The 4-Step Holistic Approach That Helped This MD Lose 90 Pounds & Keep It Off
Emergency and integrative medicine physician Eudene Harry, M.D., was feeling unwell—so much so, that she was losing sleep, shedding hair, and gaining weight. Of course, she was under a whole lot of stress—working 60-hour weeks as an emergency physician and all—but all her labs and yearly checkups looked A-OK. On paper, she was fine. Healthy.
And yet, she didn't feel like it. "I started to explore for myself: Why was I feeling like crap? Why couldn't I get the weight off? Why wasn't I sleeping? Why was my hair falling out?" she explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. "I decided there has to be more to health than what [I was] currently doing."
Lo and behold, Harry figured out a holistic health approach that actually helped all these woes. Here, Harry explains her most crucial steps:
1. First, she changed her mindset.
Yes, 90 pounds is a drastic change, but Harry emphasizes that this by no means happened overnight. In fact, when she first started her holistic health path, she didn't focus on weight at all. "Ultimately, what worked for me was just wanting to feel better. I said to myself: 'Why don't I just focus on wanting to feel better? Why don't I just focus on wanting to sleep better? Why don't I just focus on wanting my energy to improve more?'"
By focusing on these top-down goals rather than assigning herself harsh parameters, she was able to see the whole picture when it came to her health. In fact, when she viewed these lifestyle shifts as an ongoing journey (rather than a checklist of markers to meet), she was able to make those changes sustainable. And with time? She inched closer to her healthy weight.
"Ultimately, I was accepting the fact that it was going to take me about a year or more to lose that weight and keep it off," she adds. "That really took a lot of acceptance—to really grasp that there was not one thing that was going to magically do it for me."
2. She focused on stress management.
We know how much stress affects overall well-being; and according to Harry, stress management was really the key to getting her health back on track. "The thing that made the most significant change in my life was understanding the impact that feeling overwhelmed all the time was having on my health," she explains. "Once I started getting that in order, other things started to fall into place."
In terms of her stress management techniques, Harry leans on movement and meditation: "I have to start the day with a calm mindset," she says. "Sometimes that's actually meditating, and sometimes it's yoga to help get me centered." No matter her busy schedule, she prioritizes this time for herself—even if it's just a few grounding breaths.
3. She lived every day with purpose.
"When I say holistic health, [many people say], 'What herbs should I take?' or 'What supplement should I take?'" Harry says. "That's not the whole point of the discussion at all... It's understanding that everything you do contributes to your wellness and contributes to your purpose."
You might not regard purpose as a "tangible" weight loss technique—but Harry urges all of us to reconsider. In fact, research shows that having a sense of purpose was associated with a lower risk of becoming physically inactive, a lower risk of developing sleep problems, and a lower risk of unhealthy BMI. We need more research to explain exactly why this happens, but the message remains clear: When you focus on your purpose in life, healthy behaviors just seem to fall into place.
Harry wholeheartedly agrees: "Finding purpose is included in holistic health, and being healthy helps you to really put your best foot forward into that box," she says.
4. She made healthy habits nonnegotiable.
It's similar to the first point, but it bears repeating: Harry didn't check off certain milestones or goals and call it a day. No, she made holistic health an integral part of her everyday lifestyle.
That way, focusing on her health wasn't a chore or even a rare moment of self-care—it just wasn't optional. "We don't consider brushing our teeth optional," she poses. "Showering—that's not optional. No matter how busy you are, you're going to take time to do that." By folding in healthy habits (in Harry's case, primarily stress management techniques), you make them part of your consistent routine.
Even on her busiest days, she doesn't stray from the regimen: "If that means going in my car and eating my sandwich or listening to some meditative music—it's whatever that needs to be scheduled in [my] day," she continues. "Because in order for you to be healthy, scheduling time to de-stress is not optional."
Ultimately, there wasn't one silver bullet for Harry's 90-pound weight loss; it was a holistic, top-down approach that she incorporated into her everyday lifestyle. The key, according to Harry, is consistency and drive for overall health (not just a health-focused goal, like weight loss). Chances are, when you focus on holistic well-being, whatever marker you're trying to achieve will fall into place.
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