Joanna BROWN

Joanna BROWN

Rejoice Nutrition Wellness

The One Thing a Health Coach never wants to admit….. “I got sick”.

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When you are a health coach or even just someone that takes great care about choosing to love your body through food, self-care, movement, and natural ways you can be the target of ridicule when you do get sick. The friends or people in your life can almost relish in it with “ahhh I guess those green juices don’t keep you healthy!” or my favorite “guess all your healthy stuff does not work, hey?”. While the external Nah-sayers of your healthy living practices enjoy poking fun at how healthy living does did not keep you from getting sick, your negative internal dialogue switch gets turned on.

“How did you let this happen?”, “Why was I weak enough to let sickness hit me?”. So you get your good old let’s be super hard on ourselves for being weak thought process kicking in, the confirmation from the external world your lifestyle and healthy efforts don’t work and boom you have yourself one spectacular negative self-talk loop!

Why would someone healthy get sick?

So you eat well. Drink your water. Practice self-care. Go to yoga. Do all the things and you still get sick.  There are multiple reasons this can happen.

  1. Your Genetics can Play a Role. Your immunity is determined by several factors. Genetics can play a large role, says Paolo Boffetta, MD, professor of medicine, hematology, and medical oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Immunological genes are many and complex, and your immune response depends on their combined performance,” Dr. Boffetta states.
  2. Sleep is a Key player. Sleep is a health-restorative time for the body. “When you sleep, your body releases immune proteins called cytokines, which help fight infections and control the body’s response to stress,” Dr. Phillips says. “So a lack of sleep can lead to an under-production of cytokines and other protective immune cells, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.”
  3. STRESS. When we experience stress, our stress hormone (cortisol) gets released. Now short-term this is fine and is a natural response in the body for survival (aka the fight or flight response), but when we are under stress for long periods we enter a period of Chronic Stress which is very damaging.This constant slow leak of corticosteroid in the body can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes). Chronic inflammation in the body can occur from long-term stress which is known to be a contributing factor in anything with “itis” at the end. Colitis, Arthritis, Diverticulitis, etc. When we hear “itis” at the end of the title, inflammation has a part to play and then we need to take a further step back and look at our stress.


As a health coach and holistic living enthusiast, I was self-aware that as I was experiencing intense amounts of stress I needed to do things to manage my stress. I hit the gym, I went for walks, I adding in foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory, I began to journal, and practice meditation before bed. I was doing ‘all the thing’ I know to do. The stuff that has the good science attached to it and my personal experience tools to manage my stress-response in the body. Despite these efforts, I still got sick. The bleeding ulcer that started me on this wellness journey from 2012 flared up again and Uleritis Colitis is now a diagnosis (see the “itis” at the end of those words= aka inflammation).

This past year I put energy into focusing on all I had and am grateful for. Trying to mentally put a spotlight on the good stuff in hopes it would shine over the hard stuff I was struggling with. The Rejoice Community has been so amazing! I have so many women and family that have had a transformative experience with their health and developed a positive relationship with food. However, I am human and can also struggle. Which is a harder thing to admit for most of us, especially when you work in the field of wellness.

The Hard Truth.

The past 2 years I have had a lot thrown at me to work through. I have had to “sit in the shit” and figure it out. I have had people in my life die from sudden illness and suicide. I have run three businesses, teach part-time, and volunteer in several areas with a perfectionist and “do all the things” attitude that has added more to my plate than is probably manageable.

My two children are transitioning from kids to teens and I quickly learned that the ideas I had as a mom that “once my kids are older it will be less work and easier” was a total Mom Lie! Having little ones I would look at moms with older kids and assume that I had it harder and that it would be easier once the child got older.

That was a big misconception that I now apologize to all the mama’s with older kids when mine were little that I just did not know. I did not comprehend how scary and hard it is when you have to lose this false idea that you are in control and can control the things in your kid’s lives. My kids have emotionally needed me more actually than ever before and physically need me more present than when they were toddlers which is a paradox I have learned the hard way this past year.

Financial Stress is scary. This is the kind of stress that wakes you up in the night in a cold sweat and feeling like there is an elephant on your chest. Between investing free time, physical assets, and money into a starting a new business, and trying to do the right thing in helping sick family members suffering from cancer to mental illness we made financial decisions to help them. The ethically right decisions you make to help others but then end up sacrificing your situation to help others. This has been a hard lesson and had added a great deal of stress.

All the trauma all at once to the surface. If you follow me on social media (I hope we are BFFs on Instagram!) you would have seen I shared my story as a co-author and earned the title Best Selling Author in 2019. In the book, I talked about my health journey and the tremendous gift that has been discovering my biological roots as an adoptive child. Through this discovery, all the childhood trauma and that stuff that you bury deep down inside intending to never talk about or think about ever just all came flooding to the surface.

I needed to deal with it all at once, a lifetime of emotions whilst trying to learn the new stage of motherhood I was in to be present to a struggling teenage girl, to try and keep 3 jobs and the many responsibilities in life, relationships, business, and health all equally balanced. These things woke me up which impacted my sleep —-> which in turn impacted my stress—->which we know from above caused chronic stress —-> which lead to chronic inflammation—–> which lead to an “itis” diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. 

The Insight and Takeaways

  • Firstly. Acknowledge that shit! Yup, “I am going to out you on your Rejoice page that you are sick”. Well, guess what, no need the nah-sayers of healthy living. I am “outing myself”. I am not ashamed of the diagnosis I have nor do I feel the need to hide it. Pushing things down I have learned does not serve you. You must acknowledge what is happening in your life and your body so that you can learn the root causes, follow the chain of events (as I showed mine above) so that you can lay it out on the table and say… “OK, there it all is, now what am I going to do about it?”
  • Make Small Changes in the Areas that matter most. We can’t control all the things, we just can’t. So we have to let that idea of false control go. Then we need to look at our day, yup no master longterm planning when you have so much going on in front of you. So make a plan for just one day at a time. What can I do today? What right now can I let go? What small choice can I make with my food, sleep, body, a mindset that supports my health? ONE small conscious choice after another.
  • Healthy Habits Matter. I was talking to my colleague which also happens to be a Naturopathic Doctor about the chain of events. She made mention that all the healthy choices I was making and the efforts I have been putting into my health may be the very thing that saved me! That without those efforts my diagnosis may have been worse? I may have stayed longer in the hospital? my road to recovery might have been longer and more of a struggle then what it is now?The bottom line is, it’s easy to point the finger to something and say “oh it did not work!”, that thing or program did not work for me because I got sick, or I am still trying to lose weight or still struggling with anxiety. we don’t, know. The good choices you are making could be doing more than you know!They could be the difference when stress is high or you are sick between being able to learn and turn it around vs. maybe not? I believe that what I have mentally, emotionally, and physically endured in the past 2 years is so much that without all the intentional choices, healthy habits, and efforts to manage my overall wellness throughout it all….. that this could have had a much different outcome. Check out my Healthy Habits for Healthy Moms (NO BS) article.
  • Accept Imperfection and meet it with Kindness. As someone who can be hard on oneself for not being able to do it all, being unable to admit weakness, and rather drowned that ask for help…. I have had to learn this the hard way. I am still not perfect at asking for help, saying “No” when I know I need to and putting myself first. I am a people pleaser, I choose to avoid confrontation over speaking my truth, and want everyone to be happy around me always. I will put others’ needs before my own. I still have work to do here, I am self-aware of it. So when I do better at this I acknowledge it. When I struggle, I accept I am doing my best, accept the imperfection of being human and be kind to myself instead of beat myself up over it.
  • The Power of Stress. Some stress is good. It motivates you, lights a fire in you, and can get your creative juices flowing. However, I have experienced first hand that there is a tipping point. Chronic stress leads to brain fog where you can’t keep a thought in your head. It can impact your sleep which impacts sleep. It can lead to inflammation which long term can wind you up with health issues or diagnosis. I knew that chronic stress is bad but personally experiencing the health effects of it now has taught me that self-care and stress management needs to be at the top of the priority list and not an “add-on” option in your health journey.

Breakdown to Breakthrough

I hope in sharing my story, the truth, and my struggle over the past months resonate with some. My intention behind sharing is to put a spotlight on the imperfection behind even the best intentions, best health plans, and that it is ok and nothing to be ashamed about.  That sometimes we need to “sit in the shit” to come out stronger and wiser.

That your health and wellness journey is not a straight line upward but instead a rollercoaster of twists and turns. That when the bottom falls out implementing those small healthy habits that make us feel stronger are key tools that help us cope and restore our wellness. That standing in your truth is sometimes hard but fosters immense growth and transformation. If you are interested in more tips, check out my Feeling Stressed? 8 Ways to Manage Stress post and my Time Management Skills to Achieve your Health Goals article when you feel like you can’t keep things straight.

“The Greatest glory in living lies not in ever falling, but in the rising every time we fall” – Nelson Mandela



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