I used to wake up at noon every day, hungover & exhausted.
Breakfast was cigarettes, a fast food meal, and coffee. Then I’d lounge around for a few hours, probably watch a movie, but definitely do nothing substantial. Eventually, I’d shower & get ready to go sling drinks at a local dive bar. As soon as I’d get to work, I have a drink, eat something greasy from the kitchen, then snort my first line of coke.
The next 8 hours would fly by as I’d progressively get more wasted. Around 2 or 3 am, I’d go to an after-hours club where I’d drink more alcohol & do more coke until the sun came up & I was finally ready to drag myself home. The next day I do it all over again. I lived like that for years.
At almost 30 years old, I was underweight, malnourished, and almost always hungover. I constantly had a cigarette in my hand, a chronic runny nose, a mouthful of decaying cavities, irregular and painful menstrual cycle, cysts in my ovaries that would painfully rupture, nail beds that would peel and bleed, thinning hair, high cholesterol, no muscle tone, and no confidence. To say that I was drifting through life is putting it lightly. I was neglecting and abusing my body without ever considering the damage I was doing to my health.
Hopefully, you’ve never been quite such a hot mess, but maybe you’ve lived in a similar state of unawareness and poor self-care – feeling like it was hard enough to just enough get by, dragged down by the stress of it all, ignoring your own needs & desires.
I wanted to be better, I really did, but every time I thought about how many things I wanted to change, and I’d get so overwhelmed that I gave up before I ever got started.
I wanted to be better, but every time I thought about not going to my favorite restaurants with my friends, the feeling of loneliness stung me so badly that I thought I’d be happier staying as I was.
The whole idea of changing my lifestyle felt like it was just too difficult, too painful, too complicated, too time-consuming, too restrictive, too isolating, too boring, and hey, I was just trying to live my life & have a little fun before I die so get off my back why don’t ya.
It wasn’t until I got my second DUI that I realized I had to make a change. Yes, SECOND. The first I brushed off as a fluke, a childish mistake (one of too many, looking back). But when I got the second, I had to face the fact that I was in real trouble & if I didn’t get my shit together I was going to end up a fat l-o-s-e-r (just like they said I would). It was a difficult moment for me to say the least.
When I thought about my actions and all the time I spent acting like an asshole, I felt stupid & worthless. There were red flags the whole way along and I completely ignored them. Everyone around me ignored them because they loved me, loved spending time with me & didn’t want to rock the boat. I was in complete denial and no one was calling me out.
It had been easier to keep going as I was than to change course (it always is), the cost of that mistake was high (it always is) & I paid dearly for it (we always do). I ignored my problems for too long & finally had to face serious consequences.
In healthcare, we hear stories like that every day… Someone who ignored or justified too much weight gain & now has to face disease-causing obesity. Someone who ate all the sugar & saturated fat they wanted & now has to face heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s. Someone who ate meat at every single meal & now has to face kidney failure.
I wanted so badly to become the woman I was created to be. I wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to do work I was proud of. I wanted to be someone others could look up to. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel sexy inside & out. I wanted the healthy glow that makes a woman stand out in a crowd.
As I started to take full ownership of my health, there were a few issues:
- I had no health insurance. I didn’t have access to any support, medical, emotional or otherwise, so I was going to have to work my issues out on my own.
- I had no healthy role models. No one around me was living the kind of life I wanted to live, there was no one for me to emulate, so I was going to have to figure it out on my own.
- I was dead broke. I wanted to change my diet, but every book and blog I read talked about organic vegetables, pastured meat, a $700 Vitamix, $100 supplements and I couldn’t afford any of that, so I was going to have to make it work on my own.
There was no way around it – I dug my hole, it was deep, and I was going to have dig myself out of it. I had to create the method to get the results I wanted & it had to be something that I could stick to, starting from the beginning with no experience.
Slowly, I started changing my habits. It was NOT EASY.
I had to make MYSELF the priority, and not in the selfish way I had doing for so long. I had to learn how to let go of the stinging guilt I felt when I disappointed the people around me as I slowly started to change how I showed up in my relationships.
I had to sort out my mixed feelings, and there were a lot of them. I learned to prepare myself for the awkwardness of other people’s resistance & still trust the people I knew honestly loved me.
I had to release the damaging memories & harmful old beliefs of the past. In many ways, I felt as if I failed again, it would prove I was wasn’t worth a damn. I wasn’t good enough & people would never respect me. It’s an ongoing process but I’ve found a few super-effective tools that really work wonders.
I started practicing yoga and fell in love with it; to this day, it’s my favorite way to move. I loved it so much that I took a few workshops at the local Urban League, and they granted me the tuition for a 200-hour training so I could become a teacher. But after just a couple months I realized that I was a much better yoga student than teacher and decided to quit teaching.
So, I started to think about what else I might be interested in – and when I started thinking about nutrition, that’s when I had my next big breakthrough.
By that time I had read a hundred books about nutrition and had an obvious passion for it, so my mom generously paid my tuition for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and I got certified as a nutrition coach. I loved it and I realized that a lot of the little things I started doing over the years were exactly correct!
I started customizing diet plans and was really excited about building a coaching business, but after just a couple weeks I realized that no doctor’s offices would ever refer their patients to me unless I had a license to practice nutrition.
Just like that – BOOM! – I was stuck. Again.
I felt like I wasn’t meant to ever live the life I imagined. Like I was destined to pay for my sins by working any job that would have me for the rest of my life.
I had to make a decision, do I start pushing out applications, or do I push through, embrace the journey, and go to college for the first time – as a 30-something ex-cokehead with a record & a long track record of failing every math & science class, who’s finally chasing her dreams for the first time.
I chose the latter. On my first day, the girl sitting next to me was 17 – exactly half my age – and it triggered every single one of my insecurities, but I turned it into fuel for the fire.
While pursuing my bachelors of science in dietetics & nutrition, I took biology, microbiology, chemistry, advanced chemistry, biochemistry, advanced biochemistry, food science, statistics, and research methods.
I earned a 4.0 GPA, Dean’s List recognition, a nomination to the ICUF Presidential Fellowship, and the respect & friendship of all my peers. 🙂
Now I’m excited to wake up in the morning! Next year I’ll take my board exams to become a Registered Dietitian & I’ll make a meaningful career being of service to others.
I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned and I’ve been a happy 126-128-lbs. & 16-17% body fat for the last 10 years, even without eating “organic” or “clean” (gasp!). My blood lipids are in exceptional balance, and my resting heart rate is athlete-fit, below 60, even without being an intense exerciser.
At 37, I’m the happiest, strongest, and most able I’ve ever been, and my husband thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.
Needless to say, my days are very different. I wake up full of energy & purpose sometime between 5:30-7:00, make a cup of coffee with milk and sit in quiet as I read a Bible devotional & pray. Every day the Lord shows me how to trust Him more & better let him guide my way.
I make a quick breakfast & enjoy it with my boo, pack a lunch & another cup of coffee, then head to school where there’s always more to learn about clinical nutrition & how to educate & counsel people who want to improve their own health. After school, I take a walk around the block, eat a homemade lunch & meditate before going to work where I’m able to write evidence-based case studies between slinging yoga classes.
After work, I shut my phone down at 930 & turn off the lights by 10:30, so I can get a full 7-8 hours before I do all over again the next day.
It’s a sharp contrast to my life “before” – but that girl would’ve ended up with cancer or a stroke or worse, probably wouldn’t have landed a good man, and would’ve definitely lived a life of pain & regret.
Even with all my struggles, I wouldn’t change much of my journey. After all, it led me here, to this place in time. And here is where I get to see you, and meet you exactly where you are, to show you the simplest path to your most brilliant self – because I’ve taken both ends as far as they go, and I know the way.
My nutritional philosophy:
Finding the answer to the classic question “what should I eat?” isn’t as complicated as the interwebs might make you feel like it is.
Personalized nutrition based on your DNA may be the hottest trend in nutrition right now, but the truth is that our diets are more alike than they are different.
The fundamental nutrition rules of adequacy, balance, calorie restriction, nutrient density, variety, and moderation apply to healthy people everywhere. Everyone’s body is built to run on unrefined carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein (your personal goals may require a different balance of those nutrients). Where healthy people differ the most is in culture, geography, and preference.
The best diet and lifestyle plan is one that’s flexible, complements what you like, and doesn’t compromise what’s important to you. Answering the question “what should I eat?” might take a little bit of work, especially when you add a man and kids into the mix, but all it takes to figure out your perfect balance is a little common sense and patience (and loving guidance).
I’ve been asking myself “what should I eat?” for a long time and I’ve decided that I’m a meat-eating vegetarian. While I eat mostly plants, I invest in high-quality meat and I never turn down any food cooked & served with love. I believe in a traditional & simple eating style that feels good and leaves room for a little bit of everything I love (even fried chicken).
I’m currently paying my dues to become a Registered Dietitian and plan on earning a masters degree in Family Science. My dream is to enrich the lives of families & individuals facing a diagnosis through thoughtful diet & lifestyle choices.
BS in Nutrition and Dietetics, Keiser University (Grad date 2019)
Certified Holistic Health Coach, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition
Certified Yoga Teacher, The Yoga Connection
Certified Sleep Science Coach, The Spencer Institute