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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 067. | February 15, 2024
067: Fast-Fix Drugs vs Lifestyle Healthcare with Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers
067: Fast-Fix Drugs vs Lifestyle Healthcare with Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers

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What began as a quest for solutions to her own health, transformed into Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers life’s work. Dr. Withers, an osteopathic physician and founder of the Essence of Health and Wellness Clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee, shares her personal and professional journey into the plant-based lifestyle for herself, her patients, and members of her virtual training courses. 

A Journey of Discovery: From Personal Transformation to Holistic Practice

Dr. Withers’ shift to a plant-based lifestyle was not one she anticipated. Seeking solutions to abdominal pain and gastrointestinal distress after meals, turned into a quest that continues to this day. 

Her exploration led her to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, inspired by influential works like “The China Study.” This pivotal moment ignited a passion for understanding the profound impact of food on the body.

Dr. Withers shares her professional evolution, emphasizing the limitations of traditional medical practices. Fueled by a desire to provide more comprehensive care, she founded the Essence of Health and Wellness Clinic. The clinic’s mission aligns with the National Health Association’s focus on evidence-based science and the benefits of a plant-based diet.

A Comprehensive Wellness Program: Beyond Traditional Medicine

At the Essence of Health and Wellness Clinic, Dr. Withers introduces a Lifestyle Medicine Program, challenging the conventional prescription-centric model. Patients receive personalized wellness plans encompassing dietary recommendations, movement strategies, and mindset shifts. The emphasis is on empowering individuals to actively participate in their health journey.

Dr. Withers discusses the collaborative efforts within her clinic, where fitness training and virtual coaching cater to diverse patient needs. The integration of group coaching sessions and virtual programs creates a supportive community environment. The clinic has become a hub for individuals seeking positive lifestyle changes, fostering connections among its members.

Navigating Obesity Medicine: Beyond the Scale

As a board-certified obesity medicine physician, Dr. Withers sheds light on the obesity epidemic. She emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between weight and body fat, advocating for a holistic focus on health outcomes. Her position challenges the prevailing narrative around weight loss, encouraging a shift towards addressing underlying health conditions.

Dr. Withers emphasizes the complexity of health beyond traditional metrics indicating that although someone can fall within normal BMI or a normal weight can be misleading in that when looking at body composition, there could be other risk factors at play. 

She cautions against quick fixes in favor of lifestyle choices, which is a primary reason she founded Essence of Health and Wellness Clinic.

Remote Empowerment: The Essence of Virtual Coaching

The Essence of Health and Wellness Clinic extends its reach beyond physical boundaries, offering virtual coaching. Remote sessions effectively address health concerns, monitor progress, and provide targeted guidance. The online approach facilitates accessibility and encourages individuals to embrace sustainable lifestyle changes.

Fostering Community Support: The Heart of Holistic Health

Acknowledging the impact of community support on health, Dr. Withers emphasizes the importance of group coaching and collaborative efforts. By creating a sense of connection and shared experiences, the clinic fosters an environment where individuals feel empowered and motivated on their health journey.

Dr. Withers’ holistic approach exemplifies the intersection of plant-based nutrition, personalized medicine, and lifestyle transformation. Her journey, both personal and professional, stands as a testament to the power of integrated healthcare in empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being.

Episode Highlights 

[00:00] Introduction

[01:30] Health was one of the big influences for choosing plant-based.

[05:15] Implications based on race in one’s diet. 

[07:00] The calling to osteopathic medicine.

[10:00] The power of a plant-based diet to prevent common ailments in patients.

[17:00] The challenges and rise of obesity because of underlying conditions.

[21:00] Risk factors associated with diabetes meds used solely for weight loss. 

[24:00] Knowing the “WHY” of weight loss results in a deeper commitment to health.

[26:45] Dr. Wither’s personal care practices used to stay healthy.

[30:30] Spreading the message of plant-based lifestyles via workshops.

[32:00] Closing thoughts: “What we put on our plates CAN heal.” 

About Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers 

With several years of dedication to a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Shayla Toombs-Withers seamlessly integrates her personal choices into her role as a Family Physician, educating patients on overcoming chronic diseases. In 2019, she founded Essence of Health Wellness Clinic & Coaching in Chattanooga, TN, aiming to fuse her extensive expertise in medicine, plant-based nutrition, and athletic training. This innovative approach allows her to offer Preventative and Chronic Care through a distinctive concierge model of care.

Dr. Toombs-Withers holds a Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine from the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her Residency training in Family Medicine at The University of Cincinnati and Christ Hospital. Her commitment to holistic well-being is evident through additional Fellowship Training in Obesity Medicine, a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition, and supplementary education in Functional Medicine.

Grounded in the philosophy that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and inspired by the wisdom that “let food be thy medicine,” Dr. Toombs-Withers actively shapes her patients’ journeys towards optimal health and vitality.

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About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a PhD in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation and stress management.

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information: 


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  [email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classic out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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