Michelle Tollefson, MD, FACOG, DipABLM, FACLM

Michelle Tollefson, MD, FACOG, DipABLM, FACLM


A women’s health and lifestyle medicine expert, whose expertise is shared through her books, research publications, workshops, speaking engagements, consulting work, and as a professor.
She is on the executive board of the non-profit organization, PAVING the Path to Wellness. Dr. Tollefson co-authored the PAVING the Path to Wellness Workbook with Drs. Beth Frates and Amy Comander as well as PAVING a Woman’s Path through Menopause and Beyond.
All proceeds from the books benefit the non-profit.

In addition to being an ob-gyn, she is board certified through the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine, is a fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and serves on their executive board.

She co-founded the Women’s Health Member Interest Group and is recognized as a pioneer in the field of women’s lifestyle medicine.

In addition to being the mom of three busy kids, Dr. Tollefson is a breast cancer survivor (and thriver) through the power of lifestyle medicine. She enjoys spending time in the blue zone of Costa Rica and excitedly shares her expertise in lifestyle medicine through Educando’s Costa Rican Thriving Through Lifestyle Medicine experiences.
My Story
​I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was a young child (consider including picture I drew of myself as a doctor). Growing up, I ate homecooked meals that my mom made with ingredients from my dad’s garden. I played tennis, tap danced, slept well, and was very healthy. When I went to medical school and then did my obstetrics and gynecology residency, those home cooked meals were replaced by cafeteria food, take-out, and whatever “healthy” option I could find that I didn’t need to cook from scratch. We even had a fast food restaurant in the basement of my residency teaching hospital where I would sometimes go for meals, trying to choose the “healthier” option, alongside my patients pushing their I.V. poles. I just didn’t have time to cook or take care of myself. The only time I exercised was when I was running to an emergency delivery. I was incredibly stressed and sleep deprived working shifts that were often over 24 hours long, and over 80 hour work weeks. I didn’t have time for friendships, and was just surviving my medical training. Also, I don’t remember a single lecture in medical school or residency that focused on nutrition, exercise, stress, or sleep, which was common, until recent changes.
When I graduated from my residency and entered private practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist clinician, I returned home to Colorado, and knew that I wanted to prioritize my health. I began eating a more whole food, plant predominant diet, getting regular exercise, prioritizing sleep (as much as possible with being an obstetrician and a mom of 3 kids), and becoming better at stress management.

I left full-time clinical practice to work at a non-profit clinic doing lifestyle medicine for women, while also becoming faculty at a university where I was able to immerse myself in the lifestyle medicine field. I became guest faculty for the Harvard Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, joined the American College of Lifestyle Medicine when it was very small, and became one of the first physicians trained as a wellness coach. I was healthy once again and wanted to share what I had learned with my patients and my students.

Life was going well, I had 3 amazing children, a wonderful husband, and lived close to the Rocky Mountains and my extended family. I was as healthy as I had ever been. Until in 2019 I received the phone call that nobody wants to receive. Earlier that morning I had a routine screening mammogram that I expected to be completely normal. Just a year earlier, I had a normal 3-D mammogram that was 100% clear, and now I had a 2 centimeter breast cancer mass invading my chest wall that was hiding very deep and directly behind my nipple, where I was unable to feel it. I had no significant family history, no risk factors, no symptoms, and couldn’t even feel this mass despite having done thousands of clinical breast exams as a gynecologist.

I had a bilateral mastectomy, went through 16 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, had my ovaries removed, and have undergone 6 reconstructive surgeries. While going through treatment, I optimized my health through lifestyle medicine, working with a dietitian and eating a whole food, plant predominant diet, exercising many days in my cancer center’s wellness center, getting psychological support for stress and sleep, and benefiting from my amazing social support in my family and close friends.

I am now feel better than ever before. Going through immediate menopause about a decade earlier than I had planned, made me appreciate the menopause symptoms I had frequently discussed with patients as a gynecologist. It also made me realize how little evidence based information on lifestyle medicine for women during the peri-menopause and beyond, was available. This is what led me to write a book on lifestyle medicine for women during menopause and beyond, as well as create a group educational program for women.

I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, prioritizing the lifestyle medicine pillars of nutrition, physical activity, stress management, prioritizing sleep, social connections, and avoiding addictive substances. I no longer take life for granted. I truly view food and exercise as medicine that I need in order to thrive. I still get anxious when I have tumor markers drawn or appointments with my oncologist, but it helps me to know that I am doing everything that I can from a healthy lifestyle perspective, to optimize my health now and for decades to come.

It is my life’s mission to do all that I can to help people live healthier, happier lives. My work with the two non-profit organizations, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine as well as the PAVING the Path to Wellness program, have allowed me to help many others. I’ve written books, done research, teach as a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, speak internationally, give workshops, and do all that I can to share what I have learned through my health journey and research, with others.

​As the PAVING the Path to Wellness tagline states, I want to help people PAVE their Path to Wellness with a healthier body, a more peaceful body, and a more joyful heart, now and for decades to come.