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  • Writer's pictureMargreta

5 Remarkable Lessons My Autoimmune Condition Has Taught Me [Part 2]

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

{This is part 2 of a series, you can find part 1 here}

In my previous post, I shared the journey to my diagnosis. My first lesson from my rheumatologist: do your research because rare autoimmune conditions are exactly that: RARE. Her one caveat, which I wholeheartedly support everyone doing, always run any changes by her before starting them.

At the time, I was a recent graduate school grad with two master’s degrees, I knew how to research and did I ever. I spent many evenings and weekends on the internet, interpreting data and roughly translated documents.

I learned a few things, the first was about protein. My particular condition appears to affect the absorption of a specific amino acid correctly. Amino acids are derived from protein and most non-meat sources are not “complete” proteins. Complete proteins have all essential amino acids that we need for cellular repair and healing.

For economic and ecological reasons I had stopped eating red meat unless I was at a restaurant and eating poultry and pork only once a day, following a vegan/vegetarian diet 2 out of 3 meals. I was still eating protein at these meals (grains, beans, and other legumes) but the particular amino acid I needed wasn’t really prevalent in these sources of protein.

Second lesson learned: eat meat. Will that solve your autoimmune problem? Likely no, everyone’s body will respond entirely uniquely. But one of the easiest places to start tinkering with is nutrition so that’s where I started with the approval of my rheumatologist.

Exercise was another important link in the chain of this condition. It seemed that those who exercised seemed to tolerate the flares better and healed quicker. As a fitness expert, I wasn’t surprised by this fact, that’s often the case with any and all health conditions. What was lacking in my workouts, mostly because I was still in my 20s and had youth on my side, was balance.

As a Pilates instructor, I was at least getting some lower impact exercise in my workouts, but I was also doing multiple workouts a day as a group exercise instructor teaching boot camps, barbell classes, HIIT classes, etc and then lifting weights on top of it. #overachiever

Lesson three: Exercise balance is important.

It's been more than 10 years since my diagnosis and I no longer take any medications on a regular basis, I have a routine of meds for any symptoms that pop up like this current flare.

But the biggest thing that helps my body recover and heal is REST. The fatigue that sets in with this condition is amazing. I’m one of those annoying morning people, 7 hours of sleep and I’m fully wired to take on the day and I never nap. I always joke that I’d make the worst vampire because if the sun’s up, I’m up.

During a flare, however, I will sleep way past sun-up, go to bed sometimes as early as 8 pm ...and that’s after I’ve hit a wall in the middle of the day where I climb into bed and sleep, usually allowing myself 90 minutes of rest time. Sometimes I hit snooze, other times 40 minutes will pass and I’ll wake up feeling like I slept another 7-8 hour night.

Lesson four: Rest

I’m lucky that five years ago I made a career change and am not forced to work a straight 8-10 hour day anymore. I made the decision to change careers (you can read about it here: How my dream job once saved me) not because of my autoimmune condition but it certainly was a HUGE change in the recurrence of flares.

This change alone has been one of the largest components of the reduction of my flares. Stress management isn’t just a popular health craze, it really does make a difference. Over the years I’ve done mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and exercise to combat the stress. Does mindfulness and meditation work for everyone? Hell no. Some of us need to punch the crap out of a boxing bag or throw hundreds of pounds of weight around to reduce stress. Finding the right healthy stress-reducing tactic is what’s important.

Lesson five: Stress is a huge trigger

A flare is a common term for autoimmune sufferers to use because we (suffers + support system + medical team) strive to put the condition in remission. A state where we can function normally again and live life without limits.

As a person living with an autoimmune condition, I bear the scars (both physical & mental) that these conditions can cause. What the world sees is not always what's going on inside my body. When my body decides to attack itself, I have to stop. I have to listen. I have to do what my body wants.

I had to take time away from my business because I had to rest. I focused my energy on where I could: coaching and training my clients and then laying on the couch watching terrible horror movies (we all have our ways of relaxing, really terrible horror movies is mine, if yours is zoning out and watching QVC that’s cool - no judgment here).

It’s been 6 days since my autoimmune condition flared up and I’m still crashing hard in the middle of the day, but most of the symptoms have lessened and I’m starting to feel like me again. Maybe it’s the coffee I just had, but reaching a level of normality is also a huge emotional and physical pick me up.

It’s been 6 days since I worked out. And that’s ok too. With my immune system deciding to attack my own body, I’m at higher risk now than ever for contracting covid-19 and staying home where I can control who I come in contact with is incredibly important. Normally during a flare like this, I’d swim. But I can’t risk not wearing a mask indoors.

It’s been 6 days. It used to take 14+ days to heal. The workouts will resume again soon and my fatigue will lesson soon too.

I even took a break from intentionally writing or posting online. According to all the online business experts, I probably hurt my business, my reach, my potential connections, and potential income.

Will my sudden silence set me back?


Maybe I’ll reach a different set of people who like me are looking for healing, looking for someone who understands what it’s like to go from totally healthy and “normal” one day to barely functional the next. Someone who understands the fine line people with any chronic condition walk between healthy and happy and sick.

Someone who can also simultaneously tackle an autoimmune condition head-on and still laugh, still promote healthy and sustainable living, all while stuck on the couch for 6 days. Because I understand that healthy takes on a different image for everyone and at times the healthiest thing may involve NOT exercising and getting in touch with your inner couch potato.

It’s only been 6 days and I’m already feeling better, back online, and more focused than ever to help people like me break free from their chronic condition or illness and live a life without limits.

I’d love to hear from you if this resonated with you, comment below or email me.

As a medical exercise specialist, I’ve learned from my experiences and my clients and developed a system that motivates my clients to exercise, eat well, and get back to enjoying life.

That’s why I’ve decided to take the best methods of helping my one-on-one clients and turn it into a FREE all-new 5-Day challenge: Naturally Lower Inflammation!

During the challenge we’ll be covering:

  • Exercises to help you live pain-free

  • FREE Grocery List so you only eat foods that help reduce inflammation

  • How to sleep pain-free

And as a bonus, I’ve created a supportive online group for my clients and participants in this challenge.

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