16| Andrea Wool, Autoimmune Strong Founder: How She Went From Powerless to Powerlifter and Built A Business Along the Way

Andrea Wool, the founder of Autoimmune Strong,  is a mom, a personal trainer, a nutritional therapy practitioner, an entrepreneur, and an autoimmune warrior. When Andrea started  Autoimmune Strong — the first and only exercise program designed specifically for people living with autoimmune disease — she never imagined she’d eventually hire staff and end up helping thousands of others. It started as an experiment, driven by a simple question: What can I do to feel better? 

As a former distance runner living with fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s, just getting a diagnosis was a challenge. Her next hurdle? Finding the energy to play with her kids at the park. When doctors couldn’t help, Andrea took matters into her own hands. She knew there had to be a better way. With lots of research, some continuing education, and lots of trial and error, she found it.  Now she’s using what she’s learned to help as many people as possible—and she’s taken up powerlifting along the way. 

Connect with Andrea
website: www.getautoimmunestrong.com

Instagram: @getautoimmunestrong

Facebook @autoimmunestrong

We talked about… 

  • Needing bilateral reconstructive ankle surgeries as an eighth-grader—but not knowing why
  • Signs there was more going on than post-partum physiological changes 
  • Seeing 15 doctors before getting an accurate diagnosis
  • Getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia 
  • What it felt like to admit that full-time work, and later, even part-time work, wasn’t sustainable Being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and how educating herself and advocating for herself helped her finally get an accurate diagnosis
  • Creating boundaries- and knowing that sometimes she’ll overshoot them, and being okay with that
  • How journaling helps her stay focused on her priorities and on her health
  • The one question you need to ask yourself to reduce stress 
  • Myths about lifting heavy weights with autoimmune diseases
  • Why foot and ankle strength and flexibility are underrated 

Quotes 

I’m built like a strong ox. I love that I can carry seven bags of groceries on my back and not have to take multiple trips to the car.

I’m a powerlifter now.  I love to be able to lift heavy things up and put them down. It’s part of my identity. So being an ox is, in my world, is what I’m going for. 

What I know now is that I have four autoimmune diseases and my body was screaming. My body was like, ‘This whole thing that you’re doing, pushing yourself to the total limits is not going to work here. This is not good for you.’ I had so many injuries because my head wasn’t willing to listen to my body.

What I know now is that usually there’s a traumatic event that triggers autoimmune diseases. And that traumatic event can look like so many different things. My body was prepped and primed for a traumatic event because I had been depleting myself for years before.

I could sleep anywhere. And, and then I get home at night and be like, I’m awake, can’t sleep. My adrenaline, you know, my cortisol was way off. I didn’t know any of these words. I didn’t know the word cortisol. I didn’t know the word, gluten. I didn’t know anything. I just knew that something was weird.

I honestly felt crazy.

 I felt like this was my life path and that if I jumped off the train that the train was going to pass me by, and that’s not how life works… You hop on another train. 

 The weight-loss conversation had flown out the window because I was so sick that what I looked like did not even matter anymore. 

I was a mom who was watching my kids grow up and sitting on the sidelines. And having worked for so long and not been the primary parent for him. I wanted to be that primary parent for him so badly,  I was desperate.

I was looking at my food and started saying, huh, if food could do for me what it did, how can I turn my fitness on its head? So that’s kind of how the whole thing started. 

But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I really wanted to  go back to school and start to understand why these things that I was doing and cobbling together, why they were working and what could I be doing better?

 I started using myself as a Guinea pig. 

I built strength so that I could walk to the playground. I could lift my kiddo up. I could take him back down and I still had energy leftover to run around a little bit. 

A big part of healing actually is being able to say, this is important to me. I’ll put my energy here. 

The trouble comes where I think I can do more than I can. 

There’s a million shoulds. I could should myself all day. 

I feel like there’s a problem in our wellness community that we look to our leaders to have to be perfect and to have done it and have all the answers. And I am not that.  I’m still struggling with a lot of these boundaries and they move and I don’t know that I will ever solve it. It’s a process. It takes a lot of hard work.

But also knowing that when it doesn’t go your way and that you have a tough time and that your boundaries have slipped and you aren’t feeling well and things feel really overwhelming and terrible, knowing that that’s actually part of the process. We can’t know how to fix things or where to put the boundaries up, if we don’t experience that stress and strain.

At the end of the day, stress has been medically proven to aggravate autoimmune disease, any kind of disease.

[Barbells] changed my life.

My ability to see others’ pain is my superpower.

Trust yourself. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is never going to be perfect.  So you might as well try

Links/Resources 

Chris Kresser

Athleta leggings

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