Why am I starting a new career as a Health Coach?
That’s a question I thought long and hard about before beginning this journey. What is motivating me to add on to my Pilates teaching which I thoroughly enjoy? The answer is long and not fully known by most people, but I thought it fitting that I put it into words in this first blog post so that you understand my motivation and maybe will decide to work with me one day. I warn you this is on the long side, but I promise future posts will be MUCH shorter!
To understand my motivation we have to go back to my childhood. It was the 70’s and Mom’s were bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan! Hamburger Helper, Kool-Aid and Oscar Meyer hotdogs were staples in most homes along with Little Debbie’s, soda and fruit was always served in Jell-O! No one really knew any better and the advertisers had figured out how to get us to eat anything in a box or can and leave fresh fruits and vegetables behind. In grade school, I started getting debilitating stomach aches that would keep me home from school on a fairly regular basis. We never made the connection to food, as it never occurred to anyone in the 70’s and 80’s that food sensitivities were even a thing. My Mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 17 and battled cancer on and off my whole childhood. Looking back I don’t really remember those parts of my childhood, funny how the brain protects us sometimes. When I started high school she started getting what we affectionately called “The Crud”. The doctors couldn’t figure it out and she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis, Histoplasmosis, the cancer even came back and she beat it again. In my mind she was kind of like Wonder Woman and I assumed everything would be all right in the end. Senior year was different though, and in April she was diagnosed with ALS. She died a few weeks before I graduated and I was devastated.
I don’t know if it was the stress of losing my Mom that triggered things, but that is when my stomach issues really took on a life of their own. It seemed I couldn’t even go a few days without having problems and strangely I STILL did not make the connection to food. Back then all I ate was frankenfoods, we all did. It was the height of the low-fat craze and being in college meant meal-plan dining or fast food was king. The lettuce on my burger was about the only vegetable I saw except for maybe the mushrooms on my personal pan pizza, which truth be told I ate mainly for the delicious buttery thick crust.
My daughter was born when I was 29 and after 4 long months of her screaming in pain every night for hours on end did I begin to realize the connection between food and my own issues. After much pleading with the doctor’s that there had to be something wrong, she was diagnosed as lactose intolerant. I was nursing and had cut dairy out of my diet but was giving her a supplemental bottle of formula at night and that was what triggered the nightly screams. Once we switched to a special formula she became a happy and healthy baby. I was very careful with what I fed her after that and slowly but surely the light bulb went off in my own head about my digestion issues. I had not noticed how much better my digestion was being off dairy while I was nursing, but once I added it back in I noticed! So out it went again and things were much better for me. I still had problems, but they were fewer and farther between so I largely ignored them.
I did spend a lot of time contemplating my mom though. She had been in an experimental group in the 60’s when she was first diagnosed with cancer. She got massive doses of chemotherapy and radiation as the doctors were trying to determine the best dosage for each to treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She received so much that she was told that she wouldn’t be able to have children; I’ve always been pretty stubborn…. I wondered what kind of assault her eggs had taken and subsequently how screwed up my genes might be. But it was the 90’s and 23and Me was still a decade away. Luckily we had the Internet and I started doing some nutrition research mainly for my daughter but also for me. Health food stores were not really a thing where we were living at the time and the one we did have smelled funny and was more like a hippie country store. But I persisted and asked questions and slowly began learning.
Enter the early 2000’s and we move back to Tennessee where I could find healthier choices in a more mainstream setting. By this time I was eating more veggies but not enough and feeling better but not great. Right around my 40th birthday I started having horrible flare-ups with my digestion. My skin was a mess, I had headaches all the time and two kids that were depending on their mom. I found the Paleo diet and decided to give it a try. It was a game changer for me and I became a full-fledged member of the Paleo cult. Potatoes? EVIL! All grains? EVIL! Dairy? EVIL! And although my digestion was still not perfect, it was the best it had ever been and no one could change the path I was on even though at the time Paleo was still considered a pretty fringe idea. I became a research junkie (and still am truth be told). I found a Naturopathic doctor that discovered the good bacteria in my gut were almost non-existent and the bad bacteria were taking over. I honestly thought he was crazy because no one was talking about gut bacteria at the time, but I followed his suggestions anyway and was surprised when they actually worked! I became hooked on Integrative and Functional medicine and truly believe that had I not taken a chance on this “voodoo medicine” as my Dad jokingly calls it, I would still be pretty miserable and resigned to the fact that this was just how my life was going to be. I am so grateful to that first doctor for opening my eyes to the possibilities. I have changed how I eat over the past few years. It is more what I call Paleo-ish or Ancestral may be a better name. What I do know is that not everyone has to eat the same and strict Paleo doesn’t work for everyone. But it does take a willingness to be open-minded and experiment to find what works best for you.
Three years ago my daughter became incredibly ill. Her hair was falling out in clumps, her skin was sallow and she had absolutely zero energy. Her pediatrician ran some blood work I asked for (they thought I was crazy but since I could explain why I wanted certain tests they agreed). His recommendation after the results came in? She was fine but maybe needed some more b vitamins and we should change shampoos because she was probably just having an allergic reaction. REALLY? I have always believed in maternal instinct and mine was screaming at me that something was dreadfully wrong. I was fortunate enough to have a Pilates client at the time who was an internationally known Integrative Medicine doctor. I showed him the results and he insisted that she see him. In no time he diagnosed her with extreme adrenal fatigue and we started the long road to healing. During this time, I had 23andMe’s run on the whole family and this gave us even more information on how to help her.
I continued to research into all kinds of topics for a couple of reasons, but mainly I was hooked on all the new research and all the new things that were being discovered about our bodies at an exponential rate. The amount of new information coming out on a daily basis is mind blowing. This past January my Father’s health took a major turn for the worse. Luckily I had all this knowledge in my brain and I sprung into action. While in the ER awaiting lab results, I asked about a test I thought should be run. You would have thought I had asked the cardiologist to do the most repulsive thing you could think of. He dug in his heels, argued with me and ultimately said, “this is the test we have always run and it is the only one we will run.” That’s the last thing I wanted to hear, so I continued to ask different nurses, lab techs and the like about this test. NO ONE knew it existed! Yet everything I had been reading said that this was the most accurate test and the one that the hospital ran was essentially useless. It was then that I knew what I had been hearing was true. Our doctors mean well, they just don’t have the time to keep up with the current research and they continue to do the same old thing because they do not know there is a better way. After Dad was stable enough to go home, we started the rounds to his doctor and his cardiologist. His GP ran the test I wanted even though he hadn’t heard of it and my speculation was right, but both of them kept returning to the same diagnosis that they had hung around my Dad’s neck like a noose for the past several years, the diagnosis that was choking the life out of him. They weren’t offering up any new ideas and kept telling him to do more of the same and hope for the best. Luckily for me my Dad was a mechanic and I knew just how to get him try my “voodoo” medicine. I explained it like this: Every mechanic has a toolbox and a checklist they follow for each problem. Some mechanics take classes to keep up to date with the latest car innovations and gather the tools they need to fix them when something goes wrong, and some are content fixing the same cars the same way they always have. The human body is like a car in that science is giving us tons of new information about how our bodies work. Some doctors keep the set of tools given to them at graduation and continue to check things off for each problem until they run out of boxes to check but the problem remains. Integrative and Functional Medicine doctors have a different checklists and tools than your average traditionally trained American doctor. That’s when he finally agreed to see the doctor who helped my daughter. 6 months later, my Dad has a different diagnosis and different medicines along with supplements that he takes to counteract what the prescriptions take from him. He has more energy than he has had in years and is enjoying life again. I am also happy to say my daughter is a healthy teenager again about to start college. She still eats what she shouldn’t like any teenager; but at least she has knowledge, which is more than I had.
And that is my story and that is what motivates me, a desire to help people feel better. I’ve been there, I thought I was always going to feel miserable and that was just the short straw I drew in life. But I know better now and I want to make sure everyone knows that the answers are out there. Your body is made to function perfectly. If it’s not, then there is a mystery to be solved! If you have made it this far into the post I am truly humbled and grateful. It certainly was long, but I felt it was necessary. I want you to know that I will work with you and fight for you just like I have with my family and for myself. I want to help you understand your health status, whether it be a medical diagnosis or just a desire to eat better and be healthier. Because only when you understand what your individual body needs to thrive at it’s full potential will you be truly happy. Years ago when I first started down this road; I read a quote from Joseph Pilates that has truly become a way of life for me. He said, “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” and isn’t that so true? If you don’t feel well because you are sick or you’re tired all the time or what have you, you are not truly happy are you?
Here’s to being happy! I hope you stick around and see what I have in store for you! Until next time…