My journey towards health:
I have struggled with my weight all my life, starting at the age of 6 going to my first Weight Watchers meeting. At 12, I was enrolled in a weight management class at a local hospital for adolescents. I have been a sugar and carb addict for as long as I can remember with a habit of stuffing myself with cookies, candy, chips, and ice cream. I have always been tall and (thought I was big boned) looked older for my age which made me grow up really fast. I starved myself in high school, limiting intake to diet cokes and frozen diet microwave dinners to lose a little weight. I got a thrill from seeing how long I could go without eating, which was never more than 8 hours. Then I would run to the candy machine and eat peanut M and M’s.
This yo-yo dieting went on until I went away to college in August of 1996. When I left for college I was a semi-healthy 175 lbs but by Christmas I had packed on 20 more pounds. Over the next 3 years my weight just went up from there in a haze of beer busts and drive-thru eateries. The most depressing point of my weight struggle was in May 2000 when I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I will never forget the mixed feelings I had as I made my way across the stage to accept my diploma. Certainly I was feeling proud of my accomplishment, but I also felt deep shame for I was at my highest weight ever, 238 pounds. I wanted to be happy but being so fat made me want to run and hide from the world.
I come from a family that has always struggled with weight issues, and living in the South, I had more of my share of those delicious—but unhealthful—Southern foods: vegetables disguised in noodle casseroles, tons of pancakes, grits, waffles, biscuits and lots of desserts. Add the excesses of college life—and I was eating worse and gaining more than ever before.
My “ah ha” moment:
The day I walked across that graduation stage was also the day I decided that I had had enough. I was determined to make a change so that I could enjoy better health, have more energy, and feel good about myself. I felt proud of myself for finishing my degree but to the outside observer I looked like a mess who did not care about my health or appearance.
I joined Weight Watchers shortly after graduation, where I followed the food plan diligently and exercised by walking around my neighborhood everyday for 30 minutes. In six months I lost 60 lbs. Over the next two years I lost 20 more for a total of 80 lbs. It was the first time I learned about light eating and while not starving myself to lose weight. Old habits die hard, but I became increasingly committed to the Weight Watchers lifestyle by working out and making low calorie food choices such as limiting sugar, bread, and fat.
Following a mainstream low fat diet:
I continued on a very low fat and low calorie diet for the next several years and kept the weight off. I was still eating a lot of packaged and fake foods but since they were low in points I thought it was fine. I was doing good with my diet but being a young adventurous girl of 27, I was ready for more. Life in my hometown felt stagnate both personally and professionally. In 2005, I decided to move to the West Coast so I could be with all the healthy and fit people. So, I decided San Francisco would be perfect for me, where I could be lean and green.
During this period, I was fanatical about every calorie and fat gram I put in my mouth. This obsession led me to a profession that would ensure my adherence to my diet and exercise regime. In 2006 I became a Personal Trainer and continued to exercise non-stop. I was doing marathon training or strength training seven days a week. I became very muscular and fit. I was pushing myself to the limit in all aspects. I was working out a lot and not sleeping much because I had clients 5 days a week starting at 6 am.
I had adopted a plan to eat 5 low fat, complex carb meals a day to help regulate my blood sugar. This sounds good in theory but I was like a hostage to my stomach and food cravings. I was a carb junkie, always wanting fruits, whole grains, and low fat treats. I ate millions of protein bars, cases of high fiber cereal, and chemical laden protein shakes. I was afraid to leave the house because I would get shaky and light headed. If I could not find something to eat every 2-3 hours that was low fat or low calorie enough for my program I would freak out. When my blood sugar dropped very quickly and I would lash out at others, possibly cry, but in short be a pain to deal with. All the people close to me knew the signs; it was like living with a live grenade.
Then in 2008/2009 I tried being a vegetarian to save the animals. I started eating tofu all the time for the protein. I started reading books about vegetarianism, which reinforced my bean eating, tofu-loving lifestyle, I was convinced I was on the path to nutritional enlightenment.
Something was not quite right:
I liked Tofu as long as I seasoned it up with plenty of Bragg’s or Tamari sauce. But suddenly after being a vegetarian for about 6 months, I started feeling really tired all the time and was obsessed with sleeping. The low energy continued and I also gained 20 lbs in 2 months. I also started having terrible constipation for the first time in my life along with erratic bloating.
I went to a holistic nutritionist who was a believer in the westonaprice.org principles and she told me I had to choose between being healthy and being a vegetarian. She said no one would be able to save the animals if I am not around anymore. I decided after a few sessions that I was going to focus on eating pastured (humanely raised) animals and real whole foods. I only chose to eat foods if I could pronounce the ingredients. She also urged me to eat a lower carbohydrate diet for blood sugar regulation, which was a lifesaver. I felt like I was out of hypoglycemic jail, I could go 4 or even 6 hours without eating. I could participate in life with other people and not be chained to my kitchen. I could eat out without being fat phobic.
Finding help from alternative practitioners:
My nutritionist also urged me to have some testing at my doctor’s office to see what was really going on behind my low energy symptoms. After a terrible experience with my women’s doctor who told me all my lab tests were normal, I found out that I had some issues with low thyroid (Hashimoto’s). My naturopathic doctor later confirmed my lack of thyroid hormone. I consulted an ND for more testing and reassurance. She prescribed some natural thyroid hormone replacement and in a few weeks I felt so much better . My Doctor thought this may have been caused by several factors such as high stress and excess soy consumption.
This life altering healing process taught me that low fat/ high carb diets can cause blood sugar imbalance and insulin surges that over time can wear out your thyroid. Also, eating a diet high in soy foods can dampen thyroid function. Another key is that many people who have hypothyroid really have an autoimmune condition where the body is attacking itself.
I also learned that allopathic medicine does not really have the answer because healing is more complex than just taking a pill. The whole body has to be considered as a system with diet and lifestyle being the first steps toward balance.I also learned that pushing myself to the limit with the “more exercise the better approach” was only pushing me further from my goals. I learned that sometimes the best exercise is none at all. Sleeping for 8-9 hours a night is the best medicine. Calories don’t count as much as eating nourishing food that satisfies inside and out.
Now I eat a diet of whole foods such as grass fed meats and organic vegetables. I work out 3 non-consecutive times a week with weights doing full body interval workouts. On in-between days I walk around my beautiful San Francisco neighborhood enjoying the sunshine and listening to my favorite nutrition podcasts.
This healing journey has taught me to slow down and not take on too much. I am almost back to my ideal size, but if I don’t get there it is okay. I am not going to be obsessive about weight. I accept myself the way I am, because the beauty of my eating and lifestyle plan now is that is sustainable. My weight does not go way up and down because of carb bloat. And I don’t have to spend hours on the elliptical trying to burn the calories I overate yesterday. I can just eat high quality fats and proteins until I am satisfied, and then not eat until the next meal 4-5 hours later without watching the clock.
I was inspired by my wise mentors to continue my studying my passion become and a Nutrition Consultant myself. In 2010, I enrolled in the Nutrition Consultant Program at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. I graduated with honors in 2010 as a Certified Nutrition Educator. I specialize in thyroid health, weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and resolving food allergies.
Being a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist allows me to consider the whole person in dealing with their health and fitness issues. I am able to counsel people through day-to-day challenges with food. Because of my own health struggles and triumphs, I have great empathy for my clients who struggle with weight and health issues. After all, I’ve been there! I can help you love your body and feel the way you did at the happiest times of your life.
I think that people need to slow down and be in the moment. By learning how to reduce stress with simple techniques, we can be our own healers. By eating in peace and chewing we can listen to that inner voice that tells us how much we really need. Smart weight training will get a person to their goals faster than endless mind numbing cardio. Also exercise can never make up for eating poor quality and excessive food.
Cooking for yourself is a way of loving your body and in exchange it will love you back by shedding what it does not need. Shopping at farmers markets is a way to connect with your food and get to know the people who grew it. This world is full of love and new adventures that are waiting to be discovered if we are open to learning and growing. I also think that the diet needs to be fine tuned before supplements are thrown in the mix. Supplementation may not help if you are still eating a standard American diet of processed sugar, flour and rancid vegetable oils.
Weight Training & Muscle Development
Balance and Core Strength
Blood Sugar Regulation
Chrohn’s, Colitis, IBS
Credentials and Education:
National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer
National Personal Training Institute Internship 2006
CPR and First Aid Certified
Speech Communication B.A. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Certified Holistic Nutrition Educator, Bauman College, Berkeley, CA 2010
Currently Enrolled in Nutrition Consultant Program, Bauman College, Berkeley, CA (graduation 12/2011)
Member of the Metabolism Society
Holistic Lifestyle Coach Level 1 by the Chek Institute, Vista CA, June 2011
Continuing Education in Nutrition:
Paleolithic Solution Seminar taught by Robb Wolf, March 2011
Blood Chemistry Seminar, Understanding Gluten Sensitivity, Healing Leaky Gut, Brain Gut Axis Seminar by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, 2011
National Association of Nutrition Professionals Conference, April 2011
Paleo FX Convention March 2012
Low Carb Nutrition Seminar and Cruise, with Dr John Briffa and Dr. Eric Westman, 2012
Weston A Price Convention, Santa Clara, CA 2012
Personal Trainer, University of California, San Francisco, Bakar Fitness, 2007-2008
Personal Trainer, Gold’s Gym, 9th and Brannon St., San Francisco 2006-2008
Nutrition Consultant, National Personal Training Institute, San Francisco, CA
Owner, Grass Fed Girl Personal Training and Nutrition Services since 2008