Doctor/Author: How I Landed in the Writer’s Seat

Writing down thoughtsI am grateful for my career as a physician, treating patients in person and working with coaching clients online. My patients and clients inspire me to stretch in my understanding of the human body, to do more, and even share more. Now after the release of my third New York Times best-selling book, some of my tribe have asked me how I got here.

Naturally, while pursuing my medical education, I spent a lot of time reading journal articles, conducting research, synthesizing the data, creating new conceptual models, and writing. I love to read (it’s actually good for the hormones). I’m a sensualist and love the feel of a crisp page, even the pages of dense scientific articles, while reading under a hot sun. In medical school, I devoured the works of physician/authors like Ethan Canin, Oliver Sacks, Anton Chekov, Viktor Frankl, Robert Coles, Walker Percy. I took literature classes at Harvard Medical School, and learned of the long literary history of physicians. Yet I never thought of myself as a writer. I worked as a gynecologist practicing natural medicine for women for twenty years before I became a full-time author. First, I worked at Kaiser Permanente after completing residency at UCSF. Then I left Kaiser to start a boutique functional medical practice in Oakland, California.

What got my fingers to the keyboard?

Around age 35, I personally faced a crisis of crazy stress, tenacious baby weight, premenstrual syndrome, and feeling much older than my years. My doctor told me that I was simply aging. He literally patted me on the back like I was a small child and explained that it’s normal to feel tired, ridden with anxiety, unsexy, fat, and cranky as you age. At first I felt humiliated by his dismissal, then I got angry, because I realized that millions of women worldwide were being told the same thing. So sitting in my doctor’s exam room in that ridiculous paper gown, I decided then and there that I needed to write, fueled at first by righteous indignation. I went to the lab, and discovered that my hormones were a hot mess. My serum cortisol was three times what it should be. My thyroid was slow. I had estrogen pollution. In short, I was in a failure state, set off by the control system of my hormones; that is, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid-gonadal axis. As a result, I had difficulty with achieving homeostasis.

Part of the problem is a broken healthcare system focused on disease management and suppressing symptoms, instead of addressing the root cause and restoring health. Now one in four women in the United States take a prescription medication for mental health reasons. Women in other countries may be faring better, but the point is the same. Most doctors don’t understand the drivers of hormone imbalance and fast aging. That is just one sign of our failure in modern medicine.

This became the focus of my work in women’s health: to help women face the unacknowledged epidemic of hormonal imbalance and rapid aging, and to change the conversation about women’s health. Honestly, in my own practice, I couldn’t keep up with the demand for root cause analysis and natural hormone balancing for the problems women face, from weight gain to PMS to menopause-related memory issues. When my wait list extended to a ridiculous length, my husband, also an author, thought I should take what I discussed behind closed doors with my patients each day and turn it into a book. He hired a developmental editor for me, so I said good-bye to my husband and two daughters, traveled to a remote location on the coast of Northern California, and opened my laptop. That became book #1, The Hormone Cure. At first, writing seemed like a promising way to make an impact and facilitate healing—both for others and myself. I loved the quiet of being alone with my thoughts, knit together with the stories of my patients, and our collaborative task to restore homeostasis. 

That was more than seven years ago.

The truth is that if I help you address the root cause of why you feel like crap, you are going to feel so much better. I can do that one on one in my medical practice, but I have much more of an impact by writing and teaching about the solutions in my books, online courses, and protocols. Still, the aim is the same. My hope is that each woman who reads one of my books understands the root cause of why she feels out of whack and how to get back on track with proven, scientifically based solutions, whether her problem is weight gain, wrinkles, or brain fog.

Inspiration?

Lately, I’m inspired by how to be kind to my future self. I picture myself twenty years from now and think about the tiny decisions I can make each day that will make her life easier, from getting to my barre class to hopping on my spin bike, to eating more vegetables and skipping grains, to flossing twice per day, to appreciating and connecting with my husband. All of these are proven to make my health better and add up to major transformation and turning back the clock. This powerful vision guides my decision-making. I share these ideas with my readers because they so deeply move me, and I hope to convey the power of thorough self-care. Certainly, I have other inspirations such as learning, beauty, and my family, but I’m really captivated by this concept of a future self.

 In addition, I always celebrate my writing. Not with a fancy dinner or some good red organic, biodynamic wine, but rather by getting outdoors. I visit Point Reyes National Seashore in West Marin County. This is the county where people live the longest in the United States and for good reason: you hike everywhere in fresh air, eat local organic food, and generally feel like the best version of yourself. I go there to write, and I return to celebrate and catch up on sleep. This location is my muse!

I write to help myself, but also to help others.

Most doctors are quite conservative (read: boring). I’m more sassy and a little bit bad ass-y. But my aim is always to serve, inform, and educate. Humor helps. I keep the punch going throughout my books, and even with this blog, thanks to support from some fabulously talented editors.

I’m on a mission to change the conversation about women’s health, weight, and aging. What helps my mission most is being able to take complicated scientific concepts like DNA and epigenetics and to translate them into meaningful actions—that’s my superpower!—which is what I hope I’ve accomplished with Younger.

Grab your copy of the book on Amazon and let me know your thoughts with a review!

Sara Gottfried MD About Sara Gottfried MD

Sara Gottfried, MD is the author of the new book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. She's the two-time New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr. Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a board-certified gynecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her novel online programs so that women can lose weight, detoxify, and slow down aging. Dr. Gottfried lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two daughters.