Dr. Anna Cabeca: “Intermittent fasting”

Intermittent fasting; it is essential, especially as we get older to help our body rest and rejuvenate. When I was 48, I was gaining weight, it almost seemed like it was happening overnight, and I recognized quickly that in order to stop the weight gain and hopefully reverse it, I needed to get into ketosis. […]

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Intermittent fasting; it is essential, especially as we get older to help our body rest and rejuvenate. When I was 48, I was gaining weight, it almost seemed like it was happening overnight, and I recognized quickly that in order to stop the weight gain and hopefully reverse it, I needed to get into ketosis. Intermittent fasting helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, and that promotes weight loss. As I transitioned to ketogenic eating, I found it very difficult to get into ketosis with the change in diet alone; but adding intermittent fasting to my daily regimen helped me get there. I’ve worked with thousands of women who have incorporated intermittent fasting into their lives, and the benefits they reap from the decrease in hot flashes to weight loss improvement and to substantial and sustainable energy boost have been tremendous.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Anna Cabeca.

Dr. Anna Cabeca, known as The Girlfriend Doctor, is a triple-board certified, Emory University trained, OB/GYN. She speaks from experience. She has risen from her own ashes of personal tragedy that spiraled into depression from not one but two rounds of menopause, weight gain, hair loss and many other debilitating symptoms. Her journey led her around the world to learn about true health and natural healing. Dr. Anna came away empowered with the knowledge that modern medical training and research, combined with time-tested wisdom and remedies, will yield indisputable results.

Dr. Anna is an author of two best-selling books: The Hormone Fix, a groundbreaking holistic lifestyle program for menopausal woman and Keto- Green 16, a comprehensive nutritional plan to staying healthy and slim, at any age. She has also spent years developing and perfecting a complete suite of life-changing products and programs. Everything Dr. Anna develops is part of her own daily routine and based on her exhaustive research and never-ending quest to find solutions that help women reclaim their vibrancy, sexuality, health and happiness.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, I can honestly say I had a loving childhood. I remember walking home from the bus stop to school, and mom always had fresh baked cookies or muffins ready when we got home, I can still remember the smell, and the feeling of comfort it gave me. One morning I walked into the house and it was completely empty. My mom was at the hospital undergoing heart surgery. I welled up with fear that she wouldn’t make it. As all kinds of thoughts were racing through my mind, somehow it dawned on me that the medical care they were providing to my mother was all based on research done on men. This was a pivotal moment in my life and is what motivated me to pursue a career in women’s health and led to me becoming a physician and a gynecologist and obstetrician.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

Having trained at Grady hospital in Atlanta as part of the Emory Medical System, I have many interesting stories to tell from that era, but probably the story of my career that stands out the most, dates from when I was setting up my practice in Rural South Georgia. You should keep in mind that I just came from one of the best training institutions in gynecology and obstetrics and women’s health in the world, so needless to say that I was pretty, well, full of myself at the time. Let me tell you, I was quickly humbled by how much I actually did not know. In that first week of my medical practice, a beautiful, 63-year-old, silver haired, 5 foot 10, thin woman with a dynamic personality wearing black rim glasses came into my office.

She was the CEO of a biotech company and did lobbying on Capitol Hill. She said to me: “Dr. Anna, I’ve been waiting for a woman physician here in Southeast Georgia for a while. I have received care at Emory, which is five hours away, and I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). I was taken off all hormone replacement therapy. Now I have no sex drive. I have terrible vaginal dryness and when we try to have sex, it hurts. And Dr. Anna; I am a woman of the sixties and I’d rather die than live this way. Please help me.”

Wow! And I quote, WOW! I thought to myself, all right, let me look into my doctor’s bag (literally and figuratively). Right! I looked and I looked again, only to find that I have nothing for this woman. I was pretty intimidated. Her personality was so spirited, and I felt deeply challenged; I had to find an answer for this remarkable lady. So, I started digging into the research and I looked into androgen therapy, testosterone treatment and DHEA. Even though DCIS is not breast cancer, many physicians treat it as if it is. My number one goal as a physician and an expert in women’s health, is to prevent breast cancer and if I can’t do that, then at least help women with breast cancer thrive, and help women after treatment for breast cancer to blossom in their lives and restore optimal health. I spoke to her about doing androgen and testosterone therapy and improving her sexual health. We integrated a very therapeutic level of bio-identical hormones that she was able to use vaginally. When I saw her for her follow-up, she was absolutely thriving and felt so much better. I’ve been able to follow her for over 20 years. Today, in her eighties, she continues to lobby on Capitol Hill, she’s recently authored a book, and last I heard, she was still skiing and in a flourishing relationship.

So early on in my practice, one of the main lessons I learned was that there are available treatments for women out there and that bioidentical hormones are superior to synthetic brands. As a physician, partnering with a woman to help her achieve her optimal health and reverse the processes of disease is my main responsibility, and I am thrilled to have been able to achieve that with her, for her. This definitely set the tone for what came next.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m sure there are many mistakes I made since I first started, I would say the biggest one was the lack of attention to self-care and prioritizing downtime. I was very driven, and I loved my work and my practice. I was a solo OBGYN, and I dove right into it. When I wasn’t seeing patients, I was likely doing research and reading. I had four beautiful children, one after the other, and I was attending to them, and to my husband. I did everything at the office and everything at home. The disregard of personal care was omnipresent; routine exercise, even simple activities like going for long walks and just having quiet alone time, meditating, slowly but surely each were gradually crossed off, or actually never even made it onto my calendar. And if they did, they were the first to get crossed off. That inevitably led to a burnout.

I strongly encourage everyone, especially when starting your career, to practice self-care. And that can manifest in different forms, depending on who you are, for some it may include hiring a housekeeper, or foregoing buying unnecessary furniture for instance, or minimizing eating out in order to make time (and resources) available for a massage or a facial instead, and also, creating that important couples time and scheduling date nights. I believe women can have it all; just not necessarily all at the same time. We have to pace ourselves and triage according to what is most important to us at the moment. Practice self-care introduce healthy habits to your daily rhythm that help create a healthy body, mind, spirit and relationships.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would definitely say my mother has been both in life and in death an incredible inspiration. She always told me: “Anna, your education is something that no one can take away from you”. She also instilled in me that travel is one of the best forms of education because you meet people from all different backgrounds and perspectives, upbringings and religions. This opens your mind. She had struggled with medical crises ever since her thirties; she was diagnosed with diabetes, postpartum depression, then heart disease in her forties that required heart surgery at 52. She died prematurely at 67 years old, after many years of struggling. Because of her life and her death, I was inspired to get to the underlying root causes that affect women’s health, especially how we can reverse those.

I’ll never forget those times where we sat around the breakfast table having a cup of Turkish coffee and maybe a tabbouleh salad and talked about life, she used to tell me stories about being raised in the Middle East. I would think of how brave she was to leave her family there, marry my father and come here to America and try a new life; inspiring me through her character, her intelligence, her wisdom, her loving heart, her generosity, and her spirit to be a better person every day, emphasizing on how important giving is and how generosity to others elevates the spirit.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I strive to educate, impact, inspire, raise awareness, and also entertain, while helping women become the CEO of their own health so to speak; take the power back over their body, mind and spirit by providing natural solutions, methods, programs, and products and help restore, recreate, rejuvenate their health and our relationships.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Number one: Intermittent fasting; it is essential, especially as we get older to help our body rest and rejuvenate. When I was 48, I was gaining weight, it almost seemed like it was happening overnight, and I recognized quickly that in order to stop the weight gain and hopefully reverse it, I needed to get into ketosis. Intermittent fasting helps regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, and that promotes weight loss. As I transitioned to ketogenic eating, I found it very difficult to get into ketosis with the change in diet alone; but adding intermittent fasting to my daily regimen helped me get there. I’ve worked with thousands of women who have incorporated intermittent fasting into their lives, and the benefits they reap from the decrease in hot flashes to weight loss improvement and to substantial and sustainable energy boost have been tremendous.

Number two: No more snacking. Women were ingrained to believe by societal rituals, that we need to have three meals and three snacks a day in order to stay healthy and increase our metabolism. The truth is that snacking and eating too frequently actually increases insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes and inflammation. As we get older, insulin levels increase naturally. So snacking, especially on carbohydrates, is true sabotage, and I don’t care if it’s only one hundred calories, it is disruptive to your digestive system with considerable health repercussions. I recommend having two or three meals a day and ban snacking from your life. Women feel liberated once they start doing this. And with my Keto-Green© plan, they’re not hungry in between meals. The key is to eat healthy meals that have all the nutrients you need that will keep you feeling energetic and full throughout the day. For instance, if you eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruits or a bagel for breakfast, you’re going to be hungry within two hours. That’s because your blood sugar is going up and going back down fairly quickly; and as you feel that blood sugar drop, all of a sudden you feel hungry. But when you have a Keto-Green shake or a Keto-Green meal for breakfast, it will keep you full and nourished for hours. I usually recommend you break the fast anywhere between 13 to 16 hours after your dinner or your last meal.

Number three: Alkalizing foods; I call it the Keto-Green way with healthy fats, high-quality protein, and lots of plant-powered, low carbohydrates greens and herbs. When I initially shifted to a keto lifestyle, I found that with ketogenic eating alone, I was getting very acidic, inflamed and frankly quite moody as well. So I decided to incorporate alkalizing food and herbs as an added dietary twist, (such as kale, beets, spinach, broccoli, etc.) and the weight started to come off, my hormones appeared more in balance; it was obvious this shift had a major positive impact on my health. This eventually led me to develop my Keto-Green and Keto-Alkaline programs.

Number four: Getting outside in nature for a walk, move your body, watch sunrises and sunsets to help keep our circadian rhythm in check. I often ask in my class, when is the last time you walked outside barefoot? It is not uncommon to have women answer that it was years and years ago. Part of my program is to incorporate just that. As they start doing this, just putting their feet on the grass, walking outside barefoot, they report being overwhelmed by an incredible feeling. One woman in particular said it had been years because she’d had foot problems and would wear orthopedic sneakers or shoes anytime she would go outside. So, she made a point to walk barefoot and have her feet touch the earth; she said she had the most amazing meditative and spiritual experience and felt more alive than she had in years. It is so simple, yet so essential; be in touch with nature, physically connect to nature, it is vital to your well-being in more ways than I can count.

Number five: Last but not least, and probably most importantly, an attitude of gratitude. One of my most memorable clients was Maryanne Smith. She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, the recurrent type, and she had been struggling. I started working with her, and she lost over a hundred pounds; went from being essentially on the couch waiting to die, to reviving her life, her marriage, her body. She rode a hundred miles bike ride and danced all night at her daughter’s wedding. She was alive!

After I retired from my practice, I’d heard that her recurrent breast cancer had metastasized. I visited her at the hospital, and I was just in tears. She said to me: “You know, Dr. Anna, you gave me the best five years of my life and our marriage. Jimmy and I are in love more now than we ever have been in our entire life and I just keep this “attitude of gratitude”. And sometimes I hear my husband just angry, angry at God, and I always tell him, honey, I want your attitude of gratitude.” She moved me to my core, with the positive realm she brought to her life, she managed to make the best out of each moment, and I thought to myself, if she can do it then so can I, and so can all of us.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You can say that it is what I’m hoping to do right now, by creating The Girlfriend Doctor Club. It is a plan to work with women from all over the world to inspire them to embrace the healing modalities that really work so that we can live our lives passionately, thrive in a loving relationship, fulfilling our missions and enjoying our days and a fruitful legacy.

My Keto-Green way is more than about what we eat. It’s how we live. It’s a mindset, a lifestyle and it is the healthiest way. I want people to experience this because the transformations are amazing every day. I read testimonials and stories online in my keto-green communities, of how this is changing their lives and their husbands lives and their kids’ lives. The goal is to continue with this ripple effect and keep spreading the goodness, the wellness.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Number one: delegate non-essential activities to free up your time. When I first started my practice, someone told me to get a housekeeper to free up my time and create a sense of organization in my life, and that I didn’t have to do it all. I wish I had listened to that earlier and had delegated more.

Number two: prioritize your meditative space and downtime. Those of us who are serving at work and have a family find ourselves having very little, if any downtime. I mean, heck even the bathroom door closed is sometimes not a private time. Prioritizing quiet, reflective time as part of your self-care routine is essential.

Number three: hire team players from the get-go and cultivate healthy work relationships so that you have their back and they have yours.

Number four: I wish someone had told me that stress and PTSD can cause burnout. I discovered through my work that chronic cortisol excess that stems from chronic stress, depletes our oxytocin and physically rubs us from the feelings of love, connection, and joy. Understanding that physiology guides our behavior is something I wish I had known sooner; I would have made physiological lifestyle changes sooner; it is all connected: body, mind and soul.

Number five: Trust your intuition, your inner voice. Intuition is what guides me before I make any major decisions. I fast and I pray, I follow my Keto-Green fasting plan, intermittent fasting, drinking Keto-Green shakes, alkalinizing bone broth, a scoop of Mighty Maca Plus a day; sometimes I do just a pure water fast, between one to three days to allow my body to rest, and really gain that spiritual insight and wisdom. Lifting some of the fog of everyday distractions and getting that clarity, connecting with yourself, trusting your inner voice. It’s amazing how this practice has led me to make calm, collected decisions, untainted by others’ energies and input, just my own, it is empowering and freeing.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health is absolutely the dearest cause to my heart right now, because I see how perimenopause menopause and physiology as a whole affects our behavior. During this transition in our lives, we’re seeing depression, anxiety, mood, swings, irritability, breakdown of family, breakdown of marriages, the burnout of a career we once loved. You can’t help but ask, why? How does such drastic shifts occur “all of a sudden”? Where does this come from? There is a direct connection between our body’s imbalance and our mental health. And that is why I’m so passionate about restoring hormonal balance and decreasing inflammation in the body. We do this the Keto-Green way and add bio-identical hormones, especially bioidentical progesterone, for example my Pura Balance PPR Cream is tremendously helpful. Women should not neglect their mental health in any way and getting to the root cause is key to healing. The physiological changes should be addressed as a priority. I struggled with PTSD; and transforming post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth is one hundred percent possible. I always say; while “menopause is mandatory, suffering is optional”. Too many women and men are getting medicated for anxiety and depression without ever addressing their physiology. Progesterone, thyroid health, estrogen, DHEA, and all hormones, when imbalanced will not only impact your physical health, but your mental health as well.

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