I was doing some contemplating the other day on what makes a really good nutritionist and I realized that some of my favorite people in the health and nutrition sphere are those that have let me see into their personal lives a bit and with whom I can relate. As I started thinking more about this, I realized that perhaps I haven’t been as transparent about my “WHY” with my followers and clients as I could have been and decided it’s time to change that.
Similar to a lot of health practitioners, my love for nutrition, health and the human body came out of my own perils. To be blunt, I was a bit of a nerdy kid as a child. I had a fascination with health from a very young age and one of my favorite books to carry around and read was Prescription for Nutritional Healing. No joke. It was a large book that listed almost every illness or symptom a person could encounter and the dietary/lifestyle protocols or supplements that would help with the problem. I know – Strange right!? I was probably a bit of a hypochondriac but, hey, who’s judging!
Fast forward to my early twenties and my life was a different story. I was consuming way too many processed foods, too much sugar and my fair share of alcohol. I was also sacrificing sleep for late nights and making up for it with a daily coffee fix. Unfortunately, I also gained some extra weight, which had never been a problem before, and was experiencing a lot of anxiety coupled with bouts of depression. Although I had been incredibly active as a child and teenager, with 5-6 days of gymnastics, dancing or cheerleading, the most I was doing around age 20 was a daily run and the occasional starvation, yo-yo diet.
Randomly, one of my girlfriends suggested I come with her to a group personal training “boot camp” of sorts. I had always been in pretty “good shape,” so I agreed. We started working out with weight a few times a week and began tracking our food. For the first time in a long time, I was eating more than a lean cuisine (which at the time I thought were fantastic) and getting some actual nutrients in my body. I felt great and was losing weight. It was during this time that I actually decided to become a personal trainer and help others to do what my trainer had done for me. Because, hey, that’s cool right? Over the next couple of years, I did my best to learn what I could about the bodybuilding world and packing on muscle but something still wasn’t clicking for me. I wasn’t really talking the talk and walking the walk and wasn’t having much success with my clients either. In world of sugar free, fat free, low-carb-this, protein-shake-that, I had slowly began to decline in health once again. It was hard to teach others what I didn’t know. I didn’t get it and was frustrated as hell. I was working out harder than I ever had at this point and eating about 1200 calories a day. Why didn’t I feel better and why didn’t I look better?! Enter CrossFit and Paleo.
Around 2013, one of my boyfriends’ great friends, who happened to also to be a trainer, decided to open a CrossFit gym. I had heard of CrossFit and was vaguely aware that it was hard as hell and that it scared me. I don’t know exactly why, but my boyfriend and I decided to attend and a little bit later, as we fell in love, get our Level 1 Certification to become coaches. We also began learning about a Paleo way of eating and halfway adopted it into our normal eating habits.
We were coaching here and there but again, something felt off. Now I know it’s because my love affair rests with food and nutrition,but at the time I couldn’t understand why I didn’t love my job even though I loved health and fitness. Personally, I was liking how strong and capable I was feeling in the gym, but we were part-time Paleo-ers and not seeing the benefits of good nutrition. On the weekends we were still eating crappy foods and partying with too much alcohol and too little sleep. My digestion was poor, I had stomach aches all the time, I was taking lots of Nsaids to deal with achy muscles and bones, my anxiety was through the roof and I was masking it all with anti-anxiety drugs. I wasn’t sleeping well, and overall I was feeling exhausted with life. I remember thinking at 27, who feels this shitty? Well come to find out – lots and lots of people, but that’s for another time.
Jump forward once more to 2014 and my body had had it. In about April of 2014, I started along the final descent into what we will call a total and utter breakdown. I fell into what I now know was compete adrenal exhaustion, or stage 3 HPA-Axis dysregulation. The stages are 1,2 and 3, so you can imagine how I was feeling. I had been running on fumes for quite sometime and my body finally said ‘This is it lady. Pull over, you’re out of gas’. I won’t go into all the symptoms I experienced over the next several months but I will say that it was bad. Like getting out of bed some times seemed like climbing Mt. Everest. Seeing friends and dealing with my loved ones felt like torture and I was confused, angry and sad all at the same time. I had started seeing doctor after doctor as well to find a cause for all my different symptoms but they told me it was either all in my head or that I was perfectly healthy and just stressed. On Christmas Day, 2014, after my third or fourth panic attack of the day, I decided enough was enough. It was time to get serious and fix myself because the idea of living this way forever made my mind explode and no one else seemed to be able to help, or was even willing to try. For intuitive reasons I still don’t entirely understand, I decided to go on a strict Paleo diet with one caveat: I could eat whatever I wanted within those parameters and however much of it I wanted. There would be no restriction on calories, no counting macros, and no specific nutrient timing as long as it was real food I could pronounce and recognize. And let me tell you, I ate. Once I cut out gluten and grains (later I would find a Celiac diagnoses) I had so much room for other foods. I ate butter (sooo much butter), meats and eggs. I scarfed veggies and fruits and snacked on nuts, seeds and oils. I also began incorporating healing herbal teas and spices of all kinds into my meals. I cut out alcohol, coffee and dairy for a time as well, and lo and behold, I started to feel amazing. It was at this time that I began a meditation practice and drastically cut the amount of time I spent in the gym. I gave my body permission to rest when I felt like it and did lots of gentle stretching. I started putting pink salt on almost every meal and incorporated green smoothies and probiotic- rich food and drinks like sauerkraut and kombucha daily. I started taking digestive enzymes to help my leaky and irritated gut and drank lemon water and apple cider vinegar before my meals to aide the breakdown of my food. Within weeks I felt better, within months I felt fantastic and over a year later I feel like a different person. I researched so much about holistic healing during this time period, that one day I got a postcard in the mail from the Nutritional Therapy Association. It listed out their Nutritional Therapy Practitioners Program and how they believed nutrition and some nutritional supplements could help heal the human body from its physiological weaknesses brought on by poor eating and the Standard American Diet. It was as if there was a halo of light surrounding this tiny postcard and for the first time in my life, without a doubt, I knew that Nutritional Therapy was how I fit in to the health and wellness design! This was everything I believed in and practiced in my own life and now I could do it professionally! Which, consequently, has led me to you. Throughout my own healing, and now through the literature, I am constantly learning how proper digestion and function are really the cornerstone to any healthy body. My own struggles never cleared up completely until I addressed the foundational aspects that were missing from a digestive perspective. Once those were aligned, the rest of my healing process became easy. Which is why I decided to specialize in digestive function in my nutrition practice. I have yet to see a case where a client has symptoms that don’t at least begin to clear up when they address their digestive function. You see, every cell, in every tissue, in every organ, in every organ system relies on the nutrition you feed it. I find that fascinating, but we’ve already established that I’m a bit of a nerd too!
While it’s not always pleasant to go back and tell our stories, or open up about our shortcomings, I hope that you feel like you know me a bit better now and see why I am so passionate and loving about my work. They say that personal experience is the best teacher and I couldn’t agree more. There has been nothing nearly as powerful in my textbooks as seeing the process of nutritional healing firsthand in my own body. Wishing you all a happy weekend!