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Of the hundreds of clients that Mona Sigal, MD, has treated at her Peabody practice, Nourish Health With Food For Life (NHWF- FL), one of the toughest was her husband, Julien Vaisman.

Dr. Sigal was transitioning from emergency room medicine to healing through healthy lifestyle practices while her husband, also a physician, was on medication to control his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Although he was a highly trained physician, he still had not made the connection of food and lifestyle to health.

“Eating is such a primal pleasure and primal need; the intellect has almost nothing to do with it,” Dr. Sigal says. She then boldly asked her husband if he would let her treat him. Eventually, as Dr. Sigal recalls, “he saw the light.” Within three months of a plant-based diet, he was off all his prescription medicines and felt like a different person.

Since Dr. Vaisman’s conversion to his wife’s regimen, “he’s become militant about it,” Dr. Sigal says. While her husband occasionally dines on fish, the couple otherwise maintains a plant-based diet with minimally processed ingredients—a diet that some would label vegan, though she is not fond of the word.

While practicing in traditional emergency rooms, Dr. Sigal had seen plenty of evidence of the effects of poor diet and inadequate exercise, especially relating to chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. “I harbored great passion,” she says of her years working in community hospital settings, “but I quickly became sobered and frustrated at not being able to change people’s lives. I was always putting out fires.” Too often, she says, she was seeing the same patients returning. “All these patients had gone home to the same diets and lifestyles they had [before],” Dr. Sigal recalls. “In the end, nothing had changed.”

Since she opened NHWFFL, Dr. Sigal has seen clearly that eating well and managing stress “are proven to be more effec- tive than most prescribed medications.” Finally, she adds, a plant-based diet and more conscious lifestyle practices are now more commonly accepted by many leading primary care physicians, includ- ing the mainstream Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Born in Romania, Dr. Sigal, 53, fled the Communist regime, moving to Germanywith her parents when she was a child. She later lived in Israel and then moved to the United States. Dr. Vaisman was her childhood sweetheart; the couple divorced and, after five years apart, remarried. Ahead of the curve, she studied the role of diet and lifestyle in chronic illness on her own. Even today, she says, “there is no real education on connections be- tween diet and lifestyle and disease.”

A team of professionals assists her at NHWFFL, including a mind/body coach, certified dietician/nutritionist, and yoga instructor. She and her staff see clients both individually and in group courses like “Breath as a Meditation Tool” and “Kickstart Your Health,” a cooking class.

Dr. Sigal knows that life is complex and busy, and that “people want quick fixes and miracles.” But, she notes, diet and lifestyle are the cornerstone. “A plant-based, whole foods diet is the best health insurance you can have.”