Naturopath stays healthy with nutrition and exercise

As a youth she rode horses and played soccer. Now a naturopathic physician, Dr. Christie Winkleman rides and does yoga as part of the healthy lifestyle that makes her a good role model for her clients at Insights to Health, the naturopathic clinic she and her husband, Gil, founded.

But in between, “I was in a health cocoon for years myself,” she says.

In her 20s she was using her clinical psychology degree to work as a counselor. For no apparent reason, she had three miscarriages. Then a nutritionist put her on a path to a healthier life.

“I couldn’t believe what a low standard of wellness I had been putting up with,” she says, looking back on those years.

With proper nutrition, she started sleeping better and felt able to exercise again. And she started to study for conversion to Judaism.

“My son was born after I started the conversion process,” she says. “My joke is he wanted a healthy, Jewish mom.”

And that’s exactly what Eli, now 13, and Amelia, 11, have. The family attends Congregation Neveh Shalom, where Eli became a bar mitzvah last fall and where Amelia is studying for her bat mitzvah. Eli attended Portland Jewish Academy through seventh grade, and Amelia attended through fourth grade. The family enjoys volunteering together feeding the homeless at one of the city’s shelters. The Jewish side of things is pretty solid.

As is the health side. Dr. Christie and Gil Winkleman graduated from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland in 2008 and opened Insights to Health in Multnomah Village. While her journey to health began with, and still includes, healthy nutrition, Dr. Christie, as her patient’s call her, enjoys her return to dressage and horse ownership that she left behind when she left home for Smith College 20-some years ago.

“Having a horse again is so soul feeding for me – there’s been a lot of years of waiting and yearning for a horse in my life,” she says.

Horseback riding has many health benefits, Dr. Christie says. “Your horse is your exercise buddy,” noting many people find it helps to have someone to workout with. Exercising with an equine buddy has numerous benefits.

“People don’t think of the neurological benefits,” she says. “You are on a moving platform. It’s a multi-sensory experience using all parts of our brain. When you see a rider with a very quiet body, that takes a lot of core strength.”

Cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise is also inherent in working with horses, she says. “It’s really a whole-body experience. … and you’ll never have flabby inner thighs.”

Riding also gets people outside. “Even when it’s raining, being outside elevates our mood … and reduces our stress.”

“Riding can be very meditative,” she adds.

About a year ago, she decided to add yoga to her exercise regime to increase her flexibility, balance and awareness of her body.

The two exercises complement each other well, she says. Yoga has even improved her riding by enabling her to help her horse be more balanced. “We are meant to move every day,” she says. “Our bodies are not meant for sitting.”

In addition to regular exercise, Dr. Christie encourages her patients to get up and walk around during their workday when possible. She follows her own advice by taking the time to walk out to the front desk with her patients whenever possible.

While she says activity is important to overall health, it’s just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition, balanced hormones, stress reduction and good sleep all play important roles in health, and all are areas she addresses as a naturopath.

Insights to Health: | 2929 SW Multnomah Blvd. No. 302, Portland | 503-501-5001

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