ImageRemember when smoking in restaurants was completely acceptable? Eighteen years ago, I bartended and waited tables at a Big Sky restaurant and considered being able to smoke while I worked a perk (yes, me, the Health Coach).

Today, many people would see a waitress smoking on the job as absurd. What happened? How did we go from little concern to near-zero tolerance in less than two decades? Clearly, laws had a large part to do with it. But there is also the matter of being discouraged by accountability. Because it is so well known that smoking increases the risk of cancer, emphysema, premature aging and cardiovascular disease, smokers are now accountable for putting themselves in harm’s way.

I recently met Dr. Lou Walters, a well respected Bozeman naturopath. We discussed cures for preventable lifestyle diseases and the accountability issue. Dr. Walters said he has noticed a shift in patients’ behavior from “give me a pharmaceutical pill,” to “give me a homeopathic pill” to treat symptoms. While he said this shows progress, it’s still the rare patients who seek lifestyle-changing advice to truly heal themselves. Pills seem simple and easy, while accountability and lifestyle change seem boring and dreadful.

Let’s look closer at the realities of pharmaceutical pills: To get them, we have to find time to make a doctor’s appointment, go through a battery of tests, buy medicine and then hope it fixes us with little or no side effects. This process is time consuming, expensive and sometimes, ultimately, unhealthy.

That said, I love Western medicine. If I break a bone, I want the best our doctors can offer. But when it comes to diseases that are preventable and curable through lifestyle changes, Western medicine is failing us miserably. Even though the root meaning of the word doctor is teacher, most medical schools spend more time educating physicians on how to prescribe pills rather than teach healthy habits. If we heal ourselves naturally, how will pharmaceutical companies make money?

Wouldn’t it be great if our insurance companies compensated us for lifestyle changes rather than just pay for our meds? That would entice us. What if, for example, we got reimbursed for getting ourselves off prescription drugs to treat heartburn (side effects include headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, gas, sore throat, runny nose and dizziness) by changing our diet and stress level? If good health is your priority, accountability is your key. What is your primary health goal? What is one small natural change you can make today to get closer to it?

JackieAuthor: Ridge Personal Trainer and Health Coach Jackie Rainford Corcoran