To Heal, First Eat

Medical professionals in a cooking class at the annual “Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives” conference in California. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Medical professionals in a cooking class at the annual “Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives” conference in California. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“I want to help my patients not need my services,” Dr. Fox said as he chopped rosemary for a mustard-crusted seared lamb loin. “I’d love to be put out of work.”

“This isn’t neurosurgery,” Dr. Eisenberg said as he whacked a garlic clove with the cleaver. “This is hearty, affordable, cravenly delicious food.”

His commitment to healthy food began when his father, a cake artist who “always smelled like a cross between a cinnamon stick and a whiff of Old Spice,” died of a heart attackwhen Dr. Eisenberg was 10. An expert on integrative medicine, Dr. Eisenberg was one of the first United States medical exchange students to the People’s Republic of China. He started “Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives” in partnership with the Culinary Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health, based on the radical notion that if doctors could learn to channel their inner Julia Child (sans butter), they could serve as role models and cheerleaders for their patients.

It’s not about ego. Over the years, research has shown that doctors who practice healthful behaviors like exercising, using sunscreen and not smoking have a greater likelihood of advising patients to do the same. A study last month in the journal Obesity reported that overweight doctors may be less prone than other physicians to discuss diet and exercise with their patients. “We’re all human,” said Dr. Matt Everett, a now-gangly 55-year-old physician from Marysville, Ohio, who was inspired to lose weight after seeing patients in their 40s and 50s having strokes and heart attacks. “We all struggle with the same things.”

Those are quotes from “To Heal, First Eat,” which appeared this week in The New York Times.