There are certain things you expect to see when you walk into a doctor's office: a few magazines, several chairs in the waiting room and maybe a receptionist behind a desk. A professional kitchen on the other hand might come as a bit of a surprise, but if you talk to Dr. John Principe of WellBeingMD, it's just as important to his practice.
WellBeingMD was founded in 2008, born of Principe's decision to attend culinary school.
After attending a conference on the intersection of medicine and healthy cooking, Principe realized he could combine his profession and with his passion.
“I learned that the two disciplines of medicine and the culinary world could be married. It became my mission to see how this could be fully integrated into a medical practice,” he said.
Principe became dissatisfied with conventional medicine's habit of not allowing the patient to play an active role in their own health. The revelation pushed Principe to reorganize his practice and focus it on the field of lifestyle medicine.
Principe says WellBeingMD is based on the trinity of wellness: food, fitness and living in balance. The services that are offered are not only for people who are overweight or have some other disease or disorder, but for anyone who wants to live a healthier life.
Principe says when looking at other cultures, especially in Europe, Americans tend to take little interest in what they are eating.
"When times get lean, one of the first places people in this country curb spending is on their food, which often means picking quick and seemingly cheaper choices with little nutritional value," he said.
Principe's hallmark program is the Roadmap to Wellness, a six-week holistic course that teaches healthy eating and balance in people's lives.
Kathy Johnson, an Orland Park resident, is in her fourth week of the program and said that although she originally joined to lose weight, the class has been a real eye-opener.
Johnson has tried to loose weight before with little luck, and although it's early, she has seen a difference with with the program.
“It's not counting calories and stepping on scales, it encompasses everything – I wanted to lose weight but I want to be mobile and healthy in the future as well,” she said.
Johnson said she has also been pleased that Principe is not only a medical doctor, but one who incorporates practices of western medicine, eastern medicine and new new concepts all in a single class.
“I was going to multiple [places in many suburbs] to get all this information, she said. “He has people on staff and instructors for courses like pilates and yoga. I'm just learning so much as he pairs things like a European diet with eastern practices like yoga or acupuncture.”
Johnson was also surprised at the picture Principe can paint of the health of ones body from the inside. She said his blood work has tested things that tell a lot about over all health, but she has never had tested before.
“And I'm a nurse,” she said.
Principe says the healthiest food if raised or grown in ways that benefit the environment, the body and even the community.
“This jumps off the plate,” he said, holding up a plate of tomatoes, greens, and cheese, drizzled in olive oil and served along side wild caught salmon. “This food doesn't just taste good, it actually looks appealing.”
Students in the class learn how to make meals that are visually and nutritionally healthy and Johnson said she always enjoys the food Principe cooks or serves at every meeting.
“I'm only four weeks in but I feel healthier,” she said. “I have more energy since I've been eating cleaner and taking functional training classes – I just really feel healthier.”
Principe's medical practice and the WellBeing facility are both located at 11950 S. Harlem Avenue in Palos Heights.