Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealth

I always think of myself as pretty healthy. After all, I’ve dedicated my life to it. I’m a personal trainer and coach. I follow a plant-based diet and try to eat healthfully, choosing whole foods as much as possible. I run, weight train, do yoga, regularly. I keep up to date on nutritional news, both for myself and so I can pass information on to my clients.

But with all that being said, I am 54 years old (55 in a week!). I have some aches and pains, including a bad knee, an occasional sore back, migraines, a “ghost” pain that appears from time to time. I am also vegan, and while I try to follow a healthful, balanced diet, I am not always sure that I’m getting enough of all the important nutrients.

So I was excited when I was invited to join the Wellness FX Baseline Program, which includes a complete blood panel with double the diagnostics of a typical physical, and offers personalized care from a member of their healthcare team. I remember last year after I received my lab results, I had to sit at my computer, looking up the results, finding out what was normal, high, low, while trying to figure out the abbreviations on the one page sheet I was given.

Not any more. Wellness FX gives each member a web page that, once your results come in, shows you the results of your tests, the healthy and unhealthy ranges, plus a link to explain each result. Even better, you will be able to schedule a 20 minute consultation phone call with one of their healthcare team, who will personally review your results, answer your questions, and offer recommendations for improving your health.

My Experience

After signing up on the WellnessFX website, I was given a choice of locations to have my blood taken. They all take appointments, but when I checked the available times, the early appointments were all taken. Seeing as I do not do well when I am fasting, I decided to drop in and risk waiting a little while.

I arrived at the lab at about 6:45 in the morning, and after a very short wait, I was called back to have my blood taken. I had really tried hard to hydrate before the blood test, and that seemed to work. No problems, I had lots of blood to give.

The woman who drew my blood was very pleasant and had no problems with my picture taking (she even held her position for a moment so I could get a good shot). I have always liked to watch the process (the vampire in me?), so taking pictures came naturally.

Blood work accomplished, I made a dash for the next logical location:

The Results

Two days later I received an email from WellnessFX to let me know that my results were in. It also said that there were no critical issues, but I should consult my doctor about my TSH. The email also reminded me that once I checked my results, I should schedule my consultation with one of their Wellness Team.

I quickly logged on to my results page. It is divided into categories by health issue: Cardiovascular Health, Metabolic, Liver, Kidney, Electrolytes, Bone, and Vitamins. First the good news. My liver and kidney function is good, my electrolytes are normal, my calcium is good. My vitamin D was a little low, which surprised me considering I live and work out in the desert. Darn sunscreen.

The not-so-good news, as indicated in the email, is that my TSH was too high, which happens when your thyroid is underactive. As very clearly explained on my results page: “The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. An underactive thyroid results in low energy and weight gain, while an overactive thyroid causes hyper-activity or excessive weight loss.” And here I’ve been blaming my tiredness on lack of sleep.

Also on the bad news side, is my cholesterol. In spite of eating a pretty healthy vegan diet, exercising, and maintaining a good body weight, my cholesterol is moderately high at 218. While my HDL (good cholesterol) is in the good range, it is not outstanding and doesn’t make up for the high level of LDL (bad cholesterol).

Even scarier for me, probably because I recently saw a 60 minutes report on the topic, was the Apo B level. From the website, “Apolipoprotein B, or Apo B, is the protein in bad cholesterol that binds to arteries to create clogging cholesterol deposits. Because it causes LDL binding to blood vessels, studies have shown that your ApoB level may be a better measure of cardiovascular risk than even LDL cholesterol.” High is over 80, and mine is 130.

I was ready for my consult. I needed someone to explain what was going on and what I could do to take charge of my health. I needed someone to calm me down.

Following the directions on the WellnessFX website, I scheduled my 20 minute appointment with Kathleen, a registered dietician. I chose her from a list of health professionals mainly because her bio stated that she specialized in vegan and vegetarian diets. After I made my appointment, I was sent a confirmation and told to find a quiet location where I had a good internet connection and to have my results page open during the call.

The Consultation

I made my call right on time. Kathleen told me that I didn’t need to take notes, because she would be writing up her recommendations and that I should check my page in the morning for her full list of recommendations.

We discussed my diet a little bit. I try to eat pretty healthily and told her so. She got right down to it though and asked about my carb consumption. Um, a little high, yes. After all, I’m a long distance runner, right? Doesn’t that give me carte blanche with carbs? Well, no, says Kathleen. (note from me: long distance may be a bit of an exaggeration at this point in my training anyway).

She also asked about any supplements that I take (B-12 only) and other health issues (migraines and my ghost pain, which appears occasionally under my left rib, and has never been diagnosed).

Kathleen was so professional and thorough. By the end of our call (which actually went over the allotted time by a few minutes), she had heard me out and made several recommendations. She reminded me again to check the website in the morning, because she would have them all in writing and possibly add things that could be helpful to me.

Kathleen told me that I should eat less carbs. She said that cutting down on the starchy carbohydrates and adding more vegetables could help my lower my cholesterol, plus get rid of that little bloaty belly (don’t know how she saw that over the phone!). She also recommended adding some flax, chia or hemp seeds daily, and warned me to watch my portion size (I’m actually pretty good at that part already). She said I should eat protein at every meal, and may need to supplement with pea or rice protein powder. I should avoid overly processed soy (like soy protein powder), and limit my fruit to 3-4 servings a day.

To improve my vitamin D level, she suggested a vegan source of D3, mushroom powder, which is made by Dole (yes, the pineapple people). It gets it’s D from UV light, just like people do. Even though my B levels weren’t included in this test (last year they were good), supplementing B12 is a must for vegans.Β  She suggested a type of B12, methylcobalamin, and said I should take it with L-5 methyl folate, such as Metagenics Vessel Care which might also help my migraines. And to make sure that I get enough Omega 3s, I should use a vegan DHA supplement and make sure to eat walnuts, chia, flax, pumpkin seeds, or leafy greens daily.

Finally, and I saved the hardest best for last, Kathleen suggested that I try a gluten free diet for a few weeks. She thought that it might help not only with my thyroid function, but also help my migraines and my “ghost” pain. She suggested that I do some research about what I need to do to be successful, then pick a time and stick to the gluten free diet for three weeks. I should see how I feel, then pay close attention to any symptoms or issues as I add the gluten back in.

Click if you’d like to see the full recommendation report.

Overall, I was so pleased and impressed with WellnessFX! The price for the Baseline Program is $199, and for that you get the full blood panel with twice the diagnostics of a regular physical, your own personalized webpage where your results are posted, which includes a comprehensive description of each test, plus a 20 minute consultation with a health professional scheduled at your convenience in the privacy of your own home.

Now, I need your help. For someone who usually eats cereal and rye toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and who loves to cook with seitan, which is made from wheat gluten, going gluten free is a foreign concept. I would love any suggestions, recipes, links, kicks in the butt, ideas that you might like to share.

While I’m not quite ready to go all the way yet, I have already started making a few changes. Instead of cereal this morning I made a smoothie (yeah, I had the toast too, so sue me. Small steps). Dinner was grilled tofu, roasted asparagus, sweet potatoes, and kale. Good start, I think.


FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.

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  1. says

    Wow, you are thorough. Amazingly healthy too! I know there are some issues, but if you compare yourself to other women our age, you’ll feel like superwoman! I have no suggestions for recipes, as I’m not a gluten-free person, but it sure seems as if you’re sorting everything out nicely. $199 is a good deal for all the info you received. I hope you write follow-up posts with your progress and discoveries.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Sleep Your Way to A Better Brain & BodyMy Profile

    • says

      Thorough. Is that a nice way of saying I’m a little wordy? :-). Yeah, I know that’s my problem.

      I’m actually kind of excited to try gluten free. I’ve been pooh-poohing (wow, spell check didn’t underline that so it must be spelled right!), the gluten free fad for a long time (not, of course, for people with celiac’s disease), so it’s a little ironic, but I’ll be interested to see if I feel better. And of course I will write about it.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  2. says

    I so surprised about your cholesterol! What a cool thing to have done though. I wonder what mine would look like…

    I’m not GF, but I know a lot of people who’ve gone GF and say it’s actually pretty easy now that it’s become more “mainstream.” I would imagine being vegan would make it a little more challenging, but an fun opportunity to get creative. πŸ™‚
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted..The Good, the Bad, and the StrangeMy Profile

  3. says

    This was really, really interesting Debbie – and it sounds like you’re in great health, even if there are a few things to work on :-).

    I keep it pretty simple with food – LOTS of oats, and lots of carrot and natural PB. You’re totally underselling yourself though – I know that you have a zillion excellent recipes :-).

    For protein – well, you read Candy Fit – she’s my go to protein queen!

    • says

      Yes, a lot of the important things were right where they were supposed to be. Which is a relief.. It will be kind of fun and I.m sure I’ll learn a lot in the process of trying gluten free. I love Candy Fit, too, but most of Kierston’s lean protein involves fish or chicken. I think I do pretty good with protein already, but I’ll be takng extra care from now on.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  4. says

    As a runner, vegan and a young 45 I loved reading this. All of it! Also because I have hypothyroidism. After about 3 months of a vegan diet I had a complete workup done by my doc. My main concern was what I’ve read about thyroid and soy. My thyroid is not something I will mess around with. The verdict was great health. I think the actual words were “incredibly healthy” πŸ™‚ Thyroid was fine and no additional supplements recommended.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted..Fitness Friday || One Weekend. 3 Races. Half Marathon #10.My Profile

    • says

      That’s great! That is the way it should work. I’ve been vegan for almost 4 years, vegetarian for a few years before that. My cholesterol numbers have always been on the higher side. I remember once, years ago when I was training and running marathons, a nurse glanced at my report, commented on the cholesterol, and said, you might want to exercise a little more. Um, no.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  5. says

    Ive been GF for almost two decades—-all heath. had NO IDEA what it was Id eliminated really πŸ™‚ until the GF craze hit and I put it all together.
    for me it is all a return (as much as I can) to whollle foods.
    I dont do the GF processed boxed stuff either mainly because it wasnt around when I initially switched.
    MizFit recently posted..ZUMBA is my safe place (guest post).My Profile

  6. says

    Oh wow!! Going gluten free would be so difficult for me! Especially for you being that you’re also vegan. Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts.. Maybe you can get the gluten free oats and experiment with oatmeal!? Best of luck to you!!!!

  7. says

    I’m in the same boat as you.For the past couple of years, I’ve been going bloodwork every three months to test my cholesterol. (I’m 41.) At the very first exam, my cholesterol was 270, my liver enzymes were up and my Vitamin D was low too. (I live in FL.) Needless to say, my doctor was very concerned. I was blown away, but the very first thing I did was eliminate my protein powder shake from my diet because the cholesterol was 55 mg a serving! I don’t eat read meat. I watch what I eat and I run A LOT.

    I going to a new doctor in January to see what other steps I can take to control this situation. I tired of blood draws every three months but it sounds like I need that Wellness FX! Any chance you can host a giveaway for it? πŸ˜‰

    As for gluten free, there many great foodie bloggers out there. I’ll see if I can find you one.
    Run DMT recently posted..Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp and FetaMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks. I follow a couple blogs that are both vegan and gf, and I will be searching for others. I don’t know if you can read the recommendations that I was given, but for lowering cholesterol, she also recommended a tablespoon of flax or chia seed daily, reducing starchy carbs, adding more vegetables, and eating walnuts, which have Omega 3s, which also help reduce cholesterol. Fish oil is good if you’re not vegetarian.

      If you feel like you need a protein powder, rice or pea protein powders are vegan and therefore have no cholesterl.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  8. says

    The program sounds really thorough – it’s great that they also offer solutions to what they find. I think you’re taking the right steps towards going gluten free. Small changes at first will make it easier to transition. Are there any good gluten free breads you can try that are available where you are? That might make it easier knowing you can still enjoy your toast in the morning πŸ™‚

    By the way, I’m impressed you took pictures of them drawing your blood – I NEVER look when I get blood work done πŸ™‚
    Jenny @ simply be me recently posted..Rest Day Randoms – Irish Setter, hair colour, knit hatsMy Profile

    • says

      Haha! I have to watch that needle because I want to know when it’s going to stick me.

      Gluten free bread is probably a good idea. It would be better if I made it as suggested above, but that’s probably not going to happen. It’s so darned expensive, but, like you said, if it makes the transition easier it would be worth it. I can have one processed food choice, right?
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  9. says

    Awesome review of the company. Sounds like a great experience and something I really need to get done at some point. Kev and I have talked about the possibility of going gluten free (more for him than me) to rule out some things.

    Great pictures too, I can’t stand to have my blood drawn. I cry every time I go to donate so I would never have been able to get those pictures lol
    Angie @ Losing It and Loving It recently posted..Health Benefits of Tea: 3 Little Known FactsMy Profile

  10. says

    That program sounds so thorough. You received some wonderful information. When you get your consult with a health professional, is it always a dietitian, or can you meet with any type of professional you think you need?

    Good luck cutting down on carbs. I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning, so I’m really no help. Smoothies and yogurt with fruit would probably be a good idea. Although that probably takes up your 3-4 servings of fruit for the day.
    Carrie@familyfitnessfood.com recently posted..Yurbuds Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    • says

      There is a list of health professional to choose from, including dieticians, nutritionists, pharmacists, and even personal trainers. If you wish to speak to a medical doctor, that is considered a medical consultation and there is an extra charge of $70 for it. I think that would be well worth it depending on a person’s particular results.

      I actually have been drinkng smoothies for the last two days for breakfast. I don’t mind if that is my fruit for the day (and honestly it is probably more than I was eating before). For me, the bread is tough, and the potatoes. I <3 potatoes .
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  11. says

    i absolutely wish everyone would do something like this! i think we all tend to simply assume it’s just getting older or life when we have aches, but there could be little changes that help us feel so much better! i just went through this in finding out my food sensitivities.

    Seriously what amazing service you got!!

    I like Bob’s Gluten Free Oatmeal or quinoa for a hot breakfast…I’m not a pasta eater, so spaghetti squash is my go to there.
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Hidden Food Allergies: Eggs and MilkMy Profile

    • says

      I’m going to be very interested to see how it comes out. I’m almost ready to start. Spending today making a list of vegan/gluten free blogs and getting some ideas. I’ll have to try the gluten free oatmeal. I need convenience in the morning because I have to be at work so early in the morning.

      I love spaghetti squash too. And I recently made raw zucchini pasta for the first time and it was great. I guess I’ll be expanding my horizons.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

    • says

      Ah, the joy of getting older. I actually took meds for my thyroid about 15 years ago. I can’t remember why I stopped, but I’ve tested normal until now. I’m excited to see what the changes will bring.

      I now that WellnessFX has plans to expand around the US. I don’t know if they have plans for Canada, though.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile

  12. says

    Love your post! It was so informative. Good luck going gluten free. I’m a vegetarian and have been trying to go 100% gluten free the past few months. It’s hard! But my mom (age 55) was recently diagnosed as being gluten intolerant. She had horrible pain and thought it was severe arthritis or maybe even MS, but turns out it was gluten. The chances of it being hereditary are HUGE, so GF I go. πŸ˜‰
    Sarah recently posted..New Feature: Healthy Eating Resources!My Profile

    • says

      Thank you!

      According to the WellnessFX website, 70% of the data needed for accurate health diagnosis and management is in your blood, which is an excellent reason to have blood testing done regularly. Plus, after the first time, you have a baseline for future testing.
      Debbie recently posted..Taking Steps to #OptimizeHealthMy Profile


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