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How Lifestyle and Culinary Medicine Can Help You Thrive, With Dr. Colin Zhu
Episode 3525th January 2021 • The Prosperous Doc • Spaugh Dameron Tenny
00:00:00 00:32:21

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For Dr. Colin Zhu, medicine runs in the family.

Dr. Zhu's mother practiced Chinese medicine, an ancient practice that focuses on finding balance within the body. Now Dr. Zhu incorporates this philosophy into his own work.

"She instilled in me how to look at the person, the patient, in a very holistic way. So, she instilled in me prevention, wellness, compassion, listening to the person. And so those were the values and skill sets that I've brought with me and that's the direction that I took going into medicine," he says.

Dr. Zhu is a board-certified physician who practices family medicine in Los Angeles. He also practices lifestyle medicine, culinary medicine, and what he calls "thrive medicine," in which he encourages people to live with vitality. He's written a book about his medical practices: “Thrive Medicine: How To Cultivate Your Desires and Elevate Your Life.”

Dr. Zhu approaches his patients by searching for the root of their problems rather than treating them at the surface level. For instance, he might connect with a distracted teenage patient about their neglectful home situation instead of simply prescribing anxiety medication.

"What I love to do … is connecting the dots for people," Dr. Zhu says. "And usually when people come to me for a certain complaint or problem, there's usually a deeper underlying source to their concern, pain, or struggle, that's not really connected with why they come in."

In this episode of the Prosperous Doc, Dr. Zhu chats with our host Shane Tenny, CFP® about the ways that he incorporates his various medicines into his practice, and how culinary medicine can help people live more fulfilled and healthy lives. He also talks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in the U.S. healthcare system, and how we as a society can work to improve it.

💡 Featured Expert 💡

Name: Dr. Colin Zhu

What he does: Dr. Zhu works as a board-certified family physician in Los Angeles, who incorporates culinary, lifestyle, and thrive medicine in his practice. He also hosts the Thrive Bytes podcast.

Company: TheChefDoc

Words of wisdom: "Most of modern medicine is really mopping up what floor instead of turning off the faucet. What I love doing is helping [patients] turn off the faucet."

Connect: Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn


💰 On the Money 💰

Top takeaways from this episode

★    Find the root of the problem. For Dr. Zhu, prescribing medication is only a small piece of the puzzle in treating a patient's disease. For a patient to truly heal, it's important to discover deeper factors, like relationships, food, or exercise. While in medical school, Dr. Zhu told a diabetic patient to start daily walks in conjunction with his special diet and medication. The result: The patient's diabetes score dropped by three points.

★    Avoid "food outsourcing." Don't trust restaurants — and especially fast food joints — to give you the nutrients you need. Eating out, Dr. Zhu says, is essentially "food outsourcing." Instead, he recommends people make their meals at home so they know exactly what goes into their meals.

★    Lifestyle medicine takes a holistic approach. Lifestyle medicine is based on six pillars: diet, physical fitness, relationships, community, avoiding risky substances, and sleep. When people find balance in these areas, they can live a healthier lifestyle overall.

★    Live with vitality. Dr. Zhu calls this "thrive medicine," or a prescription to live life outside the bounds of a standard recipe. When people follow the thrive medicine approach, they can not only live well, but also flourish.

⚡ Prosperous Insights ⚡

[02:42] The value of Chinese medicine: This ancient form of medicine focuses on instilling balance into the human body. Dr. Zhu incorporates Chinese medicine into his own work by examining his patients holistically and listening to them with a sense of compassion.

[04:11] Medical school doesn't teach you everything: While in medical school, Dr. Zhu soon discovered that his courses didn't teach enough about disease prevention, nutrition, and lifestyle. So Dr. Zhu decided to supplement his medical education with additional credentials, like culinary school and health coaching.

[06:33] Cook at home: When you make your own meals in your own kitchen, you know exactly what's going into your body. That can lead to healthier choices overall. Dr. Zhu describes cooking nutritious meals as culinary medicine, or "taking back your health."

[10:05] Using an evidence-based lifestyle approach to treat disease: Taking a holistic approach to health means looking at many components of a person's life — like relationships, stress, and diet — to assess chronic diseases.

[14:48] Going plant-based doesn't mean you'll struggle to get nutrients: Dr. Zhu says the biggest myth associated with a plant-based diet is that it doesn't give people optimum nutrition. With a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and legumes, it's easy to eat a well-balanced diet.

[25:25] The pandemic has exposed health disparities: The pandemic revealed the gaps in the healthcare system, especially for BIPOC, who are disproportionately becoming sick and dying due to the pandemic. But Dr. Zhu remains optimistic that now that those gaps have been exposed, we can work to fix the system.

[26:28] Advancing healthcare research is a good thing — and there's potential for more: Over 350,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. in the past year. About 655,000 people die of heart disease. Dr. Zhu hopes that the advances in medicine because of the COVID-19 pandemic will carry over to other areas.

💵 Financial Wellness Tip 💵

There are three important I's when it comes to retirement planning: how you’ll replace your income, where you’ll find your identity, and where you’ll find your influence. As you plan for retirement, make sure to identify ways to replace all of the components that have been meaningful in your work. Together, these ingredients will help ensure the prosperous retirement that you've longed for.

★    Take our free retirement readiness quiz to learn more.


Disclaimer: Prosperous Doc podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentists to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice. Spaugh Dameron Tenny is a comprehensive financial planning firm serving doctors and dentists in Charlotte, NC. To find out more about Spaugh Dameron Tenny, visit our website at You can also connect with our host, Shane Tenny, CFP at or on Twitter.

Compliance code: CRN202212-276329