By Dawn Van Osdell
Dean Ornish, M.D., his wife Anne, and their two children—Jasmine, age 6 and Lucas, age 15 (from Dean’s previous marriage)—live the holistic lifestyle they teach others by embodying a simple motto: “Eat well, stress less, move more, and love more.”
Dr. Ornish is passionate about helping people live healthier, happier lives by making better lifestyle choices. He’s the founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of six best-selling books that claim that lifestyle and diet can reverse aging and improve chronic diseases—such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer—and can also change your genes by turning off disease-promoting elements. “We’re committed to creating healthcare, rather sick-care,” he explains about his pursuits. Anne, a former yoga instructor, is the digital director for Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Healthways, Inc., focused on bringing their holistic principles to the masses by providing inspiring tips for creating a better balanced life.
The couple took time away from their work to talk with us about their daily life with Jasmine, a rising first-grader at Mark Day School in San Rafael, and Lucas, who is returning from summer camp and starting his freshman year at The Bay School of San Francisco in the Presidio, which is just over the Golden Gate Bridge from their home in the picturesque, water’s-edge town of Sausalito.
What makes Sausalito conducive to living the healthy lifestyle you teach?
Dean: I’ve lived in Sausalito since 1988. It allows us to embody the principles we teach others, and to implement them into our daily lives. We can walk to work, find healthy foods from local farmers’ markets, and incorporate exercise into every day. It feels good just being in Sausalito.
Anne: Sausalito has a network of stairs—our daughter calls it “the secret passageway”— that take us from home to our office, and comes out by Poggio, one of our favorite restaurants. We almost never have to get in our car. We have electrical packs on our bikes so when we leave Sausalito, we can bike all the way to Point Reyes, Fort Baker, Cronkhite, Cavallo Point, or to the (Bay Area) Discovery Museum. We have a special, covered doggy basket on our bikes for our Maltipoo, Cocoa, so she can come, too.
Aside from walking and biking as transportation, how else do you incorporate exercise into your busy lives?
Anne: We have two double kayaks with recumbent pedals that are like sea turtle paddles. We kayak bayside—around Sausalito and Mill Valley, or head out to Belvedere and Angel Island.
Dean: If exercise is fun and easy to incorporate into daily life, it works for me. In addition to walking to work, riding bikes with my family, and kayaking, I like to swim and play tennis. I have a treadmill desk at work so I can get some exercise while I’m checking my email. I also have a personal trainer who comes to my home gym and helps me incorporate strength training and cardio.
Building a stronger mind/body connection and reducing stress are a big part of your lifestyle philosophy. Is this something you practice daily?
Anne: For me, mind/body practice, like yoga, is essential. I was a private yoga instructor in my 20s. Now, like all working mothers, I practice whenever I can squeeze it in. On busy workdays, that usually means meditation time in the morning to get grounded and focused. On other days, I get in longer practices. I can’t always practice everyday, but if the majority of my seven days are well balanced, the whole week seems balanced.
Jasmine must have been a yoga teacher in a former life—she’s a natural, even in her mannerisms. She’s always teaching me something, especially with our dog around to show her some poses!
Where do you like to go when we venture away from home?
Anne: We like to take the ferry from Sausalito into San Francisco, especially when we have guests. Last weekend, the grandparents were visiting and we took them to the Ferry Building for the great restaurants and market, visited the Exploratorium, and the Academy of Sciences.
On the mainland, as we like to call it, we like to visit Big Sur, Napa and Sonoma, where we recently visited the beloved Train Town. Additionally, we spend a couple of weeks every year in Kauai. It’s like a healing sabbatical for us—our time to recharge and enjoy the fresh food, like the amazing local bananas and mangoes.
You have so many fantastically healthy, flavorful recipes on your site and in your books. What are some of your family favorites?
Anne: We have four or five salads that everyone loves that are in rotation right now. We tend to think in themes: Asian or kale/Brussels sprouts, for instance. But then we’ll go the farmer’s market and throw in whatever is fresh, like a perfect peach. Right now my favorites are shredded Brussels sprout salad, similar to the Kale and Brussels Sprouts recipe on our site, and a kale and mint salad we make with sugared pecans and sliced apples. Having so many great markets nearby makes it easy to get fresh, good food. We all enjoy going to the farmer’s market in San Rafael, where they have pony rides for the kids on Thursday nights. It’s like a street fair.
Where do you enjoy eating out around Sausalito?
Anne: In addition to Poggio, we like Sushi Ran; Fish, which offers sustainable fish and local, organic produce; and we’ve just tried and really enjoyed a new restaurant, Barrel House—we order all the vegetables and eat them family style, with a great view. We also really like Greens in San Francisco.
Do your kids eat what you eat? If so, what’s the trick!?
Anne: If left to her own, Jasmine would eat the food all kids like. But we’ve been exposing her to what we eat since she was very young, and working at developing her palate. If kids see what everyone else is eating, they want to be a part of it and will usually want to eat the same thing. Sometimes it’s about picking the parts that work for them.
Photos: Grapes via Maja Petric at Unsplash; Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad via Ornish Lifestyle Medicine; Ornish family photo via the Ornishes