Jennifer was a forty-four-year-old patient who arrived in my office feeling defeated, worn out, and “older than her years” as she put it. As a third-shift nurse who worked grueling twelve-hour nights – frequently picking up overtime – the stressful struggle to balance sleep, two kids, and an unemployed husband drained her sanity, and took its toll on her waistline.
As a doctor recovering from burnout (not a sexy look for someone who should know better), I immediately sympathized. I completely understood the ugly aftermath of overwork: Persistent fatigue, zero sex drive, damning those skinny jeans for shrinking in the dryer (again!), and desperately battling what feels like lack of willpower. I was ultimately losing an unwinnable war with myself.
For many years, I accepted this miserable existence as somehow normal. After all, I’m a Harvard-educated medical doctor who puts in long hours. This is what happens as I get older, right? I chose this path. Except that finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I can’t tell you the exact moment, but something broke. I refused to accept that growing older meant weight gain, chronic stress, rising blood sugar, downward-spiraling health, and feeling older than my years.
Eventually I had a real conversation with myself and decided to learn what my body needed. Hint: It did not need a new starvation diet, hitting the gym more often, psychologically beating myself to cough up more will power, trying harder, or putting in more hours—which messed with my already-shot-to-hell hormones while paving a path for food addiction and body shame.
Instead, food became my medicine, and yoga took the place of hours in a crowded gym. Optimal sleep, stress control, smart supplements, and life balance (read: finding bliss and yumminess in tiny everyday moments) became my newfound purpose.
Once I gave myself that break, I could also give my overworked, overstressed female patients that same permission. “You can stop beating yourself up,” I told Jennifer. “I want you to stop seeing food as a monumental struggle. Food is information, and we get fat because of major hormonal misfires.”
With a comprehensive-but-practical approach, I’ve helped numerous patients get a better body than they had in their twenties, feel sexy and confident in their own skin, and restore hormonal balance that creates vitality and thriving health without that relentless, miserable daily struggle.
After years of working with patients like Jennifer, I’ve realized learning and growing never really ends. As women, evolution leaves us with the disadvantages such as weight gain, chronic stress, and inflammation. Rather than feel defeated, we’ve got to get creative and take advantage of information and resources.
In my books and blogs I’ve discussed how what you eat, how you move, and how you manage stress play monumental roles in weight loss and overall health. One of my favorite research areas involves discovering less conventional but equally powerful science-based hacks that arm patients with radical tools. These five are among my lesser-known-but-equally-worthy favorites to spike your vitality.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Emotions play a huge role in weight loss and overall health. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) addresses emotional factors such as mood swings and sugar cravings to release negative thoughts, internal torture, and the constant battle against self-will. The process only takes a few minutes and couldn’t be simpler: You tap on acupuncture points while speaking positive affirmations and releasing negative emotions. Research shows EFT helps with overcoming depression, mental health conditions, and obesity. One study with ninety-six overweight adults who used EFT during a four-week period had significant improvements in food cravings, perception, weight, and body mass index (BMI). They also demonstrated significant decreases in depression, obsessive-compulsiveness, anxiety, and paranoia. After just a few weeks doing EFT, Jennifer noticed she had fewer cravings and a steadier mood . She used a trained practitioner to master EFT, but you can also find some good instruction on YouTube.
- Pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) devices. These devices allow therapeutic delivery of very low, safe levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF), allowing your body to absorb electromagnetic frequency that mimics the earth’s healing polarity frequencies. You’ve probably heard of earthing, where you walk barefoot on the ground to soak up nature’s frequencies. Among its benefits, earthing helps combat stress and inflammation while boosting immunity. PEMF technology works similarly: You lie on a mat or place a wand on your body, allowing frequencies to heal at the cellular level. Partly because it allows better communication among cells, PEMF therapy benefits numerous inflammatory conditions including asthma and arthritis as well as cellular malfunctions such as cancer and obesity. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits also slow down aging, making it that much more of a win.
- Chaga. No, it’s not some trendy new Berkeley drink. A type of mushroom, chaga provides a wide range of therapeutic benefits thanks to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrients including polysaccharides, phytosterols, and triterpenes like botulin and betulinic acid. Research shows chaga’s ergosterol peroxide provides anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-suppressive capabilities. Chaga mushrooms are an adaptogen that can help normalize and balance hormones. They also stimulate immune response and reduce inflammation similar to steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but without nasty side effects.  You can buy fresh chaga mushrooms and cook and steep them into a tea. Jennifer wasn’t interested in going through that much trouble, so I recommended a tincture supplement instead.
- Glucomannan. This super fiber helps suppress your appetite and prevents overeating—a handy tool to get or stay lean. Research shows glucomannan increases satiety and fullness: One study found participants who took it ate significantly less at a subsequent meal compared with those who didn’t. Glucomannan also helps normalize cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and regulate healthy bowel movements.  You can find this super fiber in capsules or powder. I recommend taking it about 30 minutes before meals. Jennifer said even though she ate two bites of dessert at her birthday dinner, she didn’t get that normal post-meal dessert hankering. Be aware fiber supplements can interfere with absorption of some medications, so take them separately.
- Essential oils. Essential oils such as frankincense, peppermint, and lavender can dial down stress, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, inflammation, and pain, as well as speed wound healing.  Aromatherapy calms your central nervous system to relieve depression and anxiety; reduce stress; restore physical and emotional well-being; and, depending on the oil, become sedating or stimulating. Essential oils can also help balance emotions and hormones.
Within a few months, Jennifer stopped working overtime and stuck to a semi-manageable three-shift week. She combined her revised work schedule with a well-designed diet, and exercised regularly. All in all, Jennifer had a newfound energy and calmness, and continues to work toward her goal of living healthily routinely.
I’m sure you’ve got your own strategies. What science-based secrets would you add to regain power over your vitality and overall health? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
 Church, D. et al. “Brief Group Intervention Using Emotional Freedom Techniques for Depression in College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Depress Res Treat 2012, (2012): 257172. doi: 10.1155/2012/257172.
 Church, D. et al. “Psychological trauma symptom improvement in veterans using emotional freedom techniques: a randomized controlled trial.” J Nerv Ment Dis.201, no.2 (2013): 153-60. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827f6351.
 Stapleton, P. et al. “Food for Thought: A Randomised Controlled Trial of Emotional Freedom Techniques and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in the Treatment of Food Cravings.” Appl Psychol Health Well Being 8, no.2 (2016):232-57. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12070.
 Oschman, J. et al. “The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” J Inflamm Res, 8 (2015): 83–96. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S69656
 Kubat, N. et al. “Effect of pulsed electromagnetic field treatment on programmed resolution of inflammation pathway markers in human cells in culture.” J Inflamm Res, 8(2015): 59–69. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S78631.
 Sukkar, SG. et al. “Appetite control and gastrointestinal hormonal behavior (CCK, GLP-1, PYY 1–36) following low doses of a whey protein-rich nutraceutic.” Med J Nutrition Metab 6, no.3 (2013): 259–266. doi: 10.1007/s12349-013-0121-7