When I ask patients about their worst eating habits, the answer varies from ice cream to chips to chocolate. To help patients, we must be well-versed enough in nutrition to be able to suggest enjoyable substitutes so that patients may engage in their favorite eating "passion." It is helpful to have good printed materials available to back up these suggestions or to have someone in your practice who can do this for you. We have an in-office, full-time nutrition/wellness/fitness counselor who fulfills this function.
The combination of your enthusiasm and knowledge of the potential to slow the aging process can "capture" the patient's attention, and it is easy to link this to cosmetic procedures. When a patient asks, "How long will this facelift last?" tell them that it always helps to turn the clock back, but if they will comply with your instructions regarding nutrition and exercise, then the clock will run much more slowly over time. I also cite examples of patients who had cosmetic surgery 10 to 12 years ago who now look younger and feel better than they did before they had their surgery, and I offer to let my new patients speak to them.To evaluate your patients' level of compliance, you should ask them at every visit what they are doing to continue to stay young and healthy, and ask specifically about their nutrition pathway. Interestingly, the best information, as noted by Dr. Stephen Spindler at the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation's recent anti-aging conference in New York, is that nutrition accounts for about 80 percent of wellness and exercise, about 20 percent — with the combination of the two being the best. He noted that exercise improves the health and extends the average lifespan in a given statistical group, while caloric restriction can actually extend the lifespan of individuals who practice it.
Because obesity is such a problem in this and other affluent countries, working with it should be a major part of treating cosmetic patients. When I see a patient in consultation for a facelift and I emphasize a pre-op diet to help them get to their ideal weight and skincare to improve their facial appearance, they can actually see the benefits of this for the long haul and are more likely to comply over the years. If you can actually get patients to participate in their own care to this level, they will get good results and they will identify you as the surgeon responsible for the change. You can believe me when I say that, in my experience, there is no better form of marketing for your practice.