Women In Wellness: Alexa Schirm Of The Living Well On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Women In Wellness: Alexa Schirm Of The Living Well On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

Health has traditionally been an external pursuit, leaving you to believe you don’t have what you need. That’s the point of the chase. To find a system or plan that will give you everything you need because you don’t believe you have what you need. Of course, you need external things, like food nourishment, sunlight, and human connection. But those are intended to support the processes at work inside your body, not create health.

Today, more than ever, wellness is at the forefront of societal discussions. From mental health to physical well-being, women are making significant strides in bringing about change, introducing innovative solutions, and setting new standards. Despite facing unique challenges, they break barriers, inspire communities, and are reshaping the very definition of health and wellness. In this series called women in wellness we are talking to women doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, fitness trainers, researchers, health experts, coaches, and other wellness professionals to share their stories and insights. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Schirm.

ALEXA SCHIRM has broken barriers in the nutrition field for over 12 years. She is devoted to the message bringing back into balance what has become so extreme — combing physiology with psychology to create a holistic view of health that lasts a lifetime. Alexa is the founder of the online site The Living Well and host of the award-winning Podcast, Made For Living Well which has been featured as an iTunes top 100 health podcasts.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Ifeel like I have been on the craziest rollercoaster of health. The same one many people find themselves stuck on, doing everything right only to end up more unhealthy. But I didn’t start here.

I got into the health space to save the world from it.

Growing up in the 90s, I was no stranger to the dieting world. It felt like someone was attempting the latest diet fad everywhere you turned. Whether that was the cabbage soup diet or another one of the popular extreme lifestyles promoting quick weight loss, I had watched countless women I loved, including my mom, give everything they had to a system that never seemed to give back.

As I watched them guzzle endless amounts of water and mix powdered peanut butter they would smear on rice cakes, I realized they weren’t achieving their goals. The weight wasn’t budging. No amount of restriction seemed to work. And I wanted to know why.

I had questions. Big questions I wanted answered. Like why weight loss felt so hard. Why it rarely worked. Most importantly, what would it take to change? All of these questions led me to an education founded on nutrition.

I may have left with a four-year degree, but I felt almost as confused as I went in. I had certainly learned more about the body, but things didn’t add up. What I had learned about physiology didn’t correlate with the remedies to fix it.

That left me starting my career on shaky ground. I felt I had no option but to give people what they wanted because I wasn’t sure what they needed. I don’t know if I believed it as much as I had hoped that chasing a destination of health would bring me the answers the world wanted.

But nothing came.

Nothing seemed to work.

In fact, I crashed and burned. After years of chasing, trying, attempting, and following what the health space had told me would work, I got sick. It felt like it happened overnight, although now I know it was years of nutritional neglect that led me to this place. The place of living stuck in bed and gaining weight at an alarming rate.

I gained almost 30 pounds in a month, shifting my persona from a slim nutritionist to a sick one. I had become a hypocrite, leaving me with no other option but to quit health altogether.

After eight years of working in the health space, I quit my practice and my health.

Ironically, on the day I quit health, I found it. It didn’t happen instantly, but my view of life shifted just enough that day, opening up a new landscape that allowed me to see myself. Not for what I thought I needed to be but for who I was.

Something powerful happens when we acknowledge ourselves and how we feel without ignoring it for another gain or shoving it down at the bottom of a chip bag. The switch flipped, and I realized the life of chasing health is actually a distraction to living healthy.

It was here that my entire view of health shifted, and I started to see that our life of living for health was making us unhealthy. Health was not a chase, a destination, or a place you arrive. It was a way of life. Health is a verb, not a noun, and that means it’s what you do.

This understanding led me to an entire health revolution in my life and practice, creating my mission to help people end the chase of health and start living it. Everyone is so much closer than they know. It is my passion to help them reach it by teaching them how to live it.

And it was all thanks to losing my health. It was quitting health that I found it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I can firmly say the most significant story since starting my career has been my personal health transformation. It is what led me to see health in the way I had desperately hoped I would before I jumped into the health space.

But it was only because I lost my health that I could see it in a new way.

Understanding health is not a battle as much as it’s a surrender to understanding, appreciating, and owning the intricate details of your biology and how they interact and connect with your entire life.

Because of this, I have shifted my philosophy from external ideas founded on systems and programs to an internal connectedness. An identity shift that allows you to understand health is not what you do. It’s who you are. It’s a lifestyle. Living this way shapes everything about your life, including the outcome you see.

Certainly, it’s a non-traditional approach to health. One that is far different from what I learned at one of the top prestigious nutrition schools in the United States. But it was in those days of questioning what I was learning that made me an expert.

It was the failure to conform to the standard and look away when it didn’t feel right. And it was my drive to keep searching, looking, and experimenting that allowed me to understand a new approach to health.

I wanted to believe a perfect equation is just what we need. Tracking, managing, and forming your life around such a standard would be easy. But I know firsthand that health is not a metric of what you do but how your body responds to what you do. This is the glaring difference we often overlook in a quest for diet perfection.

Stop attempting to change your body, which leads to resistance inside your biology. Change happens through supporting your body. Supplying nutrients and lifestyle practices that support your energy. In the process, you create a safe environment for your body to thrive.

Health is inside of you, and you have what you need. The answer is not how to change it, but how do you live that?

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The word mistake didn’t use to be part of my vocabulary. The previous definition of health required perfection, which made mistakes the same as failures. There was no room for failure because failure meant you resided back at square one, broken, longing, and hopeless. This alone was perhaps my greatest mistake, believing in a system that offers no room for mistakes.

I now understand mistakes open room to grow, learn, and improve. Without mistakes, how do we know what will and won’t work? How do we know how to become healthier?

Mistakes are there to guide us in life but also in health.

Yet, I know all too well how hard this is to trust. When I first started my nutrition practice, I was terrified of mistakes, leaving me no option but to seek perfection. Can I just say there is nothing more stressful than perfection? Not only does it not exist, it leaves you fighting a battle you’ll never win.

I spent many of the first years of my business creating meal plans for my clients. Everyone wanted to be told what to eat that would guarantee certain results. Even though a piece of me knew this wasn’t the answer, I didn’t have any other options at the time because I didn’t understand health in the way that I now do.

I made the plans and then presented the plans with my best motivational speech. I had seen too many clients to know they wouldn’t follow the plan. Yet if they didn’t, it was always the plan at fault for the lack of change, never them.

In the process, I became consumed with trying to micromanage my clients as I encouraged them to micromanage their diets. I texted them. I helped guide them. I occasionally went grocery shopping with them, attempting anything to help them seek results.

No wonder I crashed and burned. This was exhausting. Not to mention, it never worked. Because I couldn’t fix them. Arguably, we can’t even fix ourselves. The process of trying only leaves you further from health.

It was here that I understood I was not responsible for someone else’s health, and I certainly couldn’t abandon mine for the sake of someone or something else. The only way forward was to learn what allowed me to experience health. To see health as an internal pursuit more than an external one. It’s not a perfect, mistake-free lifestyle. It’s an adventure, a never-ending process of learning, trying, and healing.

Health is a lifelong journey and one that can be the best journey if we learn how to embrace it as such.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Millions of people attempt dieting every year, yet less than 3% will maintain that for at least three years. Ironically, most people continue chasing the same systems they always have while expecting a different solution.

This is the definition of insanity. Investing in the same system, even if called by a new name, will not bring you what you are looking for. Experiencing health requires a paradigm shift. A total perspective overhaul that presents health in a new way. This is the work I am so passionate about.

Helping to prove the body is good and for you. It’s not something you have to fight against. But shifting that means you must understand and respect the body for the way it has responded. Of course, the goal of the body is to thrive. In the process of thriving, your body supplies you with the energy to get out and live your life.

But its job, first and foremost, is to keep you alive. When your body feels unsafe, even if it’s from yourself, it will instill a host of biological and mental processes to keep you alive. In the process of this survival response, it changes your body. Turning off things like healthy digestion and libido. Down-regulating your metabolism and shifting your hormonal response. In time, this creates a symphony of symptoms you hate, igniting body hate.

But your body isn’t to blame. It’s only doing the job it was designed based on what it had available. It is always working for your good and your protection.

I teach people how to work with the body. Learning how to nourish and support the body so it can change, rather than the traditional approach that leaves you forcing your body to lose weight.

Weight loss is not the answer to health. Health is the answer to weight loss and every other healing mechanism inside the body that you crave.

It’s not complicated. In fact, these simple perspective shifts make health simple. Your job is to support your body with the nutrients and environment it needs to thrive. Your body’s job is to create change. If you do your part, your body will do its part.

Most importantly, living this way frees you from needing to live for health, diverting all of your attention and energy into it. Instead, it allows you to use health to live.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1 . Add More Energy Generators and Reduce Energy Drains

I learned the hard way, before my health crash, that restriction and overworking out was putting a massive burden on my body. It felt like I got sick overnight, but I know it was from years of neglecting to supply what my body needed. I had ignored the warning signs for years.

If we pay attention, we all have communication pathways in our bodies telling us what is working and what isn’t. One of the easiest signs of communication is your level of energy. Undoubtedly, most people live in an energy crisis, exhausted, burnt out, and needing excess caffeine. But a lot can change when you open up to see everything you’re doing as helping your body generate energy or stealing it.

Pay attention to the next meal that you eat. Did it make you feel energized and alive or tired and bloated? Everything in your life influences your energy positively or negatively. Add more things to your life that are energy generators and reduce the energy drains.

2 . Eat for Nourishment, Not Calories

I spent a lot of my earlier years helping people micromanage their diet. I knew counting wasn’t the answer, but I didn’t understand energy like I do now. I didn’t understand that we don’t eat for energy. We eat for nutrients, and the more nutrients you eat, the more energized you will be.

Your body has the energy it needs, or at least knows how to generate it. But building blocks are required to do so. Your body needs nourishment, and that is why you eat. Let go of the moral code the world has placed on food. It isn’t good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, but how does it supply your body’s needs. Get back to the basics. Eat enough high-quality, nutrient-dense food the majority of the time. Don’t overcomplicate it.

3 . Stop Trying So Hard

That doesn’t mean stop trying, but rather stop stressing about perfecting. In many cases, the stress of seeking health becomes significant enough to negate any benefits from the changes you are making.

Plus, the more you try, the harder it will be to achieve. Not because change is impossible but because trying harder keeps you focused on your problems. The more you focus on your problems, the more energy and attention you give them, and the harder it is to overcome them.

I learned this the hard way. I hated the weight I had gained when I crashed and burned. After years of trying to get it to leave, I realized my focus on my weight was keeping it there. Things changed when I switched my focus from losing weight to getting healthy. Sure, I still wanted to lose weight. But more than that, I wanted to feel better. And when I put my attention into doing things that made me feel better, the weight naturally came off. As they say, work smarter, not harder.

4 . Get Connected

Humans are designed to be connected and interconnected, even dependent in some areas of life. The more we focus on hyper-independent lives, the more we realize the need for human connections. I like to think of connections as a regulation tool. They help create healing through healthy emotional energy that comes from love, laughter, and even physical touch.

It’s also why humans can do the most damage to one another. Because connection is one of the greatest needs of the human body. Without it, we don’t tend to thrive.

Of course, it’s not just humans we need. Connections to other things, human or not, are how we regulate our nervous system and biology. Self-regulation is not possible because regulation always takes something else. We are co-regulators. We need connections to outside things to help regulate our internal needs. These connections could include a spiritual connection, nature, pets, self-care practices, good books, a safe environment, and fresh air.

The most important thing is you see your need for connection. Make sure you add multiple ways to connect with others, God, and nature throughout your daily life.

5 . Eliminate Self-Hate

No one in the history of the world has ever hated themselves healthy. Hate and health do not go together. In fact, hate and love are antagonists of one another. The only way to make change is love.

I know it sounds fluffy, but the emotional energy of hate is negative, pulling the body out of balance. Plus, hate often triggers a threat to your body, shifting the entire nervous system and hormonal output to respond accordingly. You have to be safe and energized to heal.

But it’s not always easy to recognize self-hate. We often mask it in practices called self-love, making it difficult to distinguish the heart behind why you do what you do. One distinguishing factor is that self-hate usually comes with feelings of guilt and shame. Where self-love offers forgiveness and grace.

You don’t have to like where you are, but not liking something is different than hating it. You can dislike your body but still love it. Love and hate change how your biology responds, making love the only way forward.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Part of the reason we’ve swayed so far from our natural health tendencies is that we don’t understand the body. When you don’t understand something, you can’t trust it. That has led us to easily believe external solutions and dismiss our bodies rather than trust them.

Yet, if I can continue teach people how to understand the body through simple metrics like energy flow and the drive for balance, we can build a better relationship with it. In the process, this makes self-awareness a tool more than a to-do. It makes health a desire more than a need.

But that means understanding the body. It means acknowledging the body’s movement, the inner workings, the communication pathways, and its innate drive for balance. Understanding this helps you better support it by choosing how you regulate and balance it. It allows you to create health, which is far different from consuming it. It takes what you know and puts it into action because knowledge without action changes nothing.

The movement the world needs is knowing the body so they can trust and support it, creating the action that produces a healthy outcome.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

01. You have what you need inside of you.

Health has traditionally been an external pursuit, leaving you to believe you don’t have what you need. That’s the point of the chase. To find a system or plan that will give you everything you need because you don’t believe you have what you need. Of course, you need external things, like food nourishment, sunlight, and human connection. But those are intended to support the processes at work inside your body, not create health.

Health is what happens in the internal shell. It’s how your cells are or are not generating energy and how your biology communicates. It’s all within your biology. Your body is capable of healing. It just needs support to do so. That frees you from chasing something that will fix your body and learn how to support it.

02. Health is an action, not a verb.

Contrary to popular belief, you will not magically become healthy the day you hit your goal weight on the scale or after you run a 5k. Those can be signs or indicators of health. But health is the process of generating and supporting energy. That happens through daily action.

Health is every day you trained for the 5k. It’s the healthy breakfast you choose to consume. How much sleep sleep you got and how much and what type of liquids you drink. Health is the millions of little things you do throughout your day that, over time, create the outcome. It is the action, not the outcome. Health is a verb, not a noun.

03. You will age and get sick.

Much of our health philosophy has been built on the old, outdated definition of health that leaves you believing there is a place where you arrive that allows you to live free of all illness and disease. A place where you don’t age. Don’t get me wrong, the goal is to age well and limit or reduce illnesses. But arriving at a destination where you never experience these things is a fantasy that leaves you chasing health rather than creating health.

You will constantly be exposed to germs, illness, and sun spots. Life will always pull you out of balance. The goal is not avoiding these things but learning how to regain balance when life pulls you out. The goal is to learn how to foster healing when you get sick. How to heal when you get injured. And how to thrive as you age. It’s less about control and more about creating health no matter what situation life throws at you. You don’t have control over life, but you can control how you respond.

04. Your emotions are temporary

It’s easy to get caught up in how you feel. Either living too deeply in how you feel or ignoring your feelings completely. No matter where you exist, we all live out of our emotions. Your emotions create thoughts that produce your actions. That’s why it’s essential to acknowledge and even feel what you do so you have better control over shifting them.

Emotions are energetic messenger molecules. Because of this, they don’t last, and they can be changed. Learning the power of emotional regulation through a perspective shift changes how you respond to everything in life. You can feel what you feel while choosing how you want to feel. Choosing your feelings means choosing your actions, and that changes your health.

05. You are not fat

Even when I had limited fat, I still thought I was fat. It didn’t seem to matter how much or how little. My understanding was that as long as I had fat, I was fat. But fat isn’t a feeling. It’s a form of structure. It may evoke feelings, but it doesn’t create them.

Understanding emotions means recognizing we act out of them. If you call yourself fat, you believe you are, you’ll always be fat regardless of if you are or aren’t. And in the process, you will hold onto fat because your biology responds to your beliefs. If you want fat to leave, stop giving it a reason to stay by calling yourself fat. You are not fat even if you have it. Call yourself better things and you’ll be surprised at how light you can make yourself feel.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental health is absolutely my passion. It is also why so many people struggle to experience health. We are only as healthy as our thoughts. Fortunately, just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true. Understanding your mind, through the observing mind, helps you make sense of what you are thinking and filter those thoughts. Ultimately, this shifts your perspective and behavior.

Here’s a fun fact: What you think changes what your body does with what you provide. Your perspective about food changes how your body uses and stores that food. That’s why people can gain weight, even when they’re not consuming the calories required to gain the weight. Negative thoughts and emotions down-regulate the body’s response, shifting it to stress. And healing can’t happen when stressed.

Healing the body happens through healing the mind, and healing the mind happens through healing the body. It’s a two-way street that requires nourishment on both ends, making the work of mind-body connection my ultimate passion. It’s the only way to change.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Learn your energy level by taking my energy quiz on thelivingwell.com/energy-quiz. Your results will give you specific and personal tips to boost your energy and start to experience health. While you’re there, join my health community, The Weekly Fill, to dive deeper into the mind-body connection and follow me on Instagram @madeforlivingwwell.

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com .

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment