Dr. Libby Wilson Of ‘Best Life Functional Medicine’: “Don’t give up”

Don’t give up. Failing is ok. It’s the first step in learning. When I try new things in my business and it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. I learn from it, readjust and try again. The same is true as I treat my patients. Everything that doesn’t work is new information that gets us […]

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Don’t give up. Failing is ok. It’s the first step in learning. When I try new things in my business and it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. I learn from it, readjust and try again. The same is true as I treat my patients. Everything that doesn’t work is new information that gets us one step closer to the solution. The only way we truly fail is by giving up.

The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Libby Wilson.

Dr. Libby Wilson is the founder and practicing MD of Best Life Functional Medicine. Dr. Libby is certified through the ABFM (the American Board of Family Medicine) and is also a certified IFM practitioner through the Institute for Functional Medicine. Dr. Libby specializes in helping people who are looking for answers to problems that aren’t being solved by the conventional approach.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?

Absolutely! I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child. I loved school and always strived for my very best. My parents were very encouraging on my journey. I studied hard and got accepted into medical school, all with the goal of helping people as much as I could.

After achieving the goal of becoming an M.D., I realized I felt stuck in conventional medicine. To say the least, it was not what I thought it would be. I felt like a hamster on a spinning wheel, running from patient to patient and room to room, searching for a diagnosis that I could code for insurance, and jumping to the next problem and the next patient.

After around a decade of practicing, I stumbled into functional medicine. In over ten years of being a doctor and countless years of studying, I’d actually never heard of it up to that point. After all, it wasn’t like when you were choosing your residency program as you were finishing up medical school there was family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery and functional medicine.

One of my more holistic-minded patients asked me about it one day, I researched it later and ended up finding something that I had been looking for for a long time, but I just didn’t know it yet.

After that day, I dove into countless studies, reached out to professionals who were already practicing functional medicine, and realized that this was the solution not only to my own medical problems but to many of my patients’ problems as well. I jumped in with both feet and created the practice and the life of my dreams. I really believe this is my true calling in life and everything along my path has prepared me for what I’m doing today.

Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?

Oh, this is a great question! Exercise was actually something I didn’t take much time for consistently for most of my life. After I gave birth to my second child, I had about 10 lbs I wanted to lose and decided to take up running. I fell in love almost instantly!

The weight fell off quickly and I loved the feeling I felt after completing a run. It was such a great way to manage my weight, health, and stress since I managed a busy practice, a successful marriage, and raising our daughters.

I dove in even deeper to exercising when I watched a friend of mine, Lisa, complete an Ironman triathlon. She is a friend who I consider to be very much like me. She is also a doctor and a mom with a busy life. She didn’t really consider herself to be an athlete, but she decided she wanted to challenge herself and do an ironman. So she signed up and did the work and completed it — 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run.

I remember watching her on the digital live stream as she completed the event and I was so inspired. I remember thinking it was so cool that she did that and I started to believe that I could do it too.

I started training more with a great group of friends and I eventually completed an Ironman too! I’ll tell you it is a great feeling to set a seemingly impossible goal, do the work and achieve it. Completing this gave me so much confidence and set the foundation for many other goals and dreams in my life.

Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?

I actually have three if that is alright! The first is purchasing high-quality supplements. Supplements are meant to nourish your body and will be pivotal in getting your health back on track. Ideally, over time, you’ll be able to cut back on the quantity. But you won’t be able to reach that if you don’t focus on the quality first. There are so many great supplements to take, but I believe in testing to see which ones you actually need and then correcting the deficiency with the highest quality supplements. This works so much better than just guessing and taking a handful of things that you read about on the internet or your friends are taking.

The second is finding a healthy outlet for your thoughts. I chose journaling and the journaling thought process. I journal almost every morning — I dump all the thoughts out of my brain and onto paper. This isn’t meant for anyone else to read — ever! But I find when I get it all out on paper, I also find so much clarity.

The third is consistent daily exercise. Even if it is “just a walk,” it is better than nothing. Get up and move your body every single day!

To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?

One day at CrossFit for my morning workout before a busy day at the office, there was a new poster hanging up. It was called the 5 factors of health from Ben Bergeron, an elite CrossFit coach. These factors are nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset, and relationships.

As I left CrossFit that day and went to work, it just struck me that this is exactly what I need to be telling my patients — and myself! The problem was, I just didn’t have the time in a 10–15 minute appointment.

It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t in healthcare at all. I was in sick care.

I really had very little to offer people like myself who were trying hard every day to do things to be healthy. Sure they could come in for their annual physical, I’d listen to their heart and lungs and order some blood work, but it was almost always normal in this group of people. I decided that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. There’s a huge number of the population that feels okay, but not great. They’re overworked, overstressed, and exhausted, but their doctors keep telling them that they’re fine.

I decided it didn’t have to be this way. There had to be a solution. And this is when I discovered Functional Medicine! I got my hands on every study and educational material possible, sought out mentors to shape my understanding and answer my questions, and started using what I was learning on some of my patients — and it worked!

Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Hands down the biggest challenge is the disconnect between my colleagues and my new approach. You see, doctors generally think of natural medicine or lifestyle medicine to be “not backed by science”. To be honest, I used to think so too. Now that I’ve done my research, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was certainly going against the grain from the conventional training I received which was primarily labeling diseases and prescribing long-term pharmaceutical agents to treat them. But intuitively I knew there had to be better answers, and there are!

It was challenging to continue to work in my old practice, learn a whole new way of thinking and build my own business from scratch while raising my kids and proactively maintaining my health.

While my old colleagues may not still understand what I do, I have a new group of professionals that are like-minded and are my support system now.

Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

Instead of helping many, I now help a smaller number of patients, but in a way that REALLY up levels their health and changes their life. I love to partner with patients, educate them, and go on this journey together.

My philosophy is, You are the expert in you and I’m an expert in medicine. Let’s put our heads together and figure this out. 75% of the time it works just like I have planned from the start. When it doesn’t, I put on my detective hat and we figure it out.

Through this boutique approach, I realized that what I was doing was really truly working — but not for enough people. This is when I realized that I could take my one-on-one approach and package it in a virtual class style. This virtual program shares all the same information that I share with my patients, but is at a more affordable price point and can be taken on the student’s own time and at their own pace.

Since functional medicine is not yet recognized by most insurance companies, I think it is important that we as functional medicine doctors do as much as we can to make this information clear and accessible to as many people as possible. My hope and prayer is that by releasing virtual programs, this is one small way I can start to do my part.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Well I guess I already started to discuss this above, but I am most excited about my new virtual program, Reset Your Adrenals, Transform Your Life. This is my very first virtual program with plans for more in the future. This program in particular is related to fixing fatigue and balancing hormones by resetting the adrenal glands that are overwhelmed from chronic stress. I have plans to create programs in the future related to gut health and mitochondrial health.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Listening, recognizing when you are wrong, and being willing to put in the work.

For listening, I have a set protocol I follow with my patients, and it works most of the time. Instead of just scanning what a patient is saying while listening for keywords, I listen to the entirety of what they are saying, take the time to process, and then share a thorough response. I’m not the boss. My patient and I are a team.

For recognizing when you are wrong, I realized early on in medicine that I don’t have the answers for everything. When I switched from functional to conventional medicine, I had to swallow my pride and admit that quite a few processes I used to believe were no longer what I believed. But I think a large part of continuing to grow as a person is being willing to take in new information and change or update your thoughts about the topic as you learn more. Also, I am not afraid to say I don’t know when a patient asks me something that I need to look into more first.

Finally, for willingness to do the work — you can’t be afraid of hard work. Just like there’s no quick fix to a patient’s health, there’s no overnight solution to building a successful business. Even though I work for myself now, at my home, you can find me in my office working away every day during business hours. When there aren’t direct patient care tasks to be handled, I’m creating content, coming up with ideas, or participating in ongoing education.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?

Well, in conventional medicine, wellness is just the absence of disease. But to me and the rest of the functional medicine community, wellness is optimal health.

I think of health as more of a continuum with optimal health on one extreme and death on the other. Oftentimes with a normal annual physical exam, you are just somewhere in the middle of the graph. But my patients don’t want to just feel okay — they want to feel GREAT! They also don’t want to just not have disease but do what we can together to protect them from getting a disease in the future.

So for me, wellness is striving for your personal optimal health goals.

As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?

This is actually the premise of a new project I’m just starting to work on with Nate Long, the owner of Long Road Crossfit. Here’s our concept:

Many of us plan for retirement. I know my husband and I do. I’ve invested money since I began working in hopes that one day I’ll have the financial freedom to stop working if I choose to. I love my job so much now that I’m not even sure I want to, but I love that the option will be there for me.

But how many of us invest in our health in the same way?

I can have endless amounts of money in the bank, but if I am not proactively engaged in my health, I may not have the ability to do the things I want to do. I want to be able to get on the floor and play with my grandkids one day. I want to be able to travel and hike trails all over the world with my husband one day. I want to be able to be mentally sharp to continue to help others as I age.

But none of these are guaranteed without consistently putting deposits in our health account. If you aren’t intentional about your health, you are on the autopilot default path which is almost always on the path to poorer and poorer health.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?

Here are a few recommendations I’ve made to a few clients that they have in turn implemented in their workplaces:

  • Remove the guilt of staying home when you are sick. Instead, reframe your thinking to realize by staying home you’re not only helping yourself get better, but you’re also drastically reducing the likelihood of getting your coworkers sick as well. This is a culture shift in our country that will take a long time to fully take effect, but I’m confident we can get there.
  • Offer training on health and wellness. I offer group calls on Friday for my private patients that are either actively working with me or waiting to get started. This is a chance to connect with like-minded people, share knowledge and have meaningful conversations.
  • When you take time off, really take time off. That means no email, no messages, NO WORK. I request the same from my assistant. Being on vacation and answering emails isn’t good for your stress! We do the same during the workweek. Business hours only. No work on weekends and holidays. This keeps us healthy and motivated and prevents burnout.

My patients know that I would never recommend something to them that I’m not willing to do myself, which is why they have chosen to pick up these three recommendations and share them with others. I also think these processes are critical as more and more people work from home.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

These are my 5 tips to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry. These tips have led to success in building my business and in creating amazing results with my patients.

1. Refuse to accept that ok is good enough. There are answers! My old job as a Family doctor was secure and steady, with reasonable hours it just wasn’t providing me with fulfillment. It was ok. Likewise, many of my patients come to me with ok health results from their regular check-ups. They too intuitively know there is more that can be done.

In both instances, there is so much more than ok.

2. Seek knowledge. Trust experts. As I was building my practice I knew I could figure it out. With so much access to information these days, patients can figure it out on their own too. But my results have been better and certainly quicker by hiring experts. This is true with my patients too. An expert guide makes the process a whole lot easier.

3. Share your experience and knowledge with patients to empower them. When I was first starting my business I compared myself to people much further along their path and it left me feeling very discouraged. So I have learned in business and in life trying to look perfect doesn’t help anyone. Being vulnerable and real helps people relate to you so much more, helps them get unstuck, and gives them so much hope for the future.

4. Consistency. The little things you do each and everyday matter. In business and in health, small consistent daily actions add up over time to yield huge results. Show up every day, do the work and the results will come — promise! It’s a marathon, not a sprint, though. I’m more interested in forever than I am in fast.

5. Don’t give up. Failing is ok. It’s the first step in learning. When I try new things in my business and it doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. I learn from it, readjust and try again. The same is true as I treat my patients. Everything that doesn’t work is new information that gets us one step closer to the solution. The only way we truly fail is by giving up.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We underestimate how much stress is impacting us. I used to push hard all the time till I saw what it had done to my health! There are a lot of over-achievers like me out there and I want to let them know that this stress takes a toll on you. It inevitably creates a strain on your adrenals, disrupts your hormones, and dampens your immune system setting you up for poor health and generally just not feeling great. I am passionate about helping people fix this for good.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would have to go with Mark Hyman. He started in family medicine just like I did. He was the first person I found when I learned of functional medicine and immediately the myth that I had believed in conventional medicine that natural medicine was not backed by science was busted. I was so impressed with his knowledge and his expertise. I still follow him closely today and I love the work that he’s doing to inspire patients and doctors alike.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can feel free to follow my practice, Best Life Functional Medicine, on Facebook or by visiting my website at bestlifefunctionalmedicine.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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