ABOUT COACH JULIE PRAGER

MY HEALTH JOURNEY

Contrary to what you’ve been told, most of your symptoms are not just “part of getting older,” but they do play a part in telling your story. Once you receive a diagnosis or you are experiencing symptoms, you are at the final stage of dysfunction. There is a whole backstory behind what you are experiencing. Creating a timeline or chronicling your story can be a very helpful tool while trying to put the pieces of your health puzzle together. Once balance is restored, your symptoms will diminish or disappear completely. Just imagine feeling like yourself again. It is possible. I’m living proof!

This is my story.

I have been passionate about health, fitness, and wellness for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved playing sports, lifting weights, and building overall fitness. From a young age, I enjoyed team sports, moving my body, and building up a sweat. I felt most alive after a long run, a game of capture the flag, playing soccer, or practicing gymnastics. In fact, my one dream as a kid was to become an Olympic gymnast.

In high school, I was voted most likely to own her own gym. I was the girl at the gym every morning at 5 am to workout before my school, and the girl that would end school to jump into team sports, cheerleading practice, or a gym workout.

I’ve spent most of my life pursuing health – something deep within me has always driven me to a path of health and wellness. At times, that drive has come from seeing what I don’t want to be. Watching unhealthy family members struggle with their health, weight, energy, chronic pain, and a lack of motivation definitely inspired me to find a better way to live.

My journey has not been easy, but I believe hardships can be your best teachers if you are open and willing to learn.

My parents divorced when I was eight years old. My world turned upside down. My mom went back to work, and I became a latchkey child. Coming home to an empty house after school with my younger sister in tow felt lonely. I put on a brave face for my mom, but inside I was scared. This is the first time I remember turning to food for comfort. I’d come home from school and eat cookies because I didn’t know how to deal with feelings of loneliness, overwhelm, and fear. I learned to stuff down my feelings and needs for the greater good of those around me, but inwardly, I suffered.

When I was young, I could get away with eating pizza, cookies, or frozen yogurt topped with candy toppings because I was so active. I quickly learned that if I exercised enough, I could offset the unhealthy food choices I made and control my weight. By college, I had developed an unhealthy relationship with food and struggled with disordered eating. I wanted to break free, but I had unconsciously been using food as a coping mechanism for most of my life. I did not know how to handle my own emotions in a healthy and constructive way.

CHILD
MOTHER

With the birth of my first child, I felt more compelled than ever to figure out how to eat healthy and model good eating habits for my son. I read everything that I could and began to learn how to choose and prepare healthy foods. I breastfed my son, kept him away from sugar, and fed him healthy organic foods. Instinctively, I knew that if I wanted to lead my son to healthy choices that I needed to walk the talk, and I did. The love I felt for him was a motivator that drove me into action.

I chose to leave my job after my first child was born and stayed home with my four children until I divorced when my youngest was one year old. The years spent being pregnant, nursing babies, and raising young children are by far some of my happiest memories, but those years did not come without their challenges. None of my children slept through the night until they were more than two years old, so I was perpetually exhausted. Add in the demands of motherhood, running your own home-based business, homeschooling, struggles in my marriage, and managing my home and other relationships, and my body was overloaded. To say I was stressed would be an understatement, but I love being a mom. Despite my best efforts to eat healthy foods, sleep deprivation often drove me to eat sugary foods, which contributed to more health issues and another added layer of stress to my body.

As a single mom, raising four young children and taking care of everyone’s emotions post divorce while trying to jump back into the workforce and finish up our last year of homeschooling, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. It was a lot to manage, and I was grieving the loss of the dream to provide a loving two parent home for my children.

Nights were especially hard. When the house was quiet and the busyness of the day came to a close, I could no longer run from my own needs and emotions. I struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep even though I was tired. It was hard to relax and let go of the stress that I felt threatened to swallow me whole at times.

Not long after becoming a single mom, I found CrossFit. I fell in love with it and soon started coaching and competing. It gave me a healthy outlet for the stress I was under. It energized me and gave me what I needed to show up in a positive way for my children. As a coach, I enjoyed helping others with their fitness and nutrition goals, and as a competitor wanting to enhance my performance, I put a lot of emphasis on my diet. Despite all of my nutrition knowledge and my best efforts, I struggled with major digestive issues. I was diagnosed with IBS and handed a prescription. I wasn’t interested in a prescription to help me manage my symptoms, I wanted to know why I had these issues. In addition, I was dealing with hormone imbalance, inflammation, fatigue, and thyroid issues. I saw multiple doctors looking for answers but came up empty handed.

In my mid-forties, my competitive CrossFit career came to an end with the need for knee surgery. Little did I know that this would be the first of eight surgeries over a 20-month period.

My body was breaking down, while all my dreams of being a competitor came crashing down around me. Life as a competitor brought me so much fun, happiness, and joy. I was devastated when I could no longer move my body. Wearing braces, slings, and casts and being on crutches or knee scooters became a way of life.

Overexercise – high volume and intensity combined with stress and chronic inflammation was the culprit. My body had spent a lot of time talking to me, but I refused to listen. I had subscribed to the “mind over matter” and the “more is better” mentality both as a long-distance runner and as a CrossFit competitor for far too long. Now, I was forced to listen.

Many rounds of antibiotics from all the surgeries caused my gut issues to worsen. In addition, I began to put on weight and found it almost impossible to lose it. I tried various diets and alternative healing modalities, but nothing worked. My symptoms progressed, and I began to feel less and less like myself.

Then, I started itching. I went to several doctors, but no one had any answers for me. I refused to use the steroid creams the doctor gave me because I knew that extended use could have detrimental consequences. I didn’t want to just reduce my symptoms. I wanted to understand why this was happening and fix the underlying issue. In addition, due to stressful events in my personal life, the anxiety I’ve struggled with off and on since childhood went into overdrive.

I knew I had to do something. My body was a mess; I no longer recognized myself. I wasn’t getting what I needed from the doctors I saw, so I took matters into my own hands. I began reading, researching, and doing anything I could think of to help heal my body naturally. I enrolled in many courses on gut health, leaky gut, diet, SIBO, hormones, nutrition, thyroid, blood chemistry, diet, gut/brain health, the vagus nerve, and I listened to podcasts, and researched supplements looking for answers.

At one point, I was eating 6-9 cups of vegetables each day while my digestive issues went into overdrive, and my sugar cravings went through the roof. My gut issues continued to the point where I was desperate and sought out yet another doctor for answers. A colonoscopy and endoscopy revealed gastritis.

I had chronic shoulder pain that woke me up multiple times a night. I had already endured four shoulder surgeries and was contemplating a fifth. I woke up feeling exhausted and felt like I was running on empty all of the time. For over three months, I stopped cycling and worried I was headed into menopause. My libido disappeared completely, and I felt hopeless and ashamed.

ATHLETE
COACH

I’d been a health coach for years, but my own health was failing. I was very aware that I could not lead my clients where I could not go myself. I felt like a failure. I kept searching for answers, but kept coming up empty. Because I looked healthy and fit on the outside and because I work in the health industry, close friends and family members dismissed me, which caused me to feel even more alone on this journey.

Putting the pieces of my health puzzle together felt like an uphill battle at times – one step forward, two steps back. I was caught in the cycle of trial and error and frustrated with traditional medicine. I was seeing an endocrinologist for my thyroid, a gastroenterologist for my gut issues, an orthopedic for joint pain, and a gynecologist for my hormone issues, but no one was talking to each other. I didn’t want another pill to take to manage my issues. As it was, some of the medications I was given had begun to cause undesirable side effects. I wanted answers and to investigate the root cause of my symptoms.

Compartmentalizing my health care was getting me nowhere. In my opinion, the system is broken. My body systems are constantly communicating to each other internally and impact one another, so why don’t I have a health care provider who takes care of all of me instead of parts of me? I needed someone to truly care about what was causing me to struggle and to be willing to take a look at my whole body and help me uncover long-term lasting solutions.

The Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Certification Course helped me to dig deeper into my own health issues and finally get the answers I’d spent years looking for. I wanted to get to the bottom of my health struggles, heal my body naturally, and put the dark cloud behind me once and for all. Functional lab testing and a natural health building approach is just what I needed to restore my own health and help others do the same.

This road has been tough. There were so many times that I felt like giving up, but God placed a desire in my heart at a young age to aspire to be the best version of myself. I believe that He will use my struggles to help others restore lost function, and build health and wellness, so they can heal their bodies naturally.

I am on a mission to heal my body and to help others do the same.

“Take the First Step in Faith.
You Don’t Have To See the Whole Staircase, Just Take the First Step”

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.