Seven-time professional sports car racing champion Lawson Aschenbach relies on personalized lifestyle medicine to manage his Crohn’s disease and keep up with a busy racing schedule. We asked Lawson for tips and tricks he’s devised for maintaining a healthy routine in today’s hectic world.
In our previous conversation, you shared how personalized lifestyle medicine has changed the way you manage your Crohn’s disease and changed your life. Now that you have your health challenge under control, could you share how following a lifestyle medicine approach plays into your day-to-day life?
Life is all about consistency and regimens that allow me to manage my symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It’s easier than most people think, and it does wonders to help my daily life and health. Once I was able to find the right plan, my improvement took off. I rarely veer from my routine, but it happens, and it’s comforting to know that when things get a bit out of hand, I’m able to rely on my lifestyle medicine approach to get myself back on track. My wife made up a funny nickname for me, “Mr. Policy and Procedures,” that encompasses my lifestyle!
What tips could you share with people who have stressful jobs or who have to travel for work on how they can stay healthy?
If you get your life and health in order, you’ll be much more productive in your actual job. For example, let’s talk about traveling and the potential issues that creates. When I’m on the road, I have a specific plan on how I fly and when I fly. I’ll book flights that allow me to stay as consistent as possible when it comes to eating or rest.
On the supplementation side, when your practitioner gives you a plan, you have to stick with it 100% at all times. Bring the necessary items you need to stay regular with the protocol.
I have daily, individual containers already filled with the correct medical foods and other specific supplements. This preparation happens before I leave for any trip. Carrying a blender bottle to mix the medical foods with water helps make the process even easier in the morning!
Sleep is an underrated asset for recovery and managing stress. It’s straightforward: People need to get at least 7½ hours of sleep each night, and there’s no way around that. That is when your body rebuilds itself. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will continue to break down.
At nighttime, especially the hour or so before you’re asleep, you have to turn yourself off. Calm your mind, calm your thoughts, and don’t watch TV. I find it best to read or close my eyes and meditate for a bit. You’ll notice that your mind will start to ease, your body will begin to relax, and before you know it, it’s morning, and you’ve had a great night of restful sleep.
How would you suggest someone stay on a plan when eating out or when away from home?
These days, there are no excuses why you can’t stick to a plan. I’d say 95% of the places you go, you’re going to be able to eat the proper foods to help you continue down the path of recovery and health.
I like to stick to basic meals when traveling. It’s lean meats; proper carbohydrates, like potatoes or brown rice; good fats, like avocados; and steamed veggies. Eating cooked or steamed vegetables when traveling will help ease the load on your digestive tract and also lower the potential for consuming harmful bacteria. Don’t be afraid of a salad, but make sure you’re comfortable with the restaurant.
Let’s say you go to a fast food spot. Look for basic menu items that allow you to stick to your plan. Don’t be afraid to wrap the burger patties in lettuce or opt for the gluten-free pasta. Keep it plain, keep it simple, and make sure you adhere to the protocol.
A proper breakfast is an essential start to the day. I’ll eat gluten-free toast with almond butter and fruit or mix up large smoothies with medical foods, fruit, veggies, oats and nut butter. Most of the time, I’ll go with the toast option and take the medical food shake separately. That allows me to bring my breakfast with me on trips to save time in the morning.
What advice would you give to someone just starting on a personalized lifestyle medicine journey?
The most important thing when it comes to starting a lifestyle medicine journey would be, give in to your practitioner! The reason you sought guidance in the first place is to help you overcome a health-related issue. Most likely, that practitioner has seen the problem before and has an excellent understanding of the best options. Believe in them!
Another key component is communication. It’s a cycle that never ends and starts with the meeting of the practitioner. Next comes the protocol. With 100% accuracy, you implement that plan. The final piece, and most significant, is the response. As a patient, you need to let your practitioner know how the protocol is working. Are you feeling better? Worse? Relay every tiny detail and anything you think is worth noting. The cycle then repeats itself with an updated protocol or a continuation of the original plan.
When I first started all of this, I would self-prescribe and self-diagnose. I was changing things all the time, sometimes only after 24 hours. I was lost and confused with no understanding or idea of what I needed to manage my disease.
After I met with a lifestyle medicine practitioner, I started to see instant changes, and that was it for me. I was all-in and willing to do whatever the practitioner asked. My improvement was quick and exciting and gave me confidence that I made the right choice.
We’re all on this planet for a finite time. We need to enjoy ourselves to the max and savor our lives, cause let’s face it—we have one shot at it.
Lawson Aschenbach is a seven-time professional sports car racing champion. He started racing karts at the age of 8 and went on to win state, national, North American, and four Grand National Championships. In 2005, he finished on the podium in his first sports car race and then burst out onto the scene in 2006, winning the SPEED World Challenge GT Championship in his rookie year. Aschenbach has over 35 professional race wins and currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge Series.