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11 Most Important Health Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

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Read the most important health lessons I’ve learned as someone who has been overweight, depressed, and anxious while also being a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

bodyweight squats for the glutes

Are you like me and love to peek behind the curtain in other people’s lives?

When it comes to health and fitness, I have always been interested in learning about how other people are having success.

I want to know what they struggled with and how they overcame it so that I can take their advice and try it on myself!

It may sound a bit nosey, but we can all learn something from others.

The truth is that we all struggle with something from time to time, and it is just so dang relatable to know that others are going through the same sorts of issues.

For me, one of those issues has been the inability to lose the “last 20 pounds” of baby weight from my kids.

(The youngest of which is 6 now!)

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I’ve also struggled with anxiety, depression, estrogen dominance, and liver inflammation in the last few years, making my overall health status less than ideal.

But I’m not making excuses about that – I unknowingly and knowingly did all of that to myself.

You live and you learn, right?

I got the idea for this article after my most recent deep dive into nutrition research.

I found myself wanting to compile everything I’ve learned about health so that I can pass it on to my daughter when she gets older.

But I realized that as nice as it would be to have it all written down in one place, it’s my duty to show her what I’ve learned through my actions first.

However, I wanted to share the most important health lessons I’ve learned so far because I feel that they are really important for everyone.

It’s a bit along the lines of the post I shared about the top fitness lessons I’ve learned since becoming a personal trainer, however, this is geared more toward general health and nutrition rather than exercise.

I share these with you after struggling to lose weight after having kids and continuing to struggle even after becoming a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

For about six years now, I have struggled to understand why I couldn’t lose weight even though I exercise regularly, eat healthier than most people I know, and don’t drink alcohol.

11 Most Important Health Lessons I've Learned So Far

In fact, (and I love to tell people this), I actually became a personal trainer and nutrition coach because I wanted to learn more about food & fitness and learn how to help myself.

It all started when I was struggling with severe postpartum depression when I realized that exercise was the ONLY natural thing that kept my depression and anxiety at bay.

Psst! I recently created an online nutrition course jam-packed with information on food mindset, exercise science, and nutrition education so that I could pass that knowledge on to you. Check it out!

(Trust me, I had tried antidepressants.)

Plus, now that I know that exercise has been scientifically proven to be an effective antidepressant and that what you eat is also linked to anxiety and depression, I find that what I have to say here is super important to share.

I originally wanted to share all of my nutrition and fitness tips with moms so that I could help them through postpartum naturally, but this feels much bigger than that.

(This blog started as my postpartum fitness journal!)

What I’ve learned and what I’m about to share with you is deeper, maybe a bit controversial, but VERY important if you’re serious about navigating all of the modern health concerns most of us are facing.

I’m going to share things that I’ve learned with you only after years and years of intentional, purposeful research (I’m a total nerd for nutrition and exercise science) and I hope that they wake you up.

If you’ve come here looking for some cushy, superficial, surface-level information, this is NOT it.

Additionally, if you’re here looking for something that you can blame your health problems on rather than taking responsibility for them, I am NOT the personal trainer & nutrition coach you want to get your advice from.

Sure, the Standard American Diet (SAD) and some life circumstances are partially to blame, but it is ultimately your choice to remain ignorant or seek out information to empower yourself.

It is truly, truly up to YOU to change your life, learn the truth, and decide to make a change.

Your health is a culmination of thousands of tiny decisions, and those, my friend, cannot be made by anyone else.

So.

If you’re here for a no-nonsense wake-up call, welcome to the blog. 🙂

Okay – enough small talk.

Let’s get to the most important lessons I’ve learned so far in my 33 years on the struggle bus.

Read the most important health lessons I've learned as someone who has been overweight, depressed, and anxious while also being a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

11 Most Important Health Lessons I’ve Learned So Far

1. Stop Making It Superficial

This will be a hard concept to understand if you’re a young adult, but it makes more and more sense the older you get.

Your health isn’t just about your looks. It’s not just about weight, either.

If you are still trying to look a certain way to appeal to other people (or for other superficial reasons), you’re doing it wrong.

And in some cases, trying to get fit and healthy for the wrong reasons will backfire. I know it did for me.

If you’re still trying to lose weight before the next holiday because you’re worried about what other people are thinking, you’re doing it wrong.

Once you begin to appreciate being healthy so that you can feel good, have energy, and improve longevity, you’ll be successful.

(Don’t worry, the older you get, the easier this is!)

2. Always Do Your Own Research

The internet is the Wild West when it comes to health information.

Even trusted resources should be checked and verified.

It’s really important that you come to your own conclusions and *continuously* do your own research when it comes to nutrition and fitness advice.

I’m not afraid to admit that my feelings about certain foods and fitness concepts have changed over the years.

I used to think that eating a whole bunch of grains was okay and that high-intensity interval training was the BEST for weight loss.

Now that I’ve experienced things like hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue, I know better.

After my bout with liver inflammation and insulin resistance, I know better than to believe all of the “traditional” and mainstream information.

Hint: The truth is that the Standard American Diet, no matter how widely accepted, is not your friend for true health.

Again, do your own research to empower yourself and make the right choices for you.

3. Quit Putting a Deadline on Your Health

Here’s another thing you will learn more and more as you get older.

It’s time to quit trying to lose 30 pounds in 30 days.

Living a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing (like, forever) effort that will require intention.

It requires thousands upon thousands of tiny decisions over and over.

Health is not the result of a few good decisions here and there – it’s the culmination of YEARS of good decisions.

And guess what?

It takes practice.

People don’t like it when I tell them this, but it took me about five years to get into the habit of exercising regularly without a huge mental battle first.

It took me years of effort to drink enough water daily.

And it has taken years and years of practice to be able to say “no” to sweet treats and overeating.

And yes, it has taken me years and years of effort and learning how to cook so that I might eat my vegetables on a regular basis.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you do lose a bunch of weight in a month.

You wouldn’t want to gain it back after that, would you?

To keep it off, you’re going to have to keep going.

So quit throwing in the towel every time you don’t meet your short-term health goals!

4. Gluten & Processed Foods Are Against You

You will have to fight me on this if you haven’t done your own research.

But I have been led to believe (after many, many years of nutrition research and education) that grains and processed foods are the absolute worst.

This is after a personal training certification and a nutrition coaching certification, plus hours on end of continuing education and research for personal gain.

The regulatory bodies in the United States are NOT going to tell you this, and the food and pharmaceutical companies will certainly not either.

When I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my body and why I couldn’t lose weight (after about ten years of this), I concluded that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the problem.

It’s partially because our portion sizes are too large, but it’s also because of our processes and the chemicals added to our food.

I have developed a deep-seated belief that if it didn’t exist 150 years ago, it’s probably not good for you.

The result is sort of a Paleo-to-Mediterranean approach to eating.

Although I am not perfect (bread is so good!), I believe that humans are primarily meant to eat meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and perhaps some dairy.

When you understand that fat is a fuel source and that protein and fat are essential to health and survival, you will see that carbohydrates become problematic.

Of course, they can be a fuel source, too, but they are consumed in far too great of quantities.

My personal distrust of traditional doctors, government agencies, and corporations aside, I truly believe that this is what is causing America to be so unhealthy.

I may seem like a conspiracy theorist, but the real conspiracy is the idea that chemicals in a box are “real” food!

Think about it – there are TONS of documentaries and studies about how much healthier people are in undeveloped countries.

(Go watch the Blue Zones documentary on Netflix!)

That’s because they are mostly still eating simple, whole foods.

I highly recommend this science-packed read about primal eating – it’s truly eye-opening!

5. Any Movement is Better Than No Movement

The older I get, the more I appreciate this idea.

At the end of the day, moving for a little bit is better than nothing.

Going for a walk might not exercise your lungs, heart, or legs in the same way that a run might, but it still burns calories, lowers cortisol levels, and uses those muscles!

Even if you are only adding 10 minutes of walking to your day, that little habit will add up over time.

Quit thinking that you must stress out your body daily with high-intensity workouts or heavy lifting to get some of the health benefits of movement.

Your body will be happy to pull some weeds in the garden, take a walk around the block, or do a little kitchen dance party.

In fact, I recommend starting small like this to avoid injury, strengthen, and practice the habit of movement before you jump into more serious workout plans.

6. Calories In, Calories Out

Don’t hate me, but calories do matter when you’re eating the wrong foods.

Yep, you read that right.

If you were eating all of the right things (more protein, veggies, healthy fats, etc.) and NOT eating all of the sugar and carbs, the weight would come right off as your hormones balance out and your body gets what it needs.

However, if you’re going to continue on the Standard American Diet while trying to lose weight, you’ll need to mind your calories.

Here’s the truth: Food is energy.

If you consume more energy than your body expends daily, your body has no choice but to store that energy.

That’s when you pack on fat stores.

SO.

Mind your calories if you aren’t willing to overhaul your diet.

It’s my personal experience (every time) I take a mostly Paleo approach to eating, I am able to start losing weight without counting calories at all.

I should add that I don’t believe that we humans should have to count calories, but they do matter in the context of typical American lifestyles.

When it comes to my clients, I usually recommend that they count their calories for a week or two initially just for accountability.

You can learn a lot about nutrition when you count calories, and this info is helpful forever.

(You get to learn, and hopefully remember, how much energy, fat, protein, and carbs are in your foods!)

Many people have the sad realization that they are overeating by a LOT and also realize that they are eating a carb-loaded diet.

Here’s a good read about how to count calories properly and here’s a read about macros (that’s fat, protein, and carbs).

7. Hormones Are Everything

This is something that you may not have any clue about, and that’s okay – I didn’t either.

But if you are a female and have passed your early twenties, you may want to listen up.

It is entirely possible that your hormones are out of whack and that they are what’s keeping you from losing weight.

However, it’s usually your own doing.

Yep, our hormones get out of sorts when we do the wrong things for long periods of time.

Things like not getting enough sleep, not exercising, eating too much sugar, drinking alcohol, and not getting enough healthy fats, fiber, and protein can send your hormones into a tizzy.

When I was fed up with the fact that I had been exercising and dieting for YEARS without results, I took a deep dive into the world of hormones.

With the help of extensive bloodwork and a functional medicine practitioner, I learned that I was NOT set up for success hormonally.

(I was losing hair, getting acne, rashes and painful periods, struggling to lose weight, feeling weak, and a number of other things.)

Perioral Dermatitis: What Finally Worked for Me

I highly recommend that you get your hormones checked every now and then, and then make changes accordingly.

Estrogen dominance is one I especially want to highlight, as it’s a dangerous phenomenon.

Here are a few things I’ve written about my personal hormone journey:

8. Baby Your Liver

Much like hormonal health, liver health is another overlooked aspect of health.

In fact, your liver health is directly tied to your hormones.

(Why don’t they teach us this stuff in school!?)

That’s because your liver is responsible for detoxification and removal of excess or “bad” hormones.

So, if your liver isn’t healthy, then you can expect your hormones to be off, too.

In my personal case, I found out that I had liver inflammation at the same time that I realized I had estrogen dominance.

This makes so much sense because if the liver isn’t working well, it can’t effectively escort excess estrogen out of the body.

(The same is true of other hormones, I just personally had too much estrogen.)

Since estrogen dominance can cause weight gain and a whole bunch of other issues, it makes total sense that you would want to support your liver if you also want to lose weight and balance your hormones.

So – no more alcohol. (Sorry)

Also, be sure to understand which foods to eat to support your hormones and your liver, too.

Here’s an article I wrote about liver health and what to eat for detoxication.

(And I know it works because after eating these foods and taking the supplements recommended, my liver enzymes went back to a normal range!)

9. Grow It, Cook It, Do It Yourself

I have always been obsessed with backyard gardening and the idea of homesteading, but in the past few years, I have been led to believe that it’s actually the key to health.

People don’t think that our food is as tainted as it really is.

Once you understand how flawed our food system is, you’ll understand why I will always advocate for local, fresh, and homemade food.

If you can buy from local farmers, grow it yourself, and make it at home, you will be much healthier.

It may take time (years, even) to build these skills and habits, but I promise that not only will it make you healthier, but it will be more fulfilling, too.

10. Don’t Overthink It

You can easily get lost in the world of tips and tricks and trends and fads.

Especially with so much information out there.

At the end of the day, don’t overthink it.

If you lost weight and felt good while doing something, chances are that it will work again.

Some of the tried-and-true health concepts (like eating more veggies) are always going to be important.

It’s complicated, I know.

But it’s also simple.

Eat more fruit, veggies, and protein.

Eat less sugar and refined carbs.

Move more, stress less.

Quit buying into the gimmicks and fads.

That’s it.

11. Stop Making Excuses

Would I even be a personal trainer if I didn’t leave you with some tough love?

I know that things like food addiction, depression, and LIFE make it a struggle to be healthy sometimes.

(Trust me, I have been battling these things for years.)

But at some point, you have to draw a line and quit telling yourself that it’s something else’s fault.

Ultimately, what we value will speak for itself – whether we want it to or not.

If we find ourselves in a place of unhealth, that means we don’t value our health enough to change it.

Sorry, not sorry.

Ultimately, you must prioritize your health over and over again to get where you want to be.

Your body will always reflect your choices.

It’s up to you to stop making excuses and take ownership of those decisions.

Daily. Hourly, even.

Forever.

That’s it!

I hope these health lessons help you somewhere on your journey.

Until next time,

Chantal from Ironwild Fitness

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