Kickstarting Health in the Gottfried Home: Our Morning Rituals

Do you race out of bed to get your morning caffeine, or do you meditate quietly for thirty minutes? Do you take the time to eat a nutritious breakfast, or consciously skip it as you rush out the door? What measurements or supplementation, if any, do you perform or take each morning?

In the Gottfried household, we’re a bit nuts—for health. We believe that how we wake up each morning has lasting impact. So we’ve tweaked and honed our daily rituals over the last few years to maximize health and slow down aging (more on this in Dr. Sara’s newest book Younger). We’ll share the quirky inside scoop of our morning rituals that help set us up for a fabulous day of energy, mental acuity, and athleticism.

Dr. Sara Gottfried: Despite learning at Harvard Medical School that our DNA is probably our destiny, through my own research, patient care and ultimately a whooping heap of self-care, I discovered that actually only 10 percent of disease is caused by your genes, while 90 percent is caused by environmental factors, including lifestyle choices. I call this the 90/10 rule: Genetics loads the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger. This gives us an incredible opportunity to change the course of disease and aging in our body The goal of the functional medicine I practice is to upgrade that 90 percent to affect the genetic 10 percent.

The 90/10 rule has tremendous power to work for or against you. Your daily habits of body and mind, both conscious and unconscious control your exposures. The sum of these exposures over your lifetime, how they relate to your health, and how your body responds to them is called your exposome. This includes how often you move, what form that movement takes, environmental exposures in your home and office, what you eat and drink, and how you manage or mismanage your hormones. Managing your exposome with  practical lifestyle tweaks allows for a more personalized approach to preventing disease and unnecessary aging. Because of all that, I live with intention and my day includes nutritious food, quality exercise, positivity from my friends and family, drinking enough filtered water and commitment to my meditative rituals.  These guideposts keep me on track toward physical and mental health, as well as ensuring my life is rich and purposeful.

To begin my day, I set my smart alarm for 6 a.m. A smart alarm tracks my sleep cycle and wakes me gently at the most optimal moment. I jump out of bed, brush and floss my teeth, and take my supplements on an empty stomach and with glass of filtered water. Then I make  a steamy mug of matcha tea. I whip it with a hand-held frother and add a squeeze of fresh Meyer lemon. Some days I have a collagen latte instead. (I encourage my patients to switch to  tea or decaf coffee to decrease their caffeine intake, which can make you feel stressed and disrupt your sleep if you’re like me and have the slow CYP1A2 gene variant, meaning you metabolize caffeine slowly. The CYP1A2 gene is responsible for metabolizing 95 percent of caffeine and can also be a marker for how you metabolize stress.)

This puts me in the right zone for meditation. I visit my shrine for ten to thirty minutes of personal reflection and honest meditation. Sometimes I record some thoughts and ideas in a journal or use my Muse headband to guide me in visualizations.

David Gottfried: When I wake up, usually just before 7 a.m. (unless I have an early morning cycling century or flight), I sit up in bed to see if Sara is up, which she usually is. One of the first things I do is grab my phone and hit my Jawbone UP3 app to measure and track last night’s sleep. My sleep varies, but generally I get eight hours; if not, I’m not only cranky, but my physical and mental performance also declines. Educated as an engineer, I love measurements and data tracking as a way to biohack improvements.

After I get out of bed, I weigh myself—another number I like to track, I make my way to the kitchen for blood time. I prick my finger with a lancet (you get used to it), and take two measurements on our Precision Xtra blood monitoring system. The first one is for my fasting blood sugar (FBS), and the second one is for my B-Ketones. FBS is critical to measuring inflammation and cortisol levels. The score is impacted by the degree of sugar in my diet from carbs, alcoholic beverages, and many other foods that are best for me to avoid, such as potatoes and even fruit (high in fructose).

Sara recommends a FBS of between 70 and 85, much lower than standard recommended levels. This morning I was at the lower end for me, a reading of 75. This is a direct result of eating cleanly for the past few weeks. Sara’s research shows a direct correlation between weight loss and FBS. A higher FBS can indicate insulin block. In our health business, Sara and I run a 21-day detox that significantly helps get your FBS in line and balance hormones.

In the morning, I also tend to our puppy, Juneau, taking her out for a brief walk. But often, she sleeps in!

Dr. Sara Gottfried: As you see, David and I do things a little differently.  I purposely don’t weigh in daily, because it’s too easy for me to obsess over the number and raise my cortisol.  Instead, I start my day off with meditation and focusing my efforts on the right intention for the day. That keeps me at my best. But it is essential to find a routine that works for you and helps you stay on track with your goals.

A little after 7 a.m., we regroup for a family breakfast with our daughters.  I take three deep breaths before I eat because my old habit was to shovel in breakfast while speed-reading the newspaper. To create new neural pathways (brain habits), I have to actively and consciously slow down before my meals. My breakfast is often two eggs and one serving of fruit, or some organic quinoa with fruit.

David Gottfried: I prefer to drink my breakfast. I’ve designed it to boost my ketone fat level.  If you tune your diet to boost your ketone levels  in the blood, you can actually switch your body from burning carbs to fat for fuel. Because of this, I limit my carb intake and try to reach a minimum goal of 0.5 mm of ketones, indicating a state of ketosis. When I maintain this state over a period of weeks, or even months, my body fat and weight stay down. I also feel better: My mental acumen and ability to concentrate go up, as does my energy. My hunger cravings also go down as I burn fat instead of my brain asking for more carbs. It’s not easy to get into ketosis; it takes some trial and error and patience, as well as a high-fat, low-carb and moderate-protein food strategy. So I add quality fats to my decaf coffee, mixing in MCT oil, organic heavy whipping cream, a teaspoon of butter, Vietnamese cinnamon and Himalayan sea salt. This concoction not only tastes yummy and is satisfying, but also catapults my ketone levels above 1.0 mm. Usually this drink holds me over until lunchtime.

I’ve also learned that our diets don’t provide everything we need for optimal health, and it’s critical to supplement. So each morning I take an array of supplements. In order to get exactly what Dr. Sara advises in her books, we’ve ended up making many supplements  ourselves in our nutritional health business.

Dr. Sara Gottfried: After taking my daughters to school, I fit in some exercise, like barre, yoga, spin, or a brisk walk around my neighborhood. If I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, it is less likely to happen. I drink at least 1 liter of filtered water and get to work on my treadmill desk around 10 a.m. I write, research, and answer emails while walking 2.5 miles per hour. This lasts until my lunch, which comes at about 1 p.m.

So that’s a glimpse into our morning rituals. David kicks his day into gear by tracking his measurements, while I fuel myself with positive vibes and nourishing food and drink. Much of what we do  is personalized based on our unique body types and distinct objectives. We move throughout the day with intention, seeking to live balanced and in optimal health. In addition to having jobs that we love, we exercise, eat (or drink) well, and devote quality time to our family. You can hear more about this in this recent podcast.

This is what works for us. What’s your morning wellness routine like? Share with us in a comment below.