My Love Affair with Health
My love affair with fitness, nutrition, food, and health has been long and torrid. We've fallen in love, accomplishing major goals (dance team, triathlon, half-marathon), and had long periods of break-up and despair, using food as a major crutch. It took a near breakdown of my entire life for me to realize just how much it was affecting everything I did, and it took a journey half-way across the world for me to step outside and examine my life to try to find what really mattered to me. Now, I understand just how much fitness, nutrition, and happiness is connected, and I'm dedicated to a lifelong pursuit of holistic health and well-being.
I'd always been interested in how the body works and how to feed it. I use the term "feed" referring not only to what we put into our mouths but what we put into our hands, our hearts, our eyes and our bodies. I believe the body needs a relatively complex mix of fuel, only part of which is formed in carbohydrates, proteins and fats. My journey to nutrition and healthy living began about eight years ago as I was on a nationally recognized high school dance team in my hometown of Juneau, Alaska. I was considered the motivator to my team, but couldn't find out just quite how to motivate myself. Surrounded by eating disorders and diet pills, I knew firsthand what importance was placed on being thin. But back then I actually remained stable with my eating habits; while I was never one of the "skinny" ones, I was never considered "fat." I started to recognize how much my state of mind and my state of physicality changed when I was exercising. I was beginning to fall in love with fitness.
Through the next few years of college, through beer bongs and 2am Jack-in-the-Box runs, I gained weight and my body started featuring more curves than an adventure ride at Six Flags. I still yearned for fitness and health, but my cravings and the college lifestyle seemed to spin me out of control. It wasn't until I was back in my hometown of Juneau, Alaska that I ended up finding stability again, at least for a while. The next five years or so, I conducted a gradual study of my own fitness, got in the best shape of my life, trained for and completed a half-marathon, completed (and placed 3rd in) my first triathlon, and studied to be a fitness instructor.
But this healthy time period did not last forever. See, I've always been an over-achiever, a perfectionist, the epitome of a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. I'd wanted to do everything and get involved with anything, and I believed I could do it. So I'd fill up my proverbial plate so full you couldn't see the porcelain, and watch while I slowly withered away in a food coma. I was studying accounting at the University and I was working as a junior tax accountant in the biggest CPA firm in Southeast Alaska. Stress ate at me, so I ate at it, in the form of many things, mostly those carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I'd lost the stability I once had. The combination of stress and my own expectations resulted in a weight gain of 30 pounds. Depression got the best of me and I all of the sudden, at 24 years old, I realized that I was in the throws of a new phenomenon, a quarter-life crisis.
See, the adults out there are constantly saying to twenty-something's that the world "is our oyster," that we can DO, BE, and SAY anything. We're the future, soon to be running the country. And that's great. That's wonderful, really. But when all that pressure results in immense expectations, our feelings turn into confusion, then into guilt, and then finally into shame. We turn on the TV and there we find two different types of saviors, the unreachable beauty (in the form of celebrities), and the easily accessible food (make it fast and in large quantities) - is this conflicting to anyone?
My inner storm hit me pretty hard. It hit so hard that I couldn't do much of anything but buy a round trip ticket to Bangkok. I left two weeks between the purchase and the departure to figure out necessary items, passport, visa, money, etc. I left on February 14th, 2006 and intended to come back on June 14th, for my best friend's wedding (I was a bridesmaid). The travels of Thailand are an entirely different story altogether and would take a book to sort out everything that happened to me, but in short: there was a lot of forgiveness. At first I started forgiving all the people in my life, but very soon I realized the only person I used to blame was me. As soon as I was able to forgive myself I felt lighter than air, the huge weight of guilt I'd been carrying around had finally fallen off my shoulders.
This was all great, except for the fact that my real body weight was not falling off at all. Everyone thinks Thailand is the perfect place to lose weight, but the truth is that Thailand is now catering to the tourists: cheap food and large portions. I felt terrible about not being able to lose weight and decided for the last time, that I had to change my eating habits - but this time it had to be permanent.
I met a wonderful woman in Chiang Mai who ran a detoxification clinic (complete with colonic hydrotherapy) and signed on to do a 7-day juice fast with her to kick start my new, happier life. While I was staying with her, I soaked up as much knowledge from her as possible. She had a library full of books, a personal chef, and an amazing amount of knowledge she carried around with her. I did it all, I read it all, and at the end, I still wanted to know more. At this time came the epiphany: since I enjoyed studying nutrition and healthy eating habits so much, shouldn't I try to make this my career?
On my way back home from Thailand I made a quick stop in Seattle, Washington to visit a friend. I told her about my plans of becoming a holistic health counselor, and it turned out that she knew a school in New York that specialized in this area. Two days later, my sister called me from New York only to complain about the fact that she was looking for a new roommateâ€¦ with so much synchronicity and things falling in place in my life, I had no choice but to pack up and catch the next flight, without ever setting foot on the East Coast before.
Soon after my arrival in New York the school started, and some of the first people I met there were Erik and Igor, founders of Calorie-Count. I was immediately intrigued by the concept of their website, and decided to give it a try. Since then, I've lost 20 pounds and am confident that the rest will follow.
I have finally found my calling. I found meaning in life by not only helping myself but by helping others. I stopped trying to compensate for my lack of fulfillment with food, and in turn the weight began to fall off.
The combination of Calorie-Count and my on-going holistic nutrition counselor training gave me meaning, encouragement and fulfillment â€“ ingredients that used to be missing in my life's recipe. The school's community helped ease the intense transition from Alaska to New York and aide in my nutritional education. What a relief to meet people that have gone through similar experiences! I've now started to meet with clients and have found new highs instead of swimming in the deepest lows. I am constantly meeting people who inspire me, and I am working hard on inspiring others as well.
Lastly and most importantly, I realized that life is worth living to the fullest. I was never one to do things halfway, and while this used to be the underlying cause of my eating and weight problems, I have finally realized that high life aspirations can very well be aligned with a healthy lifestyle. The secret is to never stop believing in yourself.