Today I want to share with you five “traps” I commonly see people get stuck in when trying to improve their health. I know these traps so well because of the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with, but also because I’ve found myself stuck in every single one of them before as well.
When I was 18 years old I got really sick. I went from being an active, healthy high school student to someone I barely recognized. I was diagnosed with an auto-inflammatory disorder at the time called Adult Onset Still’s Disease that helped to explain the symptoms of high spiking fevers to 104 (F), extreme fatigue, and widespread inflammation throughout my entire body. (I now know that Chronic Lyme Disease was part of the picture for me as well).
Conventional medicine and doctors helped me so much during these acute autoimmune flare ups that came up every few months and would send me to the hospital. But as I was discharged on high dose steroids and immune modifying drugs and went back to my day to day life, I knew there was more. I had this voice telling me that I needed to look deeper to understand not just what disease I was diagnosed with but why this was happening in my body.
Like many of you reading this, I started down the path of exploring how I could support my body on a daily basis using a more holistic, root-cause approach. I got curious about nutrition, worked to understand how gut health and stress affected my immune system, and eventually began to partner with integrative practitioners who were able to help me get some answers.
Throughout this 15+ year journey I’ve learned a lot. I became a Registered Nurse to help others going through this to get support and find resolution, and when I saw the many ways that those of us with chronic health issues were falling between the cracks in our conventional system I studied Functional Nutrition and started my own practice to serve people in the way that’s needed. The way that I wish I had been supported myself.
In this time I’ve been able to witness amazing transformations in people who started out feeling confused, fatigued, in pain and hopeless to people who are empowered, tuned into their body, confident and excited about the life ahead of them.
Starting down the path of holistic health and self-discovery can be daunting at first. We want to do everything we can to support our bodies on a daily basis but where do we start? What’s right for me vs. someone I read about on social media? How do I know which information to trust?
Clients often come to me feeling really overwhelmed about all of the conflicting health advice out there. They feel frustrated and like they’ve jumped around from intervention to intervention with only minimal success. They feel confused about what step to take next and feel like nothing has worked for them despite big efforts. Many begin to feel like supporting their health has come to feel like a full-time job and the pressure of putting the puzzle together all on their own begins to mount.
Over the last nine years working in healthcare I’ve seen time and again places where people tend to get stuck when embarking on any healing journey. There are five “traps” I commonly see people get stuck in (sometimes for years!) keeping them from where they want to go. By shedding light on these five common traps, my hope is that you’ll know what to look out for and avoid getting stuck!
1. Information overload
We have a plethora of information available these days about how we can support our body using things like nutrition and lifestyle shifts. Information is power and it’s amazing to feel like we can take some control ourselves! But the flip side of this readily available information is that there’s so much of it, and a lot of times it can be conflicting depending on what source you’re reading.
When we are constantly receiving and taking in information we can get ourselves into a state of information overload where we feel overwhelmed and confused.
The antidote to information overload (or the information trap) is to make sure that you are not just consuming information all the time but are also taking the right action. And I totally get it — we want to consume information because we want to learn and do everything we can to feel better. It’s wonderful to learn all of these empowering things about our health! In order to get results and figure out what works for our own unique bodies, however, it’s important to make sure that we are also putting things we’re learning into action and assessing how things affect us.
If you feel like you are constantly taking in information and don’t have a clear sense of what actually works for your body, a conscious break from consuming information and focusing more inwards on what information, cues, signals and insight your own body is giving you is a great idea.
I love using Food and Symptom Journaling as a tool for this (download my guide here), or simply checking in with yourself a few times a day to ask the questions:
- How am I feeling?
- What do I need?
- Am I able to give myself that?
These simple questions have the ability to connect us to our bodies and strengthen the muscle of self-awareness that’s needed for true healing to occur.
2. Focusing on food as the sole pillar of health
Food is information. Food is fuel. Food has the undeniable power to support our bodies, but when it comes to healing, food is not everything. What often happens when we start to delve into a healing journey is we start with food as the main pillar of health.
If we continue to only focus on food as the single pillar of health, then when our life and health don’t improve as we want them to, we feel like the only option is to restrict more and more foods.
We may then wind up feeling like we only have five foods that we can eat without having symptoms! Focusing on food as the sole pillar of health can sometimes bring us to a place that feels really frustrating and restrictive and strains our relationship with food and nourishment.
Food is a very important pillar of health, but it is not the only one. Take a quick inventory and see if you feel stuck in that place. If you do, try “zooming out” a little bit and looking at all of the other pieces of nourishment in our lives and things that determine our health such as stress, sleep, our relationships, our mindset and our beliefs about ourselves and our health to name a few.
3. Ignoring digestive health
We’ve all heard the saying that we are what we eat, but really we are what our bodies can do with what we eat. So, really, we are what we digest, assimilate, and absorb.
Like I described earlier, food is typically the first entry point into healing and takes a lot of focus for a good reason. You might be eating a beautiful diet, but finding that digestion is off, you’re not breaking down and absorbing food or you’re still having a lot of other downstream health issues despite eating well for your body.
In addition to what you’re eating, it’s also important to consider how your body breaking down and absorbing that food. That has a lot to do with just the health of the digestive tract and the digestive tract is so important because it’s where food meets our physiology.
I talk a lot about digestive health because it’s so key to overall health and any healing journey. I have an online program I created specifically for people getting stuck in this trap because I see it so often. The Love Your Gut Program is a self-paced online program that really helps you move through this and understand not just what you’re eating, but how is your body using that fuel and how can you support a healthy digestive system from top to bottom!
If you feel like you’re eating really well but you’re still feeling stuck, make sure you’re also tuning into your digestion and how your body is utilizing that fuel.
4. Skipping over the foundational elements of health
The fourth trap that keeps many of us stuck is not spending enough time in foundational areas of health before moving on. We tend to look towards “higher-level” interventions which might be things like herbs, supplements, or protocols to treat a virus or an infection. The trap I see people fall into is trying some of these higher-level interventions without feeling like they’ve really got a strong foundation or baseline.
Make sure you check in on some of those foundational elements. What’s your stress like on a daily basis? Are you going to the bathroom regularly? Are you sleeping regularly? Do you have afternoon energy crashes? And do you feel like the foods you’re consuming work for you on a daily basis? Are they being broken down and absorbed well into your body?
You have probably done so much good work in those areas and learned a lot about yourself, but these are things that we will have to continue to tend to throughout our entire life. Sometimes you might spend more energy on one than another, but these foundational pieces of health are never pieces we’re completely done with. Remember to keep asking yourself some of the basic foundational questions and building physiological resilience before skipping over them and considering higher-level interventions.
If this feels challenging or confusing to you I highly recommend working with a coach to help guide you in creating a life, a day, a schedule that allows for healing to occur!
5. Jumping around between different protocols
The fifth and final trap that I see a lot of people get stuck in is jumping around from different protocol to different protocol. And again, I’ve done this one myself too! You might try something like a gluten-free diet, and while it helps with your digestion, you still have joint pain. So you think, “Okay, well someone told me about Keto, I’m going to try a Keto diet!” And then that might make you feel a little bit better in your body, but it doesn’t feel sustainable. So then you might try an Autoimmune Paleo Diet or GAPS or any other number of protocols looking for the one to resolve all of your issues.
Have you ever felt like this? I find that this is a really frustrating place to be! You’re always switching gears. You feel like nothing’s working. It seems like you’re trying everything and you feel like you’re just throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick.
To avoid and move out of this trap it’s helpful to instead ask yourself about any intervention or protocol, “What did this tell me about my specific body? What did I learn in this experiment?” Ask yourself what you’ve learned and how you can use that information to move forward from a more informed and empowered place rather than jumping to another protocol or strict template.
The foundation of everything is tuning into your body and learning from the information you gather from it along the way. I want to tell you that no matter where you are at and how many times you’ve gotten stuck, it is possible to be healthy, to have energy, to feel good in your body, and be able to do the things you want to do!
I hope this helps you get clarity around what to look out for along the way to avoid these common traps and start putting the pieces together for sustainable and vibrant health!