Balancing Act

Family medicine doctor and wellness advocate Dr. Danielle Metzler practices clean living

WRITTEN BY Holly Fisher
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Scott Henderson

Dr. Danielle Metzler wakes early two to three days a week to exercise, typically doing yoga or strength training. She also has a standing desk in her office and walks during her lunch breaks. She packs vegetables like celery, carrots and broccoli, plus a couple pieces of fruit for workday snacks. The Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated primary care doctor isn’t following a specific diet or fancy fitness fad, she simply chooses to live by the same guidance that she gives patients on eating well, hydrating, moving daily and getting plenty of sleep.

“I’m passionate about clean living as a way to prevent disease, improve overall health and avoid unnecessary medications,” she says. “It’s about using everything we already have at our disposal—exercise, meditation and vegetables—to heal ourselves. We are being poisoned by excess stimulation, bad cultural influences and processed foods.”

She has made it her mission to help more people uncover the merits of clean living. “I feel my best when I’m moving every day, eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest. Many people don’t realize the value in all of that.” And while family medicine now allows her to reach a wide variety of patients, that wasn’t the specialty she initially set out to pursue.

Dr. Metzler had planned on going into medicine since her high school days in Maryland. The idea of a career in healthcare was first planted by her mother, who worked as a nurse. As an 11th grader, Dr. Metzler participated in a mentoring program, during which she shadowed three doctors. That experience cemented her plans to attend college as a pre-med student.

After earning her undergraduate degree in biology and before beginning medical school, the young scholar took two years off from her studies. She worked in a laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and as a scribe helping doctors complete their charts. (She was also reintroduced to a college acquaintance, Tim Metzler, at an Orioles baseball game.) By the time she started medical school at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, she’d seen thousands of patients and had a solid understanding of charts and labs. She imagined becoming an emergency doctor,a pediatrician or an OB/GYN. Then she attended a fateful lecture on family medicine. “I realized that family medicine gave me a way to work with both children and adults, even deliver babies,” she explains. “It combined all of my interests into one specialty.”

On the heels of marriage and medical school, Dr. Metzler moved to Charleston to complete her residency training. She and Tim have remained in the Lowcountry ever since. “I love the outdoor lifestyle that Charleston offers with its beaches and parks. I love the small-town, close-knit community feel while also having access to a busy downtown with restaurants and nightlife. And I love how family friendly this area is,” says the active mother of two.

“I don’t have to think too hard about eating healthy and exercising, because it is who I am. It’s how I live,” says the doctor, who hopes to demonstrate to patients that little steps add up. She doesn’t expect anyone to change everything overnight, but she does urge her patients to start small and build on successes. “You change one habit at a time. Then you turn around and that’s who you’ve become.”

Her advice is often well received by those accustomed to being handed a prescription and sent on their way. “People end up on so many medications that when they come in contact with someone who doesn’t want to add another one, they’re very encouraged,” she says. “I try to offer a fresh perspective. It’s never too late to reevaluate.”

Little Bites: Dr. Metzler promotes wellness through small yet intentional steps. By building nutritious eating and exercise into their daily routines, she and her husband, Tim, model a healthy balance for their children, Natalie (age five) and James (two).

Of course, the doctor isn’t anti-prescription. She knows that medication is necessary for certain conditions, but she tries to explore other solutions first, such as cutting back on caffeine or getting more sleep. Quite often, she knows, these sorts of lifestyle adjustments can be game changers.

On her Instagram account (@danileighmd), Dr. Metzler shares with the public pearls of healthy wisdom plus glimpses into her own life. Popular posts have included tips for healthier “sweets” like berries, dark chocolate or Greek yogurt and advice for ditching sugar-filled sodas.

“I also try to make my feed relatable,” says Dr. Metzler, who strives to demonstrate that life is a balance. She’s not the model of healthy habits 24/7—and that’s okay. “I like to be healthy, but I also drink wine and eat cake. I work out, but I sometimes spend all weekend relaxing in my pajamas with my kids. Balance is my mantra. Somewhere between healthy foods and delicious foods, rest and activity, one can find a healthier version of themselves.”

That notion of balance comes into play daily as she models positive behaviors for her five-year-old daughter and toddler son. “I want my daughter to see me eating a healthy, well-rounded diet that also includes pizza, ice cream and burgers. And my children to know I exercise to stay strong mentally and physically.”

In 2020, between juggling motherhood, marriage and a busy practice, Dr. Metzler wrote a children’s book, The Big Red Giving Bag, that promotes giving over receiving. Readers are encouraged to help Santa Claus spread joy by filling a bag with toys they’ve outgrown to be given to others who need them.

With such a full schedule, Dr. Metzler could easily claim that she’s “too busy” to exercise or eat right. But this wellness advocate has made clean living a part of her identity, a philosophy she’s passionate about sharing with patients, Instagram followers and anyone who will listen.

Name: Dr. Danielle Metzler
Specialty: Family medicine
Outside the Office, Find Her: Taking walks with her family, reading and practicing yoga (often with her five-year-old daughter)