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Why Everything Matters When It Comes to Improving Your Health

By Katie Grumbir, Registered Dietitian and Wellness Advisor at WellWay

“You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”

You have probably heard that phrase before and probably joined WellWay in hopes of having a place to exercise. We believe exercise is important. While we didn’t coin the phrase above, we also believe that to really move the needle with your health goals, everything should be taken into consideration. Things like your environment, mental stress, sleep, recovery habits, nutrition and nutrient deficiencies, internal inflammation, gut health, and more can all help fuel or stall your progress.

For most people, they are exercising a few hours per week (research does suggest that we would be moving intentionally at a moderate to high intensity 2-2.5 hours per week). So, if that’s the case, we are “exercising” <2% of the hours of an entire week. Which doesn’t mean that time doesn’t matter, it does, a lot! But it also means if you ignore or aren’t intentional with the remaining time during your week, you can easily undermine your workouts and actually move away from your goals, not towards them.

To help understand why, let’s start by understanding a science-y term called allostatic load, or the cumulative amount of stress from six areas of your life:

  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Electromagnetic
  • Nutrition
  • Mental
  • Thermal
Physical stressors:

– Daily movement
– Workouts
– Injuries
– Overuse of movements or muscles

Chemical stress:

– Drugs and medication
– Fumes and fragrances
– Food additives
– Cleaning supplies


– Overhead lights
– Screens
– Microwaves
– Bluetooth headphones
– Wi-Fi


– Over/undereating
– Processed foods
– Nutrient deficiencies
– Excess sugar
– Low fruit and vegetable intake


– Overcommitments
– Not having a sense of control
– Strained relationships
– Experiencing loss


– Anything that challenges your body to regulate its temperature (cold showers, saunas, hot tubs, etc.)

Perceived mental stress doesn’t always match up with how stressed out your body is.


As a Wellness Advisor, when I approach the topic of stress management, I often hear, “Oh I’m not stressed at all, I think I’m doing fine with it.” The reality is, stress can present itself in many different ways. Here are some common symptoms that indicate your body may be stressed:

  • Pain and muscle tension
  • Poor exercise recovery
  • Decreased strength
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes and heart disease
  • Weight gain
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • High cholesterol

The dose determines the effect.

The symptoms above can be caused by too much stress (that’s most people) but can also be caused by not ENOUGH stress. For example, someone could have blood sugar dysregulation because they are eating too much food in each sitting (stress overload), but blood sugar dysregulation could also happen in someone who is eating really healthily, but not moving enough (not enough stress)! Anything can be good for us or lead us to disease – it all depends on the dose.

Being in balance is key to being able to reach your goals. To start, you need to truly evaluate four key areas of your health:

  • Lifestyle and Recovery: If you exercise 1 hour per day, what you do during the other 23 hours matters.
  • Nutrition and Supplementation: What you fuel your body with matters.
  • Exercise and Movement: How you move your body matters.
  • Referrals and Lab Testing: Acute problems that need to be addressed and assessing what is going on inside your body matters.

We will break down all 4 key areas of health and also look at how each one might impact 2 common example goals:

Body Comp Beth:
Beth wants to work on losing weight, specifically her body fat percentage. She is a 36 year old married mother of 2 boys. She is a secretary for a dentist’s office, which leaves little room for daily movement. After her kids’ activities in the evenings, she doesn’t have much time for herself so she often watches TV until midnight as a form of self care. She feels like she has a lot of stress and carries that tension in her neck and back, leading to headaches. She doesn’t have much time to eat throughout the day, and tends to overeat in the evenings. Due to sugar cravings, she typically has a bowl of ice cream before bed. She makes it to the gym 2 times per week and typically uses the elliptical machine for 45 minutes.

More Energy Eric wants to increase his energy:
Eric feels tired throughout the day and wants to work on increasing his energy. He is single and works in account management, requiring frequent travel to offsite locations. Since he is in his car so much, he uses air fresheners because he enjoys the smell. He typically goes to bed around 1:00 a.m. To help with his energy levels, he drinks soda throughout the day. He goes to the gym every morning before work at 6:00 a.m. and lifts for 45 minutes. He heads right to work after and doesn’t have extra time to stretch. He typically gets lunch at a fast food restaurant while he’s traveling to different job sites.

Lifestyle and Recovery

If you exercise 1 hour per day, what you do during the other 23 hours matters.

This includes things like:

  • Relationships
  • Hobbies
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Stress management
  • Restorative practices
  • Work life balance
  • Exercise recovery
  • Chemical exposure

Let’s take a look at how Lifestyle and Recovery habits might impact the goals of Body Comp Beth and More Energy Eric.

Body Comp Beth:

  • Poorly managed stress can lead to blood sugar imbalances. When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol, which leads to an increase in blood sugar. Insulin is then released to bring blood sugar back down. When insulin is present, fat burning is shut off and fat storage is turned on. If we’re constantly stressed, this rollercoaster is happening throughout the day, making it very challenging to burn body fat.
  • Without the right community and support system, accountability to goals is challenging.
  • Disrupted sleep can lead to an increase in our hunger hormone (ghrelin) and decrease in the hormone that tells us we’re full (leptin). This can lead to inappropriate hunger cues and overeating. It also contributes to disruptions with our cortisol levels.

More Energy Eric:

  • Poor sleep hygiene leads to daily fatigue. This might look like going to bed too late, frequent waking or poor sleep quality due to underlying stress or physiological factors.
  • Chronic exposure to environmental toxins can burden the adrenal glands, leading to fatigue.
  • Lack of adequate recovery, stress management and restorative practices can lead to chronic fatigue.

Now that we’ve looked at how lack of focus on good Lifestyle and Recovery habits can negatively impact their goals, let’s go over some ways that Body Comp Beth and More Energy Eric can use Lifestyle and Recovery to help them reduce stress and get them closer to their goals:

  • Time management + list making
  • Improve sleep hygiene
  • Schedule downtime
  • Journaling
  • Restorative services (dry float therapy, massage, Normatec compression therapy)
  • Yoga
  • Removing common sources of toxin exposure (personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies)
  • Participate in a hobby or source of fun
  • Seek relationships that fill your cup and help support your goals

Nutrition and Supplementation

“You can’t out-exercise a bad diet” – what you fuel your body with matters.

Common areas to assess and address with nutrition and supplementation include:

  • Energy balance: both undereating and overeating are stressful
  • Macronutrient balance: finding the right amount of calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates for your unique needs
  • Meal timing: determining the right times to eat based on your lifestyle and goals
  • Food quality: eating whole foods that are minimally processed and avoiding food additives, hormones, antibiotics, dyes and sugar
  • Micronutrients: making sure your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals through whole foods and supplementation
  • Eating awareness: being mindful of hunger cues, portion size and food choices

Let’s take a look at how lack of focus on Nutrition and Supplementation can impact Body Comp Beth’s goal of reducing her body fat:

  • Improper macronutrient distribution (too many carbs and not enough protein, for example) can lead to imbalances in blood sugar, increasing fat storage
  • Over/under eating is stressful – eating too many calories can contribute to an increase in body fat, and not eating enough calories is stressful, also potentially leading to an increase in body fat
  • Improper supplementation can lead to micronutrient deficiencies: micronutrients are important for driving metabolism
  • Poor food quality and too much sugar can trigger systemic inflammation, making it harder to lower body fat

Let’s switch gears and look at how Nutrition and Supplementation can impact More Energy Eric’s goal of increasing his energy:

  • Nutrient deficiencies due to poor food quality and lack of supplementation can lead to low energy levels
  • Dehydration can lead to feeling fatigued
  • Inappropriate macronutrient distribution (too many carbohydrates, not enough protein, healthy fats and fiber), contributes to a blood sugar rollercoaster throughout the day, leaving him tired and sluggish

Here are some ways that Body Comp Beth and More Energy Eric can use Nutrition and Supplementation to help them reduce stress and get them closer to their goals:

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Take needed supplements
  • Reduce processed foods
  • Limit sugar
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat more omega-3 fats and less omega-6 fats
  • Be mindful of food sensitivities
  • Eating awareness – focus on portion size, meal timing and food choices
  • Balance macronutrients

Exercise and Movement

“Work smarter, not harder” – how you move your body matters.

Common areas to assess and address with exercise and movement include:

  • Daily movement outside of exercise
  • Strength training
  • Cardio
  • Yoga
  • Manual labor jobs
  • Stretching

By now you probably know the drill, but let’s take a look at how lack of focus on exercise and movement might negatively impact Body Comp Beth’s goal of reducing body fat:

  • Overtraining an overstressed body can lead to further stress and injury, leading to high cortisol levels and preventing fat loss – remember that the dose determines the effect
  • Inactivity throughout the day can lead to fat gain, even if you’re exercising an hour per day
  • The wrong exercise prescription can inhibit fat loss (example: too much cardio and not enough strength training). What you do for exercise should be customized based on your individual goals and needs.

More Energy Eric might also be negatively impacted by stress from Exercise and Movement:

  • A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to low energy levels
  • Overtraining can lead to chronic fatigue
  • Low levels of exercise and physical activity can can impact sleep quality

More Energy Eric and Body Comp Beth may want to consider some of the following options to reduce stressors through Exercise and Movement:

  • Aim for 10,000 steps per day
  • Train smarter, not harder (train based on your goals and doing the right amount for what your body can handle to get the maximum benefit)
  • Incorporate rest days
  • Therapeutic drills (consider working with an Exercise and Movement Specialist for support)
  • Incorporate variety
  • Don’t push through pain

Referrals and Lab Testing

“Test, don’t guess” – what’s going on inside of your body matters.

Common stressors within our body that we may not feel or see but can impact our goals include:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Altered gut bacteria
  • Low digestive enzymes
  • Disrupted blood sugar
  • Suboptimal organ function
  • Inflammation

Let’s take a look at how some of these things might be inhibiting fat loss for Body Comp Beth:

  • Hormone imbalances can make it harder to lose body fat. They can even contribute to gaining body fat.
  • A disruption in the gut microbiome can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Blood sugar imbalances can turn on fat storage and shut off fat burning.

Here are some considerations of things that could be happening inside of More Energy Eric that are impacting his energy levels:

  • Elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress can be leading to fatigue
  • Hormone imbalances can contribute to low energy levels
  • Altered gut health can lead to nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and fatigue

We can use Referrals and Lab Testing as a tool in our tool box to help achieve our goals more efficiently and effectively through some of the following tips:

  • GI MAP testing to address gut health and dysbiosis
  • Comprehensive wellness panels to assess diabetes risk and heart health markers
  • Identify any hormone imbalances (thyroid, sex hormones, cortisol)
  • Assess organ function
  • Identify nutrient deficiencies


Exercise is important, but everything that we do outside of exercise also matters. Recognize that stressors may be coming from many different areas, impacting your ability to achieve your goals. Consider which symptoms of stress you may be experiencing that aren’t associated with your mental perception of stress.
Let’s take a look at Body Comp Beth and More Energy Eric one more time, with some ideas on how they can address all areas of their health to help them achieve their goals:

Beth’s Goal: Reduce body fat

  • Nutrition + Supplementation: Eat a palm sized portion of protein at every meal
  • Exercise + Movement: Aim for 10,000 steps every day
  • Referrals + Lab Testing: Assess thyroid and sex hormones through lab testing
  • Lifestyle + Recovery: Get a massage once per week

Eric’s Goal: Increase Energy

  • Lifestyle + Recovery: Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. every night
  • Nutrition + Supplementation: Take my multivitamin every day
  • Referrals + Lab Testing: Assess blood sugar, insulin and A1c through blood testing
  • Exercise + Movement: Incorporate yoga once per week

Our hope is that the above information will help you look at your goals in a different light, and maybe find some “outside of the box” opportunities that will help you achieve your goals.

  1. Start small. Pick up to 2 outcome goals to start with. How does your health look different this time next year?
  2. Make a plan. Assess all 4 areas of health and identify which areas might make the biggest impact. Based on that, create 2-3 SMART goals you can take action on.
  3. Identify how you will measure and track your progress. (Our blog on Goal Setting is a great place to start!)
  4. Identify your support system

Friends or Family

Restorative Practices
(Dry float therapy, Normatec Compression therapy, Massage therapy, Yoga classes)

Complimentary Custom Health Plan Appointments
Our team at WellWay can help you identify where to start and offer custom support.
Includes an Initial Health Assessment, Personal Training Session and a 60-minute meeting with a Wellness Advisor, who will create and share your Custom Health Plan with you.

Other Services
(Personal training, Concierge Wellness, Health and Nutrition coaching sessions, Lab Testing, Integrative Medical Consultations)