Meet Kristin Oja!
As the creator of My Sudden Sight, I – Alex Carter – have written primarily about my own experiences with chronic illness. But it was never my intention to share only my story. There are so many amazing people out there living their own incredible stories and helping to make modern wellness practices the best they can be. I am pleased to introduce a new monthly segment to the blog that features the story of someone who fits this profile. I’m calling them “FIPs” – formidably impressive persons!
Over the summer, I finally got up the courage to reach out to a fellow Atlantan whose business Instagram account (@STATWellness) had long been a favorite. Although I was a little nervous to reach out (I mean, it’s a really great account!) it turned out that I had no reason be anxious. Dr. Kristin Oja, founder of STAT Wellness, is a vibrant, skilled, and kind individual dedicated to helping others achieve total wellness. She was gracious enough to agree to an online interview with me about a month ago after returning home from a trip to Europe.
I hope you enjoy getting to know more about this FIP as much as I did!
This interview was conducted online. My questions are in bold, and Kristin’s responses are reported word-for-word.
My Interview with Dr. Kristin Oja, Founder of STAT Wellness and All-Around FIP
Welcome back to the States! I’ll admit, I couldn’t help but Insta-stalk your recent visit to Eastern Europe – at least a little bit. Was it a relaxing trip?
Yes, we had an amazing trip! We stayed active, which is actually quite relaxing for me!
We went to three places in Norway: Oslo, Bergen, and Balestrand, all of which are TOTALLY different. Oslo is a large city, Bergen is the second largest city, and Balestrand is a small city with a population of only around 1,000. We hiked, explored historic sites, took a boat through the Fjords… I have never seen a more photogenic country. We finished our trip in Tallinn, Estonia where my husband’s family is from and where my last name is from (Oja). We were able to see his Grandmas house that survived World War II… AMAZING!
Thanks for asking and stalking!
First and foremost, tell a little about yourself and about your company, STAT Wellness. What is the basic setup, and what are your goals with the company?
My name is Kristin Oja (hard j). I have a unique background that blends fitness and medicine. I have my Doctorate of Nursing Practice, am a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, and Certified Group Fitness Instructor. I have training in Functional Medicine through the Institute of Functional Medicine, which focuses on uncovering and treating the ROOT cause for patient’s symptoms, rather than just managing the symptoms.
I was inspired to start STAT Wellness (which stands for Strength to Achieve Total Wellness) while working in the Emergency Room as a nurse. Several of my patients had chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure that stemmed from poor lifestyle choices. My initial goal was to help people make small and simple lifestyle changes that would ultimately lead to total body transformation based on the proverb “little by little a little becomes a lot.”
However, over the years my goals for the company have evolved. I am currently in the process of opening up STAT Wellness’ first physical location in Atlanta where I will be blending my two passions: Medicine + Movement. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to see updates on the progress.
Outside of work, I live in Atlanta with my wonderful husband, Cam and crazy puppy, Charlie. I love to workout, cook, hang out with friends and family, and my weakness is wine!
What were the steps in your life that led you to found STAT Wellness? Was there a specific event in your personal life? Were you inspired by something or someone?
I was a dancer and lacrosse player growing up. I was never super skinny, but I could eat whatever I wanted without gaining too much weight because I was active… Until college. Freshmen year I continued eating whatever and stopped my normal training with dance and lacrosse. By Christmas, I could not button my jeans. I knew something needed to change. So I started working out because I wanted to, not because I was required to for a sport; and I fell in love with it. I started researching everything health and wellness related. I loved feeling strong and fit; so I wanted to help others feel the same.
From the business perspective, I truly believe you are either born an entrepreneur or not; and I was definitely born an entrepreneur. When I was a young girl, I would lead week-long dance camps in my parent’s backyard for my neighbors and put on a “recital” at the end of the week. Even to this day, I lie awake at night thinking of different business ideas and strategies. I just LOVE it, so I knew one day I would have my own business. It wasn’t until working in the Emergency Room that I knew exactly what kind of business I would start and even to this day it continues to evolve.
Did the company grow organically into what it is now, or was it something that you created more deliberately? In other words, what were the steps that made it what it is today?
It has grown organically for sure. STAT Wellness started as an outdoor fitness bootcamp company and then evolved to at-home personal training and private yoga sessions. I always worked on STAT Wellness on the side while maintaining a full time job as a Nurse Practitioner. It wasn’t until the past few months that I decided I needed to take a leap of faith and open a physical location for STAT Wellness. I am super excited and nervous all at the same time… I guess that is to be expected!
I mentioned in my initial email to you just how impressed I am that you have a top nursing degree, but you also incorporate functional medicine approaches in your coaching. What are your reasons behind that integration?
Gosh, great question! I incorporate functional medicine into my practice because I believe it’s the best way to care for people. Putting a “band-aid” over a patient’s symptoms or disease state is only offering short-term relief and can often do more harm in the long run. While focusing on healing the root cause can optimize an individuals life and longevity!
I do everything I can to make sure my patients not only look their best but feel their best… and that starts from the inside, and it requires lifestyle changes. Following a functional medicine approach is not as easy as taking a pill, but it sure is worth it in the long run!
My Sudden Sight is a blog about people living with chronic illness and dealing with health and medical trauma. In your STAT Wellness bio, you say that your focus on helping people with chronic illness is to discover the root cause of their issues. How does your work with chronically ill clients differ from your work with clients who are just looking to get fit or be healthier?
When treating my patients with chronic illness, the most important thing is to get a detailed history. I want to know if they were a vaginal delivery or a c-section. I want to know every antibiotic they have been on and every crash diet they have tried. I want to know their family history and current lifestyle habits. After I learn more about their history, I can better assess what testing they may need (stool analysis, food sensitivity testing, hormone evaluation, or nutritional examination). With the goal being to figure out what triggered their chronic illness and it typically is not one factor but a culmination of several factors. I LOVE epigenetics and nutrigenomics and researching what environmental and nutritional factors may be playing a role in gene expression.
My patient or client that is just trying to get fit or healthier really involves a more lifestyle and health coaching approach. We all have areas in our life that could use some improving!
So, what makes the functional medicine approach better, in your opinion, than other health approaches you’ve studied?
From a medical perspective, Functional Medicine just makes sense. It examines the pathophysiology or basic body processes that may be imbalanced and helps get it back in balance (in simple terms). The body works synergistically as one unit and it needs to be treated that way, not system by system.
From a consumers stand point, I think most of us have had an experience where one aliment triggers a seemingly unrelated response; for example lack of sleep causing us to crave sugar and overeat or stress causing us to become exhausted. Almost every symptom I have seen is caused by something and that’s what functional medicine tries to uncover.
My goal is to give my patients insight into what may be contributing to their symptoms and empower them to make positive, approachable changes that they can stick to – thus creating a more healthy and happy life.
“Putting a ‘band-aid’ over a patient’s symptoms or disease state is only offering short-term relief and can often do more harm in the long run. While focusing on healing the root cause can optimize an individuals life and longevity!”
Do you have any favorite testimonials from clients that you’d like to share? Or, do you have any stories about a client’s personal growth that just made you think, “Wow, this really works”?
Actually I had a patient write a testimony for me the other day and this is what she said,
“Before getting an appointment with Dr. Kristin Oja, I was constantly sick after eating every meal. I was struggling with weight gain along with migraines, and felt that there was nothing I could do to feel better. It had been over a year of feeling like this when I decided that things needed to change. When I went to see Kristin she shared her insights about gut health and leaky gut issues, and felt that she could help me get to the root cause of my symptoms. After a blood work-up, Kristin explained what was going on in my body and some of the factors contributing to the root cause of my pain. I got on a full panel of natural supplements to help boost and detoxify my body functions, an anti-fungal to regulate candida levels, and worked on a diet plan to eliminate the foods that were causing the most issues. After 6 weeks of this regiment, I was a completely new person. My regular food diet is now so much more balanced, my blood sugar levels don’t drop anymore, and I finally feel GOOD! With Kristin’s help I have been able to make real, sustainable changes to my lifestyle that leave me feeling great – and my blood work has never looked so good!”
If you could give only three pieces of advice for people to follow, what would they be?
- Don’t settle for feeling mediocre
- Lifestyle changes are hard, take it day by day and give yourself some grace
- Remember the basics: sleep (aim for 7.5 hours per night), hydrate (half your body weight in ounces), and eat clean at least 80% of the time (can you pronounce it? If not, don’t eat it).
And now, a fun question! What is your favorite way of practicing self-care?
Hands down, writing in my gratitude journal. No matter what bumps or hiccups I face, I have so much to be thankful for. I truly believe a dose of positivity is one of the best medicines!
A Few Words from A.C.
Kristin, I couldn’t agree more! I use the 5 Minute Journal app every day to record my gratitude morning and night. Thank you SO MUCH for taking to time to answer my questions and offer insight into your goals for helping more people achieve total wellness. I am beyond excited to see how your work grows in Atlanta (and hopefully beyond!)
Readers, I hope you enjoyed the first FIP Interview! If you want to learn more about Dr. Kristin Oja and STAT Wellness, I highly recommend checking out their website to learn more about their services and read their fantastic blog. Also, if you are in the Atlanta area, I was stoked to find out this past week that the STAT Wellness team has moved into their first physical location! Follow their Instagram account for updates about the West Midtown spot and when they will officially open their doors. I know I’ll personally be eagerly awaiting the grand opening…
Congrats again to Kristin and the STAT Wellness team!