BEFORE. AFTER. ONGOING.
THE PHYSICAL CHANGE MAY NOT BE AS OBVIOUS AS SOME.
BUT AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, IT’S WHAT YOU DON’T SEE THAT MOST SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGES LIVES. THOSE ARE THE IMMEASURABLE THINGS.
HERE’S THE STORY…
Ask my family and friends who’ve known me throughout my 20s and 30s, many will say I’ve always been pretty fit and lean. But for many years, I’d struggled with about 15 lbs of extra body fat. It’s not as much as some I know, but it made the difference between feeling comfortable in my skin or not, and I didn’t feel it matched my commitment to physical fitness and my athletic endeavors.
Even worse though was how I’d always struggled with digestive issues, bloating, skin issues, terrible menses, hot flashes, frequent infections, intense compulsive cravings and binging on junk food… just to name a few. I was sick and on antibiotics at least 4x year, I’d had numerous colonoscopies and other diagnostics throughout decades. But no disease was ever found, so therefore according to modern medicine, I was healthy despite all the above.
I’d played squash for 2 decades. I’d run numerous half and even a couple full marathons. I was a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for several years. I’d read and learned everything I could get my hands on about exercise and dieting. I thought I knew smart nutrition, and I did know quite a bit. But much of what I knew I often ignored… because after all, if I
didn’t eat breakfast, then I’d saved myself a few hundred extra calories, right? I’d read plenty about how you should eat soon after a tough workout to replenish, but hey – I’d just finished burning all those calories, I certainly wasn’t about to just go and put them right back into my body, duh! And as for eating in the evening, no way.
The hungrier my tummy was at bedtime, the better because I was creating a big caloric deficit to assist in my losing weight thru the night while I slept, right?! I regularly dieted during the week, only to let loose and binge all weekend – fully believing at the time that “this is balance”.
And don’t even get me started on carbs! I had my fair share of zero-carb days trying to lose my belly bloat, only to be so hungry by evening that I’d then binge on sugary treats as my body was desperately trying to play catch-up. Then a stomach ache after the binge… then the guilt… lather, rinse, repeat.
Why was this happening? Why was my physical and emotional (eating thoughts and behaviours) wellness so fragile?
One ________ from shattered.
Fill in the blank. For me it could’ve been one more:
glass of wine
bout of stomach pain and vomiting
day of worrying for my children’s wellbeing
abusive phone call
day of struggling with body image
round of antibiotics
betrayal of trust by an addict
episode of emotional binge-eating
day of longing for a healthy mother
day of being laxative-dependent
The list was a long one for me prior to December 28, 2010.
That was the day.
My closest friends knew of the turmoil in my 20s and 30s within my family (loved ones’ struggles with mental illness, addiction, loss to suicide, abusive and broken relationships, a nasty custody battle). It may have even become as “normal” to most of our friends as it was to us, my husband and me. It simply was part of our lives, it was our normal.
Others have not known of the extent of the difficulties we faced as a young family. I didn’t and don’t talk about those things a lot. In hindsight, I suppose it embarrassed me a little. I didn’t want to be defined by those issues. Also, I’ve never wanted to wear my trials as trophies. But more than anything, we worked tirelessly to create a healthy, happy, safe and loving home for our three children – protecting them and our little family of 5 from the cruel circumstances that we couldn’t escape that existed in the extended family. Lastly, despite those challenges, I always felt we had more good fortune than we had bad. We had a ton of love, stable and supportive friends and family members, adequate financial stability and a healthy social life.
Yet, eventually I couldn’t deny the profound physical and
emotional toll the many years of heartache and stresses had on me.
On the outside I was an energetic, motivated, fit mom and social butterfly who was the life of a party. On the inside, I was a mess. After years of trying to hold it all together, I feared I was on the verge of shattering. My body was failing me terribly. My previous efforts to take care of myself through misguided diet and exercise had failed, and I realized how my lifestyle and coping skills were contributing.
Below is an excerpt from an email that I’d sent to my closest friends on that day, December 28, 2010. I’m not sure what made that day “the day”. I just know I felt drained, defeated by my lack of control, and at this point, simply unwell with often debilitating digestive, hormonal and immunity issues.
“To my friends that I regularly drink large volumes of wine and eat copious amounts of cheese with… in order to remain the hot tamale that you’ve all come to love LOL, I have set a goal for myself to cut out alcohol completely for a couple months, and eliminate cheese and sugary treats from my diet. I’m telling you this because 1) apparently telling your friends makes you more accountable and 2) to lessen your shock when we get together and I bring a veggie tray and soda water! Here’s to a healthy and “regular” (re: bowel habits) new year”.
Their playful group responses included statements that made light of the content, I suppose matching the tone of my message. The one I’ve never forgotten was, “Someone call a shrink because I think Yvette’s lost her mind.” I know it was all in good fun, but I remember it bothered me greatly that they didn’t take me seriously. I suppose my message had been sort of a cry for help. I now see that comment as a gift. Probably sparked in part by spite, I set out to heal my broken body and soul from the inside out.
I didn’t understand the body and the science of our biochemistry then, but I knew I was sick of feeling sick. If cleaning up my diet might help me feel better, I was willing to give it an honest effort.
Two INCREDIBLE things happened for me that turned it all around, and helped me finally “get it” – by “it” I mean experiencing firsthand the power of optimal nutrition and taking care of oneself. Firstly, and totally by chance (although is anything ever really by chance?) I decided to compete in a fitness/bodybuilding competition. The challenge of athletic competition had always appealed to me. And for this particular sport, there’s nothing like knowing you’re going to be posing on stage in a skimpy bikini and high heels to make you stick to the plan (super clean eating plan, that is) and follow it consistently for weeks, months even – not just for a couple weeks until my tummy felt flat, or until I went on that vacation I wanted to look my best for. I had invested a lot – financially and otherwise, to this goal I’d set for myself. So I dug deep and did everything my coach told me to do.
Full disclosure, competing in a fitness competition felt like an opportunity to finally be able to ‘stick to a diet’ to achieve the weight loss I’d be chasing for years. Boy, was I in for a surprise! (a wonderful life-changing one)
Lucky for me, my coach Kevin Ashby of Endurance on 8th was one of the greats in the bodybuilding/fitness competing world who is truly holistic. His natural and healthy approach focused on consistency, fuelling for my body’s needs, and was free of the extremes you so often see in that industry. For several months, I fuelled my body with an abundance of whole, natural foods in the right amounts and at the right times for me. I almost entirely eliminated processed, preservative-laden, refined foods. And I withdrew from the activities and behaviors that had previously sabotaged my efforts.
I got incredible results: I shed body fat, I was muscular and lean and I placed well in my first competition.
But aside from how I looked, I felt incredible! My athletic performance soared with increased strength, power and endurance. Daily energy and vitality was off the charts! But most profound of all was that those issues I’d silently struggled with for several years began to resolve. Without medication, without
any modern medical treatment, my sinus infections, hot flashes, eczema, bloating and constipation, cold sores (just to name a few) all began to drastically improve. Not having these ailments for the first time in several years highlighted for me just how unwell I’d actually been. This began my passion for and belief in the power of clean eating and holistic living.
I hadn’t known just how unwell I’d really been until I experienced “well”.
Suddenly, I craved for knowledge (instead of sugary treats)! I wanted to understand the science behind what was going on in my body that had made me symptomatic for so many years, and what exactly was going on in my body now that was helping to create such vibrancy – not to mention, contributing to my success as a competitive bodybuilder athlete as a 40-something-year-old mom of three!
This is when the second incredible thing happened for me…
In my quest to develop a deeper understanding of nutrition, I found the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN), the largest leading school in holistic nutrition education. Their extensive curriculum of nutrition and science courses provided me the evidence-based education I was seeking. I learned about our physiology in the body, and how interconnected the body systems are; how food and lifestyle directly contribute to how they function, how imbalances or deficiencies within them are manifested as common or not-so-common symptoms, and ultimately what food nutrients and lifestyle factors can either harm or help them.
My certification as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ has empowered me with the ability to navigate our modern [not-always-so-healthy] world, to keep my body strong, healthy and happy – and enabled me to help countless others do the same.
Stay tuned, I’ll be filling this one in soon – but here’s the jest of it:
After several years of feeling a-m-a-z-i-n-g, and building my uber rewarding nutrition practice helping others feel a-m-a-z-i-n-g, f’ing menopause happened!
Once again, I’ve been challenged as a human, a woman, a coach and educator…
I’ve been reminded that we don’t always have control over our bodies and I’ve learned all over again about the importance of self care and self love. Feeling optimal, being healthy and happy extends far beyond your weight or pant size.
I look forward to telling you more about my menopause from hell in the hopes I can provide support and encouragement to even one lady out there. Coming soon…
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terri (44), calgary ab