Volume 14, Issue 1 ~ January 5 - 11, 2006

An Apple — and a Good Night’s Sleep — a Day

Before you keep this doctor away, hear him out

by Maureen Miller

New year’s resolutions usually don’t come with doctors’ orders, but this year, Dr. Gregory Mestanas has prescribed a healthy lifestyle that comes all the way from Cyprus. The prescription pad on which he scribes his remedy is his 165-page new book, Passion for Health, a guide to wellness the natural way. Mestanas penned his passion for healthy living in the two first years of his retirement and self-published his book at Free State Press on Annapolis’ Inner West Street. If you nurture your health and support it with natural cures or naturopathy, you’ll need much less doctoring, he says.

An Annapolitan since 1969, Mestanas worked as a psychologist and behavioral consultant for more than 30 years with Annapolis Youth Services bureau, the Crownsville Hospital Center and in private practice.

“The book took two years to research and write,” says Mestanas, a reserved 66 year old whose English is accented with his native Greek and whose gentle demeanor cloaks his wisdom. “But the ideas were with me for many years before.”

The Work of a Lifetime

Mestanas’ home is the island of Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it’s there he learned firsthand how nature cares for its creatures.

“While there was usually a respected physician in the neighborhood,” says Mestanas, “the traditional folklore cures were always with us.”

As a child, Mestanas suffered from stomach problems. His mother took him to Savas Savides, a schoolteacher and physiotherapist, who had a spa in the mountains. Savides not only cured Mestanas’ stomach problems but also guided him to his a lifelong passion for natural ways to good health.

“The need to write this book came out of my personal experience with natural ways of healing in my late teens and early 20s,” Mestanas says. It was during those years that he practiced nature-cure, or naturopathy, in his own village.

Those experiences have remained with Mestanas throughout his life. In writing the introduction to his book, he used them to tempt the reader: the family in his hometown with two ‘aberrant’ boys, the overweight party reveler who suffered a heart attack and his own extreme case of acne.

“I saw the many positive results these practices brought to people with serious illnesses, who had not been helped by other means,” he says.

Mestanas’ continual interest in naturopathy took him to London to study. His interest in human beings of various cultures and religions — and a dislike of London weather — took him to the American University in Beirut to study psychology. A Fulbright scholarship brought Mestanas to the United States for post-graduate studies in behavioral sciences at Long Island University and the University of Maryland.

Combining formal study and life experiences, Mestanas pursued his passion, developing a unified theory of health and behavior. That’s the theory he now shares in his book: Passion for Health: A Natural Way to Wellness through Nutrition, Behavior and Lifestyle.

Nature’s Way to Wellness

Mestanas’ book is timely, and not only for your new year’s resolution. In a world where obesity and diabetes are on the rise, where common cold symptoms are treated with 20 or more over-the-counter drugs and where prescription medicine costs are skyrocketing, Mestanas suggests we need to step back. Step back and get back on track — by paying more attention to the complex organism that each of us are responsible for — our body.

“The human organism is still not completely understood by science,” Mestanas says. “It is a complex organism and, as such, it is self-reliant, self-regulating and self-correcting.”

Modern medicine is lucky enough to achieve some spectacular successes, but it remains an imperfect science. In 2004, some $400 billion was spent worldwide on pharmaceuticals, Mestanas says. For him, that’s proof that too often we look for a quick cure.

What Mestanas advocates is to use modern medicine with more caution. In the meantime, he challenges us to take responsibility for our own wellness by developing positive health habits: proper diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep.

Mestanas heaps research and experience into his book, filling it with hints on natural paths to healing. For example:

• On foods that fight disease: “The plan is not to fight disease. The plan is to focus on a balanced diet and to engage in healthy activities. The organism will do the rest.”

• On insomnia: “Falling asleep is not something we can force or generate. Our business is to rest, let it go; sleep will then come by itself.”

• On controlling weight: “Take a walk to the store or your kitchen and make sure you have sufficient amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy products (including yogurt), and some lean meats. You can stay in shape if you also begin moving and exercising. There is no need in this approach to count calories or fat or carbohydrates.”

• On wellness and cures: “We should become competent in making lifestyle choices that contribute to health and reach out to competent professionals when we need them.”

For a Healthy New Year

Like any good teacher, Mestanas practices what he preaches. To meet his goals for a healthy lifestyle, he stretches and walks daily, and he sticks with the Mediterranean diet of his heritage, which he describes as “basically a plant-based, non-processed diet.”

His new year’s resolution is to keep mentally sharp.

It’s teaching — not lecturing — he’s planning, with small-group discussions aimed at getting conversation going on healthy habits and risks.

With most of the 500 copies of his first edition already sold, Mestanas plans to revise and update it. He’s hoping to increase his reach by finding a national publisher for the next printing.

And as a long-time resident, Mestanas has tailored his prescription for our benefit in Bay Country.

“We are lucky here in the Bay area,” he says. “We have an abundance of good food sources, like the farmers’ markets, Trader Joes and Whole Foods Market. We also have an abundance of clean recreational areas, like Quiet Waters Park. In addition, we have an abundance of learning and exercise activities. Therefore, we have a choice in devising our own routines to take charge of our health.

“This is what I recommend you do: Devise a routine made up of things you enjoy. Set obtainable objectives so you have successive successes in approaching your goals. Good health is a process. The results will be gradual.”

If the good doctor is right, the results last a lifetime.

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