I eat like a linebacker.
My husband Randy, who made this realization, is very fit and is also awesome about 85% of the time. But he is right. I do eat like a linebacker. And I always have. I was the kid that asked for seconds...and thirds. I love food. And I eat all kinds of things. Butternut squash soup. Steak. Sweet potato fries with a touch of cinnamon. Dark chocolate mouse made out of bananas, avocados and cacao. Cacaoooooowe….saying this word make me chuckle.
However things like tomatoes make my body confused. If I eat them my body believes that a fierce foreign predator has invaded and so it must protect me. It creates inflammation to scare the invader cells away. This is NOT a good thing.
I was 32 when I had my first Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) flare. We live in Colorado and Randy and I had gone downhill skiing. The day after I felt a budding pain in my wrist joint, and assumed I had held my ski poles too tightly. Two days later the pain subsided, but then jumped over to my other wrist.
After years of seemingly uncontrollable RA flares, I found my path—MY root of wellbeing—and am off all medications. It wasn’t easy. I had tried before. What was different this time? Why did it work?
I had to be open to an entirely new way of eating, of existing. And the experience has been incredibly rewarding. Magical. Revitalizing. Being intentional about my wellbeing-- through diet and lifestyle--has been one of the best choices I have ever made.
I have learned that good food is a great gift. It is information, energy, connection and medicine. Medicine that I have no problem taking for the rest of my life. And it turns out that I am not the only one who thinks this way.
Meet our boys—"Crash" And "Smash."
Over 15 years ago I told a coworker and friend—Marica, that I wanted to buy a kayak. I had no clue how to kayak, had no place to put a kayak, but lived close to Lake St. Clair and felt it calling to me. Marica introduced me to Randy—the first time I saw him he was in a tie-dye shirt and had bleach blond hair. He was night and day different from the folks in my circle. And I liked my circle, but I was intrigued. He worked with his hands. He was a bike racer. He read Edward Abby. He lived on an island in Detroit. Yes. There IS an island in Detroit. Immediately I knew that he was going to play a big role in my life. And lucky me, he does. Oh, and he wouldn't sell me the kayak. Supposedly he thought there would be a storage issue.
Fast forward to today. We have two awesome kids. Boys. Crash (Cole) and Smash (Will Riley). They also go by Bacon Brothers and Rock and Roll.
Cole is (almost) perfect. He's an 8 year old third parent.
He is a planner—makes a list every Saturday morning with all of the things he is going to do over the weekend. Like writing books. Making art using tracing paper. Sprinting as fast as he can and begging to be chased. He would like to be an herbivore. He is thoughtful, hardworking and industrious. Maybe a little too sensitive? Definitely a pleaser. If he feels he has done something wrong, he will put himself into time out. Yes, he is that good. When he smiles you see it in his eyes.
Will Riley at 6.5 years old is delightful, rambunctious and an excellent projector. He'll never need a microphone.
He is a big burst of enthusiasm. When he is happy his smile is so big it takes up his whole face. He radiates joy and exuberance. Well he radiates whatever emotion he is feeling. There is no covering anything up for him. No poker face. He loves to help me cook. Also loves his big brother. But would rather eat meat. He is my carnivore. Meat for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. He devours it. Would rather have meat than a chocolate chip cookie.
Conventional medicine wasn't helping
Rheumatoid arthritis was not my only frustration. Wait. There was more? I also had allergies, asthma, a hiatal hernia, sjorgrens, psoriosis, a post nasal drip, urinary tract infections and GERD. Ohhhhh that painful heartburn. And it wasn't just me. A distended belly, horrible bloody exzema and an inability to sleep through the night due to itchiness were my sweet, but clearly exhausted, Will Riley's symptoms.
The recommended proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) I was on for the GERD for 18 years were making things MUCH worse (you all, we NEED acid to properly digest our food). This led me to the world of functional medicine. Through lifestyle changes and mind body techniques, I have been able to improve all of my symptoms. Fast forward 5 years and my Will Riley's belly is significantly less distended, his eczema has improved (we can still do better) and the sleeping...well, we are still working on that as well. We're currently working with practitioner #12 on a new protocol and hopefully we see big advancements come September. A momma bear never stops in her quest to heal her babies, right?
The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy changed my career trajectory. And thank goodness.
The last 10 years have been a lot of trial and error in finding my own personal root of wellbeing. I have been sharing what I think are the fundamentals to living and feeling well to anyone who will listen (so moved by my personal success, but I'm pretty sure to the annoyance of many). I wanted to be able to do so more confidently and with credibility that went beyond my own personal experience.
The Functional Medicine Coaching Academy—a collaboration of the The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) found me just over a year ago. And at just the right time. So I took a deep breath and jumped. I JUMPED! After spending close to 20 years in Corporate America I choose to say good-bye...to a comfortable salary, to benefits, to the safety of routine. I also said good-bye to politics, gossip and the feeling that for the most part, I was wasting my time. In all, I give my corporate career a B+. There were definitely moments I enjoyed, but they were fleeting. And I wanted an A+ occupation. So I choose to go back to school. Again. The first time back was for a masters—what I felt society (and my parents) expected me to do. However this time it was different. This time it was for me. And this time I was going to learn from my superheroes—functional medicine doctors like Mark Hyman, Jeff Bland, Pat Hanaway, Gerry Mullin, Kristi Hughes, Liz Lipski and Sandi Scheinbaum.
I enrolled, quit my job and took my family on a nine week camping adventure in British Columbia, Canada.
Ohhhh yes. The Amazing Aardema Adventure. My point is that lifestyle choices are ours for the making. I loved being a student again. Becoming a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach was by far the most meaningful education I have ever received. The IFM is at the epicenter of change. Focusing on why people get ill instead of what they have. Identifying and treating the cause of disease. And seeing resounding success. It's the model that is transforming healthcare.
And why be a health coach? Why take this route?
Most practitioners do not have the time to sit down and talk their patients through transformation, much less walk them through it. I believe that health coaches are a necessary catalyst for REAL, LASTING behavior change. At a minimum they make things a heck of a lot less daunting. It's a choice: face symptoms like headaches, fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, poor digestion, weight issues, grumpiness and general malaise ALONE, or with an ally who has your back. I know what I would choose.
Being a health coach is a perfect fit for me.
I am one of those lucky ones—I like people. Cheering them on, and guiding them through the challenges of life transforming change is MY DREAM JOB. There was no one to help me. In the few minutes I had with my doctors, the constant response was to "Keep taking the drugs Heather. No Heather, there are no studies that show a relationship between food and flares." And so I kept taking those drugs for a looooooong time. But I didn't have to. The knowledge is there. My doctors just weren't aware. I'm living proof that we can get better. That's why I'm doing this. To support. To inspire. To guide. And to hold accountable. To sit down with clients who are already amazing and ask, "How would you like to be more amazing?"
Sometimes I choose to do an intermittent fast and sometimes I choose to eat like a linebacker. I also choose to eat clean. My husband does, my boys do and for the most part, we all feel pretty darn great. We don’t have the highs and lows that packaged food-like substances (a.k.a. frankenfoods) provide. We’re steady. And I have peace of mind that I am giving my kids the best possible foundation for long term health and vitality. We have a small home, but the meals that come out of our kitchen are fit for royalty. Because we deserve it. We deserve health and so do YOU.
"I choose (real) food! Always." – Me (because feeling great, feels great!)
you make hundreds of choices daily. Today choose your health.
I get it. I am in it. I choose "me." And I make this choice every.single.day.
Be curious. Be courageous.
This new lifestyle has completely transformed me and my family for the better.
I hope you want some of what I have. Because you deserve it.