“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives.” – BJ Nelblett
Being healthy has always been a priority and a passion, but the health I experience today did not come easily.
The beginning of my story isn’t that interesting. I was an overachieving kid who put a ton of pressure on myself to succeed. In high school, I played 3 sports, studied all night, stressed too much, slept too little, and was overly concerned with what I ate. As a teenager in the early 90s, my diet was filled with processed food claiming to be healthy as part of the low-fat, high-refined carb craze.
College was no different, but I went deep into the science of good health – double majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition, Fitness, and Health. Again, because it was the 90s, science said fat was bad, and carbs served as the foundation of a healthy diet. Sugar free cookies were labeled as healthy and olestra, which was a calorie-free, laboratory-created fat the body couldn’t digest, was marketed as a great advancement in healthy snacking. You could eat all the potato chips you wanted, and the only risk was the possibility of loose stools!
I graduated college unhealthier than I had ever been.
My gut was a mess and I underwent my first colonoscopy and endoscopy at the age of 22. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and told there was nothing that could be done. Although not grossly overweight, the 20 pounds I had gained, I wasn’t able to shed. To address that bit of weight, I decided to try a ketogenic diet. It was, and is, the only time in my life I have formally ‘dieted’ but it had a remarkable effect on my body.
A ketogenic diet is defined as high fat, moderate protein, and low to no carbs. The removal of carbs removed all processed food from my life. In about 60 days I lost more than 20 pounds. I wasn’t as tired or as easily stressed. I began strength training and walked into my first yoga class which began a mindfulness journey that has shaped who I am today.
I only stayed on a ketogenic diet for a few months. For me in my early 20s, it wasn’t a sustainable solution, but it did change the way I ate. I became more mindful of the type of carbs I consumed, and I incorporated healthy fats and protein in a more intentional way. By all accounts, I ate ‘healthy’, but unknowingly, it was still not right for me.
My gut was better, but not great, and increasingly I struggled with debilitating fatigue and brain fog. I would regularly pull over on the side of the road midday and sleep for a few minutes to avoid dozing off while driving, despite having slept 9 hours the night before.
I stayed in this version of ‘normal’ for almost 2 years until finally a doctor checked my thyroid function and determined I had developed the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. At 27 I would now begin taking a daily medication for the rest of my life which, no doubt, did improve my symptoms.
Sadly though, I didn’t know to question why my body was attacking itself. And at such an early stage in the disease I wasn’t aware I had the potential to reverse it. So, I continued to live as I always had which meant I continued stoking the chronic low-grade inflammation that was causing irreparable damage.
At 29, knowing we wanted children, my husband and I began a long and emotionally draining journey.
After 2 years of trying unsuccessfully, I sought the help of a fertility specialist. A full evaluation determined I had low ovarian reserves and an unnaturally high FSH. This meant that at 31 years old, my body was approaching menopause. After 2 unsuccessful attempts with IVF, I gave up, uncomfortable with both the high doses of hormones and the high cost. It was at this point my fate connected me with a naturopath and an exploration into the root cause of my health ailments.
During the first meeting, he recommended I do food sensitivity testing. Although these tests are unreliable and may lead to unnecessarily restrictive eating, mine came back with high reactivity to both dairy and wheat. So, to test the theory, I gave up eating both. The result was nothing short of miraculous. My gut function improved dramatically, I lost a few pounds, and after 8 months, I got pregnant with my son without any medical intervention.
I stayed away from dairy from that point on because the impact on my stomach is immediate. Gluten, however, is a little trickier to notice so I started eating it again. It wasn’t until a different doctor, struggling to get my thyroid disease under control, kindly stated that I could continue to eat it, but “I wouldn’t live as long or be as healthy”, and so I stopped for good. The two notable changes were a reduction in thyroid medication and a drop in weight likely connected to fewer carbs and reduced inflammation.
After another exhausting 3 years of trying to get pregnant with and without the help of a fertility specialist and squarely in perimenopause at this point, I completely gave up. Well-intentioned friends would tell me to just relax. That I was too stressed, and it would happen if I just stopped trying so hard. Telling a highly motivated, driven person to relax is about as effective as trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.
Nevertheless, it was around this time I began meditating.
Just 5 minutes a day, every day, just to see what happened. Despite reading the science and hearing from experts, I wasn’t prepared for the shift in my overall well-being.
Meditation changes the relationship with our thoughts. When we become aware without judgment, we begin to embrace self-acceptance, love, and compassion. I learned to reset my nervous system with intentional breathing. I learned about the power of gratitude and present-moment awareness to experience more joy. I stopped pushing so hard, stopped trying to control everything, and learned to surrender to what was and detach from what I thought it should be.
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And then, of course, despite accepting I would never have more children, even with medical intervention, my daughter was conceived.
Perspective is a powerful thing, especially for someone like me who loves science and concrete data. But when you bear witness to miracles, it’s easier to soften into the unknown.
It’s been over a decade of eating in a way that supports my unique needs and of practicing mindfulness meditation. I’ve learned that good health is foundational for a good life and that good health is a complex interconnected blend of the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
My appreciation for life is profound and my love for the lessons I’ve learned has led me to create Taking Root. My truths are the ones I’ve discovered work for me, and I don’t share them with the intention of making them yours. I share to help explain how I got here and why I’m so passionate about helping others find theirs. That said, certain beliefs guide my life and inform my coaching.
I believe when we remove the stuff weighing us down, it opens us up to experience a more fulfilling, joyful life.
I believe dietary dogma can be harmful and misleading. Finding foods that nourish and make us feel best is a worthy journey unto itself.
I believe science supports certain lifestyle habits. Most notably, regular exercise increases both lifespan and healthspan, connecting with nature improves overall well-being because we ourselves are nature, adequate sleep is indispensable for a healthy mind and body, and finding an outlet to manage stress improves overall health and quality of life. I also believe in the scientific process which means that information continues to evolve, and so should we.
I believe the emotional experiences of vastness and transcendence are essential for a rich and meaningful life and by practicing gratitude and mindfulness we become aware of and appreciate these moments in our everyday routines.
I believe our reality is a projection of the stories we tell ourselves, so examining the current narrative and consciously creating new ones can radically transform our lives.
And finally, I believe there is no actual arrival, endpoint, or goal but rather ongoing cycles of ever-expanding growth. Accepting this reality can help us embrace the magic, mystery, and impermanence of it all.
Your life is happening now so don’t wait another second to savor the journey with improved health, increased joy, and greater fulfillment.
You deserve to feel amazing, and everything you need to achieve that goal is within. It may sound a little out there, but if you’re willing to explore, I would love to help you discover what’s possible.
When you’re ready…I’ll be here.