Break the Rules #101: 5 Essentials to Maximize Your COVID-19 Quarantine & Skyrocket Your Health with Health Coach Julie Michelson

Written By

Rhea Dali

Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Julie Michelson

Dr. Lauryn: [00:00:00] Well, hello hello hello. Welcome to another edition of the Break the Rules podcast, where we talk about quieting the noise and the health, food, and fitness world. And today I’m super honored to have Julie Michelson in the house, and she is an autoimmunity wellness expert, and functional medicine certified health coach, who’s really been seeing skyrocketing results with her clients right now, during a time in the world where we may feel some instability in our health with COVID and also just quarantine perhaps just at home unending schedules and eating foods that you may not usually eat. Or just lifestyle habits, getting a new rhythm that hasn’t really existed before. So it can maybe feel counterintuitive to some people for a healthy routine, but Julie Michelson and her work has really been seeing quite the opposite. So I’m really excited to have this conversation with her today. And just to talk about how you can really use this time to maximize. Your health and the opportunities for you ahead.

Julie, thanks so much for coming on, and if you could just give us a little bit of background on who you are and what got you doing the work that you’re doing in the world.

Julie: [00:01:11] Sure. Thanks, Lauren. I’m so happy to be here. I like so many of us came to functional medicine and the wellness world through my own health struggles and journey. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was in my early thirties and I spent a year – a year, a decade, I wish it was a year. I spent a decade in decline, just accumulating medications, and more diagnoses.

I’m doing all of the things that my brilliant Western medicine docs told me to do, but unfortunately just wasn’t getting better and was told actually that there was no, I hope to get better. So that, that wasn’t even something that should be on my radar. So thank goodness I did my own discovery and learning and experimenting and did heal all of my autoimmune symptoms and that drove my passion to educate, you know, get educated and train so that I can help others so that everybody knows that they can heal.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:02:11] Yeah. What were your discoveries? Because similarly, I kind of found functional medicine through not necessarily like just on Dr. Google, reading a lot of blogs though, and such, and it’s really cool to see the movement now because there’s people like you and more functional medicine practitioners popping up where perhaps people don’t have to have that long drawn out journey to finding a different path.

But what did that path look like for getting out of your RA and busting through ceilings in your health?

Julie: [00:02:39] So for me, yes, it was a, it was a long and crooked journey, a lot of trial and error. And I started mostly with, with just diet change after diet change, just trying new things. By the time I was grain-free and paleo, the step that really, for me, dietary wise was a breakthrough, was finding Dave Asprey and Bulletproof, because I’d been on a low-fat diet my whole life and it wasn’t until understanding the why of, you know, how important healthy fats are and shifting my mindset around fat consumption that I was able to fully start to really heal.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:03:20] Yeah, I love that. So, I call it the light bulb moment. And we all have ours and it’s usually the anecdote to what we were doing before. That’s the catalyst. So let’s kind of dive right into it. So right now you’re working a lot with auto-immune within that sphere. Speak to what COVID has I guess brought us to, from an opportunity perspective, or what you’re finding with your patients.

Julie: [00:03:45] Absolutely. So, yeah, I love the saying that with every challenge comes opportunity and I am rooted firmly in that belief that it’s up to us to create the opportunity or to find the opportunity. And what I’m seeing with my clients has been remarkable. Even somebody in mindset who expects good things to becoming, you know, with these challenges to see the progress and the ease of progress that my clients are making right now has just blown me away. It’s been incredible.

Largely due to most of them are home and they’re working from home and, you know, yes, there’s stresses and struggles that come with, as you mentioned, creating the new routine and finding the new normal, but what we’re seeing is that when people are focusing on their health in this unique time from being at home, they’re making progress at a rate I just have never seen in my practice before.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:04:44] I would actually concur with that and have seen that as well, and have seen many of my clients being very proactive, whereas before it felt like it was a part of their agenda, maybe for our sessions or for like the habits and the intentions that they were setting for themselves and being very diligent.

Give us maybe a couple of specific examples that really stick out to you and kind of the work that you’re seeing people being able to do during this time.

Julie: [00:05:10] Sure. Two clients just popped to mind. So I’ll share a little bit about each of them. One is a new client, so she came to me during this time and had I think had been referred to me a couple of times over the years and finally pulled the trigger. And we started with her with diet change that she thought was going to be so difficult to implement.

And she wasn’t coming from what I would call a clean diet whatsoever. And she, just every time I see her, she says, I cannot, I can’t believe how easy this has been. Like I just can’t believe how easy this has been. So being in control of the food she’s eating, you know, not eating at restaurants, not rushing to meetings or having lunch meetings has just made it so easy for her to step into this new lifestyle and really get it rooted before she goes back out into her workaday world.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:06:07] So let’s kind of like break that down for folks. Like right now they see maybe the big result that they want, which is just like feeling better usually. Like, I want more energy. I would love to like, lose the five pounds that I’ve been like wanting to lose, or maybe it’s like, I would like to have a healthier relationship with my body.

So like some very overarching, big picture goals that they see. How do you help your clients break that down to really use this time to start leaning into the bigger goal that they have?

Julie: [00:06:39] Sure. For everybody, it’s going to be a little bit different, right? Depending on their history. And as you said, their relationship with their body going into it. So I would say the first place is always working on your relationship with your body and using this time to show your body love. And so that might look different for each of us, you know, what area are we really not showing our body love?

And that would kind of be my starting point. So with that client that I had mentioned that was diet. I have another client. The other one who came to mind is a longterm client, and he’s a busy executive. We’ve been working together for a while. He’s made a lot of incredible changes, but without me even addressing it from running his business from home, so he’s still really working full time. He has a wife and two kids at home with him, but he has created the opportunity to work out in a way that he has never before. So he’s so committed to this new fitness routine that he’s created being at home. He’s working, he’s working out with a trainer. He’s a, he’s just getting such a variety of exercise, including yoga and it’s just been truly, truly remarkable. And for him, that was the area of love for his body that was lacking before.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:08:03] Yeah. So step one would be finding like, is it a practice or is it like a mindset, both, but to get into that state because it’s easier, easy to say, like, okay, I’m going to love my body, but if you really don’t feel it, like, how do you get to feeling?

Julie: [00:08:21] And I think for so many of us in this time, I look at stress management first because we are in such a unique time. Especially people without a dedicated, like stress management routine, like a committed routine, that’s kind of the first area that needs addressing because all of us, you know, our cortisol is elevated a little bit, and even those of us that are receiving so many gifts of the opportunities of this time, it’s still unknown and strange and, I don’t know, maybe we have a loved one that’s sick. There are all these different stressors that are kind of new and unusual for us. So I would say mindset’s huge, stress management is huge because if you’re not taking care of that part, I wouldn’t want you trying to jump in to create some other changes because then those just become big stressors.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:09:15] First place is getting right mind and then body, like really just engaging, whether it’s create habits that love my body or like… And then I would imagine it’s like starting small, right? And how do you help your clients pick out like what to focus on and how to start small? And cause again, we see the bigger goal in mind, and getting there can feel very daunting.

Julie: [00:09:42] Yeah. One of the things I love doing with my clients, I like taking a unique approach for like stress management. A lot of people are afraid of the word meditation and they just can’t. Or I’ve just had too many clients say that word stresses me out. So we work one on one, but the key is finding what fills your cup.

Right. So before we start changing and taking things away and it’s what makes you feel good? What makes you feel relaxed? I have a lot of clients that had like hobbies they gave up just through life and busy-ness a lot of hidden artists. So sometimes like for them, it would be, you know, draw for 20 minutes.

So it really becomes individual. But if you answer that question of like, you know, what makes you feel good or what do you love? Like that’s the best place to start.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:10:38] Yeah. Finding like what energizes you. I really liked that you talked about adding versus taking away and talk a little bit about that because we don’t really hear that a lot. And if you’re going through a diet list online, even if it’s a healthy diet, there’s usually like the foods not to eat versus foods to eat or take away the Netflix like you were talking about before, so speak to like what the adding mindset can do, even if it’s kind of yields a similar practical step.

Julie: [00:11:05] Absolutely. And the end goal is the same, right? So we’re not only adding, you know, often we are, yes we’re adding the good. And then we were adjusting the things maybe that aren’t supporting us as much. So like regarding food, I’m an AIP coach, autoimmune paleo coach. So that’s a pretty strict, especially the first phase protocol. Right. And a lot of people are like, Oh my gosh. You know, I always start, no matter what direction we’re taking diet-wise with clients, I always start with, let’s add in more veggies. Like, let’s start adding in more of the foods you should be getting before we even start worrying about what we need to take away.

I just find that whole approach to everything where we want to create a change. The adding first really helps with the mindset and helps protect against that fear of, you know, being denied something that you really want.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:12:08] Right. I love that. And I speak a lot to that too. Like you thinking with the abundance mindset versus the restrictive mindset on the diet front. How about when it comes to exercise? And so that’s maybe something that like, people are like overly, okay we’re adding it in. Some people are taking it out too if they’ve been over-exercising and it’s just kind of a yin and yang. How do you help people find the next best step? So we added in some veggies or color and just expanding variety with the diet. What do we do with exercise?

Julie: [00:12:42] Exercise, for me I like to approach a lot like the whole stress management meditation thing, and I like to use the word movement. Because again, I don’t, I, you know, some people you say exercise and they think CrossFit, right? So, and I liked to tie it in if you can move your body, doing something you really enjoy, like I’m an avid equestrian, my horses are lazy, riding them as a workout. You know, lifting hay bales, taking care of my barn is so work out. So not, not everybody has horses or a barn, but whatever it is, you do love. If you love to hike, if we can tie movement into enjoyments first to get the body responding to physical activity, then we can build from there and target some specific types of exercise.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:13:34] Very cool. So again, thinking more like with a positive frame of mind towards movement just like we think about food. So not like, what can I have, but like, can I have, and what do I love to do?

Kind of speak to as well if a person is just like, typically does autopilot with exercise, they love exercise because it gives them a high and how they feel, however, they’re not as connected with their body still, or maybe just are in go mode often without really like, tapping into like, well, is this really serving their body, or I’m not getting my period once a month and something is happening, but we’re not able to listen.

How do you help those clients find that?

Julie: [00:14:19] That’s another fairly common, more common than, than one would expect the other side of the spectrum. Right. And I see it a lot, especially with autoimmunity and chronic illness. It’s kind of like that one thing people don’t want to give up. So, you know, they’re pushing through pain, like you said, they’re disconnecting, they’re not listening to their body. Maybe they have lost their period. Maybe they have diarrhea every time they run and they, they just, their mindset is that exercise is good, so I’m going to do it. And so I see that all, I see it very often. And what they’re doing is they’re creating more inflammation and their body’s trying to tell them, you know, but they’re not listening.

So we, depending on how seriously, I don’t wanna use the word addicted, but attached to their, what I would consider excessive exercise routine that they are, you know, it would depend on how slow the steps are that we would take them back. But a lot of people, once they get an understanding, you know, step one is always getting them to hear the messages. So often I can hear them. When they’re telling me what’s going on it gives me perfect chance to reflect, you know, and add in some, some education about what, you know, what their body’s going through and the cycle they’re perpetuating. And often that is enough, when they really get an understanding of what they’re doing, to get them to back off and we can change approaches. Where they’re going to stay fit. They’re just going to do it in a way that supports their health.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:15:55] Yeah. I like to think the same thing and helping the client like problem solve what to do actually in this field of times that were maybe spent like seven days of Cross Fit, or six days of Crossfit, you’re not completely just sitting on the couch and eating bonbons either. But maybe it’s creating a new routine to like go on an evening walk and like, do yoga, or even for me, it was power yoga.

Like it still was yoga to me. And that was really hard for me to do so like there’s different shades of yoga, maybe not doing CrossFit, yoga, um, something super chill, but ways to like, kind of fill in where that habit of just the go go go mode is to have a little bit more yin and yang with the workout and then eventually where you’re able to release and not have to go daily either. Like if you miss a day or go travel like you’re okay.

Julie: [00:16:55] The body can heal and, and, you know, everybody is, is individual, but you can build back up to, you know, a healthy level. But you’ve got to give the body a chance to heal.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:17:10] Yeah. Give it that space to just breathe the inflammation to come down. So we’ve talked about movement. We talked about just an abundance of food and just the mindset of not what can’t I have, but can. How about like sleep? Is that something that you find with your clients is an issue? Cause I find that very it’s very rampant sleep issues. Whether people are waking up on a regular basis or just not sleeping much, or they’re just tired all day, but not able to sleep at night. Like what do you find there and how do you help them, like kind of come back.

Julie: [00:17:45] Yes sleep is, I would say less than optimal sleep is probably an issue for almost every client I work with. So yes, it’s rampant. And that’s one of the things as we were chatting before that right now is like, pay attention. Don’t be up all night bingeing, Netflix. Sorry, Netflix, I always pick on you, but you know, it’s not this isn’t a slumber party or a big extended weekend. It’s so important. So you asked where we start. I always start with routine. So creating and maintaining a routine is the starting place and then we work on optimizing the sleep quality, but first, we really focus on giving the body that regular sleep time. Which is usually longer than most people like to tell themselves they need.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:18:33] Yeah. So someone brought the point up about routine one day. It’s like as little kids we were so used to routine. Like we love bedtime stories and bath time, maybe like drinking whatever you would drink before bed. And then as adults, it just pulls off the way, like we have no routines like until we go to bed at night or I don’t know, we’re just falling asleep to a TV perhaps or scrolling on our newsfeeds.

So like, what would be an example of a routine? Like, is it like lighting a candle and meditating or like, what do you guide people to do?

Julie: [00:19:14] Honestly, it’s another area where it could look different. We can sit down with 25 people and they could each have a completely different kind of routine. I like the lighting the candle idea, I’ll try that. It is A, you want a consistent bedtime, right? Just like you were saying, you know when we were kids and we did and humans thrive on routine. We do so being consistent with your bedtime and your wake time. Which means you know, not sleeping until 11 on the weekends, you know, and then only getting four hours a night asleep during the week. Like really the body doesn’t know the difference between what day of the week it is. So starting with protecting that space. And then as you mentioned, creating that, like getting ready for bed routine and it can look like. Really anything that, that settles anybody. So like you said, I mean, I have a good friend who she has, like her nighttime tea every night, that that’s part of her bedtime routine. A lot of people like to take a bath. I, yes, encourage people to get off screens. I know, ideally at least two hours before you go to bed and if not, please wear blue blockers.

Just, you know, for me, part of my routine is I have a red light in my lamp, in my bedroom. And so even before I’m actually getting in bed, I’ll, you know, walk through the bedroom at some point and turn that lamp on so that as I’m moving around, getting ready for bed, I’m getting that red light to settle down. So really unique, but you know, not kickboxing, right? Not a hard workout at 10 o’clock.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:20:52] Oh, yeah. I used to go to a 24 Hour Fitness at like 9:00 PM at night in my younger days and just so silly and then come back and eat dinner and it was just, yeah, not, not in touch with our circadian rhythm there.

Julie: [00:21:10] You’re not supposed to know it all when you’re younger. Yeah.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:21:14] It’s helped shape my practice later. Just some of these tips and tricks. So sleep, movement, relationship with food, anything else that you really find as themes that you address with folks? Like, I mean, these are all basics we know, but like how you said it’s an opportunity right now to lean into one of these little habits at a time.

And I mean, just even by that, that doc or not doctor was he a lawyer that the guy that you’re working with at home?

Julie: [00:21:43] Exectutive? Yeah.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:21:44] Executive, he’s just taken the ball and run with it, just focusing on movement and seeing he’s feeling so much better. So, any other areas that you find to be important right now?

Julie: [00:21:57] Absolutely. So I always work with everybody on what I call the big five lifestyle areas. And so we talked about four of them and the fifth one would be, I think this is the perfect opportunity to look at toxins in your household. Because we’re home. And especially right now, people are a little extra into cleaning and disinfecting and, and, you know, cleaning is great and we want you healthy and safe, but what are you using in your home?

You know, are your cleaners loaded with chemicals that are actually harming you and reducing your immunity? Your personal care products, your kitchen, how much plastic do you have in your kitchen? Do you use nonstick pans? All, all those layers. And that’s like a really big process. Which is why, you know, when you’re home 24 hours a day, it’s kind of a nice time to just start again, just focusing some awareness, just like those other areas. And, and notice like when you take out your pan, is it, you know, what’s it made of?

Dr. Lauryn: [00:23:00] Right. And a really simple way I find too is encouraging folks like, as you run out of things, like on the product stand front, is the time to replace it? If you’re like, Ugh, can’t really overall everything right now like hand soap. What do you suggest from like a kitchen and utensil perspective? And then do you use sources like the Environmental Working Group or like where do you point people to like really determining is this not toxic or nontoxic, et cetera.

Julie: [00:23:29] Yes, Environmental Working Group, is my absolute favorite place to direct people. And it’s how I personally check everything that I want to use. And so, because unfortunately, so many things are greenwashed now where they’re marketed as healthy and clean and green, and they’re not. So every time I’m going to buy a new product, I do I check EWG just to make sure. It’s a great shortcut if like you said when you run out of a product and you make this step to go a little healthier next time. It’s a great place to find, a more green product to use. Yeah. I love them.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:24:11] I do too. I’m glad you talked about detox too because that is a topic near and dear to my heart. We were talking about a little bit of mold before. It is real guys. So, Julie, thanks so much for coming on the show and here can people go to find out more about you?

Julie: [00:24:27] Yeah, the best place is my website, And there’s no A in Michaelson. You can reach out there, set up a time to chat even. And I’m also on Facebook, Julie Michelson Coaching, Instagram.

Dr. Lauryn: [00:24:42] Well, this has been a lovely podcast with you, and thanks so much for taking the time to come on and help us get back to the basics, but really remind us that this is still an opportunity to really maximize your quarantine and how you want to show up in the world in this new story that you’re getting to write.

Julie: [00:25:00] I love that perspective. Thank you so much for having me, Lauryn.

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