental stimulation different from any he’d experienced before. Unlike the harsher buzz and subsequent crash of coffee, the caffeine in matcha is combined with a rare amino acid called L-theanine. This acid creates a calming effect that slows down the release of caffeine, enables energy to last longer, and boosts concentration levels.
For years after, Dr. Weil tried to introduce matcha to a wider Western audience. Though anyone who did try it loved it, he says, “It was really way ahead of its time. So that never took off.”
Still, he kept hoping matcha’s time would come—and he believes that time is now.
First off, more people are recognizing that coffee might be causing adverse side effects. “I’ve met people who drink one cup of coffee in the morning and have no idea that’s why they can’t sleep at night,” Dr. Weil says. This includes everything from stomach irritation to withdrawals to chronic insomnia.
Though he’s by no means anti-coffee, he also knows that every body is different. For those who may not respond best to coffee, but still need a jumpstart in the morning, matcha just might be the perfect replacement they’ve been searching for.
Create Better Habits for Sleep and Life
Dr. Weil’s not alone in professing the merits of routine and healthy habits. This applies to our wellness, our relationships, and our workplaces. Once we discover whatever works best—and we finally stick with it—everything just seems to run more smoothly.
However, much like our diets, actually developing these habits into a routine is much easier said than done.
“There are so many reasons for that,” says Dr. Weil. “One piece of advice I give to people is—if you want to have better habits, spend more time in the company of people who have the habits that you want. They rub off.”
It’s a simple statement that makes so much sense. If you want to eat better, spend more time eating around those with healthy diets. Want to grow into a more positive leader with strong core values? Start working with other leaders who already possess those qualities.
Another way to start creating a better routine is by actively recognizing the benefits—even if it takes a while to really feel them. “At the beginning, you may not immediately see results,” Dr. Weil says. “But…the benefits accumulate as you practice [habits] regularly over several weeks or a month.”
In short, these new habits might feel like a hassle at first. But how will that mentality shift once you realize how much better you feel after getting a full night’s sleep, starting a meditation practice, or focusing on great leadership?
Soon, living life any other way won’t be an option.
You’ll learn more about how he got into integrative medicine, how he built his internationally-known brand and business, and so many more insights on health, wellness, and living a longer, healthier life.
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