My Journey to Wellness
You should know that I wasn’t always super healthy and athletic. In fact, I had zero relationship with exercise until my early 30s! I never played sports as a shy, lanky kid so I never really developed an exercise habit. Although, growing-up, I did love ballet class. I felt like I was at home in ballet shoes, lined up with the other dancers beside the barre.
In my mid-20s, my metabolism shifted and I could no longer enjoy take-out with reckless abandon and without gaining an ounce, as I was able to in college. I had gotten myself an office job, was moving less than ever before, and started gaining weight. And I just wasn't interested in exercise or the gym. Looking back now I can clearly see what my barriers were: afraid of looking stupid or not knowing what I was doing, believing that I wasn't the “athletic type”, believing that exercise was boring, and having zero confidence doing anything remotely athletic (especially in front of other people).
One day, I finally mustered up the courage to take a yoga class, albeit after three tries (three!) before I actually entered the studio; the other two times I drove away with my yoga mat, too afraid to try. Seems silly now, but it didn't feel silly then. Turns out, yoga connected me back to my body again...just like in ballet class. That same, familiar feeling of graceful movement to the teacher's instruction, all of the students moving together, sharing the same peaceful energy...it moved me to tears. I was home.
Relentless Forward Progress
After a couple months of class, and without even realizing it, my confidence started to increase, my body became stronger and leaner, and I became braver. I even saw myself as someone who practices yoga (I felt like I belonged, maybe for the first time ever). And then I thought, heck, I'll give power yoga a try (gasp!).
Despite my new-found lifestyle, I was still experiencing some pretty awful physical symptoms. “Normal” for me included: dull headaches and stomach aches, taking Tums and Advil most days (certainly not leaving the house without them), painful bloating at the end of the day, knowing where the nearest bathroom was at all times, feeling foggy and lethargic, and definitely needing an afternoon coffee to pull myself out of the post-lunch slump to get through the rest of the workday. I started down a long road of doctor visits, lab work, diagnostic tests, and elimination diets with little success. I was eventually labeled with the catch-all for digestive issues: Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS.
With IBS, it’s been a years-long process of figuring out what my body needs. Digestion issues are as unique to each person as our personalities so it takes time to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t. The process was confusing, frustrating, and infuriating...but it taught me to pay careful attention to what I'm putting in my body and it taught me what “normal” could (and should) be. I've learned volumes about digestion, what can go wrong, food intolerances, food labels and ingredients, and what I can do to help my body function optimally and thrive. The solution, for me, was converting to a mostly whole foods diet and I feel much healthier and more nourished. Today, I have very infrequent IBS symptoms and if I do, I usually know exactly why (one reason...I refuse to break up with cookies)!
Meanwhile, as my love for physical activity grew, the ripple-effect spread to other areas of my life and I continued to step outside my comfort zone. I lost several pounds and felt stronger and more capable. With new confidence I spoke up in meetings at work, I was promoted to Sales Executive, and began presenting to groups. I tried running a little (at first, on a quiet path where no one could see me), and then running more (on the road even), and then ran my first half-marathon. I met new people and continued losing weight. Next, I tried trail running and felt that awesome "I'm home" feeling again. I tried a Special Forces style GORUCK event...rucking through Boston with a backpack full of bricks, carrying a huge log, and doing push-ups and bear crawls on the sidewalk with a bunch of other people (super fun, believe it or not!). I lost a few more pounds (35lbs in total), entered lots of races, and even completed a 50k ultramarathon. Me?!? Like seriously, what? I could never have predicted all of that.
All I know for sure is if you take one step and then another and another...and keep going...you can get pretty far!
I've learned that exercise makes me a better human. I think more clearly, have more confidence, and feel better physically. I never regret ignoring the voice in my head that says "you're not a runner" and push myself out the door anyway. I enjoy the challenge of training for a race and experimenting with pushing beyond the physical and emotional limits I tend to create for myself. My experiences with fitness have given me the confidence to push beyond the limits in my professional life too...striving to grow, learn, take chances, and develop skills. I have truly lived, felt, and experienced how all aspects of health and wellness (from physical to emotional to intellectual, relational, and occupational) overlap and interconnect. This is the reason why my Whole Health Model plays a huge role in my work.
Owning My Superpower
My superpower as a health insurance Sales Executive was boiling down complex health care concepts into understandable and relatable terms; helping it make sense and empowering members, employers, and brokers to make good choices that fit their unique needs. But after more than 10 years in the industry, I wanted to set out helping people in a different capacity. Something that better aligned with my personal beliefs and evolving lifestyle.
I chose to go to massage therapy school because it felt like the right next step, and it was! I became a licensed therapist and opened my own practice in 2015. I started out working with many types of clients, from athletes to the elderly, clients with injuries, and those with chronic conditions. Within a year or so, as my base of regular clients grew, I wished I could do more. Often I could see the bigger wellness picture, noticing that lifestyle adjustments could be beneficial in combination with therapeutic massage. I wanted to provide a more holistic approach that could empower clients to take action in all areas of their health and wellness.
For this reason I enrolled in a graduate program to study Health and Wellness Management while simultaneously earning a Health Coach certification. I now use my superpower to simplify complicated wellness topics and break down the overwhelming amount of content we are faced with today. My studies, combined with my own experiences, allow me to effectively create wellness programs for both groups and individuals. My mission is to guide and support clients so they can make the best choices for themselves, build skills, and get the tools and resources they need for success.
I know for certain it’s absolutely possible that anyone, no matter where you’re starting from, can create lasting health habits and enjoy an amazing life!