The Gift of Giving

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson on how the philanthropic drive can lead to more vibrant living.

CRISTINA CUOMO: So good to see you. I’ve been adhering to much of your wisdom from your book, as well as your new Vibrant section in Purist, which debuted in our spring 2022 issue. Let’s talk about vibrant giving. Giving has such an incredible impact on not just our community, but on oneself. Let’s go back to the beginning with you. Tell me what “vibrant” means to you?

STACIE J. STEPHENSON: Vibrant encompasses so much for me, but it’s truly a lifestyle and a state of being. I’m so proud of the entire integrative wellness movement in this country. Living authentically is vibrance, from what you do, to what you eat, to how you move. The giving aspect is important, because we’re at our best when we’re helping others.

CC: Human connection is so important to nurturing that vibrancy and feeding our soul. You’re a big giver. A doctor is the most noble profession. You’re engaged 24/7. But you also have created a vibrant community where you’re celebrating different organizations and finding pathways to help others in deeper and more meaningful ways. One of the things you’ve created with your husband is the Gateway Celebrity Fight Night. I know that took place in March.

SS: There’s a rich history of giving in Celebrity Fight Night. It all began with Muhammad Ali and his friends who came together to raise money for Parkinson’s disease 28 years ago. It was like a goofy thing, honestly, where they were goofing around with their friends to raise money. They had no knowledge of philanthropy or organizing; it’s funny to see the old pictures. Fast-forward to now, after Muhammad’s passing six years ago. Fight Night needed a new home. We decided to do some work with the group, and we’d transition it to becoming a part of Gateway for Cancer Research, which currently has 71 clinical cancer trials ongoing. We raised $5 million—not too bad for something fresh out the gate.

CC: You make a great point that gestures of thoughtfulness for others are the best remedies for stress and depression. You are leading the charge on this, and talking about things that people say have no science behind them. Talk a little bit about this research that you’ve done as a longtime doctor, and what you’ve discovered.

SS: It’s a miscommunication that took root decades ago. So for example, let’s say you were seeing a holistic nutritionist for a medical concern or just weight loss. Then you later saw a typical Western doctor, and you told them the nutritionist had given you a detoxifying drink and some essential oils. Western medicine will typically say that we can try all that, but it’s not researched. Here’s the thing: A) It is. B) You have to look under the covers a little bit more, and see that holistic practitioners are utilizing research from the foundations of science. Also remember that there were human beings through the centuries who didn’t have laboratory science, who still made decisions for their health and helped others.

CC: Let’s talk about your book, Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Own Your Health, and Glow. What do you believe are the root causes of things and what are the effects on mental health, and the physical body?

SS: Everything you put in your body is critical. How you move your body is critical. We’re exposed to a lot of fads right now, and it’s hard for people to filter through those. People ask me to tell them about a specific diet or exercise that works best. You have to figure it out on an individual basis. My hope in Vibrant was to give people an easy-to-read bible for taking care of their body, so they can then branch out.

CC: The foundation of one’s personal well-being is this idea of relationships, community, connection and giving to others, because it does fortify you on every level. The personalized nutrition program that you create for people has to be individualized because everyone’s immunity, gut, allergies, are all different. That’s key to what you’ve created with your VibrantDoc program. You probably have a ton of patients asking you “What’s the one thing I should do?” and there’s no one thing. Probably besides drinking tons of water and getting tons of sleep.

SS: Sleep is an elixir, and water is an elixir. It’s human nature to want to get the “right” answer. So I also encourage people to keep working at it, because your health is a process and it shifts throughout your lifetime. It can depend on your exposure, the places you live geographically, things you’ve eaten, how your food is grown. But at the end of the day, people know what the key item is. My personal program has changed—I would call it editing and adjusting.

CC: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A big part of being vibrant is tapping into your inner energy to boost mental acuity, foster mental health and eradicate depression. How can we align our energy so we can begin that?

SS: We think of energy as the capability to get things done and experience aliveness in the body. Each morning, I check in with my energy and I know within moments where I’m modulated, and where I’ve awakened from an energetic perspective. We have these tiny organs within every cell of our body that form an energy called ATP, and that is our gasoline. Then there is the component of energy most studied by neurologists, chiropractic physicians and neurosurgeons. They see energy as the force that moves your muscles, your biological functions, your brain and spinal cord. The third piece is the ethereal, from the Eastern realm of acupuncture, energy medicine, lymphatic medicine. The other part of energetics is the spiritual part of your life. You have to decide where you want to engage spiritually.

CC: You say that “vibrant = energy + glow.” Talk about what glow is.

SS: There were times where I would never wear makeup in the clinic, and it was a really good trick, because I’d want to show people I worked with that you don’t need all of that if you’re healthy. If you’re healthy, you can see it in your skin. It’s a constantly regenerative organ that we all reveal to each other. When your energetics are functioning, and you’re on the right diet, and when you’re hydrated and sleeping well, that’s your glow.

CC: Positivity is essential to vibrant living. You’re deeply rooted in philanthropy and helping others. You must have the most amazing immune system, Dr. Stacie!

SS: It would be so interesting to do a study on the microbiome of physicians. We are exposed to so much! Obviously, we get sick. But I want to say this too: I fell down too, no doubt about it. There are times in my life where I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and paying the price. I haven’t had a severe chronic illness in my adult life, but I know what it’s like to be gaining more weight than I should, falling off my fitness program, all that. Probably the worst health effects for me have been because of bad relationships. That’s when I crashed in my life, from a complete crash in hormones during my divorce over a decade-and-a-half ago. When I tested my hormones during that time, I had nothing. No cortisol, progesterone, my thyroid was down. I looked like an 85-year-old woman! You can’t survive like that. I was still seeing people all day and doing my radio program. People are resilient. But there’s a price. We aren’t designed to be adapting and resilient for long periods of time. We’re exquisitely designed for short-run adaptations.

CC: How do you double down on your wellness when you’re going through something like that?

SS: You do a little bit. Whatever you can. You ask people to help you instead of lifting everything yourself. That was a very hard lesson for me to learn. I’m a doer.

CC: Human connection is more important than ever. Even if you don’t want to hear from people, friends and family and loved ones can be very helpful.

SS: Very helpful. We’re talking about giving, and one of the most beautiful things about giving is when someone gives you a gift without asking you. Let’s say you’re struggling with an illness, and they give you some lovely food for a few days to support your nutrition, and they didn’t ask you what you wanted, they just did it.

CC: What is your formula for success, what’s your physical and nutritional protocol? What’s your triad?

SS: I’m very fruits-and-greens based. I’m gluten and dairy free. I’ve been doing that for about 15 years. A low-inflammatory diet. My fitness go-to is yoga, meditation and light weight-training. I’ve naturally always been a faster. Acupuncture is a huge part of my personal arsenal. I use it for energetic maintenance, boosting chi and clearing energetic channels. I also love far-infrared right now, and massage. vibrantdoc.com