How to Improve Mitochondrial Health for More Energy, Vitality, and Longevity - An Interview With Dr. Molly Maloof

How to Improve Mitochondrial Health for More Energy, Vitality, and Longevity - An Interview With Dr. Molly Maloof

What follows is a transcript for the podcast Mitochondrial Health - Dr. Molly Maloof - Biohacking.

Topics within the interview include the following: 

  • Why humanity is in the middle of an energy crisis
  • How stress impacts on our energy levels and how to overcome burnout
  • Defining the unsafety theory of stress
  • The role of adverse childhood experiences and the need for self-love in maintaining energy and overall well-being
  • Activities that are scientifically proven to recharge our batteries

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Hi, this is Dr. Greg Kelly. Today, I'll be your host of Collective Insights, and with us we have Dr. Molly Maloof, lecturer at Stanford University, founder and CEO of Adamo Bioscience, and author of The Spark Factor, The Secret to Supercharging Energy, Becoming Resilient and Feeling Better Than Ever. Molly, welcome back to the show.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Oh, you're welcome. I want to start off just with a quote. It was from your introduction, but I think it sets the table great for this episode since we're going to be talking about your book, The Spark and things we can do to reignite it. The quote is, "There's a spark of life inside each of your cells that powers your body with electricity. Some call it Tai chi or prana or life force. All life arises from this spark, but for many of us and especially women, the demands of life have begun to dim this spark." That's what I wanted to use to just lead in. Could you start by explaining what exactly the spark is and what led you to write the book?

Why Dr. Molly Maloof Wrote Spark Factor

Dr. Molly Maloof: Sure. I mean, for so long I had this very materialistic view of the body, and over the years I've really started to learn about the body through a lens of energy. That really was a major paradigm shift for me internally to understand that it's not just about our genetics and the genetic plans of the body, it's really about do we have enough energy to maintain the integrity of the structure? That energy, that literal vital force that's running through us is, it really comes from our metabolism. It comes from these mitochondrial organelles that are essentially batteries in capacitors, and we actually inherit our mitochondria from our moms and the mitochondria and the sperm, they get destroyed during birth, but there's also this zinc spark of life that happens when a sperm meets an egg. It's like literally an electrochemical reaction, so electrochemistry is really what powers our body.

When I started understanding that, it made me finally understand the Eastern model combined with the Western model of understanding material biology. I was able to really combine these two different worldviews into something that made sense to me, finally. I finally felt like I had some understanding of why we can be well and why we get sick. When you have enough energy to maintain your body, you can repair damaged DNA, you can fight off infection, you can heal a damaged liver, but if you don't have enough energy, your body starts to break down.

Typically, people see this midlife. The greatest factor that we really don't, one of the biggest factors in our energetic flow is how well we are actually connected in the world. This is a big part of the book as well, is like it's not just about energy production, it's about the flow of energy and the connections in our life that dictate how we feel on a day-to-day basis. I got really obsessed with human connection just as much as energy and metabolism, because I felt like I'd found these two pillars of health that if you get them right, you get to live a long and healthy life. That's really what the book's about, is about energy and connection.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, great. We're going to get a lot more into connection as the show evolves, but before we jump into that, one of the things I always enjoy doing and especially enjoy reading is someone's personal journey, what got them to where they are. As many times as we've had you on the show, I don't think we've ever highlighted that. One of the things I really enjoyed was you talking about your temperament, some of your struggles, especially in early medical school, and then how you figured out a new way to be healthy and what that did for your grade. Could you maybe share a little bit with our audience that hasn't read that part of your book?

Dr. Molly Maloof: Well, so just to give some context, I am really healthy right now, but I was not always really healthy as a person. I struggled with health as a child and I went through periods of intense work, stress and burnout. I didn't know how to regulate my emotions. I had trouble with focus. I became very sedentary in my twenties, ended up developing ADHD, which I think was directly resulting from lack of enough energy in my body and just not a healthy ... I wasn't living a healthy lifestyle. I was pretty much doing everything wrong. I wasn't sleeping enough, I was studying too much. I wasn't spending enough time with family and friends. I wasn't eating properly. I was skipping meals, which is sometimes okay, except for if you're eating gluten and you're gluten intolerant or celiac in my case. I wasn't exercising, so I was literally doing everything wrong when it comes to health, because I thought that that's what it took to succeed in medical school.

It wasn't until I went to a psychologist and was like, "I don't know if I can continue. I'm just really miserable and maybe I've got anxiety or depression." He's like, "Look, you're just a stressed out medical student who's not taking care of herself." I was like, "Oh, so I am responsible. Okay," so that was one of the first periods in my life where I had to realize that I was ultimately responsible for my health or lack thereof. I got really obsessed with lifestyle medicine. It was the same year that the American College of Lifestyle Medicine was founded. It was really the very beginnings of the lifestyle medicine movement. I designed a course and I hired all these, I didn't hire, but I requested all these physicians that were experts in different areas like sleep and exercise and nutrition and relationships and integrated medicine.

I had them come teach in my medical school a course I designed and deployed through the family medical office, the family family medicine office. That was my first taste of my first taste of being in a educator role and a coordinator role. I ended up winning a bunch of humanitarian awards because apparently, medical students don't design medical classes, medical school classes. I was really a huge fan of Andrew Weill. He was my sort of idol at the time. I was like, "That's the kind of doctor I want to be like". I got to my residency and found myself really struggling again and again, not finding time for wellness. The program I was in gave a lot of lip service to wellness, but they didn't really provide the hours to enable us to have wellness in our lives. I was getting burned out.

My mom had been diagnosed with cancer right before I started my residency, and I just went in with a really low energy level and it was deeply taxing emotionally, and I didn't fully understand until, frankly, I started studying a lot of esoteric things like human design and astrology and a lot of stuff that came later in life, a lot of things that came from just hanging out with hippies, that I realized how sensitive of a person that I am. I was able to really pick up on so many emotions in the hospital, and I just found that it was really not the environment for me to thrive. I ended up leaving my residency, getting my medical license, starting my own medical practice, starting working with startups, becoming a doctor. Basically, I doubled my income and I have my work hours and a course of a month and ended up getting these incredible mentors who became my sort of teachers.

They were doctors that were doing medicine differently. They were working in Silicon Valley with billionaires and the elite, and they were doing a lot of things like health optimization or mind-body medicine or primary care, but concierge. I was able to see all these different models of care that were not taught to me in medical school or in residency, and I was just able to be in the right place at the right time, and started a career both straddling technology and concierge medicine and radically, I was asked to teach at Stanford, which was a school I didn't get into for medical school or residency. I ended up teaching in the medical school, a course on health span for three years before I moved to Austin. It has been an incredible journey of just, I really do believe that the emphasis and the investment in my health in the last 10 years of my life has led to me realizing unknown capacities that I never knew I even had.

I do believe that when you really optimize energy and optimize human connection, your life becomes really magical. The world becomes really mystical and incredibly exciting because I think that the same energy that we hear about in what I'm talking about in the western medical model of mitochondrial health is the same energy that's used to manifest. It's the same energy that's used to create life. It's the same energy that's used to create businesses. It's the same energy that's used to manifest, and it's the same energy that's used to heal. If you learn to create more energetic flow and to harness that flow in your body, then your whole life can change. That's really what my career has been all about.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, and it's just for the listener, I just want to, in a sense, hold you out as an example of hope. No matter where you are now, there's a better place you can get to, but as you point out ...

Dr. Molly Maloof: 100%.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: ... In your book, that is going to take some commitment and some time, some attention.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Oh, real commitment. I mean, I was chronically fatigued when I left my residency. I had just gotten a horrible viral infection. I was only able to work from my bed. I didn't move my body. I wasn't exercising. I was pretty debilitated from a viral infection and from burnout. That was me in my, I can't remember what year it was. It was like 2012, so 2023, so it's 11 years ago. I was at my lowest point of health, and somehow in my gut was like, I need to dedicate my life to health. It was not healthy. I was not healthy, but I was like, I mean, there may be doctors out there listening and maybe they're struggling with burnout and they're feeling disenchanted with their lives and their practices, and they're wondering what can they do differently? Just know that you don't have to be perfectly well to change your career.

I changed my career 'cause I wanted to get well, and I wanted to help other people get well. Mow I have this dream life, and frankly, it just gets better and better every year. But I also in the last few years started realizing that it's not enough to manage the biological and the material. You have to address the psycho spiritual. That's when my practice started to really flourish and my clients were starting to get really healthy was when I realized, "Oh, there's no element of disease that doesn't have an element of disease." I really do believe that. We don't fully understand this relationship, but it's the area that I'm most interested in examining is this relationship between the mind body and the spirit, and specifically the psycho spiritual and how that affects energy flow and resistance to flow and creates contraction in the body and how healthy relationships give you energy.

How wild is it that I have a call with a friend today and she's like, "Man, whenever I talk to you, I just feel so energized. I feel like I have so much more energy." It's like, well, I don't understand how this works either, but I'm very invested in figuring this out because I think human connection is such a hugely underappreciated facet of how we can get healthy. It's like change your relationships, you can change your life.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, I mentioned to you before we started recording that my two favorite chapters in your book was the one on stress, which is towards the last section of the book and then the very last chapter on connection. I wanted to make time to definitely explore those and my bias would be the same as yours. When I was in practice, which dates back quite a few years now, I was very mind-body oriented. I loved NLP as an example of a technology and things like that. I even in the stress sense, [inaudible 00:11:46], who's the grandfather of the physiological stress concept and did a lot of the pioneering work, his notion after all was said and done is that there was no stress greater than mental, emotional stress in humans. It just tends to be in my model, if that's there, it's much more challenging to get things-

How Stress Impacts Our Energy Levels 

Dr. Molly Maloof: It really, really is. Well, part of that is because literally your body is like a circuit. You have these batteries, capacitors, you have lines of energy flow. I only very recently started really digging into osteopathy and neural therapies, but I was just blown away at how there are some doctors in the world now that have figured out this sort of understanding of how the nervous system can be recalibrated after years of stress and trauma. There's so many amazing trauma therapies coming out nowadays. There's never been a better time to heal from traumatic experiences because it's now become common language in culture to address things that have pained you in the past. I'm just a huge believer in addressing any unresolved traumas, both psychologically, spiritually and physically. That's why I'm a huge believer in the potential of psychedelic medicines when used appropriately, to help heal some of these psychic scars.

Then what about the physical scars? Right? I started working with this guy, Dr. Tudar in Sedona, and he injected in all these different nerve ganglia and all these different connection points in my body [inaudible 00:13:23], and he was like, yes. He had basically commented, "You've got a lot of tension that you've probably been carrying from different traumas you've experienced." We just injected all these different spots in my body and everyone's heard about the stoic ganglion block, but they don't realize that there's all these other ganglia that you can block.

I left that doctor's office so calm that I felt like I'd done a 10 day meditation retreat, and it's just been since then, I've just been so much calmer. It's really amazing some of the tools in the toolbox we have to, it's one thing to deal with your relationship issues. It's another thing to heal from the relationship pain that you've dealt with. A lot of people have CPTSD, A lot of people have attachment dysfunction. A lot of people have adverse childhood experiences, and most people don't even know what to do and where to begin healing from these problems.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: I think it's a common observation, I think, from people. I know people that have worked strictly detox as an example, or mind-body medicine that people store trauma in our body. Often when that releases all of a sudden we'll detox things that maybe at the same time we were exposed to instead of flowing through, we hung onto them as an example.

Well, one thing that I wanted to get to before we go too much further is you've mentioned in the book that we're in an energy crisis of sorts, and then point out just some symptoms that may clue someone in that they may be experiencing an energy crisis, it would benefit from doing things to really maximize the potential of their mitochondria. Can you share a few of those signs and symptoms?

Signs That You're Suffering From an Energy Crisis

Dr. Molly Maloof: One of the first ones that I want to teach everybody is that all of us are going to have times where you have higher energy and lower energy and more stress and less stress. Literally, I could show you, if you Google me and you actually look at my podcasts I've been on, there's some podcasts where I just look gray. Right now I'm glowing, but there is podcasts where I am so tired, I look gray, and I'm like, "Wow, those are online forever," but just the amount of light that's exiting your face, just the amount of skin auto fluorescence is a great tool in the toolbox to identify if you've got.

I mean, I've got ample energy right now. I just did a month of intense biohacking, and so my body has been glowing since, and I'm also madly in love with someone. There's two good reasons why my skin is crazy glowy right now, but your skin, when you meet healthy people, really truly healthy people, they've got a glow and it doesn't matter what age you are, anybody can have a glow of health. Then there's also, think about how you look after a good vacation. You come back from a trip that you've been on, you're just rejuvenated. You're recharged. Then think about what you look like when you have had the worst week of your life and someone will look at you and be like, "Hey, what's going on? You don't look great. You look tired."

Physical appearance is something we just don't want, a lot of people don't want to acknowledge, but when I went to China once on a layover, I was astonished, and this is not meant to be racist towards Chinese people, but the environment of Beijing is highly toxic and the air quality was so bad that I had a headache the moment I went on the bus to get to one area of the airport to the other. I was looking at people's skin and I was like, "Whoa, everybody's gray. There's no brightness to anyone's skin here. This is a really toxic environment to be living in." Your environment can really affect your body's ability to make energy easily. If you live in a toxic environment, you're just not going to have a lot of energy because your body's going to be detoxifying constantly, and that's very energetically taxing.

Another one is how do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you jump out of bed excited to do work, or do you, "Oh man, I'm so tired, I just can't get myself out of bed?" Big, big obvious sign, exhausted versus not. I've got a bunch of friends that are new parents, and it can be really exhausting raising a new kid. It's just a thing. It's part of life, because you're spending so much of your energy caring for a child that's dependent on you. Another one would be general wellbeing. Do you feel resourced? Do you have enough energy to meet your demands or do you feel overwhelmed? Do you feel like you're drowning and that there's literally not enough energy to meet your demands? Overwhelm versus feeling resourced and having wellbeing. Very different feelings. I know what it feels like to feel completely overwhelmed and just overextended and burned out, and I know what it feels like to have so much energy that I'm bouncing off the walls.

Those are some really good tools of ways to think about it. Then I like to put blood sugar monitors on and [inaudible 00:18:11] rings on because I like to use these things as a way to show people what's actually happening when they live their lives. What's actually happening when you eat that banana or you eat that muffin? Is your body metabolizing these carbs properly? Some people are very carb adaptive and they can eat that banana and they're fine. Some people maybe they have to have taxed their pancreas over many years and they have to be much more careful with the kind of food that they're consuming. That's one big thing. For women in particular, I think that your menstrual cycle is very much a vital sign. Is your menstrual cycle really challenging you? If so, then there's probably some psychosocial stress that you're not addressing.

I really think that our menstrual cycles are a real important clue into our emotional regulation. So many women don't fully understand the relationship between menstruation and just overall day-to-day stress because so many women are working two jobs, raising families. I mean, it can be really overwhelming. Watch your menstrual cycle. Track your menstrual cycle, look at your heaviness of your cycle. Ask yourself, is this healthy? Do I need to talk to a doctor? Do I really need to address anything in my life that could be causing me pain or causing me excess flow? These are things that we don't get taught, but I've seen time and time again are directly related to an expressed emotion usually.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Wonderful, so I've teased twice that two of my favorite chapters were one dealing with stress. That was stress drains your batteries. Let's jump into that. I love talking about stress, and you did such a brilliant job in that chapter.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Well, the thing is that we have these batteries for a reason. We have this body and these mitochondria for a reason. They're literal mini supercomputers designed to sense and integrate information just like your brain. They sense and integrate and then they direct energy to where it needs to go. It's like when I figured that out, I was like, "Whoa, we have this beautiful distributed neural network throughout every cell." That's really cool because your cells are thinking for you to figure out how do you keep this body alive? If we didn't have these innate capacities, we wouldn't stay alive. We wouldn't be able to adapt to these demands in our environment. Mitochondria really are the organelles of adaptation. For example, if you're a woman, and let's say you're dealing with a partner who's got a massive mental health breakdown, you might be experiencing some real trouble with your metabolism and you may not know why, or maybe you're dealing with work stress or maybe one of your children has been sick for months.

The reality is that you have this system that's designed to hold onto energy in order to keep you alive. When I look at people walking around that are obese and overweight, the first thing I think to myself is, "Wow, what unexpressed pain have they not been feeling or maybe they were never able to feel?" Because the body wants to protect itself through food consumption. We have this very vicious cycle in our environment in America where we watch news that is deeply stressful, and then we eat food that we're being fed through commercials that are as deeply toxic. Everyone like wonders why it's so hard to lose weight in a country like America. Well, we're being programmed to be fat. These messages are putting stress signals through the body. Dementing, literally deranging the metabolism, creating what's called the cell danger response, creating chronic inflammation and illness behavior and depression, leading to people trying to self-medicate with food because it's the most widely abused drug in the country.

Our obesity crisis is not, in my opinion, very complex. It's literally mitochondrial dysfunction and it's at scale. We have energy dysregulation on a macro scale too. We live in a world where our food production systems are deeply stressful for the environment. Now we have the same energetic problem on a macro scale, on a micro scale. It's like when you see these patterns, you're like, "Wow, how interesting that humanity created so many problems for itself." It's just so interesting to think about that way because when you can get your nervous system calm and relaxed and you can get into a parasympathetic state, and you can get your brain to believe that you're able to lose weight, weight loss, and then you just choose the right foods and deal with emotional eating, which is really usually driven by unresolved pain, suffering, trauma, attachment, dysfunction, relationship issues.

If you can deal with all those things, then weight loss does become actually easy. It does take an understanding of these drivers of weight gain that are largely, believe it or not, they can be in your control, but we just don't believe it because we're so conditioned that it's normal to watch the news and be stressed, and it's normal to eat fast food and processed food. It's normal to shop at grocery stores that 80% of the food is not edible. In my opinion it's not food. It's just food-like products. I don't know. The reason why I kind went to metabolism is that I think when people think of stress, they think of like, "Oh, I'm just feeling really stressed out," but they're not relating it back to what's going on on a metabolic level, and on a mitochondrial level.

When people think of weight loss, they think of exercising more and eating less. But so many people do that and they fail, so why? That's the question I had. It was like, why do all these people fail or relapse? It's like, ooh, it's the stress factor, it's the work environment, it's the relationship problems, it's the unresolved traumas that's actually running the show, and the burnout that so many people have felt and the PTSD that so many doctors and other people are dealing with right now, because of what's going on in culture and society.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, I think when I wrote my book and it's 10, 12 years ago now, one of the frames I had, because my book was on weight loss, shape, was just think in terms of the hypothalamus. It's the seed of what self regulates all of our survival needs, appetite, thirst or hydration, sex drive. You could say connection and romance would have a lot that tie in with that, the stress, their body clock and the way it always seemed to me, and I started working with overweight people in the Navy just because at the time I was one of the few officers in decent shape and it was thankless. Like horrible work environment, sleep deprivation, shift work, lousy food. It was a no-win situation for many of those people.

The way it's always seemed to me is when any of those basic drives aren't met, the adaptation is generally the same and it's like appetite goes up. One of those core needs not being met, the most common adaptation is gaining weight is what functionally happens.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Yeah. That makes total sense.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: I mean, it's maybe not 100% accurate, but it's really a useful way to look at it. Then I loved how you talked about the generalized unsafety theory of stress. I didn't know anything about that until reading your book.

Defining the Unsafety Theory of Stress

Dr. Molly Maloof: Oh, it's funny. I spoke with Steven Porges at a dinner directly about this topic, and he was just shaking his head at me. This guy is one of my heroes, 'cause he's' the founder of Polyvagal Theory, and he's actually didn't disagree with me. What he said was basically that the generalized unsafety theory of stress says that our brains feel stressed at baseline unless they're told to feel safe. The reality is that there's unsafe context. If you're living in Israel, that's a very unsafe context right now, living in a forest fire is unsafe context. Even just living in a city where you don't know your neighbors can feel unsafe.

Then even just driving at night where there's no visibility because of fog, that's unsafe context. Then there's unsafe bodies, which if you live in a body that is, let's say you're homeless on the street and you can't clean yourself regularly, literally your body is at risk for infection. That's an unsafe experience to not be able to protect your body through cleaning yourself. Obesity is an unsafe body because your body is carrying a lot of extra inflammation and you're also, having to carry a weight around. Imagine having to carry an extra 50 pounds bag around all day long. That's what some people are dealing with with obesity, sometimes even much more. That sends a stress signal that you're like, you've got a lot of stress that you shouldn't have to carry. Then there's unsafe bodies, unsafe context, and the arguably is unsafe. There's another one, I can't remember the name, but it's basically unsafe people.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Social networks is what you put [inaudible 00:27:26].

Dr. Molly Maloof: Social networks, yeah, so lack social networks versus not having a social network or I would even argue having toxic social networks. Those are very unsafe contexts, unsafe environments socially, versus a safe context. Steven's comment was that our brains are actually wired for safety if sent signals that things are unsafe because our initial environment was supposed to be in tribes. We're supposed to live in communities, we're supposed to feel safe at baseline, that's his theory, is that it's that all of our environments have changed so much since pre-history that we now live in generally an unsafe environment because we're not supposed to be so isolated. We would be feeling safe all the time if it wasn't for the fact that we now live isolated and alone. That was what his comment was, was that it's not that ... He believes that the alarm signal wouldn't have been on all the time due to feeling unsafe in more tribal and more communal times.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: The other big area you point out is generally an opportunity for all of us to heal is adverse childhood events.

The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Need for Self-Love in Maintaining Energy

Dr. Molly Maloof: Yeah, so adverse childhood experiences aren't always traumatic and leading to disease because they have new research that just came out on that even just having one caregiver that was maybe a family friend or a family member, even if you had these adverse childhood experiences, if you had protective experiences concurrently, it can actually buffer against the adverse childhood experiences. Now, there's ways of evaluating if you had protective experiences as a child to mitigate the adverse effects. The funny thing about being an entrepreneur is I meet a lot of other entrepreneurs and I meet a lot of investors, and it's really uncanny it how many investors have commented that some of their best entrepreneurs are literally people who've had some of the hardest lives and the biggest traumas. Sometimes it can actually be a net positive because you can create all sorts of things from having a higher pain set point.

I dated an entrepreneur once who had enormously high pain set point, and he was a Jewish immigrant and experienced a lot of racism and was a refugee from another country growing up. We don't need to look at challenges in life as always bad. What we need to look at is life is challenging. Of course, we would like to create the conditions where people don't have so many challenges, but over coddling children can also be problematic too. Not having enough, not having challenges at all can sometimes make you less strong. That's something worth considering as well, is you want a balance and you most importantly want loving relationships.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: I think that balance is super important. I was just reading a blog article yesterday by a woman, I think her book is the Free Range Child, maybe it was what it was called. I didn't know anything about it, but it was the premise was that, yeah, children can sometimes thrive, be given a little bit more opportunity to do things without having a hovering parent and building that confidence that they've got this.

Dr. Molly Maloof: I mean, my parents raised me with a lot of freedom and a lot of protection. I had a very, I think my parents are geniuses at parenting, but basically all of my sisters are super happy and healthy people with amazing families and lots of love. I think my parents did a really good job creating the conditions where we had a lot of freedom to play. I worry a lot about this new generation because the new threats are much weirder. Being threatened that you might have a shooter in the school is a lot more resting nervous system tension than what I dealt with, which was occasional stress, right? Worrying about how the environment is being affected by climate change is something that causes a lot of existential and anxiety and a lot of young kids, and that's new too. I grew up in the nineties when everything was pretty golden.

I do worry about kids these days because it seems like these anxiety and depression levels are rising. I think it could be a combination, and I know it's my personal belief is that it's a combination of a bunch of different factors, but the big ones being parents working a lot more and having a lot less time with their kids, pretty rampant gut dysfunction from a very chemically toxic food environment. Just way too much packaged processed foods, like 60% of a child's diet is processed foods or fast foods these days, which is just poisonous. Then on top of that, there's just the amount of lack of social connection due to social media. So many kids are socially connecting only through their phones, which is just disconnected. It's just not the same thing as having human connection and human touch, and then the existential reasons that are causing kids to worry. The fear that college may not be worth the money anymore, the fear of competitive work environments, the fear of AI taking jobs.

There's a lot of things that kids have to worry about that I didn't have to worry about as a kid. I do think that what's really exciting and interesting is this huge drive in homeschooling. There's just this massive shift in parents wanting to homeschool their kids and creating these learning pods and chartering schools. It's really fascinating to see how American population is adapting to all this change. I'm personally deeply optimistic for America because I have to be, otherwise I wouldn't stay here, but we got a lot of things to overcome. We've got a lot of problems to solve, which to me, I've always resonated with the word crisis because in Chinese it means danger and opportunity.

I'm sort of the genetic stock that believes that any sort of crisis is a major opportunity. That's always been my, I mean, I was in weird ways, fortunate or unfortunate to have experienced some familial challenges early in life that woke me up to the reality of human suffering and created a very, I would say, pretty resilient young woman at a very young age. I definitely want people to understand when they read the book that yes, of course, stress drains your batteries, but if you create a lifestyle and you create human connections around you that create resilience and create ample energy, you can handle a lot more than you realize.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: One of the things I just want to point out, like a frame for the audience. When I listen to you speak, one of the ways I interpret things, there's what's happening, and then there's our stories, the stories we tell ourselves about what is happening. You pointed out a lot of things that are happening, but then a really overwhelmingly positive story that you tell yourself about those things. That often can be the tipping point between those causing our health to collapse and us striving in more challenging circumstances. I'm you. I used to always feel like a part of my job as a doctor was to listen to the stories my patients were telling me. If nothing else, help them tell a better story.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Yeah, exactly. I think that we do have a lot of control over one thing, and that's our thoughts. It's more important than ever to practice mental hygiene. One of my favorite mental hygiene tools is whenever I get a negative thought, because one of my exes once said to me, "You have a lot of automatic negative thoughts," and he'd done a fair amount of therapy. I was like, "What do you mean automatic negative thoughts?" He's like, "Well, you just go to the negative way more often than the positive." I was like, "Oh."

Then I took a course on meditation through this guy, Jeffrey Martin, who's got this thing called the Finders Course, and also 45 Days to Awakening. He taught at Stanford with me, and he taught me that you can just press the button cancel, cancel. You wake up in the morning and you've got a scary thought in your head and you just press, cancel, cancel, and immediately I replace that negative thought with a positive thought. There are all sorts of ways to learn to reformat your subconscious. Hypnosis, psychedelic medicine can do so, but I would prefer people start with meditation and visualization exercises are really powerful tools. You have a lot within you to change your mind, including things like breath work too.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Yeah, you point breath work out a couple of different techniques, including one of our favorite box breathing, what I call pace breathing. You called it I think rhythmic breathing, the Andrew Wild technique. Are there things besides what meditation, breathing that you just say, "Oh, audience, do these couple simple things, when you're stressed out?"

Dr. Molly Maloof: I mean, the most important thing is you find connection to someone that you trust and really importantly is feel like if you don't have a trusted network around yourself, start building one. I am really, really, really, really, really over ... I'm the kind of person who just overemphasizes connections and friends, but it's something that I think is so valuable and so overlooked. Building this trusted network of people to talk to. Then the second thing would be massage. I love massage. I started really investing in massage years ago because I was like, touch hunger is real and a lot of people just don't have enough human touch. That is a huge, it's a phenomenal way to reduce stress. Also, very simply is nature exposure. It's free. Go to a park. Go to a park with your family or your friends, have a picnic, be in nature, be in trees, be surrounded by trees. Nature's free if you can find, there's parks everywhere, just like go find a, find some green space, take your shoes off, take your socks off, ground your feet, breathe the fresh air. It's so overlooked.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, thanks. Well, connections come up many times. Let's get into that last chapter. My favorite, connection is the key to longevity, and I'm just going to start with a quote. I adored this and it's, "Even if you ignore everything else I have told you in this book, if you work on this one single biohack, learning to love yourself, everything in your life will get easier." Can we get into connection and that quote?

The Importance of Energy Flow and Connections in Our Lives

Dr. Molly Maloof:

I just got chills because I think about how hard of a journey it was for me to find self-love and how much I was driven by this masochistic achiever attitude for so long. I'm so grateful for just being able to have the privilege to commit my life to personal development and growth and healing because everything that I have written about in this book, I've done myself and worked with clients on, but I really didn't fully understand self-love until I decided that it was something I needed to work on. It was really post-pandemic. I was spending a lot of time with my parents and I realized that I didn't fully understand why I had some insecure attachment patterns. It was like a combination of things that had happened to me in my life post my parents parenting me, and then some of my parental interactions.

I really sat with my mom in particular and asked her about her upbringing and her life and realized that I had this, whoa, there's such intergenerational patterns that were passed down. I was able to really try to heal those. Then I was able to really work on internal family systems with myself and get in touch with all these different parts of me over the course of a couple years. I did some really great somatic therapies with a great somatic therapist, and I was just able to really get into my body in a way that I hadn't felt in a long time, just really being able to fully feel my feelings and not have to suppress them or avoid them and just be present for them. Still a big piece of self-love is not running from your feelings, not avoiding how you feel, not trying to suppress or dissociate, but just being with you like a parent would be with a child. That combination of working on attachment, internal family systems, somatic therapies led to this waking up one day and being like, "Oh my God, I really like who you are. You're great."

It's like, "Wow, you don't need to change anything. You're awesome. You're good," and that was a really big milestone in my life of just being like, "Oh, wow." I still get these tinges of like, "Okay, I need to change that and need, okay, I'm in trouble, or I did something wrong," but it's a lot less so and it's a lot less of that internal voice. I am not hearing that internal voice that's like criticizing my body or criticizing my appearance as much. It's still there sometimes, but it's not nearly as loud as it used to be.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: When I think it's natural there'll be a little bit of ebb and flow, but if we can change or shift our baseline to one where our norm is that love, acceptance of ourselves, and it doesn't mean we're perfect how we are, the journey's always moving, but it's just such a much better story to tell ourselves. I think it sets us up for success everywhere, relationships, work financially in your case practice and working with clients. That's so lovely.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Yeah. Thanks.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Sure. Well, I just want to encourage the audience, if you've enjoyed listening to Dr. Molly today or in the past on our podcast, please check out her new book, The Spark Factor, and Molly, what's the best way for our listeners to follow you?

Dr. Molly Maloof: Well, before we go, I want to plug a couple things. First is, the very last chapter of the book is all about human connection, and my company, Adamo Bioscience is creating a bunch of products and services around the science of love. We've been pioneering the first sex therapy since Masters and Johnson, so we're running our first program in January and if people are interested in signing up. We'd love to have you.

If you are dealing with sexual dysfunction, dealing with wanting to optimize your sex life, wanting to optimize your relationship with your partner. It's something that has changed my life working with these two remarkable sex therapists, Aaron Michael, and Saeta DeSalle, who I think are the next Masters and Johnson. I want people to know that they can and follow me on Instagram My website is, and my book is The Spark Factor, and you can get it on Amazon or my website.

Dr. Gregory Kelly: Well, thanks again, for all your support over the years for all you're doing to pioneer biohacking, especially for women, and for joining us today in Collective Insights.

Dr. Molly Maloof: Thank you.

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