couple-snowmanBuilding Health By Dale Peterson, MD

February is the month of Saint Valentines’ day.  The theme of the holiday is love, particularly the love that couples have for each other.  It should serve as a reminder of the importance of love in our lives.

In the absence of love, optimum health is impossible. Without love, life is just living – mechanically going through the motions, putting in one’s time, existing but not thriving.

“Failure To Thrive” is a recognized medical condition. The term is applied primarily to infants and children who are failing to meet the expected milestones of growth and development. They may be small for their age or they may be lagging behind in their ability to walk, talk, and engage in activities typical of their peers.

A geriatric syndrome termed “failure to thrive” has also been described.  It is characterized by weight loss, decreased appetite, poor nutrition, and inactivity, often accompanied by dehydration, depressive symptoms, impaired immune function, and low serum cholesterol.

It is my experience that failure to thrive may occur at any age. It may be called by other names, but the picture is the same: decreased appetite, poor nutrition, depression, poor immune function, and a lack of interest in life’s activities.

Many conditions can result in a failure to thrive. Some are physical, such as heart, stomach or kidney defects. Genetic abnormalities may prevent needed chemical reactions from taking place in the body. Poor nutritional choices may cause malnutrition in the midst of an ample supply of food. I believe, however, that the most common cause of failure to thrive is the absence of love in the person’s life.

The absence of the expression of a mother’s love has a profound effect in the life of an infant. Videotapes of the interaction between mothers and infants have shown that infants fail to thrive when they are not held by their mothers and when their mothers do not talk to them. There is even evidence that a developing infant will fail to thrive in the womb when it is rejected or resented by its mother.

The recognition that one is loved is essential to good health. When the love of another human being is absent or unrecognized a person’s will to live will wane and illness will ensue – at any age and in any place.

Could the corollary also be true? Given that the absence of love leads to a failure to thrive could the presence of love bring an increase in vitality and cause us to thrive as individuals and as a caring community?

Jeff Taylor is a man who has a passion for fine coffee. In 1993 he opened a small restaurant in Kansas called PT’s Café’ Espresso, one of the many “mom & pop” establishments that seem destined to fail.

The odds of success were against him, but Jeff loved his company, loved his coffees, and loved his customers. When asked about his business he would say, “It’s more than a product; it’s a way of life.”

One day a customer said to him, “You know, Jeff, without the love, it’s just coffee.”

That became PT’s slogan. The business not only survived, it thrived. Today PT’s Coffee is a major importer/wholesaler of coffee from around the world.

The slogan represents a universal truth. Could it not be said of any human action, “Without love, it’s just a product, without love it’s just an activity?” It applies to the feeding of infant who is failing to thrive. “Without love, it’s just a bottle of milk.” It applies to a child or teen heading out the door with a brown bag, “Without love, it’s just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” It applies to an adult heading home at the end of a day, “Without love, it’s just a place to sleep.”

It applies at any level of any endeavor, from the most recent beginner to the seasoned professional. “Without love, it’s just a way to pass the time.” Professional athletics, for example, has become a big business. Athletes are paid millions for their ability to compete. Champions, however, are distinguished not by the size of their salary, but by their love for the game. Name any superstar, past or present. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Cal Ripken, Jr., Adrian Peterson, or any other player recognized as one of the all-time greatest in his or her chosen sport. All loved to play the game.

Larry King was once asked if there was any single trait that characterized the thousands of famous people he had interviewed. Without hesitation he replied, “Yes! They all have passion. They all love what they do!”

What about you? Do you love what you do? Are you doing what you love? If not, you’re unlikely to thrive and your health will almost certainly decline. After all, without love, it’s just coffee.

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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