This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Sara Gottfried. In her own words:
“Hi. I’m Dr. Sara Gottfried. I’m a wife, mother to two incredible girls (ages 8 and 13), friend, scholar, seeker, yoga teacher, Harvard-trained MD with 20+ years of experience, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Hormone Cure.
But first and foremost, I am a woman. And like you, I know what it’s like to constantly feel tired, overwhelmed, cranky, chunky and sometimes unattractive.
In my thirties, I suffered from what I call the 4 “F’s” – frazzled, frumpy, fat, and you can imagine the fourth “F.” I was a stress case, in couple’s therapy, and premenstrual. I went to my doctor and he offered Prozac and birth control pills, but that just didn’t feel right.
I decided to apply my medical training to myself, and I discovered my cortisol level was insanely high (something my traditional doctors told me wasn’t a big deal). Within one month, I had fixed the issue and felt enormously better. I took on my low thyroid next, and then my bad estrogens. I ate differently, exercised less, and took 3 supplements. I lost 25 pounds and graduated from couple’s therapy. I was on to something!
The solution to my problems became The Gottfried Protocol, and it has worked gloriously well on the 10,000+ people I’ve seen in the past 10 years.
Now, I enjoy:
- Plenty of healthy food (that I have to bribe my kids to eat)
- Exercising less, and I’ve maintained 25-pound weight loss for many years
- Running every Sunday with my girlfriend, Jo (your girlfriends are your best defense against the challenges that drag women down)
- Spending quality time with husband (who is the founder of a very cool green building NGO – USGBC.org)
- Hanging out with my daughters, especially when we do things that amplify happiness, such as learning and being in nature together
I have reclaimed my life. Using my own journey as a source of inspiration, I have created several online programs to help other women reclaim their lives. Whether you struggle with the number on the scale, feel irritable, or just never want to have sex again.
I’m a gynecologist, but I don’t treat problems. I don’t even treat symptoms: I specialize in root cause analysis because I know – and evidence shows – that the greatest health transformations are triggered when you address the root cause, not the signs.
Rather than treating problems or symptoms, I treat people. I treat women. I see women – and what I see every day is that each woman is a special snowflake. Sometimes I prescribe supplements that fill nutritional gaps that you might have. Sometimes I prescribe an iPhone app that helps you connect to your heart. Sometimes I prescribe botanical therapies with a very low risk profile. Sometimes I prescribe bio-identical hormones. Many times I prescribe all of the above. With every patient I see, I consider her unique context, physiology and preferences…and then invent a treatment plan to promote maximum health and happiness. It’s not one method fits all. It’s not fix-’em-up-and-send-’em-home. It’s a mission.
My mission at The Gottfried Institute – and in life – is to help women feel sexy, vital and balanced from their cells to their souls. That means getting your weight right where you want it, getting your energy and sex drive maximized, and doing it all naturally and safely. Ultimately, you will get your hormonal Charlie’s Angels working for you, not against you. Hop on my bus and shift from feeling “OK” to living your life fully and authentically from the heart.”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast and today’s podcast is a bit special because today’s podcast, not a bit, a bit I am underselling it. Today’s podcast, we had to bring this guest back because we got so much feedback about her electricity and her just awesome sassiness combined with science that folks were just like ‘Jonathan, you have got to bring Dr. Sara Gottfried back on the show’, so you know what I did, I said Sara will you come back on the show and Sara said, maybe. No I’m just kidding, she said yes. Sara welcome to the show, how are you doing?
Sara: So good, electricity, sassiness. Oh my gosh, I have got a lot to live up to today. Let’s do this.
Jonathan: You have all sorts of adjectives that I love. For example, on your website saragottfriedmd.com, you say ‘sexy, ripe, and delicious’, which are three adjectives that I have not sure I have ever heard combined together in a way. Could you tell us a bit about how a Harvard trained physician, wife, mother, scholar, yoga teacher helps people to become sexy, ripe, and delicious?
Sara: Absolutely. I think we want the whole package. Some of us sort of focus on one goal at a time, maybe it’s to lose fifteen pounds or it’s to feel more energy in the morning, but I really want the whole package for the people that I work with. It’s very important to me and so feeling sexy, ripe and delicious that’s something that I want that’s one of my aspirational goals and I think that when you are clear on your desire, when you clear on how you want to feel in your body, that changes everything. It provides a roadmap. It allows you to not roll your eyes or have your eyes glaze over as you think about the latest diet, but it just sets up your aspiration in different way, which I think you articulate so beautifully Jonathan when it comes to the smarter SANEr way to feel ease in your body.
Jonathan: I appreciate that Sara and I think what you just said, you captured it well and it reminded me of one of my favorite authors of all time and that was Stephen Covey. When he talks about living a principle centered life and he is referring to more just living with honesty and integrity and not necessarily thinking about nutrition and exercise, but I actually think what you are talking about and what I am talking about and what you described in your new book The Hormone Cure is really this more of a principle science centered approach to health and wellbeing rather than a tip or technique or top ten list approach to wellness. What do you think?
Sara: I love that, I love it, you know that I do the happy dance anytime you start talking about the science, I think that’s fantastic to kind of bring the science together with the desire, the desire for how you really want to feel in your body. When you wake up in the morning and you put your feet on the floor, how do you want to feel? I don’t want your first thought to be “where’s the coffee?” That is a not a principle driven life or a science driven life, so I really appreciate how you have changed the conversation when it comes to the science of staying slim. Unfortunately, we just have a long, long SANEful history when it comes to diet books, the latest fad diet and I love that you bring the science to the table and yes, yes, yes on that principle science centered life.
Jonathan: Thank you Sara and the thing that encourages me so much and you talk about this obviously in your work and you talk about just on your website like things you enjoy and what you enjoy is very much based on the science and science is quite clear, you enjoy plenty of food, what I call eating more, but smarter and exercising less to maintain your twenty five plus pound weight loss for many, many years. So, Sara we have millions of people who are eating more and exercising less albeit doing it smarter, getting better results. We have tens of thousands of pages of scientific research showing that it is not about starvation and stair steppers, why are we still told it is?
Sara: I think it is many things and my way into the why, why do we keep pushing the rock up the hill instead of why not just sort of work with gravity, why aren’t we working with the innate intelligence of the body instead starving it and turning on the thrifty genes which we know are not good, those thrifty genes that I happen to have in large supply, what I am talking about here is those genes that tend to make you insulin resistant, the ones that make you not fit into your skinny jeans, I am talking here about J-E-A-N-S. My family is from Ireland and also from Poland and so we are really good at surviving famines, so there is an evolutionary benefit to the genetics that I have which tend to make me a little more on the chunky side shall we say and so maintaining this twenty five pound weight loss has been all about stepping into the grace and the clarity of science and I love that you and I are on parallel tracks with that and I want to hear a little bit more about kind of how you bring that to the table.
One of the things I learned when I was sitting in my doctor’s office 10 years ago and I had my muffin tops spilling over my jeans and he told me I needed to exercise more and eat less and that just was a defining moment for me Jonathan because it felt wrong. There were other things he was offering including a birth control pill and an antidepressant. I won’t even go into those right now, but the eat less, exercise more, he just looked down his nose at me and said, “You are a doctor, it is simple math; exercise more, eat less,” and he was totally wrong. Not only did I feel bad, I couldn’t get it together to master this simple math, I also had an inkling that my problem was hormonal and indeed it was, so I started to do some bio-hacking, I realized that my cortisol was sky high, I was leptin resistant, I was insulin resistant and I needed to turn those things around and I did it by eating more food and exercising less, so hurray for that.
Jonathan: Sara, I love that you told a story of someone saying to you, you are a physician, why can’t you just exercise more self control and eat less and exercise more and I was recently speaking with my lovely wife and I told her this whole eat less, exercise more thing, because I was speaking with someone about the psychological disorders and we came across the analogy of imagine walking into a psychiatrist’s office with diagnosed and brain scanably verifiable manic depression or any sort of depression and the psychiatrist saying, “You weak person, just frown less and smile more and your depression will go away.”
Certainly there are some, if we do smile more and frown less, like that does have some effect, but it is ignoring this much deeper and studiable physiological change that has happened within the body and within the brain and interestingly enough, the deeper and deeper we dig into neurobiology and endocrinology, we can see just as you said that when we see obesity and we see type II diabetes, we see the same kind of altered gut microbiota, hypothalamic inflammation, hormonal disruption, there is a lot of stuff going on that eating less and exercising more does nothing about, right?
Sara: You just articulated it so beautifully and I love that you are bringing in a fresh new analogy of this person who is suffering with manic depression seeing a psychiatrist and the ridiculousness of saying “buck up, frown less,” it just doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of willpower and even though I really believe that there is a lot to be said about mindset, we sort of kicked off by taking about Stephen Covey and mindset and desire, I also think that we have got to look at the biology, may be it is again a parallel track where you are working on the biology and you are asking the question, maybe it is my hormones.
What is going on with my hormones, what is happening with the top hormones and metabolism and you are asking that alongside with the mindset, the emotions, the psychology and not just assuming that you have got some sort of moral failing and it is a lack of will power that has led to the extra ten or twenty pounds that you are carrying around. I really appreciate that and I love how you just described the neurobiology that eating less, exercising more is not going to help you when your control system, your hypothalamic pituitary adrenal access is wonky. It is not going to help you when you are leptin resistant and all you can think about is food, food, food because you just don’t reach that place of satiety that happens when you have got leptin imbalance. So I really appreciate what you are bringing in the table. I feel like along with that I want to give our listeners some practical tips, may be not be so abstract. I can dial this in a little.
Jonathan: Absolutely, yes. Dial away.
Sara: I want you to dial with me. You and I were talking last time about Barry Sears and I feel like, may be we should invite him into the conversation because he did so much early work, you are like me and that I think you probably devour about twenty studies before breakfast and I do the same, but Barry Sears, a lot of his work on insulin resistance goes back to the 90s, even the 80s. We have been dancing with this hormone for a very long time and insulin resistance I think of it very simply as just your cells become numb to insulin, like insulin is knocking on the door and nobody is answering the damn door, so we’ve got to figure out how to make yourselves sensitive to insulin again, so that they hear the knock on the door and insulin does not just keep climbing and making you pile on fat because it is a fat storage hormone and Barry Sears did all these interesting work showing that you can turn around insulin resistance in 48 to 72 hours.
I think that such as incredible opportunity and it is also something that we see with these other hormones. So many of these other hormones such as cortisol which belongs to the glucocorticoid family, we know that there is hormone resistance with most of these hormones metabolism. We know there is a problem called glucocorticoid resistance which is where you become numb to the stress hormones like cortisol just as there is progesterone resistance which is the mechanism behind PMS. Just as there is insulin resistance, which most people have heard of and leptin resistance. I think it might be helpful just to talk about some of the strategies that help to reset these hormones and improve. Here is how I like to think about it going back to the sexy, ripe, and delicious. What we want to do is we want to improve the molecular sex that’s happening between these hormones metabolism and the receptor, how do you like that Jonathan, you like that analogy?
Jonathan: I do and I want you to continue.
Sara: Barry Sears looked at the zone diet as a way of resetting insulin resistance and I think we have learned a lot since then. I don’t follow a zone diet, what I follow is a little bit more nuance than that but I want to hear from you Jonathan, can you say a little bit about may be what you had for breakfast today since we talked about the twenty studies that you read before breakfast, so you zony was your breakfast, what did you eat to improve the molecular sex that was happening between insulin and the insulin receptor today at your table?
Jonathan: First of all, I want to say that I love that you mentioned Barry Sears because I actually had the good fortune of recording a show with him yesterday, so I am very excited to share that with our listeners obviously.
Sara: Oh my gosh, Barry Sears in the house.
Jonathan: In the house, Barry is a really great guy and had some really good things to say, so that’s awesome. I am glad we can give him some props here as well. Sara, the thing that always makes me smile and you know I talk about this a lot is the problem, the biology is so complicated and in fact the society we live and the emotional contexts, that’s so complicated, but the common denominator to reverse nearly all of the stuff is so simple in my estimation and in the research I have read and that’s eat things you can find in nature that are as dense in nutrients as possible and don’t drink anything that a human has been involved in with the exception of purified water of course.
You might want to be a little bit cautious unless of course, you need to be talking coffee, tea natural things, but the challenge I think Sara is in cutting through, that’s really it and I think trying to take it any deeper than that, that’s sometimes people get little fired up because it is like well, I eat these types of whole foods and then the other who is like I eat these types of nutrient dense whole foods and at the end of the day as long as you are getting great results, that’s what I care about. So the actual specific type of nutrient dense whole foods that I eat will undoubtedly be a bit different from you because we are obviously very, very different people, but we have that common denominator.
Sara: Actually, we were separated at birth, I decided that with our first podcast.
Jonathan: Well, certainly let’s put it this way, I think our hormones are quite different, so because of that we may have different whole foods that are optimal for us, is that fair?
Sara: I will give you that, okay yes.
Jonathan: What I had for breakfast, let’s be very clear, I am also very lazy when it comes to food preparation.
Sara: Okay, this is going to be good.
Jonathan: What Jonathan Bailor eats is more determined by what I can prepare in bulk on the weekend and then eat consistently throughout the week, so again this will also uncover a bit of how boring and OCD I am because I eat basically the same thing everyday. What I had for breakfast is actually this wonderful SANE coffee cake type biscuit thing that I make which is a combination of eggs and egg whites as well as coconut, completely unsweetened coconut meat, cinnamon as well as some vanilla, some guar gum as a binder and that’s actually it, may be some stevia, may be a little bit of Xylitol, but not a lot, and I bake that up and it turns into this wonderful nutrient dense treat and I always wash that down with a green shake which is kale, romaine lettuce, and spinach, just blend up in my Vitamix with some cinnamon and I am good to go.
Sara: I love it, I knew that kale was going to come in at some point. I was waiting for the kale and you never disappoint. I am coming over for breakfast tomorrow that sounds super yummy.
Jonathan: The reason I do that is because I can just eat it at my desk. I am just drinking my shake and eating my little thing, I think sometimes people think that this is some weird, time consuming; weird, maybe, what I just described is actually quite weird, but time consuming, no. It was actually not time consuming at all.
Sara: I love it and I love that you make it so simple, you kind of do the bulk on the weekend and just make this ridiculously easy on a workday because people need that. I think the big part of that struggle that you are asking about why is that it’s pretty clear what we need to eat, it’s really clear what the science is telling us and yet, we are still struggling so much and diet books are still the top bestsellers on the New York Times bestseller list. I really appreciate how you got more granular with your breakfast with all the caveats that you offered and I just want to point out a couple of things if I may?
Sara: First of all, I just want to say love the cinnamon, you had kind of a cinnamon theme song going through your breakfast and we know that cinnamon is one of the best insulin sensitizers that we have, in fact there is robust data showing that the number one hormone imbalance that women face, which is polycystic ovarian syndrome, kind of a misnamed term that really is insulin resistance in disguise for women. We know that cinnamon is one of the most effective ways to reverse polycystic ovarian syndrome and you can do it just with half a teaspoon a day, so how cool is that? I love kale, I told you the story of my great-grandmother when we talked last time and how she would show up with kale.
She didn’t think of kale as a vegetable, she thought it as a lifestyle and I agree with that, kale quinoa it’s so good for you in terms of the way that it interacts with your DNA. Food is information as we talked about last time and I also love that you have a green drink and you have sort of that reset each morning where you are reversing some of that acidifying ash that we have in our food and we and I haven’t talked about kind of acid-base balance before, so we bring in a little bit on that, I am curious sort of what you’ve seen in terms of the scientific literature on acid-base balance. Clearly, you like to alkalize.
Jonathan: I do and in fact I forgot to mention that proceeding what I just mentioned like right when I wake up, I am not at all hungry, in fact eating is not pleasant for that first half hour. So, right when I wake up and this will make you happy hopefully, I have a super alkaline boost in the sense that I take three lemons and I throw them in my Vitamix, of course peeled, as well as some green tea as well as some cinnamon and I blend that up and I just drink that because it is quite delicious and I like to get my hydration first thing in the morning and as you know that green tea and that lemon also consume simultaneously does not only wonders from a polyphenol blah-blah perspective, but when you want to talk about alkalizing, hopefully that may be instilled the happy dancing.
Sara: Yes, totally the happy dancing. There is that cinnamon again. I am totally with you on that. I think it’s so important to hit that reset button every morning. If you combine that with five deep belly breaths as a way of de-acidifying, I think you really have me dancing, you have me like singing a rap song at that point. My great-grandmother did that too. One of the points you made earlier is that, yes there is so much science, there is so much complexity to the emotional and psychological issues around food, there are so much complexity to the science and you have to basically quit your day job to sort of take on the science and yet the solution is so simple and you described it so beautifully and Michael Pollan has as well where he talks about how you want to eat foods that your great-grandparents would recognize and my great-grandmother didn’t have a Vitamix, but she had hot water with lemon every single morning.
It was really important to her to kind of wake up with that and it also stimulates the gastrocolic reflex, so that she poop, I am a gynecologist, so I feel like I can say poop on you show, and she also had this before she went to bed. She would have a cup of hot water with lemon and lo and behold, there is some research showing that it lowers your cortisol level when you drink a full 8 ounce glass of water before you go to bed, a lot of people don’t do that because they feel like it is going to make them pee all night long and it turns out that it is really important for managing these hormones metabolism such as cortisol.
Jonathan: The cool thing Sara, the thing that makes me the happiest about all of this is that once you see the light for lack of better terms, and your work on body is very, very well, it is a sexy, ripe, and delicious life, because Sara like you I am eating good food, I am enjoying my food, I have never eaten these little snack pack, are you kidding me, when I eat I don’t play around. I am leaving the table satisfied and I feel satisfied and I feel good about myself and I think there are other areas of life where sometimes we can feel “satisfied” temporarily and not feel good about ourselves and we don’t like it in that area of life, let’s not do that to ourselves when it comes to eating either. Let’s feel satisfied and good about ourselves afterwards, what do you think?
Sara: I love that, I think you are absolutely right. This is such an important concept related to the innate intelligence of the body and how it is sometimes it is not so much that you have got to figure out how to be smarter in your body, sometimes you just have to remove some of the obstacles and I think you are right, having those little snack packs, that is not amplifying the innate intelligence of the body. It’s not information for your DNA that you want. It is a much better choice to have what you were just describing, the three lemons with the green tea and the cinnamon in your Vitamix, I love that. That is the best information you can give to your body to your brain in the morning. I also love that it’s improving the dopamine signaling in your brain. Can we have a little science moment here?
Jonathan: Oh, please.
Sara: Just in case people are feeling so underserved when it comes to science, what I love about green tea as long as you are using it medicinally and you are not like pounding gallons a day, what I love about green tea is that it raises dopamine and if you are someone like me, I tend to be a little short on dopamine, that’s one of the reasons why I am on Facebook a lot because I get a little dopamine hit every time I’ve been on Facebook and dopamine is that lovely brain chemical responsible for pleasure, satisfaction and focus.
So, in the part of my brain where I am really very satisfied and feel good about myself, my pre-frontal cortex, I need more dopamine and so that green tea helps me with that, the alkalizing helps me with getting my enzymes to really work for me and not just sit on the sidelines having a tea party. So, yes I love that we need more of that. We need to figure out how to reinforce that feeling of satisfaction around food and also feeling good about ourselves and our choices. I feel like you and I both talk about this big vision, this big vision of what we want for people in terms of food and health, but it is really this tiny small baby steps, the small little decisions that we make each day that add up to the big vision over time, so I appreciate that. What do you think of that Jonathan?
Jonathan: I absolutely agree with you. Sara, there are these small steps that we can take to heal our relationship with food and with our body and some of them are more mentally challenging than others, but from actual tactical perspective, they are easy. Canonical example I gave is if an individual can’t do this, I struggle to see how they will achieve long-term nutritional serenity and wellness because I actually think it matters a lot. I am curious to think what you think Sara and that is getting rid of your scale, literally I want people to physically break their scale because I think it is going to do a couple of things; one, it is going to make you stop worrying about that number which is irrelevant on all levels, buy a measuring tape instead or buy some jeans you want to wear instead.
It is more indicative of both aesthetic beauty as well as wellness as well as disease prevention, etc., but it also allows you to have a little bit of a ceremony because as you destroy that piece of garbage which is what it is. You can also feel a sense of destroying those old paradigms that have forced you into a life of shrinking down and starving yourself because it is really about building yourself up as you talk about Sara and that scale like if we cannot get rid of that scale, I feel like we are not giving ourselves permission to actually embrace this lifestyle of eating and exercising smarter rather than just starving ourselves, what do you think?
Sara: Jonathan, I feel like I can always count on you to be bold and to be right up there in front saying something so important and I love this, so I am going to unpack this may be in a few layers if that’s cool with you?
Jonathan: Please layer it up.
Sara: When you first started talking along this line, get rid of your scale, all of my girly resistances came up. Okay, that’s fine for you as a guy, but what about us chicks, like we rely on that scale to kind of keep us honest, but you then went on and sort of talked about this ceremony and you said let’s have a little ceremony around throwing away this piece of garbage. That got me to buy in a little bit more and then I started thinking, wait a minute what’s really important here is not the number on the scale, what’s important is as you were describing the tape measure, knowing your waist size, knowing your body fat measurement.
I am a big fan of tracking lean body mass and ideally growing that or at least maintaining that over time because it is one of the best indicators of longevity and then even better, I love testing my blood sugar, so I do that once a week just a way to keep me honest about fasting blood sugar because we know the optimal ranges has changed over time and we know that fasting blood sugars should really be between 70 and 86. When you are above 86, that’s a sign that you’ve insulin resistance going back to the whole very serious conversation and so I have these other ways of keeping me honest and tracking and being a bio-hacker because we know that what you measure improves, so long story short I don’t want to have a little ceremony around throwing away my scale. I want to have a gigantic ceremony, like I want to have a big frat party.
Jonathan: Sara, I completely support you and this has been born out much psychological practice that having these physical manifestations, the releasing the balloon into the air or the cutting of the ribbon or doing something physical to represent a mental and emotional shift is so powerful and this is also functional because unless you break the thing, you are going to be tempted to get it back out. Absolutely, may be we should start, people used to have Tupperware parties, may be we should have scale destruction parties.
Sara: Jonathan, you are totally on at something, I think this is a new Youtube video that you and I need to shoot and it is got total viralocity, this is going to start a revolution, I am super excited about it and by the way, at the frat party we are going to be serving green juice.
Jonathan: I love it, what it reminds me Sara of the scene from the movie Office Space where they destroyed the copy machine. If we can work it out that will even further the virality of this movement.
Sara: Love it. Love it.
Jonathan: Sara, well I know you have some awesome familial obligations you need to attend to, so I super appreciate you sharing your time and insight with us, it is always a pleasure.
Sara: Always a pleasure to be in conversation with you Jonathan, so fun. Thank you.
Jonathan: Thank you, Sara. Folks, obviously we have only scratched the surface here with Sara, we have had her on the show twice, hopefully we will have her on for third time, but if you need to get more, would you do need to get more, there are plenty of places to do that. First you can go to saragottfriedmd.com. Learn more about the woman behind the brand new book thehormonecurebook.com. The book is call The Hormone Cure, but the website is thehormonecurebook.com. New York Times bestseller, scientifically backed all about smarter eating and exercise. I am a big fan and I am a big fan of the author. Sara, thanks again.
Sara: My pleasure Jonathan, thanks everybody.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did and please remember, this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.
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