Dr. Andrew Weil sits casually on a stool and discusses his theories about healthy aging with 70 guests of the Miraval resort and spa in Catalina, Ariz. “It’s not about living forever,” says the 64-year-old physician, who, as the spa’s recently named director of integrative health and healing, has developed a series of workshops for its patrons. “It’s about living a long and healthy life with a quick decline.” For some, attending Weil’s workshop offers an opportunity to meet with the doctor who has advanced integrative medicine, a practice that combines elements of conventional medicine with those of alternative medicine. Others have come simply to try something new.
“We needed a lifestyle change,” says Sandee Leone, a northern California resident who attended Weil’s May session with her husband, David, a recently retired computer industry executive. Both are in their early 60s. “We’re at the age where you start to worry about Alzheimer’s and loss of bone mass. However, you get to the point where you’ve read all of the diet books and health studies, but you don’t know how to sort through it all or apply it to your life. It all gets so complicated.”
Weil’s program is relatively simple. He recommends that you include plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, that you take a few nutritional supplements, and that you exercise regularly. He suggests meditation as a means of coping with the bouts of depression that can accompany aging, and he advises that you seek the services of both Western doctors and practitioners of alternative medicines, depending on the circumstances. “If I was in a severe car accident, I wouldn’t want to be rushed to a shaman or an herbalist. I would want to go to a hospital,” says Weil, who earned his degree in medicine from Harvard Medical School and lives 45 minutes away from Miraval near Tucson, where he also serves as the founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. “However, in my recovery, I would probably want to incorporate elements of acupuncture and botanicals.”
Weil and members of his staff discuss each of these topics—diet, exercise, meditation, botanicals—and others during his Luminaries Series, seven 90-minute lectures conducted over a four-day period at Miraval. Weil follows each lecture with an informal question-and-answer session. The next Luminaries Series is scheduled for the end of October.
Miraval’s holistic approach to treating the mind, body, and spirit perfectly dovetails with his program, says Weil, enabling you to begin implementing the advice from the lectures during your stay at the resort. However, he notes, the key to his program is to alter your diet and other elements of your lifestyle at a pace that will enable you to maintain those changes—and retain your health—for as long as possible. “Sometimes people will go to a weekend workshop,” says Weil, “come home all fired up, and try to change too much at once—a sure sign that the changes won’t last.”