We’ve all felt frustrated, but it’s a feeling that’s almost impossible to explain. It’s heavy and stagnant, and often puts an end to both mundane tasks and long-term goals. It ’s a mental and emotional block.
However, the once perceived setback combined with determination and support can transform into a life-changing catalyst.
It’s what happened to Matthew Helfer three years ago.
“I went from thinking that my life wasn’t in my own hands to feeling like I got my life back,” he says. “At a really young age I had chronic back pain… my whole body fell apart… I went to many doctors and no one was able to tell me what was wrong with me.
“It turned out that it was simple: I had a rotated hip from old sports injuries. The problem was, though, that doing physical therapy and alignment work didn’t help because my diet was chronically inflaming my body.”
Matt embarked on a journey of research in nutrition and fitness to find solutions for his unique condition. His investigation led him to the ketogenic lifestyle, “keto,” delineated by webMD as “a term for a low-carb diet… the idea is for you to get more calories from protein and fat and less from carbohydrates.”
The keto approach to eating includes many subcategories, varying in options based on level of rigidity and your body’s tolerance to certain whole foods.
“I went full carnivore, only animal foods. No plants, no sugar,” Matt shares. “Within one month, my back was 90% better. I got my life back almost immediately. And no one had ever told me it was an option.”
Now a functional fitness trainer, low-carb health coach and the owner of Root Cause Fitness, he’s on a mission to share his story and help others find the same freedom and relief from debilitating symptoms and confusing health conditions that he discovered for himself.
“I want people to know that these things are not difficult, especially when you have people to support you. I prefer being this ‘citizen scientist,’ as I call it—I like being the person who can do the heavy lifting from doctors, from studies and research,” he says. “I can make it extremely easy for a person to make progress. It’s my passion, my obsession.”
Root Cause Fitness focuses on core metabolic health and using proper nutrition to address chronic diseases like arthritis, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more.
Only 12% of Americans can claim having optimal metabolic health, with signs of poor metabolic health, or metabolic syndrome, including:
- High triglycerides
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Waist to height ratio (obesity)
- Hypertension/high blood pressure
- High fasting glucose
“If you put the right gas in your car and it has a healthy engine because you’re taking care of it, it’s going to go,” Matt says. “Our bodies are the same way… if you have good metabolic health, that’s the equivalent of having a good engine.”
Our bodies run on one of two fuel sources: glucose or fat. If you eat excessive carbohydrates your body will burn sugar, whereas if carbohydrates are restricted, the body burns fat for energy, forcing a shift in metabolic function. Ketogenic diets help lower inflammation and improve insulin function.
“People have more control over their health than they think because they’re the ones who fuel their body every day,” Matt says. “I believe strongly that food and how we fuel our bodies is the root cause of most chronic disease. It comes from highly refined carbohydrates, refined seed oils and processed food in general.”
Matt focuses on the bioavailability of foods, taking into account how much of the food’s nutrients are digested and absorbed by the body.
“The goal of each person when they eat should be ‘Am I getting as much nutrition as I can out of each food group?’” he explains. “When you eat a steak or eggs, these whole animal foods, you will absorb almost all of the nutrition from that food.
“I prioritize low-carb, high fat diets for the management of insulin. Keeping insulin controlled, which is managing carbohydrates, eating bioavailable fat and protein is what I believe we were designed to do.”
He is also clear about one thing:
“No one should undereat! You can’t malnourish your way to good health. It’s not possible. But eating less frequently to more satiety is a good rule of thumb. I find that most people, after they do keto for over a month or two, eat twice a day.
“We’re eating whole foods, ancestral foods. If the only ‘ingredient’ in your food is the ingredient that’s a good sign. Beef, avocado, these are unprocessed foods that we generally tolerate extremely well. The goal is to keep insulin managed and low. That alone will drastically improve root cause disease.
Root Cause Fitness also incorporates functional fitness training as a piece of the wellness puzzle, incorporating “basics” that Matt insists every body is designed to do well.
Like its name implies, functional fitness encompasses exercises to help strengthen muscle groups and restore range of motion to help everyday activities and prevent harm, like falling.
“I find a lot of people are immobile in their hips and hamstrings through the back of the knee and their calf, they have poor foot strength,” Matt says. “My focus is on those areas first. It’s crazy how weak people are in those spots. If you have pain, it’s because your muscles are weak. They don’t have enough strength to bear the burden of their job.
“I focus on looking at the person—at all of these different exercises we can do that are going to help get range of motion. I believe in strength at end range. In order to make progress on your body’s function and feeling and movement, you have to get stronger at end range.”
Matt offers training sessions via Zoom that can be easily completed at home (or the gym) with common, inexpensive equipment and a base knowledge that builds upon each meeting.
Clients’ concerns and goals range from “My body doesn’t move like it used to,” to those in the quest of attaining a particular physique.
“We can add in certain exercises that are more oriented toward building certain parts of their body, but the foundation always has to come first.
“It’s about starting the journey. Once they’ve started exploring functional fitness, they can’t imagine not having had it. I care more about how a body moves than the sexy bicep curls, though we do those, I care about the whole body. I always encourage people to hire me for one session to learn. Then go play, do your own thing!”
Matt urges anyone who is struggling with symptoms of chronic disease or a curiosity about the low-carb, high-fat approach to eating to reach out. He accepts full-time clients and begins potential partnerships with consultations to discuss issues and goals, which can range from weight loss and insomnia to reversing Type 2 diabetes and addressing autoimmune conditions.
He offers a hands-on, tailored approach to health coaching, including how to shop at the grocery store, navigate social events and safely add components back into the diet after the first month.
“I’m available all the time—texting, talking, video. There’s a lot of daily advice. It’s a very one-on-one relationship,” he says. “I also offer a flat rate if you want to talk for an hour and get tips and more information.
“At the very least, this is something I encourage people to try. It’s worth it. It’s worth having someone in your corner. No one should care more about your health than you. Actually, maybe I do!”
Weight loss is the least impressive part of eating properly. You’ll lose weight, you’ll get leaner. But you’ll fix metabolic health, you’ll prevent chronic disease. These are the heavy hitters.”
“My goal is to find the most quality of life that a person can have while maintaining progress in their health, and that balance is different for everybody.”
“I like to treat each person as an individual. We’re talking about sleep, we’re talking about exercise, of course we’re talking about nutrition, we’re talking about mental health. These are all things at play.”