As a functional nutritionist, I help women to identify and address the root causes of their hormone and digestive symptoms. Say goodbye to fad diets, my mission is to empower you in your health and create change that sustains.
Tipping points are interesting. How for years, you can be experiencing the same signs, same messages, same vicious cycle, and then one day it just clicks, and enough is enough. I see this a lot with clients too. It is almost like fate steps in and there is a spark and it all just finally makes sense.
I can’t tell you much about what exactly led up to the moment, but I know I was standing in the kitchen area of my River North brand new studio apartment and said, “I’m done.” It was the moment I knew that I had to change my life for the better at whatever cost of discomfort or letting go necessary.
In the process of this change, I grieved what I perceived as a lost decade of my life, through most of my 20’s. Now I can see that those 10 years were an essential gift in growth and self-discovery. Those years were filled with learning and unlearning I wouldn’t ever take back and wisdom I now carry as my gift to the world.
Before I share the story of finding my path to healing, it feels important to share what stands out to me as the strongest root when I reflect on the picture as a whole. No, it wasn’t gluten, multiple mold exposures, bacterial overgrowth, or a tick bite. Of course those aspects played a role in my health story, but I don’t observe them as the root cause. To be honest I find that the physical factors rarely are! Through my discovery and reflection, I can now see the greater emotional root to my physical ailments. I can see how much of my health issues were motivated by an emotional disconnection and rejection of self. A disconnection that had far greater reach than I could have ever known.
Where do I feel this started? As early as I can remember I felt an uneasiness of self. I was very much in my head, often unaware of my body so much so that I would regularly bump into things with sheer incoordination. I had very little trust in myself and sought feelings of temporary peace through constant validation and permission from others. I truly felt ungrounded in my body and who I was as a person.
I spent my adult years unknowingly leaning further into this internal disconnect. I didn’t have sight of what felt authentically good for me and instead participated in what I thought I “should” do or want to do. Many times, I could hardly look at myself straight in the mirror without flinching– I’d ignore hunger pangs, fatigue, and even body pain, just to push through to what would fill me with temporary feelings of acceptance and worthiness. I felt ashamed and uncertain in relationships with others and found worth and acceptance in career, accomplishment, body image, and pushing myself to my limits working late hours, maxing myself in the gym, and controlling my body image. I truly took this emotional emptiness out on myself by seeking areas to fix and verbally beating myself up. I unknowingly sought additional areas of self-avoidance and separation in my life and one way which stands out to me particularly now was my hyper focus on my health.
In the decade of running away from myself, I created massive voids in my life. There was no joy, little community connection, and definitely no self-love or romantic love in my life. I’d become further lost in my head, disconnected from my emotions, and I didn’t even know where to start to get some of these pieces back again, at the time they felt so far away. When I realized how massive these voids were, I had to start rebuilding one at a time, through the journey and steps I’m going to share with you today.
First, in preparation of sharing more about my journey to self-connection, it’s worth unpacking what led me to my own unraveling from a psychological, biological, and scientific standpoint. My purpose for sharing this is I want you to be able to stop your disconnection from self LONG before it dominos into hormonal imbalances and worse.
It is important to know that your beliefs create your reality. I have come to realize that as early as age 5 (from what I can remember) I genuinely thought I was wrong. Even though I didn’t realize it was there, it was playing in the background of my mind all day and impacting every layer of my life. With what I now know about subconscious limiting beliefs, I am aware that my body was literally trying to “output” that belief in every waking hour of my life.
Your belief system is powerful. By subconsciously telling myself I was wrong, I craved something I could do “right” and control. As I observe my belief network as the beginning point in my health challenges, I am also aware that it ultimately fed into an experience which I now know had a huge toll on my health: an eating disorder.
Yes, that is correct, I had an eating disorder, an eating disorder that even until a few years ago I didn’t fully accept. No, I never participated in traditional eating disorder treatment, but I can confidently reflect on my experience and acknowledge in hundreds of ways how disordered eating played out in my reality throughout my late teens and 20’s. It also took me a long time to both realize and admit the great part that this eating disorder played in my decisions and health experience.
Let me set the record straight quickly. I believe that eating disorders are grossly misunderstood in our society. My professional opinion is that without the beliefs that drive the disorder, there wouldn’t be a distorted relationship with your body or food. At the end of the day, the deepest root to an eating disorder is your relationship and beliefs about yourself.
So, why am I illuminating this part of my story? I find that disordered eating goes greatly unnoticed in many health conditions, both male and female experienced, in today’s health system. In the women’s health population of which I intimately work with including amenorrhea, fertility, and PCOS – I also see disordered eating as highly prevalent. I share this with you now as I am able to see in reflection where my disordered eating came from and how many of the physical health symptoms I experienced unfolded directly from it and the environment in my body it created. The acknowledgement of this disorder was not an easy one, but ultimately set me on a path to physical healing, self-reconnection, joy seeking, and living my life.
As I mentioned, growing up my relationship with myself felt very ungrounded. I didn’t believe I could trust myself and this led to me feeling unaccepted for my authentic self within friend groups and family. Overall, as a child: things felt out of control, like I had to watch my every move closely or I would end up doing or saying something wrong. Little girl Olivia found herself feeling a lot of anxiety looking for approval from others when she didn’t know how to find that approval in herself – whether this was not speaking up with friends or constantly second-guessing daily actions. Overall little Olivia feared she was not enough.
This story continued to play subconsciously throughout my high school years and by the time I got to college and started studying nutrition, I saw my desire to control what felt out of control manifested in a new way.
At the time, I actually believed I was living a healthy life. I believed I was practicing what I was taught in my didactic curriculum. I truly wanted to embody the “practice what you preach” dogma with my nutrition studies. What I lost sight of in my educational commitment to my practices was that it wasn’t normal to feel hungry all day, wake up in the middle of the night and want to eat, crave sugar all the time, or not look forward to spending time with friends because of low motivation, fatigue, or extreme anxiety. As much as I would beat myself up for being too full, I equally felt failure for feeling too hungry or simply not feeling hungry when I thought I was supposed to, it was like I couldn’t get it “right”. These emotions and thoughts were truly mentally exhausting, and I soon learned that they would impact more than just my mind, but my routines, and physical body.
The patterns I created on my distorted path to “health” included working out daily (for 1.5 hours at the gym), grossly undereating (I distinctly remember eating 1 egg plus egg whites, Greek yogurt on Ezekiel toast, and a plate full of sauteed veggies for lunch post one of these intense workout sessions..questioning if it was too much food while still feeling hungry), overworking myself on studies from early morning until late at night while saving little time for unwinding and time with friends, and constantly judging my every choice around food and my health.
In my clinical reflection, as a result of these routines and their negative health implications, I started to experience symptoms of constipation, bloating, hair loss, challenges with sleep and overall… deeper self-hatred. Yes, I said it, your routines play a big role in your health! Here, my beliefs were driving my routines, these routines were having a big influence on my physical body and emotional wellness.
Did you know that undereating (and the body’s perception of starvation) increases symptoms of rigidity, anxiety, and preoccupation?
Did you know that eating too low carb in menstruating years increases stress on the body and encourages cortisol spikes in the evening? Eating too low carb also impacts mineral balance and reduce sex hormone producton?
Did you know that poor sleep, low mood, hair loss, constipation, and bloating are common symptoms of undereating, low carbohydrate eating, sustained fight or flight, and overall undernutrition?
The subconscious beliefs that led to these routines were now creating an environment to further reinforce my discorded eating actions and health symptoms. It was a vicious cycle I didn’t realize I was trapped in.
As someone who became obsessed with body checking and paranoid by the “bloat”, I started to seek treatment for my unexplained digestive woes and corresponding symptoms. First stop was connecting with my PCP for support and a GI specialist for a colonoscopy. Modern medicine seemed to fail me with recommendations for Miralax, thyroid medication, and anxiety medication that just didn’t cut it as far as symptom support. It was then that I reached out to a functional medicine practitioner for the first time. Looking back, I wish one of these medical professionals could have helped me see that the physical symptoms I observed were a direct byproduct of the lifestyle I was living, a lifestyle with an eating disorder. Instead, I continued to look for a straightforward, fixable “why” to explain my symptoms.
As I started working with functional medicine practitioners initially, I was mesmerized by the innate ability to use food as medicine, and I wish my healing had begun there. Instead, what I found myself trapped in was an obsession over “fixing” lab markers, taking new tests, and swapping supplements as it made me feel like I was one step closer to accomplishing something that would allow for greater self-acceptance. RED FLAG. What I got trapped in is now what I call the “dark side” of functional medicine, a space where the whole person’s mind, body, spirit connection is missed and the focus becomes lab data, supplements, and digging for problems. For me continuing to study functional medicine, viewing it through this perspective, ultimately enabled my disorder.
As I transitioned from college to graduate school, I honestly don’t remember many of my symptoms improving. What I do remember is on one occasion sitting in the ER with stabbing abdominal pain, regularly shooting awake from my sleep my body tingling with pure adrenalin, sitting in class with intense brain fog and anxiety feeling blocked from my studies, training alone for a half marathon, being “diagnosed” with IBS- C (constipation) and again only receiving a rx. for Reglan and Miralax, and having my first case of shingles (one of 3 more to come) at age 22. I perceived myself to be one of the healthiest eaters I knew, I spent hours meal-prepping and planning my food, and I was strong. I had the lowest heart rate in my class and the highest VO2 Max. Each night sitting in meditation on the floor I aimed to ground myself in my body, but I felt a constant state of vibration, like my body just couldn’t relax. I thought I was doing it all as I should to be living in my healthiest state, but I can now see that I was only digging myself into a deeper hole.
Post grad school, as I focused more deeply into my own clinical studies of functional medicine as a new official Registered Dietitian. Simultaneously, I continued to experience worsening health symptoms from skin rashes and hives to joint pain, true insomnia, and deep depression – the obsession with food’s role in the picture became worse. I was preoccupied by anxious thoughts all day long and much of this was because I was worried how what I would eat or didn’t eat would impact me and my symptoms. I distinctly remember uploading an Instagram post with a picture of Enlightened Broad Beans from the Northwestern Hospital Dermatologists office, face covered in hives, secretly worrying if the broad beans were further worsening my skin. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I was offered a steroid cream and a 6 month follow up with no support around the discovery of why my skin was reacting in the first place. I continued to feel very alone, stuck in my mind, and confused about my body.
What started as wanting to apply what I was taught in my nutrition courses became an orthorexic obsession that continued through most of my 20’s. For quick clarification, if you haven’t heard that term, orthorexia is an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy, it is by definition “a condition in which one systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful”.
Orthorexia is important to distinguish because even today in my profession, it runs rampant through the industry. Believe it or not, my clinically trained education around functional nutrition continued to fuel my orthorexia as I became hyper focused with how to “fix” all the health problems bubbling up to the surface – predominately with what I was taught regarding elimination diets, supplement protocols, food sensitivities, bacterial imbalances and not to mention the rigidity of recommendations I was observing daily through clinicians in the practices I was working with. The way that I was practicing held great space for judgment, perfectionism, and getting it “right”. To me at the time, I believed I was using “food as medicine”, I can now see that I was not.
By my mid 20’s, I created a vortex with food and my body where it was ALL I thought about – between my health and my career it was centerfold, and not in a comfortable or serving way. I created a toxic mess outside of myself, stemming from the internal discomfort. I now understand the intimate connection between disordered eating and its momentous negative impact on so many health issues. But at the time, to myself and the other health practitioners I was working with I created a convincing façade. I was “the dietitian”, I made all my own meals, I had health problems I just needed to “fix” and food restrictions that were supportive to my symptoms and hopes for healing. “I am just trying to take care of myself” I found myself justifying. And the truth was that. I did have good intentions; I was just using the wrong set of tools.
As a dietitian now seeing patients in the functional medicine space, I also consumed much of my free time outside of work (early morning, late evening’s, and weekends..) with course work to support me in becoming “best” practitioner I could be. What I realize now is that with my headspace at the time, this only created an additional health hyperawareness that I now perceive was against my own benefit. As much as I was educating to help my patients, I was educating to fix myself. Health care and my health experience had become 100% of my time.
Most women in their mid 20’s are meeting new friends at work, still partying, dating, traveling, and honestly- having the time of their life. For me, I was sitting with obsessive food thoughts and still hyper focusing on symptoms which led to isolation and preoccupation with health conditions that my doctors were telling me had “unknown causes.”
In case you might have some “mystery” health challenges too and are leaning into this article wondering if some of your beliefs and routines around your body or food could be working against your cause, let me share more of what manifested as actual, awful, health symptoms in my life, from the patterns I created…
I was living in a chronically sleep deprived space from insomnia, night eating episodes, and evening migrating left side body and joint pain where I found myself fearing each night to go to bed. I was in a constant state of brain fog (potato brain as I called it) and exhaustion, which further worsened feelings of anxiety in my work day, increasing the desire to create separation socially. From there evolved total coverage of face dermatitis and body rashes that would come and go unexpectedly, shingles (3x in just a few years), bloating, digestive pain, and urgent bowels that had become exclusively loose, scalp psoriasis, chronic vaginal infections that I couldn’t seem to kick , frequent cold sore breakouts, total body tingling, and intense depressive mood swings and extreme feelings of dread and defeat. I felt so exhausted each day, my eyes were on fire. I struggled to figure out steps for progress and it felt that my symptoms were in a vicious loop where I never could get to a less rocky baseline. I was regularly being told by my practitioners what was “off” from a lab data perspective, and it became a constant discovery and practice of exploring new “fixes”. My hormone levels were in the toilet, in the post-menopausal range, and it wasn’t a surprise as I hadn’t had a period for 8 years at this point since stopping birth control at the start of college. I spent my day taking a pill for every ill and visiting up to 4 doctors a week from therapy to neurofeedback to acupuncture to my functional primary. I was not in a place of partnership with my body, I was fighting it. I was fighting my body, who was simply trying to tell me it was unwell, for a very long time.
What started back in college as constipation, bloating, thyroid problems, Raynaud’s, poor sleep, and anxiety, had mid-twenties spiraled into diagnosis of mold illness, Chronic Active EBV, IgM Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia infections, SIBO, depression, insomnia, osteopenia, candida overgrowth, parasites, methylation defects, MAST cell activation, neurotransmitter imbalances … pretty much “you name” a diagnosis from the functional medicine community. In case you were wondering, I no longer have the same fear or association round these things as I once did.
Although the lab data and symptoms were there to justify these findings (and I can not deny the additional impression these experiences had on my immune system) at the same time, I look back and also remember.
Feeling a constant state of hypervigilance in my body.
Being hungry indefinitely, as I was afraid of essentially every morsel of food I put into my body.. no food felt safe.
Hyper focusing on EVERY change my body made and observing it with severe judgment and body rejection.
Never feeling able to enjoy the present because I was hiding in my own head with my thoughts of health, body image, and food.
Night eating and having night terrors for years because my body was unknowingly so nutritionally deprived and stressed.
Body checking myself constantly for bloat, weight changes, “problems” needing fixing with my physical appearance.
Waking up early to exercise through extreme fatigue and staying up late to educate and study.
Having no sign of a natural period for 10 years, and even going as far as taking the recommendation of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) at age 25…unknowingly avoiding the real root causes of the missing period presentation.
Leading my life with rigidity, force, and seeking external sources of self worth.
Feeling lonely, sad, empty, and helpless – constantly.
Living a life that did not feel worth living.
I was 26 experiencing menopausal rage and mood swings, not socializing, obsessing over food and dermatitis, poor circulation, and body pain and all the while in denial that I was the issue. I was disconnected from myself.
Today, as I sit in my Chicago apartment as I write, I can reflect on the experience, the symptoms, and the diagnoses with such a different perspective. The clinical clarity I have now outside of this disordered thinking, it all makes sense.
To put it as SIMPLY as possible: When I talk about health now, I describe a set of foundations necessary to build your “house” of health upon. Your house may need a new heater, the vents cleaned yearly, the windows replaced from time to time, but without a solid foundation, your house of health will have nothing to stand upon. These foundations are prerequisites to your health and necessary to create any desired healing. These foundations are essential to your hormones, digestive health, immunity, and more. Without your foundation set, symptoms will start to bubble up, conditions will start to form, and until we can re-establish these foundations, we can’t start the healing process.
Get the visual I am drawing out here? In my story I was trying to put a new roof on a house with a foundation that had collapsed into the ground.
Where might this apply to you? I regularly see women with goals of weight loss, eliminating fatigue, or ready to conceive, doing house maintenance and repairs (supplements, fertility treatments, fasting, elimination diets) with crumbling foundations. Trying to replace a wall (ex. intermittent fasting) without first stabilizing your foundation, i’ll tell you now, that wall won’t stand very long. Frustration bubbles up as that wall falls (the weight comes back, or other symptoms start to present) where instead the real messaging needs to be – foundations must come first.
There are many diet and lifestyle foundations that support the house, but a third essential aspect in creating a solid foundation is your belief system and mindset.
Your beliefs influence your cells. Your beliefs influence your immune health. Your beliefs influence your ability to create habits, execute new routines, and create change. This is science, and Joe Dispenza is a thought worker who has studied this extensively (check him out if you haven’t ..) and describes this well.
I can now see clearly how my belief system here influenced every layer of my health from my nutrition and lifestyle choices, down to the very way my cells including my immune system were operating. Lacking health foundations and a healthy relationship with myself I was only treading water with supplements, lab testing, diet eliminations, IV therapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, peptides injections, medications, and expensive alternative therapies.
I should mention that these tools I was using absolutely have a purpose and place! What was overlooked by my providers and myself was that without foundations stabilized, these additional interventions really wouldn’t get me far. In order to stop treading water and actually get on the life raft to be able to paddle to shore, I needed to address my diet, lifestyle, and mindset foundations first.
Going back to that moment in my River North studio in my late 20’s… 9 years had gone by– 9 years plagued with feelings of lonely chaos, and I finally knew I couldn’t live in that anymore. I had tried every way to fight through it and I had no clue what to do next, so I surrendered. I surrendered to the idea that this bleak experience would continue to be my reality, I surrendered to fighting my body for health change, and I surrendered to the obsession with body image potentially at the expense of my own mental and physical health. I asked myself, “If I never felt physically better, how was I going to live my life?”. Would I continue to hide from the world or would I figure out how to find joy and live in it again? Something needed to shift, and at that moment I knew things could no longer go on as they had.
I had been in therapy for years at this point, but I knew these initial next steps in much part would be independent, a self-discovery to seek more joy and purpose in my life. I have learned that therapy can only go as far as you want it to, and my prior self was mostly full of complaining, excuses, and validation of my disordered behaviors. A lesson I have learned the long way is that even if you have a therapist, you ultimately hold the keys to the doorway of healing. I knew that it was time for me to turn a corner and this included being honest with myself and creating the space within to allow the healing to begin. (P.S. I currently work with a therapist again and now know that I am emotionally available for that support).
So, what did this surrender look like? First, something to note is that there were layers to this surrender- I’m of the impression that there often are. It didn’t happen all at once for me, but like peeling back an onion there were separate individual layers that each needed attention.
A first micro surrender was listening to my body and my inner desires. I mentioned that indecision and uncertainty ruled my life. It was at this point I asked my-self both with food and in my day-to-day “what do I want?, what do I need?, what do I like?”. As strange as this sounds, this became an intentional daily practice for me, from picking a nail color at the nail salon to deciding what I would do with an open Saturday. For me this was a greater practice of finding and reconnecting to my authentic self. As far as food, I had to relearn how to listen to more than just what my intellect was telling me to do with food, but listen to what my physical body was asking for. This started as letting myself eat genuinely what sounded good to me, as well as how much I wanted, without judgment. This was an “inner wisdom” I had far lost. The simple process of experiencing pure satiation felt foreign to me. Through this, I explored the discomfort of honoring hunger cues, even when at odd times or more than my nutrition knowledge or “outer wisdom” expected I should need. For years, I’d become accustomed to feeling a low-grade distraction fueled by the constant slight feeling of not having eaten enough. When I finally threw in the towel and stopped the fight, I felt moments of what it was like to shift toward feeling peace in my body, a state where my brain seemed to slow down, and I finally felt present. My friends, I must admit that reconnecting to my inner wisdom took a while to gain confidence with. Through moments of confusion, guilt, and uncertainty – I hung tight to the belief of what “could be” on the other side- a better relationship with my body and food along with healing. The faith in a better future was what drove much of this surrendering process.
Another piece of my life that helped initiate and motivate my surrender was a yearning and a deep craving for more connection to others. Yes, I missed my connection to self, but joy that comes through shared moments with others was an area that had been noticeably missing for a long time. Instead of tiptoeing around this yearning, I jumped in with two feet, despite still experiencing uncomfortable symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, bloating, and.. weight gain. It was not easy to sit down to social dinners with my mind still hyper focused on my body and food, but I tuned it out, while tuning into the sounds of laughter and joy.
To be honest, this first chapter of surrender was a little forced, I knew things needed to change and I could not go back, but much of me was afraid of what the process of this new growth would look like. I continued to experience a certain level of anger, fervor, and fight as I continued to experience symptoms and feel uncomfortable watching my appearance change. Looking back, I can see that in a strange way, this first part of surrender was still an opportunity to beat myself up and operate from a place of aggression. My self-talk at the time was still very negative and degrading. It felt like my old beliefs around “forcing myself” into healing, but instead forcing into surrender. Yes, I had leaned into surrender, but also saw myself forcing compassion and acceptance as explored reconnecting socially. I knew this shift was what I really wanted, but many of my old subconscious beliefs still lingered in the background telling me otherwise. As much as I could see the roadmap for change unfolding in front of me, I’ll tell you, it was a dedicated practice to not obsess.
In that first year of surrender, I continuously and slowly challenged the rigid boundaries I had made with food and my body. I was committed to this process, but it didn’t yet feel good. I was along for the ride and even with the ebb and flow, I wasn’t going to let the temporary discomfort of wanting to push back on these changes stop that. With each change I noticed, I reminded myself it was just a pitstop on my way to my future healed ideal. I had surrendered.
After moving through the first layer of rigidity and aggression, I landed in a softer place with some genuine compassion, and it was with new eyes I could see just how much I had lost sight of more feminine energy and feminine wisdom like intuition, gratitude, rest, and nurture. I hadn’t a clue on how to recapture these attributes, but I was going to keep trying. Witnessing the void of my feminine side, it became incredibly apparent how off kilter I’d been, and my hormones reflected that. Operating from my masculine energy– to a place of burnout– it was no surprise, from this vantage point that I hadn’t had a period in 10 years.
I was familiar with energy work and the power of energy medicine through my training, but not in an “I have experienced it myself” sort of way. About 1 year into this first surrender I connected with a Chinese medicine practitioner, who is still a friend of mine, and had my first experience of intentional energetic release. I honestly wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but I could feel a shift in my body (breast tenderness was almost immediate) and a solidification of belief, I knew things were going to change.
3 weeks following, on a cold November morning after finishing a fun strength workout class with a friend, I got my period back.. naturally. It had been 10 years without a natural cycle, 2 of which were on birth control, 1 of which on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and I was pretty much told by my doctors that my cycle would be unlikely to return.
Here I was reaffirmed in the belief that my body wants to work with me, my body wants to heal, and I am innately whole. I had emerged as a whole woman, period and all! From that new body and new vantage point, I started to recall conversations that I’d overlooked in the past– family members and friends who had been concerned about my withered body…. “don’t you want to look like a woman?. Back then I was unable to comprehend that messaging, but I can now observe how my frail isolated shell of my-self was in fact a fraction of who I could become.
This milestone fueled me for my next layer of surrender. As I mentioned, I had still been operating with a tinge of force, even in the space of intentional surrender. With this physical shift, it was like a whole new door opened, I had created change within myself, and I knew more was to come.
Here I started to explore leaning even more into nourishment and nonjudgement with my body, reminded that it could in fact do amazing things. This newfound authentic compassion was refreshing. So much so, I felt the urge to explore where else I may be holding myself back.
As part of my second layer of surrendering and the second year, I explored shifting my mornings. From the 6:00 AM tired workouts that framed many of my days, I swapped sleeping in and slower mornings. It was startling that after just a few weeks, I could feel my body starting to calm down. I swear, my symptoms improved by about 30% just by sleeping >9 hours/night, something I never believed myself to “need” especially with the ambitious busy schedule I created that just really didn’t allow for it.
My next step? Befriending foods I had over-villainized. I started to reintroduce foods more consistently into my diet that had been eliminated on and off over the years related to different protocols. A big part of this process was actively reminding myself that these foods were in fact safe for my body. I learned that the associations I had made with foods and their potential negative implications, actually had a more heightened impact on me emotionally than the food could physically itself. I had been living in a place of hypervigilance for so long that this practice did not come easy, especially when I was still navigating digestive symptoms, brain fog, and itchy eczema. A mantra that unfolded was “it’s not the food’s fault”, and I was able to prove this to be true much of the time. Exploring a more inclusive approach to eating became a daily ~practice~ for years, especially as I started to reconnect more socially. The benefits? More enjoyment, less cravings, true emotional and physical satiety– I knew I would be turning a corner.
At this point, my weight was the highest it had ever been, 50 lbs. up from my weight 4 years before. I didn’t yet feel great, but I also wasn’t any longer tearing myself down about my body image. It was like there was a newfound understanding and respect for my body, one that I had never known. There was also a blossoming love of who existed within the body that I had so incessantly obsessed about for years. The mini reminders that my body was actually working with me felt as if I had struck gold and I knew that the ball would continue to roll in the direction of “wellness”, both me and my body feeling well.
As I continued to deepen my education specifically in women’s health, I was aware that the long game, the beautiful flip side of this process, was renourishing my metabolism. Starting with eating enough for my body first, then slowing down and giving my body time to rest, then reintroducing more variety back into my diet, after several months, I could feel my body starting to shift. Hunger felt more predictable, sleep was improving, energy during the day felt better- I was genuinely happier. All of these to start were non weight shifts (might I add), but I knew they were playing out in the grander goal of supporting my hormone health and bringing my body into metabolic balance where I would see my weight fall into a stabilized and new comfortable homebase. Here I was finally prioritizing foundations I had been overlooking for a long time.
It is important to note that I observe weight gain as a symptom of either physical or emotional need, in my personal experience these weight changes were a result of both, and in part essential on my path to healing. I also feel the need to share that in effort to support my physical needs, my foundations first needed to be met (including support for my emotional health) before I could even start to get benefits from additional therapeutic support including supplements and additional treatment interventions. This is another great example here of the layers in the healing process.
A big part of this surrender too was recognizing that these changes would not happen overnight. I know, this is hard, not just for me, but for many! Here I practiced accepting the discomfort of letting my body image take a back seat and instead chose to practice sending my body love and permission for nourishment and kindness that it had been deprived of for so many years. To be successful here I knew I had to continue to work on my mindset and further get curious about my thoughts, the way I was talking to myself. Seeking further support through additional energy work practices and coaching I was able to use daily tools like journaling, visualization, and meditation to help me process emotion, find feelings of safety in my body, and further reconnect to self love. I prioritized actions in my life that motivated feelings of joy, and I aimed to let that be a cornerstone in my daily experience. It is GOOD to feel GOOD, I told myself and I knew that my mind needed to get there first before my body could follow.
Something that goes often overlooked in the medical community is the psycho-emotional roots to autoimmune disease including stress, self-hate, and trauma. I was aware that digging into this space was part of what I signed up for, but friends this was not easy! Mindset work is truly a practice – requiring you to build a new set of tools to process your world around you. If you are in a similar space in your journey, do not give up on yourself! You deserve to give your body the chance to work with you. Feeding your mind and body tools for healing will be essential to see the sustainable health and weight shifts in your perfect time. As I mentioned, I do wholeheartedly believe that my emotional relationship with myself and lack of foundations significantly challenged my immune health, creating an environment for the corresponding health issues I had at hand to exist. It is all interconnected, I am no longer in victim hood, and I see a clearer path for continued healing.
Ultimately once my foundations had been regularly practiced and in place, I was finally able to start supporting the additional physical areas that needed more healing, and now with more success- looking more closely at detox support, mitochondrial health, and progress with gut rebalancing and healing. From a weight perspective it still took me 1.5 years to hit more of a homebase with my body shifts- a homebase that old me would have never been comfortable with, where new me had a totally new loving and accepting perspective on.
Back to those first couple months of starting to feel the benefits of supporting my metabolism and practicing greater self care, I felt more available to connect with friends and family. I was feeling the relief of releasing the unwanted real estate that had been holding space in my mind for years. I started to explore social opportunities, connection, and community with less and less judgment of how I might feel symptomatically, fear of what people might be thinking of me and my body image, and anxiety of how food might impact me during the experience. Over the next couple years, I continued to re-engage socially in a lightened, more authentically me way, for the first time in a long time.
I was finally coming home to me.
After living in the space of surrender for more than 4 years, I realize that I live in a space of freedom, and I want to share what freedom in my body and truly my life, looks like for me:
I no longer obsess about my food or health as I once did.
I sleep and sleep actually really well.
I exercise significantly less and feel strong.
I look forward to eating and trust my hunger and fullness cues.
I don’t view foods as good or bad.
I eat what sounds good to me, I eat guilt free, and I genuinely feel satisfied both physically and emotionally.
I feel baseline stable (which to me is everything) I absolutely still have symptoms, but they don’t control my life, I choose not to let them anymore and I feel more grounded in my continuous healing path.
I feel present and HAVE FUN when I am with friends.
I am available to share love with my family and a partner again.
For those of you on the brink of surrender, potentially encased in the fear of what wild expressions your body could shift into as you loosen your grip– I will share the highs and lows and ups and downs in efforts to help you see that it’s all temporary. Your body might want to stretch out, relax and chill for a minute after years of being held so tightly under your mind’s control. For me, over a 2 year window I gained about 40 lbs. and then lost a little over 20 lbs. in the last 1.5 years of stabilization. At the time, these changes were challenging in many ways, but the tools that helped me move through discomfort were kindness, non-judgmental awareness, and most importantly trust. I am now neutral to the number on the scale and weight fluctuations, I speak differently to myself, and observe symptoms and my body from a completely different lens – my mindset has completely changed.
Through this surrender and healing process, the greatest learned tools of this growth were..
RElearning things that were and always have been innately mine
REconnecting to joy and love
REaligning to self-acceptance and sovereignty
REexploring enjoyment in life and FUN foundational nourishment, nourishing in a way that felt serving to my body – not just my mind.
As a 31 year old woman. I have my life back.
My health journey will forever be in process, but the fight I created around it is in surrender.
Oh how I am grateful to know what I know now and know that my experience was with purpose as I guide women on their own personal journeys to greater self-discovery and healing. The truth is women need to know that they deserve more before society will change. Even if I had been given the advice I had needed early in my story, I don’t know if I would have been ready for it – my mindset had to shift and I had to be able to show myself love to be able to apply it in my life.
Women deserve better, more comprehensive support in their health. We deserve more than to be brushed away or be told that our symptoms are normal. We deserve more than to be selectively treated for isolated symptoms that ultimately have common root causes. We deserve more than to be prescribed birth control (until we want to get pregnant) and antidepressants for most of our symptoms with minimal other interventions. We deserve more than restrictive diets and recommendations that encourage fighting your body, ultimately creating a further separation from self. Women deserve education about their female body and a better explanation around their physical experience and the messages their body is trying to send them through their symptoms.
One of the most important revelations from my personal experience and journey is that this partnership with your body is an essential element of happiness, health, and healing.
Women deserve to recognize and appreciate the beauty and purpose surrounding menstrual health and female anatomy. What if we chose to look at symptoms with nonjudgemental awareness asking what “might my body need right now?”, “what messages might my body be sending me?” and how might we work with our body’s vs. against it. Women deserve guidance in creating partnership and trust with their body so that their health choices can be made from a fusion of both education and intuition as opposed to following recommendations blindly.
Women’s health is not black and white. It is built on a set of foundations, but also highly personalized related to mind, body, and soul needs. We deserve to be supported and nourished in health as individuals.
I started Liv Nourished with the mission to guide women on their steps to partnership with their body through women’s health education, personalized nutrition, lifestyle medicine, and intimate mindset work to pave a path (one that’s authentically yours) to transformational healing.
I believe that much of our conventional medical system is broken in the way that it approaches women’s wellness. I hope to be a ripple in the changing tides of practice around women’s education and care.
If you relate to what I have shared, or you see yourself operating in your health from a place of fear, control, frustration, strain, or anxiety, know that you do not need to feel this way forever.
If you are struggling, do not give up. Support and guidance are available to you, the amazing thing is that much of it exists right within you.
“When any real progress is made. We unlearn and learn and unlearn what we thought we knew before”. – Henry David Thoreau
Learning and unlearning is uncomfortable, I know very well. But, through sitting with that discomfort comes opportunity for growth, self-acceptance, and partnership with your body in ways greater than I could have imagined.
I have found heart and mind openness, curiosity of thoughts, and self-awareness to be invaluable in my healing journey to this point. I am confident they will continue to serve as potent tools as I continue this journey into my next chapter of life. Healing is not linear, as much as we wish it to be, but I know that with my mind and body on the same side I will always be at my personal best potential.
If my story here resonated with you, you are not alone. If you are ready to start your own journey to self-partnership, healing, and growth I invite you to these tools for support.
Free Joy Seeking Journaling Exercise Prompts (coming in my newsletter 8/31)