Medical Professionals Share Healthy Habits They Swear By — And a Few They Fail At

Here we are — on the other side of a once-in-a lifetime pandemic, with a new resolve to live a more healthy life. But, if we are honest, the odds say many of us already have reverted to our old ways. (French fries are a vegetable, right?)

But if you think health care professionals cultivate wellness every day, guess again. They have their healthy habits and areas where they come up short — just like the rest of us.

We asked a few what health habit they follow religiously and what they could do better. Here’s what they had to say:

Stuart Sondheimer, M.D.

Ophthalmology, Skokie, Illinois

Stuart Sondheimer medical professionals

Best habit: I’m really good at sticking to the keto diet, which is low-carb. I do it along with intermittent fasting…and my weight has dropped from 215 to 180 pounds. One good thing about Covid is that it got us to eat at home. That’s a habit we can keep up…The food is healthier, and you have a lot more control at how it’s prepared than at restaurants.

What I could do better: I could get more cardio in. But, really, attitude is the most important driver of good health. It isn’t productive to beat yourself up.

Anita Chandra-Puri, M.D.

Pediatrics, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago 

Best habit: I always take care of my teeth. I have a water pik, an electric toothbrush and never miss a cleaning. Finally, no matter how tired I am, I never go to bed without flossing.

What I could do better: Between my practice and my kids — I have four boys and we travel all over for their gymnastic meets — I do without sleep to get everything done. Sometimes, I only get four or five hours a night, but it isn’t possible to get in more at this time of my life. 

Molly Koehler, D.O.

Family medicine, MarinHealth Corte Madera, California

Molly Koehler medical professionals

Best habit: I always start the day with a 30-40 minute workout in the garage. I do YouTube videos along with a stationary bike. My two kids are 5 and 8 years old, so I have to get it in before they get up and the day gets going. I’m also good about not missing story time at night with the kids. That time to reconnect as a family is very important.

What I could do better: I’m terrible about drinking water. I tell all my patients that they need to drink more water. 

Darby McDonnell

Oncology nurse, Northwestern Medicine Chicago

Best habit: No matter what, I try to get 30 minutes of physical activity in every day. If I don’t get in a workout, then I’ll walk. As long as I’m moving, it all counts.

What I could do better: I can’t kick my Diet Coke habit. I’ve tried…it’s a holdover from school and staying up. I know it’s bad for me, but I just can’t do it.

Linda Weinman Wolf, M.D.

Head and neck surgeon (retired), Kaiser Permanente Los Gatos, California

Linda Weinman Wolf MD healthy habits

Best habit: I started working out with a trainer in 2004, and I’m still working out three times a week with the same trainer. What prompted me to start 17 years ago was that I was in an airport with a friend who was a dancer and when we got in line, she was able to go under the rope, but I couldn’t. I knew then that I needed to do something. I don’t want to fall, which is a problem as you get older…plus, this allows me to eat anything I want.

What I could do better: I eat at night. If I’m standing and reading something, somehow the cookies move magically from the box into my mouth…Before I go to bed, I think I’ll have just one, but I don’t. There’s absolutely no thought involved.

Jillian Swary, M.D.

Dermatology, Northwestern Medicine Evanston, Illinois

Jillian Swary healthcare professional

Best habit:  I keep a consistent workout routine — either Peloton or elliptical — three to four times a week.  My workouts might be early in the morning or late at night, but I always try to get it in.

What I could do better: I do like to eat chocolate. I don’t keep a lot of it around. 

Corliss Chan

Acupressure and meditation practitioner, MarinHealth  Greenbrae, California

Chan Corliss Healthcare professional

Best habit: Slowing down during the day and consciously paying attention to my breathing, which calms the nervous system, nourishes the brain and helps the organs in the body relax.

What I could do better: Go to sleep by 10 p.m. and remember that everyone is doing the best they can.

Mark Jacobs, M.D.

OB/GYN, MarinHealth Mill Valley, California

Mark Jacobs healthcare professional

Best habit: I try to be real conscious about eating. I’ve trained myself to do that little pause, to take a breath and find that small crack between stimulus and response. I’ll ask myself: “Should I be doing this?”

What I could do better: Eat fruit. I know it’s good for me, but I just can’t do it.

Lauren Kern, M.D.

Psychiatry, Northwestern Medicine Chicago

Lauren Kern healthcare professional

Best habit: One of the most important ways I got through the pandemic was to exercise regularly. I am part of a Chicago rowing team. We row together via Zoom and for me this was about three times per week. One day a week I worked out with my personal trainer for weight bearing exercises. It is because of the relationship I have with all my coaches that I could be so consistent. Behavioral change can only happen in the context of a personal relationship. This is true for both my personal and professional lives. I try not to make a commitment that I can’t keep. 

What I could do better: My biggest bugaboo has been sugar. I used to only eat a homemade dessert. Then I allowed myself a dessert from a restaurant. Now I’m in a grocery aisle and I say to myself, “Where is that dark chocolate?” It is a very slippery slope.

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Bonnie Miller Rubin grew up on the North Shore and was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 25 years, specializing in health and family issues. She is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.