My health story has always been such a hard thing for me to write. I kept my health struggles to myself and some very close friends and family for years. Nobody knew that I had been into the trenches of sickness and fought hard to get my body back to health. When I started Just Enjoy Food I didn’t mention a thing about being sick or fighting for my health. I thought is was a weakness, especially for a doctor. Aren’t I supposed to be the picture of health? Plus, when I started Just Enjoy Food I was in the thick of healing and I seriously didn’t have the words to share my story.
I’m going to do my best in sharing with you my health story. To start out, I was sick for 10 years. A whole decade. There are so many details within that 10 years so I can’t share all of them with you. I do want to share more details than I even have before because the details of my story are an important part of the mission of my brand and the health coaching that I do. It allows you to know me better. It also give you something that you can relate to and connect with.
I read recently that vulnerability is the new strength. And you have to be vulnerable to actually create a connection with people.
Here’s to brave vulnerability and a big prayer that my story is able to help you in whatever way it’s meant to.
Ok. let’s start. I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s go back about 10 years to when I was 18. I am a firm believer that we get sick or symptoms start during the perfect storm. It’s not always one event, but a series of events and stressors on our bodies that create more toxicity or stir up stored toxins that have been there for years. They may not have been causing symptoms at the time. I was set up for digestive problems because I was a C-section birth. It was the only way my mom could deliver me due to a total uterus reconstruction. When you are birthed via C-section you don’t get your mom’s healthy gut bacteria so your gut is weaker off of the start. There are lots of ways to rebuild a gut now in an infant post C-section, but in the 80’s it was not on anybody’s radar.
My perfect storm happened in the summer of 2004 when I was 18 years old. A lot happened that summer. I graduated from high school, moved to a new house, got accepted to college and was preparing to move 14 hours away from home to go to college. I went on a mission trip to Mexico and got my 18 year old vaccinations (toxic overload). That was all within a couple of months of each other. At the time I didn’t see it, but now I look at it and see the perfect storm. While I was in Mexico I got a parasite which is something I learned years later. This was the start.
My symptoms started when I got home from Mexico. I had this feeling in my gut that I’ve never felt before. I felt full and puffy and inflamed. I now know that feeling as bloated. I had this deep bloating feeling on a daily basis when I returned home. It’s the kind of bloating that makes your back hurt and makes you feel like your pants are so incredibly tight and don’t fit anymore, although they really do. I had no idea that this was bloating or that it wasn’t normal. I thought that if I gave it some time and drank a lot of water it would get better.
At this time I had something going for me. About a year before I got sick I started to fall in love with nutrition. I loved the idea that we could use food as medicine and that the way we fed and nourished our bodies was important to our overall health. My knowledge of nutrition was small and definitely not enough to take me through this journey. It did spark this belief within me that our bodies were created to heal. I know God created our bodies to heal and we just have to find the interference or stress and we can open up that healing ability.
Over the summer I started to get sick I didn’t think about my gut much because I thought it would go away on its own and I was busy getting ready to leave for college. One thing I was noticing was that I was starting to gain weight. I was the girl that ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I could eat what I want and not gain weight. I always liked healthy food and didn’t overindulge or eat crappy food. So don’t misunderstand me when I said I ate what I wanted. My eating habits didn’t include eating 5 donuts or a dozen cookies and hoping to stay the same size. Up until this point my body worked well. I now started to get this puffy feeling and my clothes didn’t feel right on me. Really, nothing felt comfortable to me. When you start gaining weight for no reason it starts to mess with your head.
At the end of the summer I moved to Oklahoma for my first year of college. I was so excited to go on this adventure, meet new people and start this new season of my life. I look back at this year with so many wonderful memories and friends I made that I still have. My health in the south was not so wonderful. I wasn’t feeling well and the south is known for fried food and a lot of gravy. My nutrition knowledge didn’t stand a chance against the food that was available to me. I didn’t feel well, had pretty unhealthy foods in front of me and I just felt worse.
I started to get obsessed about my body. I felt fat (which I now know is a toxic symptom because of my leaky gut). I started to try and control how bad I was feeling by controlling my foods and eating habits. I thought that following a certain plan or a set of rules is what would heal me. I tried a lot. I tried to eat sprouted bread with coconut oil for breakfast. I tried to not eat past 5pm. I tried to walk on the treadmill while studying everyday. I tried to eat as little as possible. Rules became my friend because to me rules equaled success. But no rule ever helped my problem, I actually got worse and felt worse.
Something else happened during this time. I started to get crazy sugar cravings. They were out of control. If I had sugar in my dorm room that was what I obsessively. I had leftover birthday cake in my dorm room and I ate two pieces for breakfast and then had a stomach ache the rest of the day. I’m not saying you can never have a piece of cake for breakfast, but it was a craving I couldn’t say no to and was controlling me. With those sugar cravings I also started to experience guilt. Guilt about food is horrible and I feel for you if you are experiencing a lot of guilt with the food choices that you are making, good or bad.
I was home over spring break and I was feeling tired everyday. I remember sitting in the car with my mom falling asleep at 3pm because I couldn’t stay awake. I would go to bed at 10pm, sleep until 9am and then be tired all day. This was when my fatigue started, which was result of my unhealthy digestive system. When your gut is on fire your brain is on fire.
Next year I transferred colleges to back home in Minnesota. I loved being back home but the problem was that I was getting a little overwhelmed by my gut bloating, weight gain and sugar cravings. I started to feel even more intense hunger. My hunger symptoms got so turned around that I was always hungry, craving sugary foods, grains and junk food. I only felt full when I overate and was stuffed to the brim. I got really obsessed with food and my body. I had gained the “freshman 15” down south and more of it had to do with my bad gut and less of it had to do with any unhealthy food choices during that year. Because I was so obsessed about following a plan, keeping my foods in check, trying to willpower through my sugar cravings I became a very isolated person. This time of my life was one of the most emotional ones. I moved away from some amazing friends in Oklahoma and I found myself with no friends and an extremely unhealthy relationship with food and with my body. I learned that the less I ate, the more weight I would lose. I still felt horrible but at least I didn’t look as bad (or at least I didn’t think I looked as bad). I got down to my high school weight again but felt worse then ever and I felt like I was going crazy. I would obsess about good foods vs bad foods.
This was the hight of my disordered eating and it went on for about 2 years. I feel like I could write more about this, but the one thing I want to share with you is that during this time I thought that I was the problem. I didn’t think my mind was strong enough to lose weight and feel better. I thought I was weak and lazy and I could never live up to this level of perfection that I was wanting to achieve. All I wanted was to eat less, weight less and wear a smaller pant size. As if that was actually going to fix anything. This obsession stemmed from not feeling well, but it was expressed in me having the desire to control everything around me. If I could transfer the control to what I ate and how I ate it, then I didn’t feel as sick and tired, right? It didn’t solve my problems, but it was my way of trying to make it better and not really feel the emotions of being sick. (I also have no pictures of myself from this time, that’s how insecure I was).
On top of it I still didn’t know that my physiology was causing this and it wasn’t something I wasn’t doing well enough. When your body is sick it becomes as much of an emotional battle as it does a physical battle.
I want to take you on another part of my journey. Remember that little spark of natural health information I knew? Well, it kept growing. Slowly growing, but it was growing. I would read books on nutrition and I was a total food network junkie. I loved watching people cook food and learn techniques on how to make dishes. This is when I fell in love with nutrition. I believe this is an area that God allowed me to love so it would save me from a potential eating disorder. Even thought my thoughts and my beliefs were so close to eating disorder thoughts, I always said I knew too much to allow my body to get into that. I never starved myself because I knew the dangers and I never threw up because I knew too much about that too. I had my times where I would limit my food as much as I could and then would overindulge or give into a major sugar craving.
I knew my health knowledge saved me from really hurting my body and beating it up too bad. I remember talking to my mom one time about how much I wanted a mega muffin at the grocery store and how strong that craving was. I ended up buying 2 pears, eating them on my way to school and then crying in the parking lot because the cravings were so strong. It was like a prison for my mind. I was either obsessing about food or beating myself up in some way because of food. As I continued on my journey and got healthier my relationship with food became. I’ve had to work on it a lot over the years and is something I still continue to gain more and more freedom in.
My love of natural health knowledge led me into chiropractic school. I know that God led me into it, it was the path he had for my life. But I couldn’t get nutrition and natural healing out of my mind so I took the classes I needed to get into chiropractic school, studied my booty off and got accepted into the program. I started chiropractic school in 2007.
This part of the story is the hardest for me to write. There were so many things going on at once and I don’t even know where to start. But, I will start, so here it goes.
Chiropractic school was a time of my life that I remember the most vividly. It was amazing, challenging, draining, stressful, joyous, taxing, and a lot more descriptive words. It was 3.5 years of my life that I will never forget. Chiropractic school has the same type of course load as medical school, but instead of learning pharmacology (drugs) we learn how to adjust and take more nutrition and X-ray classes than medical students. All of that to say it’s a lot of work and it feels like a many years long marathon. The biggest part of chiropractic school I remember was how I felt. I’m sure other people can get out of school healthy or not have been as stressed going through the whole process. But my health got worse and worse throughout school.
When I entered chiropractic school I wasn’t feeling the best. If you’ve ready the earlier parts of my health story you know that. I knew that going to school was a calling on my life and natural health was a passion of mine. I’ve never regretted the decision to go to chiropractic school and know that the school itself wasn’t what made me sick. It was another piece of my story.
I rented my first apartment, started going to school close to 40 hours a week (we took up to 32 credits a trimester) and stress started to pile up. Did you know that stress is responsible for over 90% of doctors visits. It’s crazy to think how much our stress levels affect our lives. I started getting some intense neck muscle spasms (despite getting adjusted regularly), my fatigue was constant, I felt puffy and huge and my stomach was the worst it had been. I literally had a stomach ache constantly for 9 months straight. I woke up bloated and went to bed more bloated. It got worse with everything I ate. I could eat healthy food or the most unhealthy food and feel the same way. The difference was if I ate healthy food I could at least maintain my weight. If I ate any sugary foods I would gain weight rapidly. I was constantly sucking in my stomach because if I didn’t I would look about 5 months pregnant. I used to stand with my arms crossed all the time to hide my stomach and it made me feel better to put some pressure on my gut. None of my pants fit right so I became so self conscious about how I looked. To someone looking at me, you probably wouldn’t think something was wrong because I didn’t look unhealthy. That was a hard one for me because if you look good you should feel good. And I didn’t tell people how tired I was or how bad my stomach felt. I just pushed through pretending to be normal.
I was learning more about nutrition and started applying the knowledge. I was cutting back on sugars, gluten, processed foods. Purchasing organic foods where my student budget allowed. I tried grain free for a while and I have to be honest about it. Although I know grain free helped me (because I love and believe in nutrition) it wasn’t enough to heal my gut. I see this in other people too. There’s more to our health than just food. A healthy diet is foundational to healing. I say often that you can’t our supplement a bad diet. I can only imagine how much worse I would have felt if I hadn’t been eating well. But with my cravings and not noticing a difference I didn’t make the grain free switch at this point. My main goal was to eliminate processed food and try to eliminate gluten.
I found out after living in my apartment for 18 months that I was living in toxic black mold. No wonder I felt horrible. The air conditioner had been leaking and destroyed the kitchen floor. I noticed it because the kitchen floor started to buckle. I uncovered that the drywall had been getting wet for months (maybe years). Because the mold was by the air conditioner, the mold spores were all around the apartment. I put a few pictures below of what the walls looked like. None of this was visible to the naked eye. It was all covered up by vent covers and flooring. This has made me passionate about toxic mold and biotoxins and how dangerous they are to our health. We aren’t taught how dangerous mold is. It can make you chronically ill and also cause many mystery symptoms. Symptoms that don’t make sense, don’t add up and the doctors can find nothing wrong with you. If you suspect mold in your home or mold illness check out this link and I encourage you to search for a person or company that does air quality testing and mold inspection to check out your home.
I immediately started looking for a new apartment. I knew I couldn’t live here any longer. So I packed up and moved out of this apartment. After I moved my chronic stomach ache improved a little bit. I still had bloating but at least it wasn’t constant. I didn’t know then I needed to detoxify the biotoxins out of my body and didn’t have the knowledge to do that. But at least I was out of the source of mold.
By this time I was about halfway done with chiropractic school. This year became the most debilitating year of my life. My fatigue got the worst I had ever experienced and I was having a hard time waking up and getting out of bed in the morning. I was skipping some of my morning classes because I couldn’t get to school early enough. I would alway describe it as “my brain was off”. My brain fog was so severe I could barely think and I was incredibly unproductive. I would get up and watch TV or do something else mindless until my brain turned back on. I would try and get a few things done in the morning and somewhere around 12-2pm I would start to feel a little better. That’s when my day would really start. At this point it was a stressful time of trying to study, cook, run errands, and everything else in such a small amount of time. I look back and wish I would have rested more. Or at least taken the pressure off of myself to get a lot done or to stop trying and pretending to be feeling well. At this time though, I still didn’t realize how sick I was. You would think by now I would have realized it. But I still thought that something was wrong with my work ethic and my focus and determination, not my physiology. I was tired physically, mentally and spiritually.
This is the part in the story where my healing begins. This is the time where hope was breathed into me, which my battered and bruised spirit needed badly. I went to a seminar by a chiropractor and naturopath who specializes in advanced healing through muscle testing and supplementation. I was so excited to go because I knew I’d love to learn more about how supplements and lab testing can heal the body. I didn’t know what to expect but I sat in this little log cabin type chair in his office and absorbed every bit of information that I could from that weekend. I was taking notes feverishly and I knew deep in my spirit that this is what I wanted to do with my chiropractic degree. I didn’t know any of the details of how I’d get there, but what I did know was that sometime and someday I could help others with this information. There were a couple other things I remember about this weekend. Number one was how I felt. I remember sitting in the chair being captivated by this information but I could barely keep my eyes open. I was so tired and I was having a hard time focusing although I was loving all I was learning. I also remember feeling so bloated and gassy that sitting there was deeply uncomfortable for my stomach. The second thing I remember was a light bulb went off in my head. I realized that I was not healthy. I realized that I needed healing myself and I had to figure out what was wrong with me. The way I’d been feeling for the last 5 years was anything but normal. Little did I know at this time what was in store for me. The word I will use here is journey and I use it often on the blog and with clients. This weekend started my healing journey.
That next week I went into my first set of appointments with this doctor. When I sat down in front of him he said “I didn’t know if you liked my program or if you were paying attention. I thought you were falling asleep”. That opened my eyes to how I looked to someone who could recognize sickness. I told him I loved the information and I was actually (under all of the fatigue) excited for all I learned and all I was going to continue to learn. He did some bloodwork on me and found two major things. The first thing was I had a parasite. I knew at that instant I had gotten that parasite in Mexico on the mission trip when I was 18. That is when my health changed. That is when my digestive issues started. Those little parasites made me so sick for years. The other thing he found that was despite my weight still being in a normal range for my height I was 36% body fat. When he told me I could tell he was a little hesitant and he prefaced it with saying these results may be a little shocking. When I heard 36% I actually felt a sense of relief. I knew I felt “fat”, I felt heavy, I felt like I didn’t have a healthy body composition. I got confirmation of how I felt. And it was actually extremely freeing. I knew I’d be on a healing plan from here and these numbers and results could and would change.
This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in our need to hire a health coach. We are too emotional in our own health and are often times have a skewed perspective or get stuck on knowing what to do. I know this to be true for me. I was in chiropractic school to be a doctor, I was learning tons of information and I still couldn’t help myself.
I was so incredibly blessed by the doctor I was training with. He saw me for no charge because I was going through his training program. I look back on that blessing and I almost can’t believe it. I had very little money and was living off of loans. I took his care extremely seriously and was 110% committed. I applied everything he told me to and got on any supplement I was tested for. Within 30 days I started to feel like I could function again. It was amazing. I look back at that now and almost laugh. I was still so sick, but to see a 10% improvement meant everything to me. And it breathed more hope into me and allowed me to continue on this healing process.
I’m not going to go into all of my individual protocols because they were all customized to my body, symptoms and lab tests. I did work on my stomach, gallbladder and whole digestive system. I worked to kill off the parasite, support my adrenal glands, nourish my brain and rebuild my depleted body. I started lifting weights and getting more intentional with my nutrition. It was a whole body overhaul. It started with a parasite and a lot of stress, but because I was sick for 5 years and went through the stress of chiropractic school I had to work on healing a lot of other areas of my body too that got sick and stressed over the years. At this point it was beyond only working on my gut.
During this time was when I met my husband and got married. I don’t think he knew a fraction of what he was getting himself into. And if you ask him he’d say the same thing. First and foremost I’m one of those crazy nutrition-loving chiropractors and I was also getting dangerous with my knowledge of digestive healing. Let’s just say that Phil has overhauled his diet and lifestyle and has done many cleansing and detoxification protocols his body needed. He loves it and I love him even more because of it.
By the way, on my wedding day I felt AMAZING. 100% the best I could have imagined or prayed for. God gave me a huge gift that day and I’m so thankful.
One thing he probably didn’t want to sign up for was a sick wife. For better or worse, sickness and health, right?I am so thankful for all of his support during my seasons of healing, I know I wouldn’t have gotten healthy without him. Having someone to lean on is crucial. Before Phil it was my parents (and I owe them so much too), but they couldn’t do as many practical day to day things because they live a couple of hours away. Phil was there to pick up a lot of the pieces I was dropping, like getting a meal on the table or doing the dishes or laundry. He’s great at laundry and has very successfully systematized it so he still does the laundry to this day. Enough bragging about my hubby and back to my story. Having friends or family to help support you physically, emotionally and spiritually is an important piece of healing that is often overlooked.
After about 1.5 years that practitioner I went on go get some more training specifically on the digestive system and the microbiome. (Read more here). I still had digestive symptoms, was still tired and still stressed. I was about 50% better, which was amazing. One of the most amazing parts of my healing was sugar cravings were almost gone. I didn’t have all of those critters (aka parasites) in my gut I was feeding with the sugar. They were a big part of all of those cravings. I knew there was more information out there I needed to know for my healing and for others too. I dug deep into the microbiome and how to support digestive health through a grain free diet, fasting, fermenting and the use of probiotics. I also learned about finding the source, or root problem of health problems and how to support the body at a cellular level. During this time I hired two more health coaches for myself, who I am extremely thankful for for so many reasons. They have become some dear mentors to me and I continue to learn from them to this day.
Time. It’s a 4 letter word in healing, but it’s necessary to achieve full healing and abundant health. It took me years to get sick and I was sick for 5 years before I started healing my body. The last couple of years have had their ups and downs with my health, but they are nothing like they used to be and with each month I have gotten healthier and healthier.
As I sit here typing up my health story my tummy feels good. I can actually think this whole time (my brain is on). I can get up consistently in the morning and I don’t dread mornings like I used to. I don’t experience debilitating fatigue everyday. I have no sugar and grain cravings. I am more productive and more social. Really, I have started to find joy in living my life again. My health isn’t perfect, my stomach isn’t always 100% and it never will be all the time. But I will never go back to how bad I felt. I will never have to walk that journey again. My goal/ job now is to put one foot in front of the other and continue to honor by body by feeding it good food, getting adjusted, exercising, de-stressing, getting good sleep and continuing to learn more about keeping a body and gut healthy long term.
I am also sitting here with my last 11 years fresh in my mind and it’s a hard place for me to be. I am starting to forget some of the details of how I felt because I haven’t felt that way for so long. It’s a good thing, but I never want to lose those memories. It may sound weird to say that, but it shaped who I am and it’s the story that God had for me. It is also the reason that I’ve launched this website, my health coaching business and everything you are seeing on this website today (and so much more in the weeks to come).
My biggest prayer and goal for telling my health story is that I could touch one persons life. Have one piece of my story be relatable to you. And to help as many of you as I can.
Can I help you in your health journey to reach your full potential? I would LOVE to help!