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A Brave Face But A Sad Heart

(THE STORY BEHIND THE SCENES)

I know how easy it is find yourself in a cycle of constant striving.  

After making the leap from my role as the leader of large corporate team, complete with a travel schedule that frequently had me up in the air and out of the country for 60% of my 80 hour week, as a woman in the corporate world, I sometimes felt I needed to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as my male counterparts. Whether this is true or not, at the time it was my perception and drove much of my feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and hence actions in the workplace. I wanted to be the best and was willing to expend any amount of energy to make it happen.

For me, all this unhealthy driving and striving led me go to bed later, wake up earlier, use caffeine to jack up my energy levels, eat sugar to keep it up, forego square meals, then binge on whatever was quick and easy when I finally sat down to dinner with a glass of wine to relax momentarily, before cranking up the laptop, working late into the night, sometimes gradually draining the wine bottle, and popping an Ambien or other sleep aid to help me grab a few hours of sleep before I got up to do it all over again. Many of my clients have related similar experiences.

That was basically how I lived for 20 plus years of my life. Life was a never-ending climb up the corporate ladder. I prioritized work over of all my personal relationships, unable or unwilling to say no to almost any request, and felt like I was constantly running just to stay still.

For a time I thought I had it all: I was living life in the fast lane, had my hard-earned seat at the table, and was traveling the world on a great expense account. I was always completely dialed in, on top of my game, and smashing my and my boss’ expectations. And if truth be told, my fast paced life often felt really good; the titles, accolades, successes, challenging assignments, bonuses, awards, feeling important, being in the know…

But there’s only so long our bodies can cope with that kind of lifestyle.

In reality I was surviving on adrenaline, and when my energy reserves inevitably expired and I wasn’t as sharp as I used to be, I wound up pouring even more of myself into achieving the same results, continually putting my own health, happiness and well-being on the back-burner, forever chasing the new, new thing.

My weight was yo-yoing up and down constantly in time with the binge-deprivation cycle I’d gotten myself into. And I was desperate to “look the part aka dress for success” so I resorted to trying every intervention, magic pill, and fad diet that crossed my path to help me drop the pounds, reduce the bloating, and fit back into the “skinny” clothes in my closet. Like many women, had every size in my closet from a 6 all the way to a 22 (which is still hard to admit.) Over the years, I successfully lost significant amounts of weight on three separate occasions, before gaining it all back again, and more. But each cycle of down and then up again, threw me into more despair, sadness, and feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. My way of coping was to continually try and prove my worth; by being a perfectionist, working even harder, continually going above and beyond, even though I knew inside, it wasn’t working.

And the impact…

A whole host of other nagging health issues went hand-in-hand with my high octane, crazy adrenaline-fueled executive lifestyle too: indigestion and heartburn, intense food (and alcohol) cravings, anemia, crazy mood swings, a general brain fog, and inexplicable bouts of sadness that came down like a dark fog and followed me around for days and weeks on end.

During this time, there were two things that worried me the most. The first was my overall lack of energy even towards things that I cared about deeply. Like the Duracell bunny, I’d always been able to “just keep going” and I was finding it harder and harder to do that with each passing quarter. The second thing that kept me up at night was worrying that maybe I was “losing it.” I found my focus, concentration, memory, and cognitive processing time and ability slipping. I was working harder and harder to compensate. Coming in earlier and leaving later. Reading and rereading contracts to understand. Making excuses or apologizing for forgotten conversations or action items. Walking into rooms wondering why I was there. As someone who has always relied heavily on my intelligence and ability to reason and process quickly (and been a bit of an overachiever), secretly I was really worried. Maybe I had early onset Alzheimer’s or a brain tumor. I was scared. So, even though I kept it together at work (or thought I did), I’d collapse at the end of the day, with little left to give to other important areas of my life. I relied more and more on allowing for extra quiet processing time to complete my work, and I ALWAYS wrote down all the details of my life. If it wasn’t on my iPAD, it just wasn’t going to happen. I also found myself isolating on my off-hours, which was really unlike me, and my friends and family couldn’t understand what was happening to me.

Doctor and after doctor ran tests and told me that was everything was “normal”, that there was nothing seriously wrong with me, that I should take my foot off the gas a little, take a vacation, maybe lose a little weight, and “Here!  Take this Prozac” which intuitively I knew was not the right answer for me.

When I knew better, I did better…

At my wit’s end, I was ready to try anything. I had never been a big believer in organic food and didn’t yet understand how toxic our food, air, and water supply had become. I also didn’t realize just how much chronic stress impacts health (and hormone balance) and I still believed that conventional medicine was the best answer for resolving my chronic health issues.  But, after being told yet again that all my tests were normal, out of desperation I turned to Functional Medicine, ran a couple more tests, began making tweaks to my lifestyle, and started nourishing my body with whole foods and natural supplements to balance my severely out of whack hormones and brain chemistry.

In the space of about six months I went from feeling like a 3 out of 10, to an 8 or 9.  It was truly remarkable. Over the next 18 months, I lost over 100 pounds, balanced my hormone levels and suddenly had more energy and a drastically improved mood. And my brain was back in the game. During this time I completed my certification as an executive coach and created a side-line gig coaching other burnt out executives, and time and time again as clients explained their stories, I realized just how impactful our health can be on work performance and success.

As my weight and health improved, another amazing thing happened for me. I was able to get pregnant. At the age of 41 I had a healthy baby boy and, in the year that followed, my world changed forever. My priorities completely shifted. I was enraptured by my beautiful son. So, while work was still important, I was no longer prepared to work 80 hour weeks as a road warrior. Though, in my typical headstrong style, it didn’t stop me trying to make it happen for a couple more years with my son in tow and my Mom along for support.

Then, I had an “aha” moment as I realized that once again my stress levels were becoming chronically high, my weight was once again starting to creep up, and even worse, that my son was beginning to think of me as his tired, over-worked, stressed-out mom who was never happy. That realization hit me really hard and I took a good look at some of my life choices. Now I was finally ready to listen to that nagging voice in my head that said it was time for a dramatic change. Shortly thereafter, I made a brave bold leap, resigned from my huge job, and went back to school, ultimately qualifying as an Advanced Functional Medicine Practitioner, Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, and Certified Eating Psychology Coach.

Life today…I still hate to have my picture taken but…

I guess you can say I became a True Believer. By balancing my hormones, restoring my energy level, and no longer indulging the stress and expectations that kept me in an unhealthy cycle of driving and striving for so long, I am now able to move through my life with a greater sense of poise, purpose and grace. I call it hormonal grace. I live a joy-filled life, raising my amazing son, and surrounding myself with wonderful friends and family. I love being a hockey mom, cooking and entertaining, and continuing to learn more about health, nutritional therapies and functional medicine. I’m excited to get out of bed in the morning to continue creating and growing a business that impacts so many. And I get a total charge out of making a positive difference in the lives of women who have been struggling on a path I once knew so well. I’m finally living that life I craved! And you can too! It’s really a lot easier than it may seem…

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