I recently came across this picture of me on the left from December of 2012, shortly before I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. As I scrolled through my pictures, I realized I had very few moments of me captured during this time period. As I stared at the picture on the computer screen, all of the feelings of being embarrassed, ashamed and depressed came flooding back to me. I remember feeling so uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t want to see it or much less have an something to remember this version of myself by. I HATED taking pictures. I was going to be a licensed dietitian soon, and I had become sick, fat, and felt like crap all the time. How was anyone going to take my advice seriously on how to be fit and healthy when I couldn’t even do it for myself?
The picture on the right is more recent, from March of 2016. I am writing this because I want to disclose that even as a registered dietitian, I too have endured my own personal struggles with weight and poor health. More importantly, I want to discuss what I overlooked about achieving optimal health and weight management, and give you the solution I had to learn the hard way.
During the timeframe leading up to the picture on the left, to say I was an absolute mess would be an understatement. I had endured more trials and tribulations than I ever thought one person could bare. At this time, I was working full-time during nights and weekends bartending and serving to pay my bills, I was in my second semester of a master’s program, I was in a destructive relationship that I was holding onto for security, I was a single parent to my two young daughters, and I was extremely ill but had no idea, yet.
I had endured a lot of hard times leading up to this as well, with the loss of my dad, my marriage and relationship of 17 years ending in divorce, and facing the rejection of not being accepted into a supervised practice internship to finish the last steps of becoming a registered dietitian that I had worked so hard for. My future seemed bleak, and I was devastated that I had wasted so much time and more importantly energy on things that didn’t seem to be panning out the way I thought they would. I had completely lost myself in this process, and it was a frightening feeling, but unfortunately that didn’t stop me from continuing to indulge in my destructive behaviors.
I’ve always considered myself a healthy person. At the age of 18 I was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease, but wasn’t able to get health insurance because it was a preexisting condition. I had to be proactive when it came to my health, because it was either that or dialysis. This is when my passion for research and nutrition began and I started implementing small changes to my diet and started incorporating regular exercise.
Fast forward to December of 2012 (pictured above), I was eating a “healthy diet” (or so I thought) incorporating all of the eating principles I had learned in my dietetics program to support a healthy weight. This included a low-fat, low-calorie diet that consisted of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein that we were told for so long was “healthy”. I was exercising more than ever, doing at least an hour of cardio per day (which I didn’t have time for) but was desperate to get my weight down, so I made it a priority.
I was tired, and I mean tired, all the time. If I had a free moment that didn’t include work, writing a paper, cooking, cleaning, exercising, or running the girls around, you could guarantee I would be trying to catch a nap, however, I never seemed to actually fall asleep. I would close my eyes and pray that I would fall asleep, but the reality was that I would lie there with my eyes closed, mind racing, and my heart beating even faster, this made no sense…I was exhausted. If it weren’t for my several cups of coffee throughout the day I don’t know how I would have pushed myself through.
In March of 2013, I was finally able to obtain health insurance because of the new Obama Care laws. I scheduled an appointment to visit the gynecologist, and upon her physical examination she had immediate concerns. I had a colposcopy performed that indicated I had cervical cancer, so we scheduled an appointment to move forward with a surgery to remove the cancerous tissues. I was in complete and utter shock at how could this happen to me… I was a “healthy” person. I was determined to find the answer, and again dug into my research, but even deeper this time.
I knew that because I have a chronic kidney disease that acts very similar to an autoimmune disease, my body can’t fight the same way a “healthy” person’s body can. I had struggled with shingles, scarlet fever, and various other viral infections over the last decade but never did I consider that it would lead to cancer. I had apparently contracted HPV at some point because my body was so busy trying to fight the kidney disease, it couldn’t fight off the HPV which then lead to the cervical cancer. I knew then that I was going to have to make changes, but struggled with getting to the bottom of what those changes were, so I forged forward researching and came to my aha moment.
When it comes to our weight and our health, there are so many metabolic factors to consider, most of which tend to be overlooked. Some of the most important factors in keeping good health are cast aside or never thought about because of hectic schedules and busy lifestyles. This is our societies current “norm”. I finally gained insight into why I felt sick, fat, and like complete crap. I didn’t have ANY balance in my life, and always pushed my self to go, go, go, and my body was finally fighting back. The metabolic shifts happening in my body were causing it to store fat instead of burning it, despite my healthy diet and rigid exercise plan. My lack of sleep, compromised health, and overwhelming amounts of stress kicked my fight or flight response into high gear, and my body was working against me.
I needed to do something different and was desperate to make the changes, just give me the “plan” I thought and I can do this, I will reverse this and make myself better. Well it wasn’t that easy, there is no plan or quick fix to heal a sick metabolism. It was going to take time, and most importantly it was going to require me to make some major behavior changes that I was not comfortable with. For years I had many of my professors telling me I was pushing myself too hard and that I needed to lighten up on myself and my expectations of what was obtainable with in a 24-hour period. “No way”, I thought, not me, I’m strong and I can do anything I set my mind to. It turns out that this mindset and my expectations for myself were the culprit of my health and weight issues.
I had to let go of control, which was one of the hardest changes for me throughout this transformation. I had always thought that I had to live up to some perfect standard, push myself, and set my expectations so high that I sacrificed any sort of balanced life for the feeling of success. I had to learn to make sleep a priority, and to just let things go that I once thought were so important. I had to change the way I was eating, exercising, and most importantly I had to embrace restorative practices in my life and make those practices a priority to achieve balance.
I will be turning 40 years old in 2 months, and I can honestly say that I feel and look better now than I did when I was in my twenties. It’s so exhilarating to wake up with energy that is all day long, and know that I don’t need caffeine to “pick me up” just to make it through the workday. My days of praying to fall asleep and stay asleep are far behind me and now I sleep better than ever before. I no longer wrestle with the feeling of anxiety going about my everyday tasks, and know with confidence that I’m on the right path to maintain a healthy weight. I embrace the opportunity to get a picture taken whenever the opportunity presents itself and recently did a photoshoot wearing my bathing suit and was proud to show off my hard work. I have had to change my mindset and approach about what living a healthy lifestyle is and looks like and it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I wake up every day thankful to have the opportunity to take a breath and begin a new day.
I often tell my clients, “less is more”, which is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around. The conflicting messages we hear from the media and our peers about what it takes to be healthy and successful are often the biggest reason we aren’t. The bottom line is that if we cannot achieve balance in our day to day lives, something will always continue to suffer.
My job as a registered dietitian nutritionist is not just to teach people about food, but to help them obtain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I understand what you are going through, and want you to have control over the barriers that are keeping you from obtaining the results you so desperately desire. I use the skills from my education and life experience to deliver a personalized and effective coaching process and provide support along the way. I help my clients discover where they are falling short with achieving balance, and direct them through small and realistic behavior changes that keep the metabolism working and the weight coming off.
I have made it my mission to provide the support, encouragement, and education necessary to achieve a healthy and balanced life for all of my clients. You are not alone in this journey and I have had the opportunity to help coach hundreds of people to effectively change their lifestyle and obtain sustainable results that last a lifetime. I love sharing my passion for nutrition and life, I want the entire world to wake up every day feeling as good as I do!